Ease of Use: / 5
Pricing: / 5
Video Quality: / 5
Photo Quality: / 5
Features: / 100
- 5 Megapixel CMOS Sensor (16MP via interpolation)
- Full HD Video (1080p) at 30 Frames Per Second
- 23x Optical zoom and 120x Digital zoom
- 3” Touchscreen LCD display
- Pricing: R1999, exclusively at Kalahari.com
Here’s another product from Gobii, the brand exclusively available at Kalahari.com, the Gobii Digital Video Camera. This camcorder can shoot Full HD Video, at 30 frames per second and even shoot 16MP photos.
When you first see the camcorder, there’s nothing that stands out. It is a very generic design that fits right in with the other camcorders in this segment. The camera has a solid feel in hand, and the side-strap seems quite sturdy.
Again, Gobii opted for a touch-screen interface, with just the bare essential buttons left. As you open the LCD screen, the camera automatically switches on.
The first thing I picked up when looking at the LCD screen was that, as with other Gobii products, low resolution screens seem to be a trend. And Gobii has not figured out how to make attractive menus.
Going through the menu, was less of a hassle than it was with the stills camera, but the interface is ugly, and although functional, not something you want to stare at for long periods. There isn’t a whole lot to fiddle with in the menus and you quickly realize that this camera is very much an automatic affair.
Let’s start with the photo side of things, shall we?
To actually take photos was quite easy. Just push and hold the photo button, even when you are in movie mode, and it switches to photo mode, focuses and snap.
As stated in the key specs, the camcorder has a 5MP sensor, but can shoot 16MP photos via interpolation. In plain English, it means that the photos are enlarged from 5MP to 16MP in the camcorder. This is not good. Normally one uses specialized software to do this properly.
The resulting photos have very little details in them, and even at ISO200 you can already see noise (graininess) being produced in the images. Strangely, the camera has a HIGH ISO setting in the menu where you can boost ISO up to 6400, which renders perfectly useless photos.
The lens showed some barrel distortion on the wide end and pronounced chromatic aberrations in high contrast shots. Have a look at the magenta hues around the gate at the top of the photo below. The lens also went very soft at the telephoto end, showing even less detail.
For some reason, the camera kept getting the white balance wrong. Most photos came out too yellow. Even in direct sunlight. Have a look at the photos below. You’ll see how it came from the camera, and what it should actually be.
I also noticed that all photos were underexposed. Not a single photo was perfectly exposed. You can easily correct it, but with photos that are already stretched, and show noise from ISO200, you are just making things worse by editing them, especially if it is in low-light conditions.
Let’s rather move to the video side of things:
Overall the video looks to have very little detail. The codec is compressing the life out of the video. The data-rate never passed 10Mbps on any of the clips, which for full HD, is very poor. To put it in perspective, the Nikon D3100 and Canon 1000D, both shoot video at more than double the rate of this camcorder, and neither are dedicated video cameras, nor high-end DSLRs.
Gobii used the H.264 codec in an AVI file, which seems very user friendly. They just should not have compressed the files so much.
With the low bit-rate, video looks better when the camera isn’t moving too fast. The more the movement, the less the detail. I picked up quite a lot of noise (grain) in the video, even when shooting in broad daylight.
As with the photos, the video was also underexposed all the time, but not as bad as the photos. And, as with the photos, the video also kept appearing too yellow. I also saw that as you move the camcorder while filming, the changes in exposure are very steppy and not smooth at all. You can actually see the jumps as it darkens or lightens.
By far the most noticeable quirk with this camcorder was the stabilization. It was jittery beyond belief. It kept working against me, instead of actually helping the shots. It actually made things worse and made footage zoomed in all the way, totally unusable, except if you want to go into epileptic shock.
On the other hand, the focus worked admirably. I threw a lot at it, like guys on jet skis, and surfers, and it mostly kept up.
An interesting feature I tried, and that actually worked well, was the time-lapse feature. You can set the distance between shots, and then just press record, et voila! As soon as you stop, your time-lapse is ready as a video. Usually for time-lapses, everything needs to be in manual mode, which is impossible with this camera, especially focus. This meant that cloud time-lapses were impossible, as it kept hunting for focus as the clouds moved. You need something still in the frame, but then it does work well.
The main thing that bothers me with this camcorder is the fact that all the videos are noisy. Both the photos and videos have too little detail and have very over-processed and very over-compressed looks. In fact, video from the new generation smart-phones look cleaner than this.
The thought-process for this camcorder seems to have stopped after the body construction. On the software side, the codecs are compressing and stretching the video and photos beyond what it should, the metering keeps getting it wrong, the white balance is wonky, and on the mechanical side, the image stabilization is appalling.
As with the Digital Camera, there are many competitors to this camera from the big brands and the same price-point that offer similar specs, right on Kalahari.com’s site. This begs the question as to the strategy behind the pricing. Kalahari.com advertises this camera as usually being R3499, but has now been marked down to R1999. Oh how nice of them! To sell this camcorder at R3499 would be a very sick joke, and not funny at all. R1999 already seems hardly justifiable, let alone almost double that.
PURCHASE IT @ KALAHARI.COM
R1999 is a lot of money for most people and this camcorder just doesn’t make enough of a case for itself at this price-point to be competitive.
Have a look at the links below for more photos from this camera, as well as a video sample: