Action cameras are typically considered an addition to the extreme lifestyle, whether you’re mountain-biking, surfing or riding on roads in Russia. It’s that last item that is important though because, before we got our hands on the Cansonic UDV-888, also known as the UltraDV, we hadn’t really considered using an action-cam in everyday circumstances.
Intellectually we knew that it was possible for an action cam to be an almost mundane object but making the connection between camera and constant use was just something that wouldn’t happen until the UDV-888 crossed our desks. It was then that the benefits of having a camera on hand most of the time became apparent, specifically while driving on South African roads.
Cansonic’s little camera is being billed as a highly versatile piece of video recording tech, equally at home in the home or mounted on someone’s helmet as they blast down a mountainside on a snowboard.
In order to fulfil that promise, it needs to be tiny and it is. The UltraDV measures just 58mm high, its largest measurement but it bulks up somewhat when it is slipped into the water-resistance case that ships with the camera unit. And though you won’t need to keep the UltraDV in a casing to use it, it’s probably a good idea if you want to make full use of the camera’s features.
Bells and Whistles
In almost any situation you’ll be using the water-resistant casing, unless you remove the GPS unit from its home above the lens protrusion and connect the suction-cup adaptor Cansonic to the camera. This allows the camera to be used on a windshield or another piece of glass – theoretically you could set it up as a mini-surveillance unit if you wanted to.
Also included with the camera, besides the sucker and the adjustable casing, are the microSD card and adapter (32GB), a car charger, a standard USB charging cable, a bike fitting, as well as enough stick-on clips to suit any action-oriented situation. Want a permanent fixture in your car, on a helmet and three or four other places? There’s enough packaged by default to make all of those scenarios happen.
Resolution: 1080p (max)
Recording format: H.264 (.MOV)
Lens: 140 degree A+
Battery: Polymer Li-Ion, 750mAh
Ports: HDMI out, GPS-in
Storage: 4GB to 64GB Class 6 microSD
It’s not really surprising that we noted the UDV-888’s performance as a dashboard camera. The feature set for this unit seems streamlined to offer the best performance when used in that manner, though the app offers some interesting alternate uses outside of strapping to the side of your noodle and jumping off of something.
The GPS unit, which we mentioned earlier, adds location and speed data to video recorded on the road in the form of a watermark, while the 888 also features an accelerometer in case you’re interested in how many Gs you’re pulling when taking a corner. These features have their uses when being insane but more than one insurance company would absolutely love to have the footage from an accident so clearly marked.
There’s also space for an external GPS to be connected, in case you’re using the suction cup instead of a clip and the casing. The startup functions have been designed for vehicles, it’ll start recording when the car moves, upon impact (that’s a bit late, but that might just be us) or when the vehicle starts, depending on how you fiddle with the menu on the teeny little LCD control screen. But, after recording many, many hours of Johannesburg traffic, we started to take note of how much more carefully we were driving – plus it’s nice to have a record of any possible mishaps on the road.
What’s The Use?
It’s not just a dashcam, though you may end up YouTube-famous if you use it as one in South Africa. The included app, which is available for both Android and iOS, lets you use it as a short-range spy-cam in your smartphone happens to be within WiFi range. So, with the suction-cup attachment and motion detection turned on (yup, it has motion detection), you have a moveable security cam. Just place it somewhere and you can use the WiFi connection to monitor a room, perhaps keeping an eye on an infant or just watching whatever it is that cats do when they think we’re not looking.
It may take a while to get to this point though. Stuff generally considers reading the manual a fireable offence but it’s a must in order to connect the smartphone app to the camera. Limited controls on the camera itself and an unhelpful interface in the app (which is also fairly limited) mean that you’re not going to puzzle out how to get things done on your own. Still, once you know how it’s easy enough to replicate the feat on command. Good reviewer, have a treat.
Look, in terms of design, ease of use and durability, Cansonic’s UltraDV isn’t about to make GoPro worry about their bottom line. But the whole UDV-888 setup comes in at less than the cost of your average GoPro, minus accessories. It’ll handle most situations and while we’d be more likely to install one of these in a car permanently than take it skydiving (which it’ll survive as well, by the way), that’s hardly a negative thing. It’s actually pleasant having a camera that we’re fully in control of for once, keeping an eye on roadblocks and other drivers, especially when that camera hasn’t cost an arm and a leg.