We have been filled with Action Cameras lately. From the line started by GoPro, we now have different options, not only from them per se, but also from other leading companies. We now got Sony, Garmin, Panasonic, Polaroid, and the list just goes on.
And just like any other category in the market, budget alternatives will inevitably spawn; which gave us the SJCam, Xiaomi’s Yi, and now – Cherry Mobile’s Cherry Action Cam Explorer. Knowing how competitive and ambitious our local manufacturers are, we have seen this coming. Although, Cherry Mobile isn’t the first Philippine company to offer one as we have already seen CD-R King’s Action Camera before, but, this thing offers far better qualities inside, plus tons of included mounts and accessories for you to start with.
But, is Cherry Mobile’s initial entrance on the camera business triumphs? Let’s figure that out.
Unboxing / Accessories
I still don’t get it how did Cherry Mobile was able to package this budget-friendly device so well. The box of the Action Cam looks very identical with the GoPro’s, and it is a good thing. The camera itself can be easily gazed from its tall, glass covered packaging. There’s a cardboard down south that displays the device features, accessories included and some specs. Sliding the introductory paraphernalia reveals the entire beauty of the box.
We can quickly gain access with the waterproof cover and the actual camera itself as we lift the glass cover.
Removing the padded case reveals a packet that houses the quick-start guide and the warranty card.
The other section of the packaging has a large box, filled with tons of free accessories. We have two front covers, with different colors to fit your taste and style; we also have a tripod mount, 3-way pivot arm, a frame, the charger, a bicycle mount, quick release buckle, frame clip mount, and of course, a monopod. It literally took me some time to unbox this thing, but I’m not complaining. Despite the price, Cherry Mobile was still able to include tons of accessories.
Design and Build Quality
If it is not already obvious, the Cherry Action Camera almost borrowed everything from GoPro with its aesthetics; which also makes it very identical with CDR King’s Action Camera that we had before. The position of the lens, power and shutter buttons, and the LCD, they all look similar with the ones from GoPro.
The device also looks very rugged, thanks to its rubbery appearance. Although, this thing is actually nowhere near being real rubber, as it is entirely made with plastic. The parallel lines at the edges of the device tricks you to thinking that this one is, actually, made with rubber. Having the Cherry Action Cam constructed with rubber could have been a big plus, as that material is known for absorbing shocks when dropped, and also, makes any device easy to hold. But nonetheless, I have noticed that Cherry Mobile may have considered adding some drop-protection on this one; as I have tried to bump the camera on to a surface, and felt some springs tingling inside, which may decrease the disastrous effects of dropping this one.
Taking a tour we have the 12-megapixel sensor in front, together with the power button, an Explorer branding, and what seems to be an IR receiver, but actually just a design shenanigan. Removing the replaceable front plate reveals that this little thing isn’t connected to anything in the actual camera.
Speaking of the removable plate, there are other two available color options included in the package, yellow and pink, although you maybe don’t wanna interchange it regularly. The front panel doesn’t have any indicator, or a place where you can easily peel that plate which makes it challenging to replace as you would be needing long fingernails and lots of patience.
At the top we have the shutter/record button, and an LED indicator that lights blue when you snap a photo, and blinks continuously when filming.
The left side house all the ports for microUSB, micro HDMI, and a microSD card slot, which is capable of up to 32GB. We also have the built-in microphone on this area.
The right side has the volume controls, with the volume up doubles as a WiFi switch, and sitting next to it is the built-in loudspeaker. Expect nothing from the speaker’s drivers. This thing is only usable with the interface’s feedback beeps, but almost voiceless during video playback. You literally have to place the camera on your ears to hear the audio recorded from the camera.
We have two LED indicator lights; one lights up when the device is turned on, and the other is for charging. We also have a 2″ TFT LED display, which can decently project your shots taken with the almost right colors and contrast. But on a device this small, you wanna really on a bigger display. This thing is perfect as a viewfinder for easy shots, but considering the nature of Action Cameras, some angles and framing may require you to use the accompanying smartphone app for some flexibility. Another point, the display doesn’t play well with direct sunlight, so outdoor shots with extreme daylight may be challenging to frame.
At the bottom, we only have the slot for the tiny 1000mAh battery.
The device isn’t waterproof all by itself. You have to encapsulate the device to the include waterproof case to submerge it underwater, or play with it in the rain like what we did. The cage did a great job on protecting the device, but the materials use drop off the quality of the shots taken. The case’s lens that’s covering the one that the device kind of adds an ugly filter on the snaps taken. Also, the case develops some moist inside when being used under low-temperature, thus, also layering the picture quality.
Camera Interface / Modes
Now before we start, let us first settle the most annoying and confusing aspect of any tiny camera — the controls. As what we have seen earlier, the camera has four buttons; the key for power, shutter, and up and down navigation. First, the power button also serves as the navigation from different modes and places in the interface, from the standard picture mode, video recording, media playback, and settings. It also serves as a back button when you play with the settings or browse the media gallery. On the other hand, the shutter/record button at the top also can be used as an OK or Confirm button. The two navigation button is pretty self-explanatory; although the Up key has a special purpose of also acting as a WiFi pairing button, which we’ll talk about more later.
Once you get through all that hurdles, you can now enjoy the camera. Other than taking pictures casually, the device can do photo burst and do timelapse. On the other hand, the device can also do loop recording, which also makes this device a Dash Cam alternative.
But there’s one thing that really annoyed us when testing this device. And it is the Action Cam’s boot-up time. It requires you to hold the power button until the logo come out, which is about a whole 5 seconds. This can be a hurdle when you want to instantly snap a moment as they happen unexpectedly. This implementation is somewhat a standard to almost all action cameras, maybe due to its rugged nature. Throwing this thing all around can accidentally hit the power button, thus the 5-second boot up process.
