TomTom Bandit Action Camera Review
Action cameras are wildly popular now and there is a new player in the market, TomTom. Famous of course for their satellite navigation products, the Dutch company is expanding further into the sports market. What makes this camera different from all the others? The ability to create a video of your best bits and share it within minutes of capturing it, from anywhere, without cables. A bold claim it may well have managed.
The Bandit action camera was born out of frustrations with existing cameras on the market, namely not knowing whether you are recording or not and the endless hours of going through and editing footage before you can share it with others, not to mention carrying around the required cables. The initial target market is people who have used action cameras before and given up. Having lots of great video, but no time (or skill) to edit it! It has been over 2 years in development with a pretty sizeable team, as well as being extensively beta tested. TomTom really mean business and want to continue investing in this product and market.
There are some really clever ideas and technologies built into the camera, so to test them we needed some action, this action came in the form of Skiing and Mountain Biking for a couple of days in Tignes. Lets see how we got on.
It’s a good looking camera, although the mass of white can be hard to find if you say, drop it from a chair lift into the snow! It’s durable too, with no extra case required, the first thing we did was forget it was on our lap and drop it out of the car in the morning onto the concrete, it survived just fine. The mounting also allows the camera to rotate, so whatever you are mounting on to, you can easily ensure a horizontal shot.
Operation is simple, there is a button on the back to turn on/start recording/take photo/highlight (more on this later), and a button on the top to turn off/stop recording. This two button system immediately gets rid of the issue of stopping recording when you meant to start it. If you want to record or make sure you are recording, just hit the button on the back, simple. Additionally, there is a 4 button menu system at the top which allows you to change modes, configure settings, turn wifi on and check memory/battery status.
There are three parts to the camera, the main unit, the “Batt-Stick” and the lens cover. The standard, supplied lens cover allows the Bandit to be waterproof to a depth of 1 metre and the optional deep dive cover takes that to 50 metres, both easy to clip and secure on. The “Batt-Stick” is the battery for the unit and also holds the microSD card, it has lights to determine remaining battery life and is USB so can be plugged straight into a USB port for charging and retrieving data, without the need for cables. The Batt-Stick simply pushes into the camera and locks into place with a small twist.
Videos can be captured in 1080p/60fps & 720p/120fps which matches the GoPro Silver and also 4k/15fps. Other capturing features are Slow Motion, Time Lapse and Photo.
So it’s just like most of the other cameras out there then? Not really! We have covered the frustrations of accidentally stopping recording and carrying around those cables, but what about quickly being able to create and share content? This is done by the accompanying app, but all the clever stuff happens on the camera itself. Here is what happens:
To be able to gather your best bits of footage quickly, you need to know where they are. The Bandit attempts to do this by having the following sensors built in:
These sensors, along with the ability to pair with a heart-rate monitor and press a button on the camera to mark content as a highlight, allow the camera to detect things like increases and decreases in speed, rotation, vertical drops and peaks of heart-rate, which generally translate to the most exciting bits of your content. Using this, these highlights can be quickly put together to create a video using the app.
You have all this content on your Bandit camera, including your cleverly selected highlights using the sensors, putting this all onto your phone to start editing is going to take a lot of time and space, so the Bandit has a built in media server, connecting to your phone using it’s own wifi network. As the camera is then hosting all your content, the app can just connect to it, stream the content you want to watch while editing and only when finished, the result is downloaded onto your phone and ready for sharing.
Connecting your phone to your bandit is simply a case of turning on the cameras wifi network, and connecting to that network with your phone. Then open the app and you should be ready to go. The app has a couple of main functions, a real time viewfinder/remote for the bandit, along with viewing/editing your content to share.
The viewfinder/remote aspect of the app is great, especially if you are setting up for a time lapse, you don’t want to watch the footage back and realise the cameras lens was obscured!
When coming to view and edit your content, there are a few options, the first and simplest being “Shake to edit” which allows you to simple shake your device, and a minute video will automatically be produced. This is done using highlights, created for you with the data from the sensors, these moments are picked out:
- Max Speed
- Max G-Force
- Vertical Decent
- Manual Highlight (Pressing the camera button while recording)
- Max Heartrate (If using the heartrate monitor accessory)
Each highlight lasts 6 seconds, 10 highlights from recent footage are randomly selected, and put together in chronological order. This gives you a video, ready to share in a matter of minutes that includes some of your best moments, not bad at all!
If this random edit doesn’t suit your needs, or doesn’t include that one particular moment you want to share, you can go for a more manual approach. Adding content to the existing video as well as removing and rearranging, or starting from scratch, selecting only the content you wish. This can be done by browsing all the collected highlights and adding/editing selected ones or watching whole videos and adding/selecting certain parts. Once you have all your content selected and organised, saving the video will process all the required data on the bandit and download the resulting video to your phone, ready for sharing either within the app or externally.
Is the app easy to use? Yes, certainly with the shake to edit functionality, and other modes as well when you get use to the “long press” interaction for manual editing, which I don’t find particularly intuitive. When I hold down a button, especially on a phone, I’m generally trying to turn it off. However, I did manage to make a short video, which I was happy with, in about 10 minutes while under the influence and that is great for a first time use following a short demo.
The app does need some work, but it is a V1 so a great start. The app can obviously be updated independently from the camera, so updates for both bug fixes and features should be frequent, enhancing the experience. The camera software can also be updated through the app as well, which means updates without plugging anything in, a great feature.
The most important accessory for the bandit is actually the GoPro Adapter, meaning that you don’t have to waste all those accessories you have already bought for your GoPro. If you don’t have a load of accessories already, the following are available:
- Basic surface mounts (adhesive)
- Tripod adapter
- Wrist mount
- Pole mount
- Handle bar mount
- Board mount
- 360 pitch mount
- Floating protection cover
- Dive lens cover
- Batt-Stick splash proof case
- Remote control
- Microphone cable
- Power cable
- Heart rate monitor
For a company with no previous experience in this area, this is a great product and one where you can really see the thought taken and the fact that it has been beta tested from an early stage. This is a crowded market but the bandit can certainly make a splash, and if they listen carefully to the feedback from real users, both the on camera software and the app can quickly become something that sets this camera apart from others.
The camera promised to be able to create and share content, without cables, easily and quickly, this is something that the bandit certainly does, and does well. Samples pictures below!