Introduction and features
EE’s first action camera was backed by a solid concept – a fully featured camera that enabled you to capture and broadcast your extreme sports, or more leisurely activities, live over EE’s 4G network. Action cameras might seem an odd step for a mobile provider until you realise that in order to broadcast your videos live you need a contract with EE. The concept is actually pretty solid, as for your £10 a month you get an action camera thrown in. A decent one would normally set you back a couple of hundred anyway, so it should all balance out. Unfortunately the Action Cam wasn’t that decent when it came to video quality, but it was good fun.
EE has now launched the Capture Cam and this follows the same concept but in a far smaller and sleeker body and without the waterproof housing and bulk of the original 4GEE.
The camera is small and nicely designed and features a simple clip that enables it to be quickly attached to a pocket, belt or strap – and the slender design makes it both discrete and easy to wear. The camera weighs in at just 90g and measures 55 x 55 x 28mm, so once it’s attached it goes pretty much unnoticed by the wearer.
The clip features the same slot attachment design as the Action Cam and this enables a GoPro mount adapter to be fitted so you can take advantage of the vast array of mounts available.
Video and stills are captured on a microSD card and this fits inside the unit next to the small micro Sim which enables the 4G connection and makes the live broadcast possible. If you don’t want to use the network connection you don’t have to and the camera can be used in isolation, like any standard action camera.
Used as a non network connected camera, video is solely recorded to the memory card and this means that footage can be captured at Full HD 1080p at 30fp. However, when streaming the resolution automatically switches to 720p 30fps. This reduction in resolution cuts down on the data size which enables smoother streaming. In order to stream, however, you need to use both the EE and Skeegle apps.
Skeegle is a live streaming app and platform and it’s used by EE to enable the live view stream. What makes it different from the likes of Periscope is that you can quickly select who you want to broadcast to from your phone’s contacts.
When you opt to use the network connection the streamed video is also stored on the microSD card and in your Skeegle account at 720p and 30fps. It’s also possible to shoot stills, and these are captured at 8 megapixels.
Build and handling
The camera might be small but it has a quality feel with a textured outer covering, metal clip and overall solid design. The lurid colours of the EE Action Cam have been lost and the Capture Cam is a far more stylish and usable camera. The clip on the back makes it easy to attach to an item of clothing and the ability to quickly adapt for GoPro mounts increases the flexibility of mounting almost infinitely. The flat base design also makes it possible to simply stand it upright on a table, which is often not possible with regular action camera designs.
The front of the camera is pretty minimalist with just the small f/2.4 lens. Memory and network cards fit neatly into slots under the base, and these are protected by a simple cover. The top of the camera features a sliding switch to swap between camera and photo options and next to this is the power/shutter button. A row of lights next to this switch shows whether the camera has a network signal or not.
There are three ways to use the camera: stand alone operation, mobile connected or live streaming.
Standalone is exceptionally straightforward as you are limited to two modes – stills or video – selected through the top mounted switch. You hit the shutter button to power on and again to shoot video or stills depending on the mode that you’re in.
If you want to adjust the settings then you need to use the mobile app, which is available for both iOS and Android. Once you select a resolution, such as 720p at 30fps within the app, that will be the setting used by the camera from that point on, and can only be readjusted through the app.
This app is the same as that used by the Action Cam and once you connect to the camera’s Wi-Fi network and boot the app it’s all pretty straightforward and offers a good live view stream and straightforward operation, including direct access to the two main recording modes; REC and LIVE.
In the REC mode, you have access to the video resolution and camera settings and from the home screen you can quickly start and stop recordings by hitting the big red record button. Delving into the video recording options reveals 1080p at 30fps, a slightly more impressive 720p at 60fps and a very low 480p at 60 fps. You also have other options for shooting time lapse sequences, plus general camera options such as Auto Power Off, Card Status and Reset options.
The final recording mode is LIVE, which can be accessed by tapping the text on the screen of the app. Once setup and activated this enables you to stream live video over a 4G network. In order to do this you’ll also need that data contract with EE.
Setting up a live stream
The unique feature of the 4GEE cameras is the ability to broadcast live footage, but the initial setup does take a while and requires the use of two apps. With the 4GEE Action Cam App already installed you must then click on the settings and select Live Streaming. You’re then guided through the process of downloading the Skeegle app and signing up to an account.
The Skeegle App handles the live stream and also enables you to make your selection of people to who will receive the live view stream. Before use, Skeegle requires that a group is created, which is purely a term for the list of people you want the video to go to, and this can be quickly created from your phone’s contact list. This process is extremely easy to follow and you can create different groups for different broadcasts. So one could be a group of friends and another work.
Then, before you return to the 4GEE app, you select which group you want to broadcast to by clicking the movie camera icon. At the moment, this part of the app is a little confusing because although the Capture Cam appears in the camera list in the settings, the small live view that can be seen in the centre of the app shows footage through the phone’s camera instead, so at first it’s difficult to establish if everything is working as it should be.
Once you have set up groups and people in Skeegle you can then exit and return to the 4GEE Action Cam App. Now, when the Live View Screen appears you have the option to click the LIVE text on the far right of the screen – then, when you hit record, the live broadcast will start. The people listed in the selected group are then sent a text message with a web link that they can click in order to view the live streaming event.
This Live Stream is sent at 720p 30fps and is also saved at this resolution to the memory card in the camera.
