What makes a bad camera ?
Is it image quality ? Or build ut what is one man’s nightmare lump of plastic turns into someone’s lo-fi dream. Likewise scameras like the color optical lens camera have their fans. but…
In 2020 at the start of Lockdown, in a bored moment I ordered what I thought then was the worst camera in the world from Wish. It was scammy & cr&p from build to image quality. But turns out I was mistaken.
This is much worse.
The main difference was the Wish camera actually for the most worked. Not that you would want it to.
This camera was as sleazy and duff and then some but worst still it didn’t really work.
This camera hailed from AliExpress. Hence for ease, we’ll call it the AliExpress camera. But it can be found on Wish, eBay and other widely used commerce sites.
What makes a bad camera ?
Some say it’s image quality.
But what is a awful to purists can be a gold mine to the Lo-FI fraternity. I just need to mention the words Holga light leaks and you’ll either be coiling in revulsion, going “cool” or off to get your electrical tape.
Some say build quality.
Yeah but the original Kodak Brownies were made out of cardboard. and the converse is also true. The indestructible nature of Zenits is well known but they ain’t exactly Leica rivals. (for clarity they’re not bad although there are plenty of bad examples)
Some say Scammyness.
Again all in the eye’s of the beholder. The Mintax/Olympia etc. scameras of the color optical lens class are complete scams and have awful build, optics (clinically) and user experience. But they are still sought out by Lo-Fi shooters. From a digital PoV even the very dubious Protax FHD took okay images in good light.
But granted the Wish camera (as I’ll call the 2020 noname for convenience). Had spades of all 3. But this camera from AliExpress matches and beats those on a few points. And then it takes it to another level of sh*te.
That level is does it work ?
The AliEXpress Camera – Guilty as not charged
The winning feature is it doesn’t really work. It lulls you for a brief period with premium alkaline batteries before the dread lo-battery note comes on. To test it I had to work round .
The box is confusing it says lithium battery but 2xAAA alkaline as well. Look I think this is sensor and set up ripped from either a cheap web cam or dashcam. That reinforced by the 16:9 imageratio.
Now they tend to be powered by 5V USB. The 3V out of 2xAAA likely is just on the borderline of what this camera needs. Hence you can only get working with premium batteries and for a short time (it consumes very rapidly too)
This makes it unusable as intended . And that’s why I think it is the worst camera I have ever tested in conjunction with the poor image quality and scammyness.
But there is a pointless work round. The Micro USB jack on the camera for PC transfer/use as a web cam does power it enough to function. In fact it doesn’t really work as a web cam as my PC error it as malfunctioning but pressing mode allows you to move into still or video recording.
Now lugging a PC or laptop around is impractical but a good powerbank does the same job. This is why I have test photo folks. To be frank my half drunk cold coffee is probably better than this, in that it actually kinda works.
Who are these AliExpress and Wish you speak of ? Be they seller on Amazon or eBay ?
Goodness you have been under a rock for a long time.
In some ways the amazon marketplace comparison is similar. Like Amazon marketplace, they are both third party selling websites. You don’t buy from them directly, they basically act as intermediaries for sellers often Chinese manufacturers & Wholesalers. They charge commission with Wish taking a bigger cut from sellers and on average it usually works out as more expensive. But in principle as Wish Is US based, it has a higher vetting process which should weed out more scammers.
In reality, that may not be the case. AliExpress is older and bigger and based in China. Although there are a few resellers on these sites based in countries like the US or UK, you will pay more for items for the trade of quicker shipping. Having bought a few things off both my experience is you need to wait.
That’s not to say you can’t get good items on them. I have bought stuff that is okay and as billed often saving money over other sites. But they have been infamous for dubious or scammy higher end products exist on both – just look up wish or Aliexpress or Wish graphics cards on YouTube.
And certainly if something looks too good to be true it probably is.
So what’s the Claimed spec ?
