The action camera market is growing. I have been a fan of this technology since the boom of GoPro.
However, I have always been on the lookout for a budget action camera, which is good for at least semi-professional videos, for experimentation and as a spare action cam.
It seems that most action cameras require you to spend a good amount of money, which can be a turn off for some people, especially newbies who are looking to venture in to action photography but want to play with their skills, before investing in a high-end product.
Recently I discovered the Eken H9 Action Cam and it seemed like my search for a low-cost action camera was over. I have since then compiled a list of cheap action camera for less than $100.
Like ThiEye and Fitfort, this is a camera that claims to record 4K videos and has several features, all combined for an insanely low-price tag! Although it is manufactured by a relatively unknown Chinese company, it still looks like an excellent deal.
Therefore, I got hold of this camera, after putting my faith in the brand, and used it for some time, before writing this article to discuss my experience with you. Let us see how it fared!
Let’s Jump to the Review!
Product: Eken H9 Action Camera
Price: Less than a $100
My rating: 7/10
Cheapest Place to Buy: Amazon.com
- 2-inch display
- Video recording at 4K (25 fps), 2.7K (30 fps), 1080p (60 & 30 fps), 720p (H.264)
- Fish eye lens covering 170 degrees
- Water resistant for up to 30 meters
- WiFi compatible (802.11)
- Multiple language options including English, Traditional Chinese, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Dutch, French, Czech, Polish, Turkish, Russian, Japanese, Korean and Thai
- External storage compatible with SD Card (separately purchased)
- Battery capacity of 1050 mAH (50 – 90 minutes)
- Micro USB and HDMI connectivity
Design & Built Quality
Quite frankly, this is a budget action camera and the design reflects it. There is nothing spectacular about it.
It is like any other Chinese model you would see in the market, with a rectangular body. There are seven different colors to choose from, which makes it a nice add-on to match your other accessories.
The quality of manufacturing doesn’t feel anything out of the extraordinary and the camera is very light in weight.
The only difference that can be spotted is the presence of a 2-inch LCD on the back, which helps you to view and scroll through the media stored in your camera’s internal / external memory.
Talking about display, you are going to be bothered with a lot of sun glare if you plan on using the device during days. I was annoyed with the low brightness and glares which would only go when I held the camera at specific angles.
Apart from the display, there are large LED indicators positioned on the top side of the body. These are perhaps some of the positives in the design.
Since they are large, it makes seeing the lights very easy, compared to some alternative cameras which have pretty small indicators.
Since the body is quite light and not made from the best materials, the camera is not very durable and I suspect that it cannot handle impacts regularly.
In fact, it easily showed marks of wearing after 2 weeks of use by myself. I did not test it in water, but the pack says that the camera can tolerate 30 meters of water without getting damaged.
All in all, design wise, the camera cannot quite tolerate the action, despite being an action camera!
Navigation, controls and WiFi
The user interface of this Eken camera is quite simple. If you have used a camera before, you will get on it almost immediately.
To switch on the camera, you have to press the very visible power button on the external side of the camera.
There is a non-touch menu that shows up on the LCD display and can be controlled through the Playback button (UP), WiFi button (DOWN) and Shutter button (SELECT).
There are five different modes to choose from in the menu, which have self-explanatory names. These are: Video, Photo, Burst, Timelapse and Settings.
The camera can share data through a micro USB, HDMI and WiFi, which is great considering that you can back up all your data.
I am skeptical about the life of this camera, so I strongly recommend you save your data on an external SD card or on your PC.
Having bought this camera due to its unbelievable offer of 4k shooting at a budget price, I was disappointed to know that the feature was just a marketing gimmick by the company.
While the camera does record 4K content, but it does so at 10 FPS, which means that the videos are completely – for a lack of a better word – crap! The super low FPS makes the 4K mode useless. Even the 2.7K mode (15 FPS) is practically unusable. Unless you are into making vintage motion pictures, avoid this camera for its 4K feature.
The 1080p mode is more realistic and works at 60 / 30 FPS. It is pretty okay for everyday shooting, but don’t intend to use it for professional purposes. This mode is also battery friendly compared to the higher resolutions mentioned above.
Relative to the video quality, the Eken Cam takes pretty good photos. The images are clean, sharp and focused. You may find the colors to be a bit saturated but you can expect this in a low-end camera.
The contrast is still pretty nice and effective. If you want to enhance the photos, you can use an editing software for it.
Accessories and battery life
The H9 Cam comes in a passable packaging. You get a waterproof case, a handle, six mounts, screws for assembling the mounts, a charging dock, USB cable, lens cloth, clips, tethers, bandages and user manuals in the box.
To be honest, the accessories were more than I expected and came off as a sweet gesture by the company. However, there is nothing sweet to be said about the battery of this camera.
First and foremost, the battery is irreplaceable so you are stuck with it, for good and bad.
Secondly, the battery life itself is very poor and unpredictable. At high resolutions (4K and 2.7K) you get about 50 minutes of battery, while on lower resolutions you can max it out to more than an hour.
As the battery gets old, it quickly becomes unpredictable and in the two weeks of usage, I saw it starting to drop from 80 to 50 within a few minutes. In my opinion, the battery is the weakest specification of this camera.
Here’s a YouTube video review by Pevly, you can see the video quality of the Eken H9:
All in all, the Eken H9 action camera is just good as an entry level model, for use at an amateur level.
It is not the best built or supported product in the market, but will do the job for newbies or people with super tight budget.
Coming at a price of below $100, it makes for an exciting prospect as an alternative for premium action cameras like the GoPro.