Once you have set up the the live stream the camera is then set to live stream mode which means that you don’t need the app or even a phone to start broadcasting.
To stop the live broadcast mode and switch back to recording in camera only you need to click the REC text on the right of the screen in the App.
Video options and performance
Standalone video quality is OK but does require bright conditions for the best quality footage. At full HD 1080p at 30fps the footage shows a good amount of detail with bright colour and contrast. Compared with footage from cameras such as the Xiaomi Yi and GoPro, however, the footage is noticeably lower in resolution and quality with far less detail and tone.
In low light conditions the camera really starts to struggle and even indoors when there is a good amount of light the footage shows a high level of noise.
When you switch to live stream the video quality changes to 720p automatically, and the quality is surprisingly good when viewed on a mobile device. You can see a level of breakup and pixelation of the image, but the stream is perfectly watchable and the audio also comes through well. This pixelation is apparent when footage saved in the camera is viewed back on a monitor, though.
A major failing of the EE Action Cam was the quality of the video and the quality of footage from the Capture Cam is very similar. Footage shot in bright conditions is perfectly viewable but the level of detail cannot match that of many other action cameras.
The high contrast and bright colours do however translate well to mobile phone viewing and watching clips back on an iPhone 6 by streaming the footage over Wi-Fi gives acceptable quality with smooth motion.
YouTube : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BG2TdvKPQno&feature=youtu.be
- Despite the harsh lighting conditions the small 4GEE Capture Cam does a relatively good job at capturing the scene. Lens flare is kept to a minimum despite the camera being aimed almost directly at the rising sun.
YouTube : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ilmDfHRkiW0&feature=youtu.be
- Clipping the 4GEE Capture Cam to a backpack or piece of clothing really couldn’t be easier. The simple mount doesn’t always make for the best quality footage, though, as this clip demonstrates with the motion rendering. However colours are reproduced with slight over-saturation, which gives an instantly pleasing quality to the footage. Contrast as always with this camera is set high, which does mean that the finer detail is lost.
YouTube : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kvsz7iOdjWQ&feature=youtu.be
- In bright conditions the footage is acceptable, but look closely and you’ll see that image lacks detail. However playback on a small mobile phone screen looks good.
YouTube : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VzDXX-o4in0&feature=youtu.be
- This shot shows that although the footage lacks detail when compared with other action cameras, the quality is acceptable in well lit conditions.
YouTube : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wvqN0I3ecik&feature=youtu.be
- Another sample of general footage shot in bright conditions. Colours are bright and contrast is a little higher than you’d normally expect from an action camera. Motion even at 30fps look smooth.
The Capture Cam is an improvement over the Action Cam and even though it isn’t waterproof the design is sleeker and easier to mount. If you’re looking for a wearable camera then this is by far the best design of any action camera on the market for this type of use.
Once set up, the camera and app are both incredibly easy to use, although there is still the issue that during the setup process you need to swap between two apps rather than just the one as you deal with both EE and Skeegle.
Being able to broadcast live is a great feature and while many people will question why you’d need an additional piece of kit to do this when most phones already have this capability, the camera is far easier to handle and does enable you to easily mount it on either yourself or other objects. It also enables you to easily broadcast to several people at different locations very easily, and that footage is automatically recorded down so you can watch it again in the future.
Video quality is acceptable but not brilliant and is really no better than the majority of camera phones. The choices of resolutions and frame rates is limited as are any addition modes or features that you would have thought would appeal, such as slow motion.
Build quality is excellent from the textured grip that surrounds the body to the metal clip that helps to hold the camera in place when mounted. The simple design features easy to use controls with the shutter button and simple switch from video to still ensuring you know what mode you’re in.
The illuminated ring that flashes green when recording and the three small green leds that show signal strength make it easy to check the mode and status of the camera.
The 4GEE app is bright and well laid out making it easy to find settings and modes as well as check account settings and top up data when needed.
The use of two apps is a pain as when setting up the camera and video quality is disappointing, especially in low light, where footage showed plenty of noise and the auto white balance often struggled. In brighter conditions the video quality is acceptable but compared with the majority of action and phone cameras the quality it looks very dated and lacks the tonal graduation, detail and quality that you’d expect.
The EE 4GEE Capture Cam is great device, it’s incredibly easy to use and although there are very few settings when it comes to video quality, it simply enables you to capture and stream footage easily. The app is easy to use and the ability to directly top up pay as you go data or check details on your monthly subscription and data usage is extremely useful.
Live streaming does work well and the ability to show friends and family small events at the time they happen is a really nice feature. You could capture these events on your phone but the ease of just clicking the shutter button to capture a few seconds of a family party and have this instantly sent to other family members is great.
Video quality is the camera’s big let down, and it really doesn’t match the quality produced by the majority of other cameras of this type.
This camera will appeal to families as it has plenty of features that make it incredibly versatile despite the video quality issues. If the video quality could just take a small leap forward then this would be a really exciting action camera. It cuts down recording to the basics without fuss and it enables people to stream important or random events to groups of select people. But it needs to be a complete integrated solution, so just one app for the camera to pair to a mobile device, adjust settings and broadcast. If EE could add auto editing through mobile and just improve the video quality then it would be a winner. It has potential, but while it has the features the Capture Cam’s video quality will ultimately disappoint.
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