Because you never know when adventure is going to happen, and because a video of that adventure is sometimes worth more than words, our team jumped at the chance to test what is billed at the “tiniest portable digital video device” for outdoor and action sports.
Weighing only 3 ounces, the Epic Stealth Cam is indeed tiny – meaning we never blinked when heading out as the device took up precious little room in any pack or pocket. And the camera’s waterproof casing makes it very versatile and durable—we submerged it numerous times, and played with it in muddy, slushy and dusty conditions with no troubles. The camera has loads of attaching options with the mount, strap and shock resistant saddle that come with it—you’re limited only by your imagination. We attached the camera to our dog’s collar to catch action photos of her catching balls—not really successful, but a lot of blurry imagery—as well as to the edge of a raft, a strap on a lifejacket, a bike helmet, the top of a shoe when running, and to our tester’s arm when fishing.
The camera comes standard with a 2GB memory card, and a slot that will accommodate up to a 4GB SD card. Using the 2GB standard card, we were able to store 97 minutes of video in segments before we maxed the memory. Powered by two AAA batteries and relying on a CMOS (complementary metal-oxide semiconductor) image sensor, the unit does a decent job of capturing a lot of footage before the battery depleted—anywhere from 52 to 60 minutes of battery life we found. However, the image quality was not super sharp and really not good when the light was low—such as early morning or evening—because the camera relies on the CMOS sensor.
Because the unit has no means of helping you know where you are aiming the lens (a laser or even small screen would be useful), our testers wasted a lot of shots that were half out of the screen or angled to one side or the other when we tried to hold it in their hands or mount it to various locations to capture action. Efforts to aim the camera improved when we used it as a helmet cam because the device pointed where we looked—obviously.
Which brings us to another weakness—how on earth do you turn the camera on while it is on your helmet? True, there are only two buttons, one of which turns the camera on and another that starts and stops the filming. But finding the tiny rubber buttons without looking at the camera is an exercise in frustration and futility. It would be valuable if the camera had a simple remote that could turn the camera on and start filming.
The unit also has a microphone, but unfortunately, we shot most of our footage while the camera was safely housed in the waterproof casing to protect it, which left voices muddy and faint.
What was very cool was the ability to easily upload all of our action shots to a laptop computer with a USB connection. Epic even has a YouTube site (www.youtube.com/epicstealthcam) where you can upload shots, though we did not partake of this option. Because there is no viewing screen on the camera itself, you have no way of knowing if the shot you just took worked out until you view it on a computer screen, so the convenience of quickly hooking the camera up to a laptop is a plus.
All the quibbling aside, this is a decent and inexpensive camera for YouTubers or anyone who just wants to tuck along a just-in-case video camera for entertainment purposes. We downloaded and then edited a short segment of a friend fly fishing in Alaska to give an example of the photo quality as well as the fun that can be had with the camera -- click here to view.
The video frame size is 640 x 480, and the still shot mode claims 5.0MP. The product manual claims 30 frames per second, but the sample videos on their site show what appears to be a variable frame rate.
SNEWS® Rating: 3.5 hands clapping (1 to 5 hands clapping possible, with 5 clapping hands representing functional and design perfection)
Suggested Retail: $149