These are 2 panels from the box
Oh ! looks pretty top end. Woah a 16MP (d)SLR with HD capable video running on 2xAAA and with image stabilisation. All this for less than £30
Trouble is only one of those statements is even remotely correct. It does actually shoot HD video at 30fps – just I’m not sure you want it to
And actually you can use it with some very fresh branded AAA batteries for about 10 seconds
The side panel spec bar the resolution and battery claims is actually reasonably accurate.
So what resolution is it ?
The 16MP setting does not actually deliver the weird square 4032×4032 image claimed. But hold that resolution. If you google it you can a clutch of dubious cameras both still and camcorder style. And in that group is our old friend the unnamed camera from wish.
That camera claimed 16MP but turned out to shoot with 1.23MP sensor. It claimed to shoot higher resolutions by interpolation but it actually couldn’t even manage that.
And guess what. The manual says this camera has a CMOS sensor that is, yup you guessed it interpolated to 16MP. The cameras seem to share the same 9.88mm 1:5 lens.
Worth noting this lens in use feels more telephoto than wide. It is build as an Infrared lens. That might sound impressive to the unawares
Okay but what is the really resolution ?
That my friend is a mystery. I tried shooting at different resolutions expecting the awfulness of the image to improve once interpolation turned off. Turns out made no difference but at least the camera does change resolutions.
It tops out with 4032×2520 pixels, just over 10MP not the claimed 16MP. The image is frankly awful and heavily over processed.
Below is a close crop
I assumed dropping the resolution would help but nope. Here is the same shot in glorious HD ready 1280×720 pixels (just under 1MP)
I could show you shots at higher resolutions but they all look the same. That includes the HD resolution 2MP shot which was the next size up. Lower res don’t exist the menu might say you’re below 720p but nope that’s the smallest you can shoot at. Interestingly the camera lies outright. Our HD ready image is claimed to be 3MP. Go figure
Worst still the image is compressed top to bottom. It’s a bit like the early days of various format tellies when autodetect was a bit ropey and you put a widescreen DVD on a 4:3 without sorting out the image ratio.
But it’s billed as an SLR !!
Yeah funny that. It isn’t.
It is the same size as my Nikon 1 V1 CSC. The lens barrel is completely faux. The sensor actually sits in it. The only viewfinder/screen is the rear 320×240 articulated 2.4″ TFT screen
The screen is a relative high point. It’s not great, low res and has awful colour balance but it is useable and it does articulate allowing you to rotate it round, if you were stupid enough to use this camera for vlogging.
In the Box
USB micro cable and the infamous lens cap with camera on it to try to fool you. There is both a wrist strap and lens cap strap. these are all arguably better made than the camera.
There is a double sided A4 sheet of inkjet paper which has tiny print. But this is actually a highlight. For once they actually they have spell and grammar checked it in English for once.
Design and Build
There’s a lot of cheap plastic here but at least the buttons have a satisfying click. The tilt screen can sometimes briefly glitch while moving.
It is shamelessly styled to looks like a CSC or bridge camera. As mentioned it has a faux lens barrel and I suspect this thing is fixed focus.
There is a tripod point on the base and a horrid rubber cover over the SD slot (take up to SDHC), USB and audio jack. The audio jack is not described. But I’ll assume that’s for a Mic but it could be either just a dead socket or even a AV multijack point.
This is a marginally better.
On top we have a on off button and shutter button. On the rear there is a 4 way joy pad layout. Two dedicated digital zoom buttons (just ignore) sit above the joypad. And below, a mode and menu button.
Disconnected the camera should offer stills, video, and sound recording modes. Plugging it into a PC and you get in theory function for file transfer and webcam action (manual describes a lo res of 320×240 but in fact when it briefly works I got 720p
The joypad controls are used for menus but also give action in shooting modes. Press the central ok button and it turns on a weak illumination LED on the front. Right button gives you playback. The up changes image resolution, left image quality and down cycles EV. Pressing it first moves up to +2.0 EV in 0.3 ish steps and then press again and you go to -2EV and then press down in 0.3 steps to zero again.
Depends on what mode you’re in but trust me it isn’t wide. In the still mode you have just 5 choices on the still menu. You can adjust the resolution, turn on timer, adjust quality, adjust EV compensation and set to show date/time.
