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Discovery Adventures DS200 WiFi Action Camera

posted Sep 19, 2016, 4:01 PM by Jason Gibson
Originally posted September 8, 2015

This post was copied from the original on DashCamTalk.com and then slightly modified to fit the blog post better.  Future posts will not be as disjointed as this as they will be posted here first, and to forums later.


Here's my video review, but you still might want to read this thread since I can go into a lot more detail when it's written down. 





Skip ahead to the parts you're interested in:


INTRO AND REVIEW:

0:10 - What's in the box

1:55 - A look back in time

2:42 - Exterior views, button explanations

4:06 - Menu options/settings

12:57 - Android App


SAMPLE FOOTAGE:

21:58 - Dashcam

25:37 - Neighborhood bike ride

28:55 - Indoor go-kart racing

34:22 - Quadcopter

41:38 - Water test


CONCLUSION:

43:39 - Summary

44:14 - Pros

45:00 - Cons

45:50 - Conclusion


Sorry the video ended up so long. In my last video, people said I rushed through a lot of it, so this time I took my time.

Raw files: http://gibson99.com/download/RawVideo/DS200/


ieGeek provided me with a sample unit of the Discovery Adventures DS200 action camera for review. This is the first action camera I've reviewed, but I've used a GoPro in the past and have read/watched reviews on things like the SJx000 series and the Yi.


A few key features:

  • WIFI
  • 1080p @ 30fps
  • removable battery gives about 70 minutes of recording time (screen and wifi off)
  • can be used as dashcam (loop recording, g-sensor, auto-record when power applied)


What's in the box:

  • Camera (in waterproof case)
  • battery (in camera)
  • USB-A to MicroUSB cable
  • 2 adhesive slide mounts with strap slots, one of which has a 1/4" tripod hole
  • 1 "J" clip mount
  • 1 flat clip mount
  • 2 velcro straps
  • 2 adjustable straps
  • 2 90-degree turn brackets - one short, one about 1cm longer
  • 1 straight riser bracket to raise the camera about 1cm
  • 1 2-pc 1/4" tripod adapter - lets you mount the DS200 on a tripod or mount any device with a tripod hole on a gopro mount.
  • 1 bike seatpost/handlebar mount
  • warranty card
  • quality certificate
  • English owner's manual


The camera came with firmware "21050723v02 DISCOVERY". I'm hoping there will be an update soon because I've found some annoying usability things that seem like they could be fixed in firmware. I have contacted ieGeek about them but a new firmware is not available at this time. If a new one does come out, I will edit this post with a link to the new firmware.


That said - the camera still works great as-is. Video quality is already very good so my suggestions for firmware updates are purely about usability, not to fix something that's broken. Just wanted to be clear on that.


The camera uses a Novatek processor, because that's how it shows up when I plug it into my PC. When plugged in to a computer, the camera turns on and asks if you want to use Mass Storage (acts like a thumb drive), PC Camera (webcam), or "Video", which presumably acts more like an MTP camera device - similar to when you plug most android phones into a PC.



I haven't been able to pin down exactly which processor or sensor it uses thus far. I may open up the case to find out later on. The media info in VLC is almost entirely blank. It has the same startup and menu button sounds as my A118/A118C dashcams, and the menus look nearly identical.


From my use so far (at my desk, in the car, and on a bike ride with the kids), I've come up with a few Pros and Cons.


PROS:

  • Waterproof case is compatible with GoPro mounts, so your mounting options are only limited by your budget
  • tiny, light weight
  • Box and manual says up to 32gb max for the SD card, but I formatted a 64gb card in the camera and it works perfectly!
  • Full HD with good picture quality during the day, even with the sun shining straight into the lens (haven't tested at night yet)
  • Surprisingly good battery life from such a tiny battery - about 75 minutes of actual recording time (with screen and wifi both off)
  • Main buttons easy to operate through waterproof case
  • Waterproof case does not cause any vignetting (doesn't cover lens) and remains waterproof even while spraying directly with water. Also provides a good clear picture underwater.
  • WIFI for aiming the camera (so that it's framed perfectly), controlling start/stop or downloading videos to phone via Android or iOS app - very handy when the camera is mounted somewhere you can't reach it (such as on the front bumper of your car).


