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I am a recluse, and my most adventurous activity is running to catch the train. So testing out the Isaw Extreme Camera – sold as a camera for extreme sports – was challenging.
One can’t only shoot wine, books and movies. One ought to be out in the deep wilderness, climbing a mountain, riding a bike through a forest or walking on water. None of that happened, but I still put the Isaw Extreme Camera through its city slicker paces.
The fact that it can be strapped to a helmet while jumping off cliffs or hurtling down hills doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be judged on its intrinsic camera abilities.
How does it handle low light? Is it intuitive? Are the videos and photos of good quality? Continue reading to find out.
What’s in the box?
Once the rather attractive packaging is hurled to one side, you’ll see that Isaw’s packed the box with a host of goodies.
Numerous accessories include a nifty waterproof housing, an open frame housing, a tripod mount, two flat mounts, a curved helmet mount, an ambitious surfboard mount, a host of connectors and connecting screws, the customary USB cable (charging and transferring data), a rechargeable Li-on battery, and interestingly three metres of adhesive tape and a pouch.
Of course, these aren’t all included with the Isaw A3 itself — they’re accessories that can be purchased as aftermarket products. The company isn’t that giving, unfortunately
Capturing the moment
We began testing the Isaw A3 Extreme minutes after it arrived at the office. After I had fixed the camera on one of its long arm accessories, it hovered above the Memeburn desks, capturing with clarity fingers violently typing on keyboards, and recording a conversation with crisp audio playback.
For indoor use, it’s surprisingly good as an action-orientated camera, but I later discovered that the microphone is terrible in the wind. If you mount it onto a bike or a wing-suit, you probably won’t hear much.
Naturally, the Isaw A3 Extreme’s competitor is the GoPro. Having used GoPro’s products before, the Isaw A3 Extreme doesn’t really differ in design, although the exterior finish is less smooth and refined. It did trump the GoPro in some of the accessories, features and functionality though.
Isaw Extreme has a 2″ colour LCD, which makes navigating the menu a lot easier and gives the user a better idea of what they are capturing.
It’s 61x43x42 mm in size and weighs a light 110 grams. The camera has a 12MP CMOS sensor with a f/2.4 lens — so HD recording is child’s play. It comes with a waterproof cover that allows for water depths of six meters.
The Isaw allows for remote stop/start for both video and photo. The range is a vast 120 meters, using the Android and iPhone app. Software updates can be uploaded via the supplied USB cable, and the HDMI port lets you view all the footage captured on the microSD card directly through an large screen. The lithium ion battery holds a respectable 1200mAh of juice.
iSaw Extreme has four times zoom for the camera on stills. One can set the resolution for the photos and aspect ratio. The still snapping low light performance is good, though the camera is too scared to overexpose and ironically, underexposes. At night, the camera is terrible. Rays of light lag terribly.
The camera has a field of view for both video and photo, which is set to wide as default but can be switched to medium and narrow. Taking a photographic using wide view bends the photograph and includes the peripheral surroundings, much like a wide angle lens does.
The “medium” view is, well, okay, although the photographs are victims of saturation. However, using the “narrow” view, the photographs distort and loses quality entirely. Stay with wide or medium view and images should be rich in both colour and quality.
Isaw Wide Image
A snap with the "wide view" mode selected.
Isaw Medium Image
A snap with the medium view mode selected -- a little bit disappointing.
Isaw Narrow Image
A snap using the "narrow view" mode. Now this is something you really want to avoid using for still images.
The camera has the standard high resolution one should expect from a GoPro competitor –- 1080p at 60fps. It’s not quite 4K, but it’s good enough.
The automatic light balance feature is also not bad. It’s smooth to adjust and not abrupt, which is the worst thing for automatic shooting. The gradual readjusting is excellent as quickly cranking up or down the ISO settings isn’t ideal for video.
The camera has an Aqua mode that is used for underwater shooting to make colours vivid and richer. The video is quite adept at capturing objects traveling at high speed. Nothing lags or breaks in playback, which is to be expected as an “extreme” camera.
It’s therefore perfect to capture the rush while flying down a hillside mounted to a BMX, skateboard or helmet.
Verdict: The Isaw A3 Extreme camera is an good alternative to the GoPro. With its many accessories and LCD, it’s a good, reliable camera but definitely not one for brilliant audio capture or low lit shooting environments. It’s best for video recording, of course, so don’t expect stellar photographic performance.
For extreme users on a budget (it costs around R3400), it’s a good alternative to the GoPro range, but just don’t expect too much from it.