Elephone ELE Explorer Action Camera Review

donmarkon

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Hello :) few day ago i did a review of ELE action camera from Elephone.
Here is a youtube link
 

Drifter

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Thanks for the review!!!!

Kind of looks like your memory card is not fast enough to keep up with such a high bit rate?
 
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donmarkon

donmarkon

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Thanks for the review!!!!

Kind of looks like your memory card is not fast enough to keep up with such a high bit rate?
Card inside is Samsung EVO 64GB write speed (real speeds) around 45 mb/s so no problems with that :)
 

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Here is a written review for those that prefer reading to watching :)


Ele Explorer Action Camera Review

Overview

Front panel graphics: "Ele", "4K Ultra HD", "WiFi"
Boot screen graphics: "Ele", "DARE TO BE", "Explorer"

The Ele Explorer is a cheapish Action Camera with a 4MP sensor which records decent quality video and takes reasonable quality photos. It is almost exactly the same size as an SJCAM SJ5000X, so a bit bigger than a GoPro.

It claims to record 4K Ultra HD, apparently as its main selling point since it is written on the front, but 4K Ultra HD video has 8MP and the image sensor in the Explorer is only 4MP, thus it must be inventing half the pixels, it is not a true 4K UltraHD camera. Also the frame rate for the 4K video mode is only 15 fps (frames per second), for an action camera 60 fps is desirable. So for most purposes, the 4K video mode is pointless. The mode most people will use is 1080 Full HD @ 60 fps and it does a decent job of that.

It also claims in the advertising to produce 16MP photos from a 16MP sensor, which is clearly wrong. With the sensor only collecting 4MP, 3 out of every 4 pixels must be invented for the 16MP photos. If you actually look at the 16MP photos zoomed fully in then they are quite blurry, however viewed on an HD monitor or TV they are of decent quality, an HD screen is only 2MP so the camera does produce higher resolution than required for HD, if you are just going to view the photos on your HD TV then it does a reasonable job, and a better job than most cameras of the same price range.

Ele Explorer: Price @ GearBest $65.70 http://www.gearbest.com/action-cameras/pp_265306.html
(The camera I tested was supplied for review by GearBest.)

Measurements

Weight 64.0g
Width 59.4mm
Height 41.4mm
Depth 25.5mm
Depth including lens 31.5mm
LCD Screen Diagonal 51.0mm (2")

It looks the same size as an SJCAM SJ5000X, in fact the case could almost have come out of the same mould, there are just a few small differences that are hard to see like the position of the microphone and speaker holes. However the Explorer is 0.85mm less tall which means it is a loose fit in the SJ5000X tripod/dashcam frame and the SJ will not fit in the Explorer frame, even though at first look the frames look identical! There is the same issue with the waterproof cases which also look identical until you look very closely, so you will probably want to use Ele accessories with this camera, although with a bit of padding the SJ waterproof case and frame will work, it will not fit in the significantly smaller GoPro and GitUp cases and frames.

The Explorer has a textured rubbery surface on the sides, exactly the same as the SJCAMs and a lot of other cheaper cameras. Gives good grip and appears of decent quality although it does have a slightly cheap feel compared to a GitUp or GoPro.

There is no lens cap which means you can't put it in your pocket without the lens getting dirty, but that is true of most of the cheaper cameras. The lens sticks out the end of the lens barrel so fitting a lens cap would be a problem, also the lens barrel is a different diameter to most other cameras so finding a lens cap that fits could be a problem.

It does come with a tripod/dashcam frame which seems better made than most, certainly more strongly made than the equivalent SJCAM frame which disintegrated while I was testing the Explorer!

Controls

The power button is on the front, the same place as most action cameras.
The shutter button is on the top right, the same place as most action cameras.
On the right side it has up and down buttons with the up also marked as a wi-fi button.
All the buttons work nicely with a positive click and also a click sound from the speaker to confirm.

The only issue I had with the controls is the time required to turn on and off, my Windows computer can boot up faster! From pressing the power button to starting a video recording takes 1/4 of a minute so there is a good chance of missing things, in comparison the Gitup Git2 takes just 5 seconds to start recording and the SJCAM5000X takes 8 seconds.

Connections

All connections are on the left side and include:
Micro USB for charging the battery and data connection to computer.
HDMI for connection to a TV/Monitor
MicroSD card slot.

Menus

The power button cycles through the modes, including a setup mode. Within the setup there are separate tabs for video, photo, general and system. Most of the normal settings are there but more advanced things like ISO and shutter speed are missing so it's not really a camera for photographers.

