ELE Explorer S Action Camera Review

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Review: ELE Explorer S Action Camera from gearbest.com online store (@GearBest)
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Technical Specifications

  • SoC: Allwinner V3
  • Sensor: 8Mp 1/3.2” Sony IMX179 (1.4 μm pixel)
  • Lens: Wide-angle 170-degree FOV (diagonal)
  • Display: 2-inch LCD TFT screen, 320x240
  • Video resolutions and format: 3840x2160 30 fps, 2688x1520 30 fps, 1920x1080 60/30 fps, 1280x720 120/60/30 fps. MP4 file format.
  • Photo resolutions: 16M/12M/8M/5M/2M
  • Connectors: microUSB, microHDMI
  • Wireless features: Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n
  • Additional features: UVC webcam, 4x digital zoom
  • Storage: microSD up to 128GB
  • Battery: removable, 3.7v Li-ion 900mAh
  • Dimensions: 59.3 mm * 41.2 mm * 25.1 mm (31.2 mm with lens)
  • Weight: 61 g (44 g without battery)

Package and Accessories

The dimensions of the package are 275 mm * 117 mm * 60 mm (~1.9 L of volume), the weight is 526 g. The package is made of recycled cardboard. The back side of the outer box contains detailed information about camera hardware and software specifications.
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The box is pretty practic and compact. It has no transparent parts to observe the camera inside it. There are two smaller boxes inside: one for the camera in waterproof box and another one for everything else.
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Apart from a solid waterproof box the camera bundle has a good and practical selection of standard mounting elements and accessories.
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It includes a plastic frame with two 1/4" tripod screws. So the camera can be mounted in both positions straight and upside down.
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Explorer S camera comes with a pretty detailed user's manual in English and there is also some weird stuff can be found in it.
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nutsey

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Camera Design

The camera body is made of black plastic, the front panel is the main icing on the cake as it has very fresh look due to its 'retro rangefinder camera' style. It is done by using silver colored strip on its upper part and leather-like textured soft-touch material coated area underneath. This lower part of the front panel can be orange or black. The protective lens rim is black and its outer diameter is 20.6 mm, the lens protrudes forward making it necessary to keep in mind protection against scratches and dents. The front panel has a simple clean design with only the following markings on it: 'ELE' logo and a tiny square with '4K ULTRA HD' words in it. Camera feels solid and the materials applied do not raise any questions.
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Screen
Explorer S action camera uses one of the most popular among Allwinner V3-based products Sitronix st9341 LCD driver. It works with 2-inch LCD display with ordinary viewing angles, colors become inverted when you turn the camera left or down. Brightness is enough for shooting under different lighting conditions. The screen is not touch sensitive and is covered with glossy transparent protective film.
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Controls
The front panel has the power / mode button, it is also used for navigation through the menus. The shutter / ok button is located on the top. The left side has two buttons on it: up (short press - wifi, long press - digital zoom in) and down (short press - mute, long press - digital zoom out).
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Indicators
There are two LED indicators located on the back side of the camera. The red one lights up when the battery is charging, the blue one is permanently on when the camera is powered up. Another yellow LED is on the top, it starts blinking after switching on the WiFi connection.

Connectors
All connectors are located on the left side. Of these, there are microUSB and microHDMI sockets and a microSD card slot.
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Power
Removable battery compartment is located on the bottom of the case. Its detachable door is not very easy to open, but it seats safely when closed. The battery dimensions are 33 x 29 x 11 mm, the weight is 16 g. It is compatible with the most common “SJ” form-factor. The battery capacity is marked as '900mAh 3.33Wh'. Another thing to mention here is that Explorer S cam stays fully usable being connected to an external USB power source. You can record videos and shoot stills with this cam while charging. Explorer S has a dashcam mode, which powers up and starts recording when a power source is connected and stops recording and shuts the camera down when the power is off.
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nutsey

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Functions and Settings

Video modes

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Encoding profile: Main@L5.1
Audio: mono, AAC 8kHz 15kbps

User interface and Settings menu

The user interface is similar to many other Allwinner V3 based action cameras.
Boot and shutdown logos are the same 'ELE' logo pictures.
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The OSD indicates current mode, resolution, card status and remaining space (in Gb), battery level, current date and time, audio recording and looped video icons. Short press of the front button sequentially switches between following working modes: Video (opens by default), Photo, Slow Motion, Playback and Settings.
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You can get access to camera settings after pressing the OK button in Settings mode. The settings are grouped into four sections: Video, Photo, General and System settings. You can switch between them with the front button. The fifth item (the one on the very right) switches the camera back to the shooting mode.
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Almost all menu items available are pretty obvious to use from their names and options, so I put some ♦ notes only for a few of them. There are some wrong named text entries, so I replaced things like 'Close' to 'Off' here.

