Review: Arizona's Oclu debuts a brand new 4K action camera
Oclu is a brand new action camera coming out of a new company by the same name based in Scottsdale, Arizona. Our review unit arrived with an imperial buttload of compact and portable mounting options, most of which are compatible with GoPro gear if you've got a bunch of that lying about. This includes sticker mounts, extendable selfie sticks, handlebar mounts, suckers, floating grips, magnetic mini-tripods, and a 50-meter (164-ft) underwater case called the OcShell.
It's got a full color screen on top (non-touch sensitive), and a little low-power one on the front. Like most of these things do, it connects to your phone via Wi-Fi, giving you a live preview of your shots as well as access to all settings and playback of previously recorded media.
It shoots 4K at 30 fps, and 1080p at 120 fps for slow-mo, and everything in between, and if you like the way a GoPro Black compresses vision vertically from a 3:2 ratio to a 16:9 in Superview, the Oclu does the same thing. Terrific for making things feel fast and furious.
I think the 4K image quality is quite good. The picture is very sharp, colors are nice, there's a good amount of detail in the shadows. Dynamic range has room for improvement; you do tend to lose detail in the clouds, for example, when your frame is mostly road. But it gradually adjusts exposure to compensate for lighting changes, and the slight degree of lens distortion and chromatic aberration are nothing to worry about. The 150-degree field of view is a good width for motorcycle riding and action sports, and all in all I think the picture is very usable.
Image stabilization is where the big players in this field are spending money to differentiate themselves, with DJI's Rocksteady (featured on the Osmo Action) absolutely whooping the backside of GoPro's Hypersmooth (featured on the Hero 7 Black) at the top of the tree, providing footage so smooth you'd think it was on a gimbal. The Oclu does have what the company calls a "motion recording" mode, but it only works in 1080p, and I didn't find it made a ton of difference. The motorcycle riding footage in the video below was filmed with a chest mount harness on, which usually isolates the camera from movement to a fair degree, but the shape of the Oclu and the fact that the lens sits some way out from the rider's chest does add some extra shake to the shot.
Photos are a surprise strength, with 12-megapixel resolution that brings the most out of a nice, sharp f/2.5-aperture lens. Their greater color depth can't overcome the tendency for highlights to blow out, but that's cameras for you, and when you get the light right the Oclu takes some gorgeous images.
In terms of practicalities, it'll film for about 50 minutes if you leave the big screen on. Putting it in sleep mode is a good idea, roughly doubling your recording time per 1,000-mAh battery. It charges with a magnetic clip-on charger, and it seems there's no room in its IPX7 water-resistant case for a USB connection, so you've got to pull the card or do a Wi-Fi transfer to get your images off it, and you need to bring the special charger wherever you're going.
The Oclu's big differentiator is a recording mode called LiveCut. These guys recognize that 95 percent of action cam footage is just not that interesting, so in LiveCut mode you can hit a button to effectively say "yeah, nothing great's happened yet, just delete all that previous footage." I guess you could also use it as a "destroy evidence" button as well. It'll also do "loop recording," which is kind of the opposite, automatically throwing footage away unless you mark it as "something happened." Other modes include regular video, timelapse, burst photo and multi photo – fairly standard.
I'd rate the Oclu as a solid and impressive little action camera. It's a robust and well put together product, particularly for a first-time manufacturer, that's neat, aerodynamic and easy to use to produce sharp 4K video and solid stills. I don't mind the fact that it doesn't have a touchscreen – the control scheme is basic, and fine without one. Some folks might lament the lack of any microphone connection options, and that's fair, but on the other hand I don't mind the live sound that comes out of the Oclu's built-in stereo mics.
I think it competes well with something like the GoPro Hero 7 Silver, which retails for the same US$299 as the Oclu, before you start adding accessories and mounts. The form factor alone may be enough to steal a piece of the market, since there are some spots a GoPro is just awkward to fit – like on a set of handlebars – where the horizontal Oclu sits much more nicely and gives the rider a much easier view of the screen. The LiveCut editing might be a simple feature, but anything that helps cut down on the reams of extraneous footage you tend to get from action cameras is a good thing.
On the other hand, the DJI Osmo Action costs US$80 more, at US$379, and offers a truly unholy degree of image stabilization, even at 4K/60fps, as well as high dynamic range (HDR) recording at 4K/30 fps, so that'll be a tough competitor. Oclu is starting out with a limited run of 2,500 units, on sale now at the company's website. Accessories and mounts are sold separately.
Check out a video below – and please note, the live preview issues the video references were quickly fixed with a change of Wi-Fi settings on the phone. Live preview is now working perfectly.
Product page: Oclu