CONS:

  • Automatically turns on and starts recording when plugged into power. This is good for a dashcam, but on an action cam, I just want it to charge, not start recording. This can probably be fixed in firmware. My workaround is to remove the SD card before plugging it into the charger. It still turns on, but at least it doesn't start recording.
  • No way to set a blank "license plate" number. So if you have the date/time stamp on, you'll also have a useless license plate number in the video. This isn't a problem if you leave the date stamp turned off. This can probably also be fixed in firmware
  • If you DO want to use the plate number, there's 7 characters, but the first character can only be a chinese character. the next 6 are the normal 0-9 and A-Z (no spaces). so I couldn't put my 7-digit license plate number there even if i wanted to.
  • wifi only good for aiming camera, starting/stopping recordings, and downloading videos to the phone. it's way too slow for watching recordings.
  • thumb screws on mounts are a little too short - they end up very close to the waterproof case, making them hard to tighten, even with a gopro mount wrench.
  • the two adhesive mounts included with this camera do NOT accept GoPro clips, but the included clips DO fit in gopro mount plates.
  • back buttons are a little hard to press (with case off of course).
  • menu option for image rotation is buried way down in the menus - i think (my opinion) that it should be easier to get to it since it's a feature that will be used often. again - this can probably be fixed in firmware. Maybe they could make it so you could just press left or right while in video camera mode to toggle image rotation without having to go into the menu at all. currently left/right will zoom in/out, which i honestly don't expect to use - ever.


I know that sounds like a lot of negatives, but really they're just annoyances, and you can still easily use the camera. 


When the g-sensor is turned on, it saves the locked files in a separate folder named RO. Many dashcams do the same - put the locked files (from when you press the lock button or something triggers the G-sensor), in a separate folder. But for some reason, the RO folder is inside another folder called Test:


The G-sensor also seems to mess with the numbering of the files, so I just turned off the G-sensor so all videos would end up in the same folder and be named consistently. the g-sensor triggered for almost every single file on my sedate little bike ride around the neighborhood on august 30, and one of the files for my dashcam test on august 28. I've also turned off loop recording since the 10+ hours of recording time I get out of a 64gb card is more than enough for an action cam. and just like my a118 dashcam, when the DS200 is set to loop recording, it has a 1 second overlap at the beginning of each new file. so using the 3-minute-long files above as an example: the first second of 2015_0830_172544_016.MOV will contain the exact same footage/audio as the LAST second of 2015_0830_172244_015.MOV. so if you're editing several of these back together, you'll have to trim every file to make it play smoothly. With loop recording off, it just records one giant file until it hits the 4gb file size limit of the file system. at that point if it's still recording, there will also be the 1 second overlap, but since each file will end up being about 30 minutes long, this will be rare and in most cases, not an issue. and for an action camera, i would think you wouldn't want it to overwrite anything without warning you, so IMHO, loop recording should be turned off by default (but it isn't).


One other niggle... the waterproof case blocks almost all sound from getting to the camera... except when it's actually under water. This is not exclusive to this camera - ALL action cameras in waterproof cases, gopro included, have that problem. The way gopro gets around that problem is to have different backs that you can snap onto the case. one is solid and waterproof. another has slots which make it NOT waterproof, but allow sound into the case to get recorded while still protecting the camera from bumps and scrapes. The DS200 doesn't come with a different back or even a different case. so it's the waterproof case or nothing - there's no other way to mount the camera without the case. Thankfully, the gopro accessory kit I bought DOES come with a different sort of case - one that's basically a flexible black plastic ring that holds the outside edges of the camera, with holes for the buttons and microphone. It doesn't provide any protection for the camera, but at least it allows sound in. Granted, the wifi button and mic holes do not line up right, but that's fine - this isn't a gopro so I'm honestly surprised it even fits at all! I drilled new holes in the bracket to fix that minor issue. Fit isn't perfect either - apparently the discovery camera is a few mm narrower than a gopro, so there's a tiny bit of slop in the case. I added some foam tape inside the bracket to prevent vibrations and keep the camera securely in the mount.



So here are a couple screengrabs from me using the camera.