Most items are easy to understand and having the menu separated into tabs makes it more obvious what things are for than with many cameras, but it's still not as fast to change settings as the Gitup cameras which have context sensitive menus so you can change settings without leaving video or photo mode. (Enter the menu in video mode and you get the video settings.)

LCD Screen

It has a clear 2" screen with an excellent viewing angle, it's also reasonably bright for a 2" screen and you can see the image even with full sunlight on the screen. It is not as bright as the Gitup screens but otherwise is the most usable screen I've seen on an action camera. The only negative is that it has a flat back like the SJCAM cameras rather than an indented screen like GitUp cameras so is easy to scratch, although so far it hasn't steamed up in damp weather like the SJCAM cameras always do.

There are also blue and red LED indicators on the back for record and power (record is blue, not the conventional red, although the record indicator on the LCD screen is red!), and a yellow LED on top which indicates wi-fi enabled, although for some reason it doesn't always come on. The yellow LED is obvious but the viewing angle on the red and blue LEDs is very poor, you have to hold the camera so you are looking straight at it otherwise you can't see them.

Wi-Fi

This is turned on and off using the up button and is rather too easy to do accidently, although it is easy to turn off again and is far faster to enter/exit than most cameras.

The SSID and password are shown on the screen making it easy to connect.

Playback

The video recordings can be played on the LCD screen or via the HDMI and it works nicely, although it always has an on screen display showing playback information so it is not ideal for showing your videos to friends. It does work to check what you have recorded, but there is no delete function. Also it does not appear to play back the sound recording, even when plugged into a TV via HDMI, even though it does play the button clicks through the HDMI.
 

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Waterproof Case

This is the standard SJCAM design, but just a little smaller so that an SJCAM will not fit in!

It appears to be of reasonable quality, although the buttons are magnetic so may rust after a while if used a lot in salt water, but they are chrome plated so should be OK. The screws and hinge appear to be stainless steel so should be OK.

The latch is on the top with the standard finger nail breaking mechanism with a sliding lock. Nowhere near as good as the GitUp case with its rotary latch.

Battery

It was supplied with 1 battery labelled "Li-ion 3.7V 1050mAh" and no charger, the battery can be charged in the camera with power supplied by the USB cable.

This battery has the same physical size as an SJCAM battery and they are interchangeable, but it claims to be 1050mAh instead of 900mAh. Surprisingly it does provide a little more record time than an SJCAM battery and has worked OK so far, in fact when used in my GitUp Git2, this battery gave the longest record time I've seen.

In 1080 HD 60fps mode I get just over 90 minutes record time from the Explorer, so the camera is not the most efficient on power usage, but still reasonable.

Dashcam Use

Since it has no auto start when receiving external power, it is far from ideal for use as a dashcam or security camera, although if you can remember to turn it on every time when starting the car, or after every power failure for security camera use then the 4K mode does provide a lot of detail while not having file sizes too big (20956kbps). Performance at night is also fairly decent and it is supplied with a decent and well-made dashcam/tripod mounting frame.

Video Quality

Video quality is surprisingly good for a cheap camera but the images are not all that detailed and have also have limited dynamic range, the bright parts can easily become over exposed. The white balance, saturation and contrast are all reasonable and produce nice rather than accurate images. If you are not too interested in very detailed images or accuracy of colours then it can record some nice video, don't expect to be able to make big changes in a video editor though as there is a lack of low level detail.

Note that when using the 4K resolution mode, although it does record a 4K resolution video file, it is produced from a sensor that has half the required resolution for 4K, it still has a lot more detail than 1080 video but it is not true 4K and it is only 15 frames per second so far from smooth.

Bitrate
In 1080 60fps mode it records with a bitrate of 31863 kbps, which is a high bitrate, especially for a cheap camera and should result in very detailed images. In reality the images are not that detailed, but not because of the bitrate. It should do well for fast action where other cameras can run out of bitrate for storing all the movement.

Exposure
Normally it does a very good job of exposure, the only issue being a limited dynamic range so that in conditions where there are both very bright and very dark parts to the image it can struggle with the brighter areas.

White Balance
Again, it does a good job most of the time. It does sometimes have issues in the sky where the sky is close to being over exposed, and the colours are not very natural but for a cheap camera there is not much to complain about.

Saturation
This is always a little high so it gives very colourful video which some people will like a lot, but it does make things look unnatural. It is probably a good match for cheaper TVs which tend to have less saturated colours.

Sharpening
This is generally not bad, but it can put a think white line around the outline of high contrast objects which destroys a lot of the detail in the images and other things which would be improved by a little subtle sharpening don't have any.

