The action camera market is flooded with options and dominated by the behemoth that is GoPro. Beyond the American brand it can be tough deciding where to put your money. TomTom, the GPS navigation specialists, have entered the action camera market looking to make the production and sharing videos a realistic endeavour for the average person. Meet the TomTom Bandit.

The Functionality
GoPro are synonymous with point of view filming. They are the Hoover of this market, but queuing behind the market leaders are a collection of rivals scrabbling to get their great alternatives seen. Sony have inbuilt stabilisation, iON pride themselves on ease of use, Garmin have some superb graphic overlays and beyond the high end brand names are 50 small, cheap options costing as little as £40 (US$40).

“Within 30 minutes we’d gone from start to finish and had a final product ready to slap all over Facebook.”

The biggest hurdle with action cam video is sifting through hours of mundane footage in an attempt to make something watchable. We know that pain only too well and for many it means they don’t make the most of their incredible cameras. That is the USP of the TomTom Bandit, which utilises built in sensors to measure speed, altitude, g-force and more to decide where the best moments of your footage are. It breaks these moments up into a tagging system called Highlights. The idea is to make finding the best segments from your day easier. From there you can choose them manually or let the editing program do it for you. Highlights can also be selected manually by pressing the Highlights button on the back of the camera.

For the full tech specs click the toggle below.

Technical Comparison
Specs TomTom Bandit GoPro Hero 4 Silver iON Air Pro 3 WiFi Sony Action Camera AS200CV
Video Resolution 4k 15FPS / 2.7k 30FPS / 1080p 30FPS / 1080p 60FPS / 720p 60FPS / 720p 120FPS 4k 15 or 12.5 FPS / 2.7K 30,25,24 FPS / 1440P 47,30,25,24 FPS / 1080p 60,48,30,25,24 FPS 1080p 60,30 FPS / 720p 120,60 FPS 1080p 60,50,30,25,24 FPD / 720 120,100 FPS
Photo Resolution 16 MP 12 MP 12 MP 8.8 MP
Weight 190g 147g (With waterproof housing) 142g 93g (Without waterproof case)
Battery Life @ 1080p 3hr 1hr 50 Mins (Removable) 2hr 30 Mins 1hr 50 mins (Removable)
View Screen Settings Only – Image Via App Yes – Full Colour Touch No – App Connection Only Settings Only – Image Via App or Remote
Waterproof No – Splashproof. Optional Waterproof Lens Cover Yes – In Housing to 40 Metres Yes – 14 Metres Yes – In Housing 10 Metres
Price £269.99 £329.99 £269.99 £270.00
The Real World Usage
As a typical non-camera user I’ve spent a lot of time watching others fiddle around with Go Pros, giving more focus to the red light on the front than riding bikes. Over the last 15 years I’ve been fortunate to have clocked up countless miles of incredible trails in amazing places but I only have memories and words to remember them by. Last year I hit a tractor on a rally in Greece, clipping the wheel and bouncing into a ditch before nigh on making mincemeat of the cow being towed by said tractor. It’s a moment so ridiculous that people can’t understand it and I struggle to explain it. The problem I have with GoPros is that I don’t WANT to learn the ins and outs of cameras and spend hours sifting through my footage. For that reason, the TomTom appeals massively.

“One of the finest aspects of the Bandit system is the mounting. It’s simple, almost idiot proof and fast.”

Getting everything going with the Bandit is as simple as any other camera available. A short two second hold of the back button turns it on. The no frills black and white screen on the top of the camera utilises a directional pad that sits around the screen’s edge for navigating the menus and changing shooting modes. In this area the TomTom is basic and clear, with changing modes a synch. Menu options are entirely conquerable for even the least tech savvy people too.

 

The TomTom Bandit can also be controlled via the app, available on iPhone and Android. This allows you to change all the settings, see the camera in real-time and is easily one of the cleanest and most concise programs we’ve seen. The camera pairs through the Bandit’s Wi-Fi signal to your device and works perfectly, making connection easily and remaining stable. It has, as of yet not crashed or struggled to connect.  One of the finest aspects of the Bandit system is the mounting. It’s simple, almost idiot proof and fast. With the pad stuck on the side of the helmet and aligned using the app, the bandit clips on with a mere push and then rotates around its own base to sit at the correct angle. It’s complex to explain but easy to use and extremely fast to setup.

 

Within mere minutes of removing it from the box, we’re ready to ride. The simplicity of the operation, using separate buttons to begin and stop recording, means you never have to worry about accidentally turning the recording off when you want it on and so on. It’s also preposterously easy to add your own ‘highlights’ to the recording, a quick push of the button on the back achieves this and allows the TomTom Bandit app to group it for viewing later. It’s not a new idea, but it is very well executed. This made finding those exciting, beautiful and wild moments that touch easier to find.

