Attack of the Clones

By Ron Duffy

Did you know that GoPro has several and I do mean several dozen imitators on sale on Amazon?  In this article, I compare the Hero+ to three such clones.  Alas, my Hero+ is essentially dead, the victim of carelessness and very wet ride on the rescue Whaler during the 2016 505 regatta.  I failed to realize that the back of the waterproof case was open in my backpack at the time.  Looking for a replacement, I weighed spending another $300 or going cheaper.  Having come so close to losing that camera so many times when mounts broke or slipped lose, I went cheaper.  There are a lot fewer tears when you lose a $32 camera.

This is not a review to recommend a camera, but to help answer the question whether a clone is good enough for my fellow sailors.  These cameras have a ton of specs and features such as motion capture, slow mo, many resolutions, vibration dampening, and other capabilities.  This article will largely bypass all of that for those things that would most interest a sailor.

These clones are quite functional, but you quickly discover that they have serious flaws that are not obvious in the specs.  GoPro is a well thought piece of engineering and quality optics.  So how can a $32 or even $91 camera compare?  Many of the clones look to come off the same production line.  They share the same battery, the same underwater housing, several interchangeable mounts, and even the same battery cover.  The web sites will list brand names such as Gitup, Yuntab, Apeman, Pictek and so forth.  You quickly discover that the brand name is pretty meaningless and often appears nowhere on the packaging or the camera.

Optics
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As a sailor, glare is your worst enemy.  It is hitting you from the sun and the lake.  In the two side by side comparisons of my backyard, the GoPro handles it best but is not entirely immune.  On the Git2, the scene is almost entirely washed out.  You may be fooled into thinking that the Pictek did better, but check out the close up on the sun.  The Pictek processing is using aggressive contrast and sharpening to seriously distort the image.  They really amped up the redness.  “There’s a little black spot on the sun today.”  The music group, The Police, must have owned a Yuntab.  The sun is overwhelming it’s image processing such that it is substituting black pixels for the pure white of the sun.

See the severe looking woman – distant ancestor of my wife.  She lives in the darkest corner of our basement, judging our every action.  The blue square is a reflection from a nearby TV.  With no more than the room lights and no flash, the four cameras rendered a reasonable facsimile.  GoPro gets the tip of the hat.  The Pictek really shows its rose coloured view of the world.  Note that some of these cameras allow you to tweak the colour spectrum, but I wanted to give you, the out of the box experience.

Battery
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It doesn’t work on my Hero+ so I can’t give you that comparison.  Of the three clones with a 1050 mAh battery, the Yuntab lasted 61 minutes, the Pictek at 88, and the Git2 was champ at 105.  They all use the same type of battery.  With that kind of battery life, you are going to need a remote.

Remote Operation
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GoPro has a proper waterproof remote that shows when the camera is recording and allows you to control the various features.  Both the Pictek and Git2 have a wifi ‘switch’.  Push a button, it takes a picture.  Push a different button, it starts and stops video.  Here’s the problem – nothing on the remote tells you that the camera is recording.  It is just a switch.  So you look at the camera and discover the next problem.  The Yuntab has a single light on top that is obscured by the latch.  The Pictek has a single tiny impossible-to-see blue light on the back.  The GoPro has a nice obvious red blinking light on the front.  The Git2 excels on this by having red indicator lights on the front, top, and back.  Both the Pictek and Git2 can connect to your phone to show what is being recorded, assuming that you want to take out your phone while hanging off the wire on a breezy day.

Conclusion
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I’m clumsy so will stick with the clones.  If you know me, you will also know that none of my footage on the RS700 warrants an expensive, good quality action camera.  So if you watch any of my footage, please forgive the lens flares, red tinge, and black spot on the sun 🙂