Detail
The images have the appearance of having been cleaned, there is a lot of detail missing, maybe through too much noise reduction or maybe the encoder is not so good. Also some gets lost in over exposed parts of the image a little too often and the sharpening destroys a lot of the fine detail around the outline of objects. Compared to more expensive cameras the detail is rather poor, but at the price of this camera it is not bad and if you like clean images rather than detailed ones then you may even find it preferable.

Fisheye
For a wide angle action camera lens, it has very little fisheye, there is some but it is hardly noticeable in the videos, it is a little more obvious in the 4:3 photos but still better than most similar cameras, it is a fairly wide angle too, though not as wide as some like the Dazzne P3.

Stabilisation
There is no stabilisation of any sort so you will need a tripod for steady video, but at this price you can't expect a gyro stabiliser.

Panning (fast movement)
When panning in 60fps mode the video is very smooth and due to the high bitrate there is very little loss of detail at high speeds, at this it beats a lot of far more expensive cameras.

Adjustments
The only thing adjustable in the video setup is the resolution which includes 4K @ 15fps, 2.7K @ 30fps, 1080 @ 60fps, 720 @ 120fps and a few with lower fps. There is no VGA on this camera.​

In the general setup there is also an EV adjustment and some white balance pre-sets. No white balance adjustment, no sharpness adjustment, no quality (bitrate) adjustment, no saturation adjustment. Basically you get what it gives you and if you want to adjust it then you will have to use a video editor on your computer.

Example video
This video was taken in bright January sunshine, there is quite a lot of contrast and also a lot of wind which has caused problems for the microphone:


For comparison, this is from the GitUp Git2. Note that you can hear the metallic sound of the boat masts on this, and it has less problems with the wind. Also it has a gyro stabiliser which is able to overcome the effect of the gusty wind blowing me around.


And this is from the SJCAM SJ5000X Elite, it also has a gyro stabiliser but it is not so good as the Git2 stabiliser.


(YouTube and your internet connection may have an effect on the quality of those videos.)
 

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Audio Quality

It records 8KHz audio at 15kbps in mono using an internal microphone only. This is really rather poor, although the microphone does a decent job. I don't understand why they would only use 15kbps when the video has an exceptionally high bitrate. For comparison, the Gitup Git2 records 44KHz audio at 112kbps in mono or 162kbps stereo with an external microphone. At a sample rate of 8KHz the maximum frequency it can record will only be 4KHz so it will be missing a lot of higher frequencies that you should be able to hear, there is no point trying to record birds or grasshoppers and metallic sounds will sound like plastic, this does match what I hear in the recordings. I would like it a bit louder too, there is no volume adjustment.

Of course if you normally replace the audio on your videos by music then this will this will not be an issue and what it does record isn't bad, it's just missing all the higher frequencies and is a little quiet.

Photo Quality

Photo quality is much the same as video quality, there are no extra controls like ISO or shutter speed.

See the video section above for comments on saturation, white balance etc, they are the same for both video and photos.

Although there is a choice of 16MP resolution, the sensor is only 4MP so the 16MP images are very blurry if you zoom right in and the sharpening is very obvious since it has been enlarged from the 4MP image. Actually, since the sensor is 16:9 aspect ratio and all the photos are 4:3, they must be enlarged from 3MP images. They look OK on a 1080 TV/monitor though.

It would have been good to have a 16:9 aspect ratio photo mode using the full 4MP of the sensor but the only choice is 4:3 like an old fashioned vacuum tube TV from last century. Since our TVs and monitors and monitors are 16:9 ratio, that is the mode I normally use if available, otherwise you get dark bands down the sides of the photos when you view them.

Like the video compression, the jpeg photo compression is very low so the file sizes can be quite large compared to most action cameras, they are often bigger than true 16MP cameras which seems a bit excessive when the real resolution is less than 1/5th of a 16MP sensor!

Photo mode uses the same settings as video mode so the only options you have are the 4 white balance pre-sets and EV exposure compensation, nothing photo specific other than resolution, although there are some options for eg self timer/time-lapse.

Example photos
The following photos are all 16MP resolution, uploaded straight from the camera:

Rainbow


Village, high contrast scene


Sunset


Sunset taken with GitUp Git2 for comparison.


After sunset, low light

Snowdrops.
(Looking towards the sun.)


Harbour in bright sunshine.


Harbour taken with Gitup Git2 for comparison.



This is a sequence of photos taken using the timelapse and converted to 4K video:


and the same from the GitUp Git2 for comparison:




Conclusion

As long as you are not looking for a lot of detail and accurate colours in your video/photos, and are not

interested in manual photographic controls like shutter speed then the Ele Explorer produces some nice recordings and nice photos and is definitely worthy of its price, in fact it's video is nicer than a lot of more expensive action cameras, even though its colours are not all that accurate.

