The Lockdown has made work for idle hands and unfortunately I decided to buy new camera. Now I’m no stranger to cheesy lo-fi Cameras but this frankly was one of the worst cameras I’ve ever used. Not that it’s the worse optically or feature wise. This is just a scam and not a good one at that.
If you’re a film shooter who’s been around a couple of years you’ll be familiar with Color Optical Lens film cameras which included in their ranks some of the earliest Scameras. These were simple plastic 35mm film cameras designed to look like more expensive SLR cameras. Many were legitimately sold or given away as promotion items like the legendary Time Camera and the Barclaycard Visa Camera I own. Others however preyed on the naive. These had sound-a-like such as Mintax or Olympia. In some cases the same name as big manufacturers were used. They were sold at inflated prices for what was basically a few dollars of Lo-Fi camera.
This is the Digital 21st equivlent and unlike the Color Optical lens crowd it ain’t gonna get a a Lo-Fi Cult following.
A 21st Centurt Scamera
You’ll find these on market sites all over the internet including the likes of eBay, Wish and Amazon being sold by market place retailers. They are frequently listed as DSLR, SLR or Bridge cameras like this amazon listing. But that’s just bull – they are nothing of the sort. Nor in the headline 16 Megapixel resolution in anyway remotely truthful.
Turns out it is basically a web or dash cam mounted in a plastic body with 1.23MP sensor. The camera can’t shoot at more than 1280×960 no matter what mode the camera claims to be shooting in.
Before you say maybe you got a duff one – I’m not alone. You’ll find a fair few reviews of this on Youtube with Loot’d being a typical. Loot’d also bother to test the specs (you’ll be surprised by the number of folk who didn’t)
What’s this Rubbish called and why do people fall for it ?
It is sold under no or a myriad of names. Mines had no make or model number in the listing but I have seen it described as the D05, PE-001, XJ05.
It is cunning with the cost.
At around £25GBP/$30USD to buy most of you reading this know you ain’t getting a dSLR. But that price is where the very basic cameras lap up even made by makes like vivitar. A quick search on the ‘Bay or Amazon around that mark will net a host of cheap n cheerful entry level camera made by a host of folk usually whom you’ve never heard. Now most of these will be rubbish but they won’t be lying about their specs.
This is the low end market this camera is aiming for and I guess the “gee honey I got a dSLR for 30 Bucks” will kick in. It’s awful and is targeting folks ignorance and desire for a bargain. It’s clear the resellers have no idea about these – I got mines with a 16Gb TF card. Turns out that is a micro SD card to the rest of us and the camera takes full sized SD/SDHC cards.
But you’re a muppet for getting this ?
Yes I am and and no I’m not.
I managed to get mines for just £18 before shipping with the 16Gb card included. I had some expiring discount vouchers on wish which wiped out most of the murderous £10 shipping fee. So I got a 16Gb card, lens cap, lanyard strap and USB cable for £18 which is probably not far of what i would have spent getting those items in camera shop and I got a steaming turd of camera for free.
Alarm Bells ?
The automatic alarm bell that should ring when looking at these is cost as we’ve discussed. Mines also came unboxed – never a sign of quality. that said most folk seem to get a boxed one. Interestingly the box contradicts itself by talking about a 16MP camera then 12MP on the side specs. My single sided bit of white AA pretending to be a manual actually described the resolution as 1.6MP which whilst still wrong is at least near the mark.
Another warning is the lens cap. This turd need to remind you and itself it is meant to be a camera. But I’ve seen this before.
Back in 2018 I decided to test the Yashica Y35 against a host of cheap cameras. This included including the cheapest camera I could buy on eBay. Funnily that had n name but Camera and 16 Megapixel printed on it too.
That turns out to be a very similar camera. That too in reality was only a 1.23MP sensor and shares the same crap firmware. It’s slightly better optically and at least makes no claims beyond the headline resolution.
Unashamedly styled on bridge/dslr cameras. Just take a look at it beside a Fujifilm Finepix S3000, an early noughties digital bridge. Unlike the Fuji there is no EVF when you turn it to the rear making it a run of mill camera not a DSLR or Bridge.
It is an all plastic body and only comes to my knowledge in black. There is a subtle red ring accenting the lens barrel which is completely pointless as the lens and the sensor just sit at the tip.. There is no branding on the camera nor even a model number listed. It’s light but slightly more sturdy than you might think. Another clue to the budget nature is the use of 4xAA batteries for power. There is also no switches just push buttons. The buttons are cheap, clicky and give no feedback but at least work.
It is incredibly light at 176gms capped but with no batteries.
Shifting sands – the claimed specs
We’ve touched on the headline total lie of an alleged 16MP. sensor The Digital Zoom lens is 9.88mm 1:5 which seems likely. The 35mm equivalent focal length is around 50mm. The lens is not fast but the f/5 will work out around the equivalent of f/22 on a full frame camera so depth of field will be massively aided.
Shame it still takes a crap image
The TFT which is indeed around 2.4″. The camera has a slot for SD/SDHC cards up to 32Gb but not the micro card I was supplied with.
Video is hot at the same resolution which puts the quality (and I use that term very lightly between) 720p (HD ready) and 1080p (full HD). Sometimes it is advertised as 1080p but frequently you’ll see it listed a 720p.