First, using it as a dashcam. it was hanging upside down so i used the image rotation function in the camera. I didn't have to rotate the video to watch it on my PC, so image rotation works as expected.

First is the DS200, and second is my A118 dashcam (which you can see in the time/date/plate stamp), for comparison.



The A118 seems to have a slightly wider angle lens, and has a bit of a lens flare from the sun (red dot under the car ahead of me), but the DS200 has a sharper image and seems to handle the brightness from the sun a bit better. It lets it wash out the sky but still shows decent detail on the cars, signs and even just the reflectors in the road (and unfortunately, dirt and rock chips on my windshield). And no, your eyes aren't playing tricks on you - my car's hood/bonnet is not shiny. My car needs a bath (and a paint job).


The DS 200 works well as a dashcam. In fact it almost seems to be made primarily as a dashcam due to the way it defaults to loop recording, automatically starts recording when you plug in power (or start your car if it's already plugged in), and many of the menu options. It was a little shaky on the suction cup mount I used, but that's not the fault of the camera - that's the cheap, generic suction cup mount I bought.  And since it was in the waterproof case, the only sound in the video is vibrations that came through the chassis of the car. You can't really hear the music on my stereo or anything else beside bumps in the road and engine vibration.


With it mounted on my bike handlebars, the quality is good.  Not very shaky even with knobby tires on pavement.  With the sun behind me, the quality is good. not super sharp but not dull or fuzzy either.



For now, that's all I have in terms of samples. This weekend I plan to go indoor go-kart racing at K1-Speed, and I'll have the camera mounted to the chin bar of my helmet, and will be using the open bracket, not the waterproof case, because I want sound! Should give a pretty good view:


note that on the helmet, i used the generic gopro mount plate from the kit i bought so that it fits the curve of the helmet better.


As luck would have it, a buddy of mine built himself a quadcopter and wanted to show it to me. Once I told him I was reviewing an action camera, he was super excited about putting it on the quadcopter. so how's that for a thorough test?  :D



I have been emailing back and forth quite a bit with @ieGeek about some of the issues with the menus as well as the android app. Seems the 2.4ghz wifi caused some interference with the 2.4ghz controller for the quadcopter, and caused it to just drop out of the sky without warning.  Thankfully no damage as it landed in the grass, but it's worth mentioning. Once we turned off wifi on the camera, there were no more issues with the quadcopter, and we got some great footage.


Sunny said: How's the video quality?


Similar performance to my a118 dashcam (the a118 has a novatek 96650 processor and aptina ar0330 sensor), though I haven't exactly filmed much indoors with the dashcam so can't compare there... but the kart racing turned out great. Even though it was bumpy as hell (karts have no suspension) the video is still great and you can sometimes make out enough detail to read the leaderboard as I fly past it, as well as read signs and other stuff on the walls there. As I said, it's VERY bumpy on these karts, so it's hard to get a perfectly clear screenshot from when I was at speed. The actual video looks fine though.


This is me sitting in grid, waiting for the current run group to finish before starting my race.


and here's us out on course, at speed.


And this is most definitely NOT a go-kart. notice the dog trying to catch it.  :p


Thanks again to @ieGeek for providing this camera for me to review! :D



I've finished the video review - it and the link for raw footage have been added to the post.


I did test the waterproof case, but not at the neighborhood pool like I wanted - they weren't open last weekend even though they should have been (what am I paying HOA dues for again?). So i put it in the bathtub with some of my son's toys. seal was good - no water inside, even when held directly under the faucet. clarity underwater is great. light was a little low due to how deep the garden tub is, but it's good enough for this test.


when mounted on the quadcopter (no gimbal), even with the waterproof case, the props/motors were quite loud. but the camera held up just fine even through several crashes. the first crash was caused by the camera's wifi (wifi runs at 2.4ghz) and the quad's 2.4ghz controller interfering with each other. once we turned off wifi on the camera, the quad behaved normally. the other crashes were simple pilot error - he hasn't had it very long and is still learning how to fly it. the wifi signal to my phone was lost a few seconds after the quad took off, so even though it was still close enough to have gotten a signal (ieGeek says within 15 meters), the motors and quad's 2.4ghz controller just drowned it out and it lost the signal.