It has a very good LCD screen, comes with a good battery, an OK waterproof case, a decent quality tripod/dashcam frame and a few of the basic action camera mounting accessories.

Don't let the 4K advertising fool you into believing that it produces true 4K resolution video though, the Gitup Git2 which doesn't claim to be 4K and doesn't record at 4K resolution can produce better quality "4K" video.

The only thing really missing when compared to the more expensive cameras of around $100 is gyro stabilisation, good gyro stabilisation is worth the extra but if you want a cheap camera and can use a tripod or don't mind shaky videos then it is not a big issue.

The audio quality is not very good, but that is true of most of the cheaper cameras even though they normally record with higher sample rates, so again, given the price it is not a big issue.

For the price, as long as you are not an enthusiastic photographer, this must be one of the best value cheap action cameras currently available. It doesn’t get close to professional quality videos but it will produce video and photos that most people will like watching and it is easy to use, the audio recording does let it down a bit though, and you will probably miss a few things while waiting for it to start up!
 

TeriTerryTarry

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Audio Quality

It records 8KHz audio at 15kbps in mono using an internal microphone only. This is really rather poor, although the microphone does a decent job. I don't understand why they would only use 15kbps when the video has an exceptionally high bitrate. For comparison, the Gitup Git2 records 44KHz audio at 112kbps in mono or 162kbps stereo with an external microphone. At a sample rate of 8KHz the maximum frequency it can record will only be 4KHz so it will be missing a lot of higher frequencies that you should be able to hear, there is no point trying to record birds or grasshoppers and metallic sounds will sound like plastic, this does match what I hear in the recordings. I would like it a bit louder too, there is no volume adjustment.

Of course if you normally replace the audio on your videos by music then this will this will not be an issue and what it does record isn't bad, it's just missing all the higher frequencies and is a little quiet.

Photo Quality

Photo quality is much the same as video quality, there are no extra controls like ISO or shutter speed.

See the video section above for comments on saturation, white balance etc, they are the same for both video and photos.

Although there is a choice of 16MP resolution, the sensor is only 4MP so the 16MP images are very blurry if you zoom right in and the sharpening is very obvious since it has been enlarged from the 4MP image. Actually, since the sensor is 16:9 aspect ratio and all the photos are 4:3, they must be enlarged from 3MP images. They look OK on a 1080 TV/monitor though.

It would have been good to have a 16:9 aspect ratio photo mode using the full 4MP of the sensor but the only choice is 4:3 like an old fashioned vacuum tube TV from last century. Since our TVs and monitors and monitors are 16:9 ratio, that is the mode I normally use if available, otherwise you get dark bands down the sides of the photos when you view them.

Like the video compression, the jpeg photo compression is very low so the file sizes can be quite large compared to most action cameras, they are often bigger than true 16MP cameras which seems a bit excessive when the real resolution is less than 1/5th of a 16MP sensor!

Photo mode uses the same settings as video mode so the only options you have are the 4 white balance pre-sets and EV exposure compensation, nothing photo specific other than resolution, although there are some options for eg self timer/time-lapse.

Example photos
The following photos are all 16MP resolution, uploaded straight from the camera:

Rainbow


Village, high contrast scene


Sunset


Sunset taken with GitUp Git2 for comparison.


After sunset, low light

Snowdrops.
(Looking towards the sun.)


Harbour in bright sunshine.


Harbour taken with Gitup Git2 for comparison.



This is a sequence of photos taken using the timelapse and converted to 4K video:


and the same from the GitUp Git2 for comparison:




Conclusion

As long as you are not looking for a lot of detail and accurate colours in your video/photos, and are not

interested in manual photographic controls like shutter speed then the Ele Explorer produces some nice recordings and nice photos and is definitely worthy of its price, in fact it's video is nicer than a lot of more expensive action cameras, even though its colours are not all that accurate.

It has a very good LCD screen, comes with a good battery, an OK waterproof case, a decent quality tripod/dashcam frame and a few of the basic action camera mounting accessories.

Don't let the 4K advertising fool you into believing that it produces true 4K resolution video though, the Gitup Git2 which doesn't claim to be 4K and doesn't record at 4K resolution can produce better quality "4K" video.

The only thing really missing when compared to the more expensive cameras of around $100 is gyro stabilisation, good gyro stabilisation is worth the extra but if you want a cheap camera and can use a tripod or don't mind shaky videos then it is not a big issue.

