Unless you've been living in a cave these past few years (and with the way of the world of late, we can hardly blame you if you have) then you're probably aware of the action cam phenomenon thanks in part to industry giants like GoPro. The trouble with top flight models like the GoPro Hero or the Countour HD or Drift Stealth is that can be pricy. How do we know? Because readers continue to fill our inbox each week with requests for reviews on more affordable POV cams. We understand, times are tough and who doesn't want to be a Youtube star?
This is all takes us to what could very well be the most affordable wearable video and still-shot camera we've ever encountered- the $49 MeCam. MeCam is a campaign-button sized hands-free wearable video camera that can be pinned to your jersey, water pack strap, backpack (for rearward shooting), can be worn as a necklace, or mounted to just about anywhere on your bike to capture point-of-view riding footage.
The MeCam's primary appeal, aside from its ridiculously affordable price-point, comes in its form factor, which is incredibly small and light weight. Its plastic construction and lack of exposed external lens like most action cams makes it extremely durable. Additionally, and very useful in the oft-shady trails we mountain bikers frequent, the MeCam boasts the ability to shoot in low-light conditions on account of a series of Infrared (IR) LED lights built into the device.
-Video resolution: 1280 x 720P
-Frame rate: 30FPS
-Internal mic for audio recording
-Still Camera function: 5.0 megapixel
-Infrared Video/ LED system
-Memory: Included 4GB MicroSD card (roughly 1 hour of video)
-Included Mounting Options: Safety pin & necklace strap
-Battery: Rechargeable Li-Ion good for roughly 80-continuous minutes
-System Compatibility: Windows/ Mac
-Connectivity/ Charging: USB 2.0 (cord included)
We're not electronics experts here at MBT so tearing into the MeCam's box proved quite intuitive and about as unintimidating as it gets. The camera arrived completely assembled with the clothing pin mount intact. We simply charged its internal lithium ion battery pack by plugging the camera into the USB slot of the nearest PC, clipped the mounting pin to the strap of our hydration pack about level with our testers' armpits and hit the trails as usual.
Out on the trails you simply turn MeCam on by pressing the power button (on the button) until the solid red light comes on. The device is now in standby mode. From standby mode you have the option to record video or take photographs. Video is as simple as holding the middle button for 2 seconds until the red light begins to flash. Holding the same button for 2 more seconds stops the video. Pressing the top button from standby results in the light flashing briefly blue indicating you just captured a still. It's literally that easy.
We should also note that a third button (up top) activates IR mode for shooting video and pics in shady or low light conditions. Even the most technologically inept will have no trouble adapting to life with the MeCam.
We realize going in to this review that the MeCam's primary purpose isn't to capture the rough and tumble conditions we mountain bikers consider a good time, but at under ¼ of a pound, built solidly and with the ability to film in extremely low light, we were certainly curious as to find out whether it could be pressed into service. It turns out it certainly can and we didn't have a whole lot of time to get creative with custom mounting options. Rather, we simply clipped the unit to various areas of our clothing and packs and simply forgot all about it. It never gave us a single fit or complaint and actually managed to capture some pretty impressive footage in the process.
Our testing consisted of quite a bit of rooted, rocky terrain and the lack of image stabilization really didn't haunt the end results like we anticipated. On particularly rough and choppy rides, we discovered folding up a length of washcloth or old rag to act as a shock absorber for which to pin the unit through made quite a difference in keeping things smooth and steady.
We were able to sample a wide range of lighting conditions from midday sun to dawn and dusk rides in shady forests that bordered on blackness. The infrared capture feature worked surprisingly well (though like all use of infrared, colors become a bit screwy: greens look purple and reds look black).
We were impressed that at this price point, the MeCam includes a microphone that was adequate for capturing rider breathing and the sounds of foliage crunching under tires.
Getting the video and stills off the MeCam can be accomplished by one of two means, either of which proved incredible straightforward. Plugging the included USB 2.0 cord from the camera into a PC or Mac allows for quick transfer while simultaneously charging the camera for your next usage. You can also pop out the microSD card to view captures on your phone, tablet or card-reader equipped computer.
We had a couple minor squawks but again; do keep in mind that the MeCam isn't designed as an action sports camera so much as it is a wearable capture device for use in any social setting (concerts, parties, work, school and so on). That said, a couple simple additions could turn the MeCam from a good mountain biking tool to a spectacular one: A laser light to provide the user a sense of where the MeCam is aimed would be particularly useful. Additionally we'd love to see more sports specific mounting options. The company's founder has actually been in touch to assure us more action sports-oriented editions of the MeCam are in the works; we can't wait!
At $49, the MeCam is an absolute must-buy for anyone who has been interested in capturing the essence of the sport to share with family and friends but has been on the fence about sinking $300 on a decent camera. While it's true the unit is only a few accessories away from being a genuine off-road specific device, we went into this review hoping to snag some footage of our favorite trails and unquestionably succeeded. In fact we've edited together some clips captured throughout most of the month of July to show off the camera's potential.