The Edit
Anyone who has spent time trawling through GoPro footage is fully aware of the tedium. After the excitement of riding there is nothing that excites me less than killing my buzz with endless boring footage.  This is where the TomTom is utterly fantastic and real-world friendly. It’s incredible just how fast and user friendly the Dutch company have made this. We started with the (still in Beta stage) desktop application TomTom Bandit Studio. The fantastic twist and release removable battery (Batt-Stick) contains the Micro SD card and plugs straight into your computer’s USB port upon which the free software does its thing. Within 30 minutes we’d gone from start to finish by using the automatic highlights, some of our own selection and a little trimming. In that time we produced a finished product ready to slap all over Facebook. It was decent, watchable and representative of our day. It didn’t take long and as you learn the program and TomTom work out the little glitches (there are some) it’ll get even faster.

 

 

That application however is not even close to the perfection that is the mobile app. On your phone you can do everything the desktop app can but it’s in your hand, requires no plugging in, no fuss and works ridiculously quickly. You can select clips, add them, insert transitions and overlay neat speed, altitude or g-force graphics as well as lay an audio track from your iTunes, without plugging anything in. All of the above is  performed over the Wifi signal from the Bandit.

 

This is a truly mobile thing, it can be done during lunch, uploaded to Social Media or saved to your phone. Editing and broadcasting on the fly is awesome and TomTom have made having action camera footage that is worthy of watching a reality for me. You can also use the ‘shake to edit’ feature and it’ll collect a bunch of the automatically selected highlights and drop them into a video for you. It works, but it wasn’t as good as picking from the highlights list and quickly re-ordering them manually.

 

Typically, I’m the guy that suffers at anything more advanced than playing iPhone games and sending emails, so for me it’s provided access to something I wouldn’t have bothered with. The app was easy to decipher, the camera simple to use and even easier to mount.

 

The Pitfalls
Very few products are perfect and the TomTom definitely has its niggles. First on that list are the buttons. They lack any positivity to the click and that can make it hard to know if you’ve actually achieved what you want, especially when wearing gloves. They camera beeps nicely on the start and stop of recording but the lack of a defined click isn’t great, especially when on a bike.

 

The sound capture is also a let-down. It’s worth noting that as of yet, the built in microphones on all action cameras are pretty poor but the Bandit lives at the worse end of the spectrum. The mic sits right below the lens at the front. The first mod we made was adding the little beard, dead cat accessory thing, but at anything over 10km/h you get wind noise and it’s not great.

Finally, it isn’t waterproof out of the box. The splashproof label means it’ll survive some rainfall but because of the microphone position the stock lens cover leaves it vulnerable. You can buy a waterproof lens cover, but then you lose sound capture.

The Image Quality/Technical Bit
The image quality is perhaps the only real sticking point anyone might hold over the GoPro or Sony options. The Bandit, when shot in 2.7K is really good. It’s crisp, detailed and compares very favourably to the GoPro Hero 4 Silver. It’s not quite as good as the GoPro, but it’s close. However, when you drop the resolution the Bandit takes on a muddiness to the footage and is a little disappointing. The reality is that this may be a built in redundancy to allow the footage to stream well to the app and for 90% of potential TomTom users it’s probably not the reason you’re interested in the camera. It’s also a good chunk cheaper than said GoPro.

 

The reality is that the image quality and colour saturation are perfectly good for the intended use. It saturates colours a lot, a touch more than our GoPro and that results in a image that looks nice straight away. For a casual user it works fantastically because the image comes out punchy and vibrant. For a more serious use it’s not ideal because of the tendency to crush colours and remove detail. It also lacks any form of colour profile alteration, saturation or sharpness controls, but that is the exact reason it’s so easy to use.

 

The only other gripe we have is the current lack of brightness/exposure control. On Brake Magazine GoPro’s we use aftermarket ND filters to stop the image looking wobbly and as of yet, you can’t do that easily with the Bandit. Subsequently it suffers in bright sunlight, with the image looking jittery. It’s an ailment that becomes all Action Camera’s but it’d be nice to have a solution to control it.

Conclusion
The Bandit is awesome. That’s the message that really needs to be portrayed. Its strengths are entirely centred around how user friendly it is. The mounting, the editing, sharing and cable free charging are all precisely as easy as they should be. If you’re the person who isn’t tech savvy or interested in learning to be then TomTom have provided you with the perfect action cam.

 

It does have some flaws, the buttons aren’t great, the sound is poor and the image quality is significantly better in the higher resolution (yes, they are different things) but in the real world use of an everyday adventure rider, those issues are bested by the functionality. If you’re looking for a camera to fiddle with, change settings, worry massively about image quality and colour grade footage, the TomTom isn’t for you, but if you want to capture your mates rolling in the mud with minimal fuss and ease of use then the Bandit is without question the camera you need to buy.


Crafted By

Neil Hawker

Former REME member, longtime Enduro racer and general funny man, Neil joined the adventure riding community in 2012. An incredibly skilful and thoughtful rider, the Englishman brings a fresh perspective to the travel riding world through an unrivalled enthusiasm for everything in front of him.

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