And that’s really it. No WB control no option to toggle off/on the alleged IS. Nope none of that.
You can move it onto a setting option but all this allows you to do is set the date, sounds, Hz (for video), format
Turn on and it takes a bit to boot. The splash screen a musical note are not endering. It’s the same as the Wish cam.
Accuracy of the screen colour is poor. It is too blue in daylight and moves red under LED lighting. However it displays okay info. Basically clockwise from top left you get mode, EV, image quality, resolution (although the numbers wrong), shots available, presence of SD card and battery indicator. Turn on time stamp and it appears. But note just as with the Wish camera, it randomly chucks in time and date whether you want it to.
Depressing the shutter gives no lock square. I genuinely think this is fixed focus.
There is no EXIF data bar the image size, v.res, h.res (both 72dpi) and colour bit (24bit)
Results with the AliExpress cam
Goodness where to start with these cursed images.
The best I can say is there is some basic area metering that just about works. Provided you don’t expect to delineate between foreground and background it does okay in most circumstances where there is some light
Night shooting is forgettable. I suspect this camera has a very narrow ISO range.
Take these night shot of when the fair was in town. I took similar shots on the AliExpress (l) and captured on my mobile (r- Pixel 6 with night mode turned off).
In comparison the AliExpress is just mince 🤢. Now admittedly comparing it to a Midrange phone from 2022 is not fair. But this is image quality I’d expect from a 2 decade old CCD camera not something sold in 2023.
The image also shows something else. The camera images are skewed and shortened along the narrow axis (e.g vertical in landscape). In terms of radial distortion there is a little barrel distortion but it’s a lot less noticable than the vertical compression
The images are over processed rubbish even on fine settings. I shot most shots at the 5MP (nearer 3MP). But as mentioned earlier the same affect can be seen on all settings. Even sub VGA.
Oily Filter Malarkey
Every image is like someone has used a oil painting filter from the 1990’s made by that bloke Dave who lives above the chip shop. It is tellin the best images are where block colour is predominate
They look like a badly cropped portion of a mobile phone shot and that’s as good as they get. there’s fringing and other artefacts but given the oily over processed mess.
And just to remind you it does this on every setting from the claimed 16MP right down
Shut that Dörr
The image quality is the same as the Dörr 2.0 MP Mini Retro toy keyring camera I used for the Yashica Y35 test comparison. But the actually Dörr worked and was marketed as at toy/gimmick. Okay the 0.3MP Minions Kidcam in the same group test took better shots but at least it worked
AliExpress Camera Video Results
On the plus it does actually shoot HD video. You just wouldn’t want it to.
Everything that’s wrong with stills is here, the frames stutter, the lack of IS is obvious. I guess you could use to replicated dodgy VHS footage or maybe this the camera all that lo-quality UFO/Ghost sighting are recorded on. This is just tragic.
Final Thoughts on the AliExpress Camera
Optically this is just horrible but it’s the fact, it actually doesn’t work that nails the coffin. This is designed to exploit the vulnerable. Headline figures of a 16MP HD Vlogging camera that may be a SLR for a bargain price ?
That’s what lulls folks in and makes this not just awful, non functional but nefarious to boot.
Like the wish camera and a host of similar priced cameras sold on market places these are scam city. they are designed to lull people into thinking you’re getting a bargain. They use words like SLR (it’s not), infrared lens (yeah- that’s not really applicable to camera lenses, it does matter for CCTV where IR night shooting might be required) to fool folks. It lies Now you and I know a pro vlogging camera like Lumix G series or Sony ZV1 costs hundreds but many people use their phone or cheap Go Pro clones for just over 100 quid. And this I think leads to these cameras praying on the poor and gullible. Most budget smartphones have way better image quality.
This is just dire. Like the Wish it image quality is shooking
But Wish Cam at least worked.
Alternatives (really !!) to the AliExpress Camera
This includes having gallstones, being assimilated by the Borg or reading Paula Nancy Millstone Jennings’s poetry.