Hands on with the world's smallest 4K action camera
The Mokacam is claimed to be the world's smallest 4K action camera. It's also currently the only one to feature hot-swappable magnetic batteries and a rotating removable view and control screen. Already fully funded on Indiegogo, Gizmag got to play with an early prototype. Here are our impressions.
We love the idea of this tiny minimalist camera that shoots in high definition, has nearly the same (or better) specs as the GoPro Hero4 Black, and is expected to retail at US$330 less than the aforementioned category leader. So it was with no little excitement that we took delivery of a prototype unit.
Look and Feel
The Mokacam is an ambitious effort and even the very early prototype (one of five, we understand) is simply gorgeous. The back and sides of the case are coated with a rubberized material that adds grip without requiring texture. The face of the camera is aluminum with just enough texture to avoid smudges and fingerprints. Both the power/shutter release and the settings/Wi-Fi buttons sit flush with the sides of the camera and are only just visible looking directly at them. When used without the detachable LCD, the port that accepts it is covered with a screw-in cap about the size of a 2 Euro coin.
The camera itself feels solid (if a little heavy, at 79 g/2.8 oz), while the LCD screen is extremely light and felt more fragile. We did not have access to a housing, as a result we can't provide feedback on operating the camera from within a housing nor test it underwater or in other more extreme conditions.
Early prototypes can be buggy and the Mokacam we tested was no exception. We understood this going in and anticipated that there might be issues with the device as well as specifications that differed from what's been announced for the production version. Both these predictions turned out to be accurate.
The good news is that the company has got time before they're in full production. The bad news is that this device still needs considerable polishing to be ready for the masses. Feedback and tough love to follow.
What we liked
The Mokacam is packed with innovations and at an ultra-competitive price. Fully realized this will be a very competitive device. We love the magnetic back, rotating display, compact size and beautiful look and feel. And while we didn't have one to test, the idea of infinite recording time via hot-swappable batteries is pretty groovy too.
Video and photo quality are both good. There doesn't seem to be any particular issue with chromatic aberration or moiré, at least under the conditions where we tested the camera. 4K in the prototype we tested was limited to 10 frames per second (fps), making any action sequences rather jerky, but this will be improved to 15 fps in the production version. Better, but still not the equal of the GoPro Hero4 Black that shoots 4K at 30 fps. The auto setting for photos seemed to deal with most light well, while using the "cloudy" preset yielded a yellowing effect that looks more like a filter than an adaption to particular light conditions.
Overall, Mokacam's specs and capabilities position the camera as a potential winner in our eyes. However, to take this new category entry from good to great, numerous improvements to the production version will be needed.
What could be improved
The removable rotating display is cool but would be better with true 360 degree rotation. As it is, the screen cannot be rotated so you can see yourself while taking a photo. The attachment of the screen to the camera is another area of concern. At least in the prototype it didn't feel nearly robust enough to withstand much of any kind of stress before it would either break or potentially damage the camera input port or attachment.
The LCD also needs to be much brighter in the production version. Action cameras are made for outside use, yet even when it was overcast the screen was very difficult to see.
The magnetic back is a clever innovation that we'd like to see improved. The problem? Slippage. Only on surfaces that had both a reasonably high iron content and were somewhat textured did the Mokacam really stay in place with the magnet. With the LCD attached, the camera tended to rotate to put the display at the bottom, not the way you want the camera oriented. And speaking of orientation, the production unit will allow you to flip the view, something we could not do with the prototype.
While visually appealing, the lack of visual cues like multiple LEDs provides very little feedback without the attached screen or the use of the app. For example without the removable viewer or the use of the companion iOS/Android application, you don't know what mode the camera is in when you turn it on to begin shooting. In fact without either the app or the LCD there are many things that you simply can't do because of insufficient user feedback.
The standard screw-in tripod mount is a nice touch that, like the magnet, opens up new possibilities for the camera. However the nut that accepts accessories needs to be much more securely embedded in the Mokacam to be strong enough to be usable (the one in the prototype was not).
We found it very easy to accidentally and unknowingly depress the shutter release on the camera, leading to videos shot by accident and associated loss of battery life.
Motion detect is another feature that is especially cool when coupled with the magnetic back. However, being unable to adjust sensitivity in the prototype limited its usefulness, although we did confirm with the Mokacam team that this feature will be improved in the production version.
The iSharecam app is designed to pair with Mokacam and is available for Android and iOS devices. In addition to allowing you to control the camera, the app let's you view and share images on the camera as well as your phone. Unfortunately for us, the Wi-Fi in our prototype was especially uncooperative, thus our experience with the associated app was limited to just a few minutes before we lost, and were unable to regain, Wi-Fi connectivity to between the Mokacam and anything else.
Packed with novel features and boasting an unbeatable price vs. the completion, we have high hopes for the Mokacam. The key question is if numerous improvements can be made for delivery of a truly polished production device.
The Mokacam is currently 775 percent funded on Indiegogo, with about a week left to run. Pledges starting at $99 and, if all goes to plan, shipping is estimated to begin in February 2016.