My wife and I are planning a cruise in the Caribbean, and I am hoping we will have some opportunities to go snorkeling in a reef or two. And since I love documenting my travels, I wondered what it would take to get underwater photos.
I’ve seen people do things like put a smart phone inside a good plastic bag that can be sealed watertight, but then I was watching a video on YouTube where this came up and discovered I could get a camera to do this that would cost significantly less than replacing a smart phone.
He did a review of underwater action cameras, and one seemed to be pretty good and fairly inexpensive, the SJCam. I went looking for it, but somehow ended up with what looks like the same camera under a different name, which I suspect happens a lot with electronics products from China. The one I got is the Akaso EK7000 Pro, which cost me $84.79 with a 64GB Micro SD Card included. Was it a good buy? I’ll find out when we do our trip, but at that price it is worth taking a chance. This is basically a competitor to the GoPro, but cheaper and fewer features. But one useful feature it does have is an app that lets you control the camera from your smartphone. The camera has WiFi connectivity for this purpose.
One problem I encountered right away is that there was virtually no documentation in the box when it arrived. There was a web site where you can get a PDF of the User Manual, but even that was very skimpy. Fortunately, there are videos on YouTube that come to the rescue. Here are some links to sites that discuss this camera:
- AKASO EK7000 4K Action Camera REVIEW & Sample Footage
- Akaso EK7000 4K Action Camera Review | Budget GoPro? | Sample Footage | Compared to GoPro
- AKASO EK7000 4K Action Camera Unboxed, how to use with LOADS of Test clips
- Unboxing and First Impression of Akaso EK7000 (vs. GoPro HERO4 Black)
The camera is very lightweight, even when in the waterproof case, and is pretty small. It has a screen at the back, which has touch features but only when not in the waterproof case. It comes attached to a plastic base that is glued on to the box, and my first puzzle was how to remove it. I eventually figured it out, with no help from the User Manual. There are two arms under the camera, with a rubber piece in between that is also attached to the case. You pull out the rubber piece from between the two arms, then pinch the arms together, and you can pull it out.
In addition to the camera and the case, there is quite the selection of plastic parts in the box, which seem to be used for mounting, but the User Manual is not quite clear on how any of this works. There is also a pair of batteries, a battery charger, a remote control, and I bought one with an included 64GB MicroSD Card. Since the camera only uses one battery at a time, you can have a charged spare ready to go, but be careful that you don’t accidentally short out the contacts and start a fire. I find leaving the extra battery in the charging module is a good way to keep it secure. I also bought a few more of the MicroSD cards since we will be on two weeks holiday with limited Internet access. I figure I will fill a card and just swap in a fresh one as needed.
As I mentioned, this is a competitor of sorts to the GoPro, only much less expensive. The GoPro cameras I looked at were hundreds of dollars (U.S.), while my Akaso was $85 including the MicroSD Card. But the hardware follows the standard used by GoPro. The box comes with a wrist-mounted remote with a strap, and there are several straps and velcro ties. However, the remote appears to be splashproof, but not waterproof, so I won’t be wearing it on any dives. As an action camera, though, it can be used on a cycle and comes with a mounting bracket for that purpose, and other miscellaneous mounting hardware, straps, and ties.
In addition to the camera and MicroSD cards, I also purchased a head strap so I could wear the camera while diving ($7.99 U.S.), and a small GorillaPod tripod ($14.90 U.S.). So my total outlay came to:
- Camera and one 64GB MicroSD card $85 U.S.
- Two additional 64 GB MicroSD cards $20 U.S.
- Head strap $8 U.S.
- GorillaPod Tripod $15 U.S.
Total for all equipment $128.
The other thing I want to mention is the smart phone software that is also available. It is called iSmart DV, and is available for both Android and iOS. It lets you connect the camera to the phone via WiFi. The camera itself becomes the network access point, and you connect your phone to the WiFi first just as with any other WiFi network. There is a password in the downloaded documentation which you will need. Once you have the WiFi connection, open the iSmart DV app, add a camera, and you can now control your camera from your phone. This can be useful for viewing or deleting pictures and videos. There is also a Bluetooth capability, but that is only for the remote control connecting to the camera.
After the Trip Update
I have now returned and had a chance to look at the photos and movies I took with this camera, so I can give some idea of how it works and the plusses and minuses of this little camera. Overall, I thought it was good value for money, but whether it is the one you want may depend on a few factors.
First, it does what it claims to do. I took it snorkeling in the Virgin Islands, and again while climbing a waterfall in Jamaica, and it worked great. Here is an example of a movie while snorkeling:
I did have a lot of trouble with trying to video while snorkeling given that this was my first attempt at snorkeling. My brain occasionally locked up and decided that not drowning was the only thing that mattered, but that is the right priority after all. I also tried making videos when not in the water, and one thing I did not realize right away is that you get no sound while the camera is in the waterproof case.
The next thing to point out is that comparing both videos and photos taken with this camera and with my phone shows that the quality for this camera is not as good as the quality with my phone. But obviously I was not about to take my phone along for climbing a waterfall, for instance. So there is a trade-off here. Would a GoPro, at about 4 times the cost, do a better job? Quite possibly, but I don’t want to spend that kind of money to find out. But the photos were acceptable, I thought. Here is one I took with the camera while we were climbing the falls:
My phone would have made a crisper photo with slightly better color, but I was standing in rushing water at the time, so this was the best option.
And this brings me to another issue. The camera was designed to put the date the photo was taken on the shot. But in this case you can see it says June 1, 2019, and actually the photo was taken in February of 2020. What I think happened is that when I was on the ship I would take out the battery to recharge it every night, and when I did so it would lose the current date and revert to a default date. I did not notice it in my test photos because I was always on home network, and the Wifi connection to my phone would give it correct date. But on the ship we elected not to spend the money for a WiFi connection, so there was nothing to be done. It is a fairly minor annoyance, but there it is.