I’ve been considering getting a camcorder for a while, but then, it’s always been one of those purchases where once you’ve bought it, what do you actually do with it, other than film yourself making an idiot of yourself doing self help videos or hope for a You’ve Been Framed moment to finally bag that inflation busting £250.
I recently moved departments in my place of work, and my existing team were very generous in the amount of money they gave me as a leaving present in the form of an Amazon Gift Card. I really wasn’t expecting anything, as I had only been there just shy of 18 months.
I opted to spend the gift card on a cheap camcorder, as essentially, it became a free camcorder, and gave me the option to wet my toes and see if it was something I was going to find useful.
The model I went for was the Besteker F301STRM, which also came with a mountable microphone. I knew from the off here that I was probably getting way too much for my money, and that the quality wouldn’t be all that. Existing Amazon reviews were pretty good, averaging at 4/5
So before we deep dive, what does the camera claim to do?
1080P full HD video (Camera lens: Fixed lens, F/3.2, f=7.36mm)
Infa Red Night vision
24Megapixel still images (CMOS Sensor)
16X digital zoom
As stated above an external microphone
Upto 32GB SD card
Long lasting Li-ion battery
Size: 4.9*2.3*2.2 inches
And whats in the box:
1* Besteker DV camcorder
First things first, it looks and feels like any camcorder. It’s light, it’s easy to hold and move around. The commence record button is on the back, and zoom in and out notch is on the top, as is the photo button. So if you wanted to just switch on and use, you pretty much could. It’s the same basic use as every other camera that’s on the market, regardless of the price.
You’ll need to charge the battery upon first use. You can leave the battery in the camera and connect the USB cable to a USB plug or power outlet and leave it to charge. While we are on the subject of the battery. I will say that before you know you’re going to use the camera. Charge it the night before. I’ve been sitting on this review for a while in order to give it a decent try out, and if you leave it several days before going to pick it back up and use it, you will be disappointed that a large amount of charge has gone from the battery and you may not be able to capture everything you wanted too before you run out of juice.
I haven’t as of yet run out of juice when using it, but I haven’t exactly been going out and attempting to record full motion picture length videos whilst I’ve been reviewing it. The documentation states that you should be able to take upto 2 hours and 30 minutes of video, or upto 3 hours and 30 minutes of photo on a full charge.
The touchscreen controls, are not ideal to use, it’s not like using an iPhone slick that’s for sure. I found myself having to almost dig my nail into the option I wanted to press. Also because the screen is so small, and there can be 4/5 menu items on the screen at any one time, even with small fingers, you’re going to suffer with fat finger syndrome when using the touchscreen.
It’s worth quickly mentioning that the screen does flip, so if you are part of the self recording generation, then you can flip the screen to see yourself and make sure you’re centred and what not.
There’s buttons to navigate the menus inside the camera too once you’ve flipped open the screen, and these are probably easier to use if I’m honest. Although trying to go back a menu doesn’t seem obvious with the buttons, so I often found myself getting my nail out in order to press the back button on the screen itself.
It’s worth going through the menu system before you go out to use it properly for the first time, most notably because the default record option is HD and not FHD. If you want 1080p video, then you really do want to be changing the setting to FHD.
The ultimate question of course is, what is a £90 camcorders recording quality actually like?
Well, sadly, the answer is, it’s not really that great.
The first thing you’ll notice is, there always appears to be a little of what I would call noise in the picture. The picture doesn’t look overly crisp and clear on my monitor as you would expect for something in 1080p, so I doubt they are going to look any better on your living room TV. The zoom is digital and not optical. I know it says this in the sales pitch, and that was a major oversight by myself. The zoom is not smooth, it’s slow and generally it’s just rubbish. It doesn’t adjust to changes in light very well either.
The files also come out in AVI format. There’s potentially better formats which better well known companies probably use in order to get a better quality video for a much less file size.
The built in microphone is ok, they are never amazing and for thing’s that are near it will do the job fine, the external microphone that comes with it, does at the very least cancel out some of the really loud noises, and can be set to 3 different settings. I’d say it’s an improvement to have the microphone attached, but the cable does get in the way, and it does eat into the battery a little. Also there’s no real way to tell you’ve got the microphone on the right setting until you review the footage when you get home.
So for £90, you essentially get what you pay for. I’m not sure I’d want to use this camcorder for anything other than mucking about at home in future. It’s not really any better than using my smartphone, and now I’ve got my hands on the iPhone X which can record in 4K then this will probably most defiantly be nothing more than an additional option if I ever intend to do some in-house videos where I want to use more than one camera. If you’re really in the market for a camcorder, save another £100 and get a decent brand such as Sony or Panasonic that comes with an optical zoom. This time I’m afraid cheap tech didn’t pay off!
I haven’t used the remote control so cannot comment on that. The bag that comes with it is actually quite useful. I tend to put my Panasonic Lumix which I reviewed here in it, when I put in my man bag! I actually also think the Panasonic Lumix records better quality video even though it can only do 720p HD, it’s also let down by the 15min max length of any one video you record.
Overall score 2/5