Liquid Image Ego HD + Wi-Fi £145
2nd Apr 2013 | 16:58
A tiny and affordable action cam that rivals GoPro
When you mention action cameras, everyone automatically thinks of GoPro. And while the GoPro Hero 3 is no slouch, the silver edition is a whopping $299.99. The higher end Black Edition is a jaw-dropping $399.99! Enter Liquid Image and their diminutive Ego HD action camera. With an MSRP of $179.99 (you can even find it for much less with some digging), the Ego HD makes for a fine alternative to the more trendy and costly GoPro Hero 3.
Described by Liquid Image as "a mountable HD Action Camera," the Ego is able to record HD 1080P video up to 30 fps and HD 720P up to 60 fps. In addition to video the Ego HD records 12MP images one at a time as well as in continuous mode. In our tests we particularly liked the continuous mode as you can simply hit the shutter button and let the little Ego do its thing. That said, when you return to the cabin be prepared to view a lot of photos that are more similar than dissimilar.
Specifications and software
The Ego HD uses a class 6+ Micro SDHC card up to 32GB. While this is sold separately Micro SDHC cards a relatively cheap these days. According to Liquid Image a 4GB card records about two hours of video and this was consistent with our tests. Also expect to get around 1,000 for every 1GB of memory added.
While you can record about two hours of video with a 4GB Micro SDHC, this brings up another issue. The rechargeable lithium battery isn't removable and it only lasts for anywhere from 1.5 to 2 hours in HD video mode. While the GoPro Hero 3 can be finicky to use its battery is removable so you can bring a pocket full of them with you as you hit the slopes or whatever it is you're into. When testing the Ego HD at Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows near Lake Tahoe, CA we had to bring a charger along to periodically keep the Ego HD up and running.
Similar to other action cameras the Ego HD uses Wi-Fi to connect to your smartphone. There are two software options available and both are compatible with iOS and Android. We tested the Ego HD with a Samsung Galaxy Note 2 as well as an iPhone 5. The Liquid Image app enables you to tweak settings on the camera. For instance, while the Ego HD records 12MP still images the camera actually sports a 3MP sensor. That 12MP number is actually an interpolated resolution. Using the app you can configure the camera to record 3MP or 5MP still images.
In addition to those tweaks, seeing how limited the Ego HD's display is, it's nice that you can use the app to change other settings like exposure modes, white balance, contrast, and field of view. The Ego HD can shoot anywhere between 135 and 90 degrees and you can adjust this from within the app. You can also adjust the mic level which we found tremendously helpful. On the ride up the lift it's fun to record your conversations with your ski buddies. But on the descent all you're really gonna pick up is wind noise.
While the Liquid Image app is useful for setting up your Ego HD, it's not the best for actually shooting. For that the free third-party Action Connect app is best. Wi-Fi enabled action cameras, including the GoPro Hero 3 have a noticeable lag when using your smartphone to control the camera. The lag with Action Connect is pretty bad but the additional functionality makes it worth it.
Hardware and mounting options
The Ego HD comes in a variety colors and it's water-resistant. If you want to go full waterproof you'll have to invest in the company's Model 750 Waterproof Housing which makes the Ego HD safe up to 40m or 130 feet.
We were somewhat disappointed with the limited mounting options that come with the Ego HD. The standard package includes the Ego HD sports camera, clear protective face cover, flat mount bracket, extra adhesive foam pads, and a USB Cable. We would have liked a curved mount bracket for a helmet. Of course, considering the relatively low price of the Ego HD you can just buy those accessories and still come in at a significantly lower price than any GoPro Hero option.
In our tests we used the Ego HD with the optional chest mount and the clear protective face cover but the housing, which isn't closed, fogged up pretty bad and we lost a lot of footage. We then removed the face cover and things improved dramatically. Additionally, we mounted the Ego HD to the tip of one ski and hit some fresh powder among some trees. Upon reaching the bottom of the run we looked down only to find a broken mount and no camera! We contacted Liquid Image and they immediately sent out a new unit and requested the broken unit for some testing.
After getting the replacement unit we returned to the scene of the crime to recreate the situation and the Ego HD performed admirably.
Video and picture quality
The best way to judge a camera is to see what it can do. In our tests we were pleased with the video quality of the Ego HD. That said, the quality wasn't necessarily as good as that of the GoPro Hero 3 but for uploading videos to YouTube the Ego HD is more than good enough.
Somewhat surprisingly, in our tests we preferred the still image quality that we got from the Ego HD when compared to the GoPro Hero 3.
Compared to other action cameras the buttons on the Ego HD are difficult to push. Also, the lack of a removable battery can be problematic. In our tests we had to recharge the battery mid-shredding in order to keep getting footage. Another option we employed is carrying a portable charger. As with all of these cameras the menu system requires a learning curve. Our biggest beef with the Ego HD is the limited mounting options when compared to other cameras.
The Ego HD offers excellent still image quality. And while the video quality isn't necessarily as sharp as that of the GoPro Hero 3, it was more than good enough for YouTube. We liked that the Ego HD is Wi-Fi-enabled which makes it relatively simple to control, but we still don't understand why more companies don't use Bluetooth. More than anything we appreciated the price point. At well below $200, the Ego HD is wildly affordable.
If you're in the market for an action cam you'd be remiss to not consider options other than industry juggernaut GoPro. With their Apex HD + Wi-Fi camera / goggles and the Ego HD Liquid Image has action camera options for any sport you're into.