Video settings
Video Resolution: see the table above.
Recording Sound: Off, On
Time-lapse: Off, 0.5s, 1s, 2s, 5s, 10s, 30s, 60s
Loop recording: Off, 2 minutes, 3 minutes, 5 minutes
♦ If set to 'Off' the video length will be limited by 15 minutes for all video modes.
Slow Motion: 1080P 60FPS, 720P 120FPS

Photo settings
Photo Resolution: 2M, 5M, 8M, 12M, 16M
♦ The sensor is 8 Megapixels so only 8M setting lets shooting stills without any interpolation.
Timed: Off, 3S, 5S, 10S, 20S
♦ This option sets shutter delay
Auto: Off, 3S, 10S, 15S, 20S, 30S
♦ This option sets photo timelapse interval
Drama Shot: Off, 3P/S, 5P/S, 10P/S
♦ Burst photo mode

General settings
Exposure: -3 - +3 EV in increments of 1
White Balance: Auto, Sunny, Cloudy, Incandescent Light, Fluorescent Light
WiFi: Off, On
Image Rotation: Off, On
Driving Mode: Off, On
♦ If enabled the camera will turn on automatically when the power source is connected and will switch off when it is removed. This option also sets ‘Loop Recording’ to ‘2 minutes’ and enables ‘Auto Shutdown’ feature.
Light Source Frequency: Auto, 50Hz, 60Hz
LED Indicator Light: Off, On
Auto Screensaver: Off, 10s, 20s, 30s
Auto Shutdown: Off, 1minute, 3minutes, 5minutes
Time Watermark: Off, On
♦ This option sets date stamp for both photo and video modes

System settings
Language: Chinese, English, Japanese, Korean, Russian, German, French, Italian, Spanish, Polish, Dutch, Portuguese, Thai
Date-Time: date and time settings (Use Up/Down buttons to change value, Shutter to switch between input fields)
Format: prompts to format memory card
Reset To Factory Setting: prompts to reset camera settings to defaults
Firmware Version: shows camera model, current firmware version and date (Model: Explorer S, Version: 20170221v1.1)

WiFi connection

The camera switches into wireless access point with 'Explorer S' SSID and '12345678' password after the short press of the Up button. The strength of the Wi-Fi signal is very good, it allows remote controlling the camera with a smartphone from reasonably long distances.
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USB PC connection

A mode selection prompt appears after connecting the camera to a PC with a microUSB cable. There you can choose between USB Mode, PC Camera and Charging Mode. The first mode is used for file transfer. The camera in this mode is recognized by PC as a standard USB storage device.

Selecting the 'PC Camera' mode (use the wifi button to change selection and the shutter to confirm) enables web camera mode. Webcam is a standard UVC device with 720p30 (MJPEG) video mode, but it seems to be unstable turning off after 60 seconds of working.

The last ‘Charging Mode’ turns the camera on with or without battery in place.

Mobile Apps, Firmware Updates and Other Downloads

Explorer S Android App Google Play link

Firmware updates can be found here
 
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nutsey

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Video and Photo Quality and Samples

The bitrate value for 4K mode is 38 Mbit/s which should be enough for shooting different scenes. 2.7k30, 1080p60/p30 and 720p60/30 modes have 32 Mbit/s bitrate, 720p120 mode bitrate is set to 24 Mbit/s. 720p120 mode provides ~91 degree horizontal field of view while the others have slightly wider ~103 degree HFOV. The lens is typical for a camera of this price, it provides adequately sharp image for the whole image with some more blurred lower-right part. Footages recorded in 60 and 120 fps modes do not show frame skipping under the lighting conditions bright enough, like a sunny day. The quality of stills produced by Explorer S camera is not impressive and the same is true for other Allwinner V3 based cams, however, stills produced are good enough for selfies or other similar nonessential use.

Raw (not processed) video and photo samples: https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B4tyaJWIqCb_T1prWDlZbkx3V1E

Dashcam usage example of ELE Explorer S camera:

Conclusion

Pros:
  • Fresh rangefinder-like-ish design
  • Affordable price
  • 4K video resolution is 3840x2160
  • Solid build quality and good materials
  • Strong wi-fi signal strength
  • Rich bundle
  • Standard battery form-factor

Cons:
  • Excessive video bitrate values for 1080P30, 720P60 and 720P30 modes (can be fixed with fw update)
  • Non-functioning webcam mode (can be fixed with fw update)
  • Lens is some out-of-focus in the lower-right part of the picture.
  • Low photo quality

Where to Buy

Gearbest (Black) Flash Sale Price: $41.99 USD (Original $56.44)
Gearbest (Orange) Flash Sale Price: $41.99 USD (Original $56.44)
 
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nutsey

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Side-by-side comparison of ELE Explorer S and MGCOOL Explorer Pro.
 

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