The audio quality is not very good, but that is true of most of the cheaper cameras even though they normally record with higher sample rates, so again, given the price it is not a big issue.

For the price, as long as you are not an enthusiastic photographer, this must be one of the best value cheap action cameras currently available. It doesn’t get close to professional quality videos but it will produce video and photos that most people will like watching and it is easy to use, the audio recording does let it down a bit though, and you will probably miss a few things while waiting for it to start up!
Hi Nigel. I don't know why I didn't come across this review earlier. I think it's an excellent review. I'm still learning so much action cam technology and I find your review chock full of delicious tidbits! I'd like to ask you a few questions.

". . . the buttons are magnetic so may rust after a while if used a lot in salt water . . ." I presume by this you mean you tested to see if a magnet was attracted to the buttons, it was, and therefore there must be iron in the metal and thus subject to corrosion. Is that correct?

I don't know anything about audio and found your discussion fascinating. I was wondering if you might have a link to something that explains in layman's words some of the terms you used.

"The images have the appearance of having been cleaned, there is a lot of detail missing, maybe through too much noise reduction or maybe the encoder is not so good." How did you conclude that there might be too much noise reduction? Was that based mostly on the lack of detail? When I look at a video or photo as a layman I think I can discern lack of detail, but how really do you measure it, i.e., how do you determine objectively what detail really is? Same question for noise. When I look at night photos from an action cam they almost always have lots of noise, the dimmer the scene the greater the noise (Is that noise or is it called something else?). But in well-lit daytime scenes, viewed without magnification, I find it impossible to detect noise if the image is at least decent. How does one see noise without zooming in?

That's all for now. I really appreciate all the help you've given me since I first joined DCT. Thanks and cheers! :)
 

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". . . the buttons are magnetic so may rust after a while if used a lot in salt water . . ." I presume by this you mean you tested to see if a magnet was attracted to the buttons, it was, and therefore there must be iron in the metal and thus subject to corrosion. Is that correct?
Yes, if the screws of the waterproof case attract a magnet then it is a very cheap waterproof case and you can expect the screws to go rusty after 1 or 2 times in the sea!

If the buttons are magnetic then it may just be the springs, again a decent case will not have magnetic buttons, although if they are chrome plated buttons then they may still be weakly magnetic as chromium is slightly magnetic but doesn't corrode fast even in seawater.

Decent waterproof case buttons like the ones used by GoPro and Gitup (same source) are anodised aluminium.

I don't know anything about audio and found your discussion fascinating. I was wondering if you might have a link to something that explains in layman's words some of the terms you used.
That is a very general question! Maybe you need to be more specific...

"The images have the appearance of having been cleaned, there is a lot of detail missing, maybe through too much noise reduction or maybe the encoder is not so good." How did you conclude that there might be too much noise reduction? Was that based mostly on the lack of detail? When I look at a video or photo as a layman I think I can discern lack of detail, but how really do you measure it, i.e., how do you determine objectively what detail really is? Same question for noise. When I look at night photos from an action cam they almost always have lots of noise, the dimmer the scene the greater the noise (Is that noise or is it called something else?). But in well-lit daytime scenes, viewed without magnification, I find it impossible to detect noise if the image is at least decent. How does one see noise without zooming in?

That's all for now. I really appreciate all the help you've given me since I first joined DCT. Thanks and cheers! :)
Normally the reason that there is not much detail is the use of a low bitrate, but since the camera actually uses a high bitrate there has to be another explanation. Noise reduction seems the most likely explanation. One way to find out how much detail there really is, is to compress the file to lower bitrates. If you can compress it down to just 3 Mbps and not see any loss of detail from the original then you know that the original did not have much detail. If compressing it down to 25 Mbps looses detail then you have a very detailed camera.
 

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Excellent !
I just got one for myself !

My battery is a good fit ..
Focus is set a little close .. I prefer infinity , but hey .. So far I have only done 1080 @ 60FPS and it is an excellent compromise for a do everything cam ( Action cam )
I haven't put it in the car yet , and I haven't tried to adjust the focus ..
But this is the first budget cam that does not bite the bullet @ 60FPS ..
I will have to try the WIFI with my android .. As well the other video settings ..
If you have to buy a $50 USD action cam , I think this might be the one to buy ...
I will be posting a review in due course ...


PS/ Dont you just love the box ....
 
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TeriTerryTarry

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One way to find out how much detail there really is, is to compress the file to lower bitrates. If you can compress it down to just 3 Mbps and not see any loss of detail from the original then you know that the original did not have much detail. If compressing it down to 25 Mbps looses detail then you have a very detailed camera.
How does one "compress it down"?
 

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