Also, I wish there was an option to turn off the shutter sound and other feedback beeps. Not a significant deal-breaker, tho, but still pretty annoying for us at least.
What is an action camera without a supporting smartphone application. There’s a specifically tailored app for the Cherry Action Cam, that is both available on Android and iOS devices. And unlike any other gadget app, the camera’s CACWF app has the same set of features across platforms, since it doesn’t really do that much.
Before opening the app, you must pair first the action camera to the smartphone via WiFi.
- Set the Action Cam to video mode, then press the button on the side with the WiFi logo on it to set the device in to pairing mode.
- On the smartphone; go to the Wifi settings, search for the network name Cherry Mobile Action Cam, then key in the password, which can be found on the instruction manual included.
Once the two are bridged, the app can now be used as an external viewfinder. You can also adjust the white balance, resolution, timer, and photo burst rate; check the connection signal and battery status. As expected, there’s a built-in gallery so you can either view or download the files taken from the Action Camera to the smartphone. Direct video playback is not yet supported though, so you have to download the video file itself from the camera before viewing.
Also, I want to point out one problem on the app. The viewfinder is stuck with the 16:9 aspect ratio, which is only usable for recording videos, but not in taking pictures, as stills are shot in 4:3. This makes framing a bit challenging when taking photos, as the edges are being cropped in the final output. You can check out the figure below. But since this is just a software issue, we’re hoping for an easy fix as the app gets updated.
With the Action Cam’s rock-bottom price tag, you can easily guess the camera quality on this one. But mind you though, it isn’t as bad as you think. And besides, it is not just all about taking high quality photos on this little device; but also having the ability to shoot anywhere, at any condition.
For starters, the lens on this one has a wide-angle field of view of up to 170-degrees, which can be seen in almost all action cameras. This makes the camera more suitable when being mounted to almost anything, without missing anything in the frame. Unfortunately, the lens doesn’t support autofocus, and may have a far focus distance; so you have to be really careful when taking close-ups.
Considering the price tag, the snaps you can produce on this thing is still pretty satisfying. The 12-megapixel sensor is sharp enough, although there are still some noise and grains that are present, even in good lighting conditions. Contrast is also a bit on the soft side, and saturation is kinda pale. The camera also doesn’t seem to set the white balance right at some scenario, which results to a weird looking colors on photos.
But if you’re in to photo editing and manipulation, you can still stretch the quality of the photos that you can get on this one. On the photo below are a comparison of the original photo and the after-product from a smartphone photo editor app called Snapseed. There are also some PC software that can help you readjust the white balance if the action cam didn’t got it right.
The stills quality is passed on when recording videos. But, it is not a real action camera without the presence of different frame rate shooting. And with that, the Cherry Action Cam can shoot 1080p and 720p at 30fps, and 60fps at also 720p. Yup, 60fps is the best you can have here, far from the 240fps that you can get with the GoPros and other action cameras.
I have tried some slow-motion goodness in this one, and the results are just disappointing. On the good side, this camera is not really built to shoot such videos anyway. I think this device is just really made for those who want to capture adventures and other athletic activities; which makes a 60fps frame rate sufficient enough to record fast-moving and blistery actions. ( Check our video review for sample clips.)
Speaking of video quality, the device is also equipped with a built-in microphone. And just like any other action cam, you’ll barely use the audio that is coming from this one. It can capture fairly clean sound when the camera is completely naked — no mounts, no waterproof case. The mic is sensitive in capturing sound. It does easily register the bumps and shakes of wherever you mount it to; plus, the included waterproof case do also block the clean environment noise, thus, distorting the audio coming in to the device.
Also, video capture is capped at exactly 31:27 minutes. So you wanna be careful when capturing an entire occasion or event in marathon.
The Cherry Mobile Action Cam Explorer utilizes a 1000mAh battery capacity, which is pretty impressive considering that it came close with other renowned action cameras like the GoPro Hero3+ with its 1,180mAh, and the Xiaomi Yi with 1,010mAh.
With that having said, the battery performance on this one have been satisfying. We did our test by doing a timelapse. We’ve let the device take photos continuously, with 1-second interval and screen turned off in the camera’s Power Saving settings, until the battery juice runs out. What we got are pretty astonishing numbers. The device was able to take 7,724 photos in a single charge. The device can also record anywhere near 1 hour and 35 minutes worth of video clip, also from 100%.
We really had some quality time with Cherry’s Action Camera. The picture quality had been satisfying, and the ability to mount the camera to almost anywhere is enjoyable. But, we are fully aware that there are still tons of other alternatives out there, that are also on the same price range. This device cannot go head-to-head with other similarly priced devices like the Xiaomi Yi and the SJCam, moreover with the GoPros; but, it is in the nationwide-availability and the inclusion of an enormous package that Cherry was able to make it up for. Cherry Mobile[one_fifth_last][/one_fifth_last] wants you to enjoy the camera right away as you open the box, so you don’t have to worry about spending more time and money on acquiring these accessories.
The camera retails for about Php3,999, but we have seen other online retailers offering at around Php3,499 for a limited time. If you want a hassle-free, versatile, and easy-to-get camera, the Cherry Action Cam is the one for you.
- Sturdy build quality
- Decent camera quality
- Loads of included mounts and accessories
- Capable battery capacity
- Limited and glitch-y smartphone app features and controls
- Interchangeable front panel is hard to remove
- Limiting 60fps frame rate
- There are other alternatives available