on the kart, it was very bumpy. i mean seriously bumpy. karts have no suspension other than chassis flex and pneumatic tires, and my helmet was shaking a little, which shows up in the videos. even still, the videos turned out pretty good. sound could not have been better with the open case i used. these karts can supposedly do 45 mph, and if you drive it right, you can top out the kart right as you cross the start/finish line, and carry that speed through a big sweeper. yet there was no wind noise - only the whine of the electric karts, tire squeal, karts bumping, and people yelling. i did not add any kind of foam near the microphone - it just has an open hole in the plastic bracket. and even though i was wearing a full face helmet with the visor closed, you can easily hear me talking. that's partly because there's a vent in the front of the helmet right in front of my mouth, right behind the camera. but still, my own voice was surprisingly clear, even when i wasn't yelling - when that kid ran me into the wall ("shoulder check fail" in the video), i said "dammit" but it wasn't very loud, especially compared to when i yelled "EYES OPEN!" at him a few seconds later. i dunno what they were thinking letting those kids out there with experienced racers. yes, you gotta learn some time, but not in a crowd that aggressive. might as well put a first-day driver on the autobahn. ok, off my soap box.  :p


the bike ride brought a lot of vibration and mechanical noise to the camera, especially when using the waterproof case. my mountain bike's knobby tires made a lot of resonation and humming/buzzing, sometimes making the video wavy, but that's because we were riding on concrete. brake levers, the freewheel, and when i'd pedal backwards to get the pedal up to a good starting point all made bangs and thumps in the video, not to mention noises from the child bike trailer i was pulling. with the open case, audio is great - you can hear both kids laughing when we go over the small hills in the first part of the video. offroad, you don't get the vibration/resonation from knobby tires unless you're on dried clay or something, but then that's never smooth anyway, so...


I never did end up testing the camera at night, but if someone wants me to, I can try to do that (edit Nov 2015: I can't do this anymore as I gave the camera to my father, who lives several thousand miles from me). It'd probably just be another dashcam video if i did test it at night, although maybe i could try putting it on the fender of the car with the suction mount (and a tether in case the suction cup lets go), and see how it does there in terms of both audio and video quality.


i also didn't test the photo capabilities. again - this is a video camera. i don't expect many people will be using it to take photos. and it's easy to get a screengrab from videos you may record, so there's not much point in having a separate camera function, IMHO.


Final verdict: Would I buy it? As I said in the video, probably not. There's nothing wrong with it other than the slow wifi - video quality is good and audio (outside the waterproof case) is excellent. having a screen is indeed quite handy for when you're not using wifi to start/stop/aim it. the menu quirks are just that - quirks - and they might get fixed in a future firmware update. you can still use the camera just fine. but for the same amount of money, personally i'd buy a xiaomi yi and some accessories. no, the yi doesn't have a screen, and doesn't even come with a waterproof case, but it does have wifi. and a better image sensor (sony). and a tripod hole for mounting without a case. and a huge following here on the forums and probably other places too, for custom firmwares, scripts and utilities.


then again, i'm a power user. i run linux on my home pc, i root my android devices the moment i get them, and usually run a custom ROM as well. My day job is to tweak the heck out of windows to optimize it for firm business, and automate the entire build process, so you can start with a blank pc, press 4 buttons, and 2 hours later end up with windows and all the software we need, all completely configured for the user so they can just log in and start working without having to tinker with anything. i'm NOT your average user. I even went so far as to modify how the daytime running lights work in my wife's SUV (now it uses the fog lights for DRLs instead of the low beam headlights - needed because I converted the headlights from halogen to HID). so this isn't the camera for me, because i'm a tweaker. that's not the camera's fault, it's just my preference. I'll continue using the camera until I get something different I gave the camera to my dad now that I have another action camera.  The fact that I gave it to a family member (whom I actually like!) shows that I don't think this camera is junk.


I do appreciate @ieGeek sending me this evaluation unit, and i will continue to work with them if they have any updates for the camera firmware or the android app, and i'll keep this thread updated with anything new on that front. 


iegeek sells the camera on amazon and ebay, here:

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