It gets worse
There is no specs beyond this. I can’t tell you sensor size or any listed exposure characteristics. The camera does not record any EXIF data so I can’t even hard test it out.
The flash is a joke. You need to manual pop it up and it is a single LED light with not much more brightness than the AF focus light you get on a SLR/dSLR. Ironically it stays on continuously if you put it up in video mode.
It actually looks brighter in that clip than in real life
Then there’s the firmware….
Dunce Ex Machina – Firmware woes
I groaned when I selected the menu option and the splash screen with twinkling noise came one. The firmware is either the same or very similar to the no name camera from the Y35 comparison.
That means this is awful.
Most of the options do little (so altering EV compensation does nothing). In fact my camera defaults to -2.0 EV all the time -putting it back to zero does nothing. Worse still fiddling with the setting runs the risk of camera dropping resolution to just 320×240. Fiddling also raises the risk of turning on the date stamp but don’t worry that’s a random thing anyway. The fact it comes on in a still shot again points to either a Dashcam or webcam origin.
At least the pedestrian burst mode works.
4AA go into a base accessed compartment with a slightly flimsy door. On the side is a set of port covered by a rubberised cover. There’s a 5-pin USB mini data slot for PC connection, SD/SDHC slot and a mystery jack slot which is shown in the manual but not specified. It’s either a microphone point or just redundant I suspect. The SD slot isn’t the easiest for retrieval.
The camera is light and has a comfortable grip making it easy to shoot one handed but it feels too light. It’s worth nothing film scameras of old were similar flimsy plastic but added slag metal lumps to give the camera the allusion of the quality of heft..
The buttons whilst cheap click to let you know you’ve pushed far enough. On the top plate the shutter button is reasonably ergonomic but the zoom buttons aren’t. That’s fine as you might as well as ignore these and crop in post anyway as all they do is crop your image. Pressing them crops logrythmically (2X, 4X, 8X & 16X) so no smooth zoom.
On the rear you’ve a mode button to switch between camera, video and sound recording. Beneath is a standard joy pad that I’d advise you to leave alone bar the playback button.
The LCD is reasonably bright and almost usable. It’s grainy and the settings info can be hard to make out but not that it really matters. It has a blueish cast and the start up noise is an awful tinkling. It really isn’t up to current standards but is probably the high point of the the camera.
There’s about a second of lag between taking the shot and the shutter firing so keep still until the camera shutter noise has finished or you’ll end up with a swirl shot,
This actually does not produce the worst images from a digital I have ever seen but it isn’t far behind. Although a modern budget smartphone or most tablets will be better I will concede we own budget tablets from a few years back with much worse cameras. But this is only marginally better and gives the image quality of a budget webcam.
There’s a mountain of artefact, fringing and noise especially in lower light. Even in well lit shots the effect at best is to give your images a soft smeary look
There is some chromatic aberration on this shot but not as evident on other shots like this one.You’re getting fringing and also blocks of colour appearing either due to compression or interpolation
This produces mages that would have been common on a website in 1999 but zoom in and the low quality becomes all to apparent.
On a plus. it has less radial distortion (barrel) than you might expect.
Exposure wise it does okay except for the narrow latitude. It can do moderate low light but sensor noise increases. This makes the images notably poorer as the low light shot below shows (this was the best of several). Latitude is pretty poor too with skies often grossly washed out.
There is no focusing – this is a fixed focus camera. It seems much better close for focus and softens at distance. It also softens off centre but not as bad as some cameras I’ve seen.
Watch out for flare. It gets this bad even if the sun isn’t in shot.
Look I’m no Vlogger and video mode is usually something I use for the weans and family occasions. This camera does actually do video and depending if yo buy it with a 720p HD spec it actually exceeds the pixel resolution of 720p with the same 1280×960 pixel density. This of course points to the bargain webcam nature of the camera.
That said the video is not great. It is what you’d expect from a webcam or cheap dashcam and is about what you’d expect from a a budget tablet and below the standard of most current smartphones. It is better than you’d expect with each frame being as good as the still but still quite poor. And hear the thing. Had this been sold as a DVR primarily I wouldn’t be moaning about it
The microphone is poor with some hiss.
The camera works as a web cam at least on windows 10 if you plug it in via USB . That said my laptop’s built in cam is better.
But hey it’s only £25/30 Bucks ?
Yes and new you’re not going to get a wonderful camera for the money (but you might get a camera like the vivitar which at least lives up to it’s listed spec). But if you look second hand things improve widely.
The FinePix S3000 that I pictured it with is not a great camera by any means and dated with just a 3.2MP sensor but it takes way better stills (its video is good for the time but VGA level resolution lags). I picked that up for just afew quid. But going for a slightly newer model easily surpasses the scamera. CEX would sell you a B grade Finepix S2800 HD for £25 with a 2 year warranty. That has a 14MP senor capable of 720p video.
If you’ve bought something more than a really budget smartphone in the past few years – you’ll already have digital way more capable than this.
This is a con.
It is blatantly sold with lies. I’d be less bothered as I said if it was sold as a budget 720p DVR as it works as that (although really you wouldn’t want it). It is worse than the Tenner no name camera which has very similar spec. Image quality is amongst the worse i’ve seen with 15 year old compacts you can pick up for a few quid offering way more and better images.
And for those reasons I have to call this the worst camera I’ve ever used