Action cameras are becoming so commonplace that, if it’s high-quality video you’re after, you’re utterly spoilt for choice. How do you stand out in a market that’s dominated by GoPro and has myriad contenders chasing the (not-insignificant) scraps? If you’re TomTom, you shift the focus from hardware – which, seemingly, anyone can get right – to software.
The TomTom Bandit’s 4K at 15fps, 1080p at 60 or 30fps, still, built-in waterproofing (to depths of 10m with the supplied lens cap, or 50m with an after-sales one), stills and battery life are as good as similarly priced devices (R5,700 for the basic kit, R6,700 for additional mounts and a remote control), but it’s the array of built-in sensors and the Bandit’s accompanying app (and its editing functionality, specifically) that TomTom’s hoping will serve as its real drawcard.
Accelerometers, altimeters and built-in GPS make it possible to overlay routes, speed, altitude or other stats on your footage, but more importantly, mean the camera automatically tags prospective highlights – sudden change in speed? Quick change in direction or orientation? Come to the end of your downhill bicycle ride or snowboarding session and each will be marked accordingly.
The power and record button on the rear of the pork sausage-like unit (separated from the stop button that sits up front) can also be used to mark final, cut-worthy events for easy editing later.
TomTom’s Bandit app acts both as electronic viewfinder and edit suite. Connect to the camera over Wi-Fi and you can go through and choose highlights (auto-tagged, or your own, inserted ones), adjust their length or dismiss them, choose new ones, order and rearrange footage, and add audio from your phone’s library.
Edit with a shake
Alternatively, shake your phone with the app open and it’ll play editor too, selecting and arranging clips gleaned from your highlights. Don’t like the selection? Repeat the process and let the phone pick different clips, or add and remove clips to or from its selection manually. The process is slick and efficient, especially if you’re looking to gather sections from individual runs and splice them in a hurry for rapid social media adoration and gratification.
When using the app to edit, individual clips stay put on the Bandit and stream to your phone or tablet from it, so there’s no wrangling with large files. Once you’re done editing, only the final footage is pushed to your mobile device. Of course, if you want the whole shebang you can remove the cylindrical battery pack that also houses the microSD card and a USB 3.0 connector and dump content that way (albeit without the highlights tags).
TomTom knows GoPro dominates the market, so much so, there’s the option of a GoPro mount for the Bandit. And why not? It makes sense to ensure the Bandit is compatible with as many existing accessories as possible if it’s going to stand a chance of winning over GoPro users.
For the South African launch of the Bandit last week, TomTom roped in a dozen or so vintage motorcycles with sidecars and took journalists on a ride from town to Hout Bay and Signal Hill. Here’s a (very) hastily edited minute of video created using an iPhone immediately after the ride in under ten minutes before we – begrudgingly – handed back the review unit.
Aside from the odd jitter when loading large clips (greater than 20 minutes) the app performed as promised – picking clips was quick and easy, adjusting highlights or making new ones was easy and the export was speedier than we expected at a few minutes per minute of footage.
As was the case with Garmin’s VIRB action camera our one immediate reservation with the Bandit is its form. It’s long and cylindrical rather than boxy like a GoPro, which shouldn’t be a problem on helmets, handlebars and the like, but could prove tricky for chest- and head-straps.
The camera also shoots time lapses and stills, but we didn’t get the change to test either feature. We’ll test that — and whether or not our worries about the Bandit’s shape hold true — in weeks to come once we’ve had some time with a longer-term loaner unit.