EKEN H8 Pro 4K Ambarella A12S75 Waterproof WiFi Action Camera Review @ ModSynergy.com
2016 is and was the year of the camera, with so many new advancements in video tech such as dual cameras, 3D, VR, and 360. The emergence and continued growth of the action camera will definitely continue heading into 2017. Just recently we've witnessed the unveiling of the new GoPro HERO 5 with new features such as voice recognition, GPS, electronic stabilization, and touch screen display. It's an exciting time to be a consumer in the camera market space because the technology will get better and prices have dropped drastically in a few years and will continue to drop going forward. There's so many companies competing for your hard earned money that it drives the technology forward and forces prices to decrease.
GoPro is currently the market leader in action cameras, for how though is another matter. Purchasing their latest HERO 5 Black will cost $399 USD. Some just don't have that type of money to spend, but no one wants to feel like they're getting a stripped down product if they spent less, some consider the overall value, and some want something inexpensive so they don't feel that bad if it were to break under impact.
In the factory of the world (China), there's tons of action cameras from companies you've never heard of, many popping up every so often, and who can blame them when there's over 1.3 billion people where they are. Since there are so many companies forming, you'll find products that are decent, good, and some downright horrible. You never really know what you're getting, and that's why it's a good idea to read reviews such as this one so you can know what to expect before your purchase.
We've looked at a few budget Chinese action cameras. All offer value in terms pricing, some more so than others and in different ways, some will offer a larger bundle to compensate for a lack of camera features, while others will offer more in-camera features but their bundle will be sparse. For example, a lot of these budget Chinese action cameras will pack features that you'd normally see on higher end GoPro models costing 2-4x such as that rear LCD display. Then you had some Chinese action cameras, for example with the Zeblaze iShot1 I reviewed first that had two bright LED flashlights at the front of the camera. That made a huge impression on me because till this day no one has done what Zeblaze did with LED flashlights on their action camera, not even GoPro has done anything like this. You have some companies that are followers, and some that try to think outside of the box and attempt to be innovators.
Unfortunately as I've experienced, the problem with these budget action cameras coming out of China has been that all have had issues of varying degrees. Some have done alright, others have felt rushed in varying degrees, resulting in stability issues or broken WiFi functionality. Every one of these action cameras I've reviewed had things that needed to be improved upon. For Chinese action cameras, I think what it comes down to is finding one that is suitable for your needs and avoiding the ones that have drawbacks you cannot live with.
EKEN is a Chinese action camera company I've never tested for, so today's review will be my first EKEN experience. As stated EKEN is based in China and have just released their newest H8 Pro action camera that sports an Ambarella A12S75 chipset capable of outputting real 4K resolution meaning no software interpolation tricks are being used. It also comes with extra goodies not seen in other cameras such as a 2.4GHz remote control wrist watch, extra battery, a selfie stick and other accessories, all for an affordable price of $139.99 USD through Amazon.
Founded in 2005, Eken Group Limited has enjoyed a leading reputation in China's electronic and technology industries. Eken is a high-tech company specializing in designing and manufacturing innovative products of Action Cameras and Car DVRs.
EKEN H8 Pro Features
EKEN H8 Pro Technical Specifications
Editor's Note: I pulled the above technical specification directly from EKEN's website. I'd like to point that their website doesn't mention something that the H8 Pro's retail box states, and that is the use of a Sony IMX sensor. The box doesn't mention which specific Sony IMX sensor it contains, however, upon further investigation from all the marketing materials being used on various online retailers promoting the EKEN H8 Pro, the word on the street is that the Ambarella A12S75 SoC (System on Chip) is paired with the Sony IMX 078 image sensor. More thoughts on the Sony IMX 078 image sensor later in the review.
The second thing I'd like to point out is that the EKEN's website says the H8 Pro weighs 66 grams with the battery installed, however, my digital scale reveals that this information is incorrect, and that the H8 Pro really weights 76 grams with the battery.
The EKEN H8 Pro comes packaged in a visually appealing package that places the action camera in a see-through plastic window surrounded by an image of a surfer making his way on the ocean waves. The outer core of this package is made of paper, and once opened, the camera and accessories are placed inside a plastic compartment shell.
But wait...something strange came in my mind when I first saw the surfer dude on the package, I definitely saw this surfer dude somewhere before...turns out I was right because this same exact image was used on a different budget Chinese action camera package of another manufacturer that I reviewed for previously...the Amkov AMK7000S. This is just funny to me thinking about two different companies using the same exact image on their retail packaging, it makes you wonder if they're being made in the same factory or if they're really different companies? I mean what are the chances of using the same stock photo of a supposed competing brand? Maybe it is just a coincidence after all.
The EKEN H8 Pro packs the largest and most generous amount of supplied accessories we've come across by any action camera reviewed on ModSynergy. The bundle is packed with goodies you'll definitely end up using at some point or another, most notably a second battery with its own charger dock and useful and grippy selfie stick is included for good measure! EKEN has supplied a fantastic bundle, the best I've seen to date. The accessories are of first-rate quality and don't feel cheap. They feel strong and should be able to withstand extended wear and tear.
Ambarella SoC & Sony IMX078 Image Sensor
The EKEN H8 Pro marks the first time a Chinese action camera has rolled into ModSynergy sporting a top tier chipset. EKEN decided to pack inside an Ambarella A12S75 SoC (System on Chip). Ambarella, if you didn't know before, supplies GoPro with their chipsets to be used in their HERO action camera lineup. They have 12 years of experience in the industry and their chipsets are in fact inside a lot of products you might not realize, including video broadcasting, drone cameras, car DVR cameras, and inside Google Wearable products.
All the other Chinese action cameras I've tested thus far have had lower to lower-mid end chipsets from other lower tier chipmakers (Sunchip and Novatek). Furthermore, the same can be said regarding the image sensors being chosen to be used in past reviewed Chinese action cameras. Those have been aging previous generation(s) image sensors from Sunchip or OmniVision.
In the case of the EKEN H8 Pro sporting an Ambarella A12S75 SoC, it's based on the 28nm manufacturing process meaning its power consumption is less than previous generation chipsets, and better than ones from competing chipset makers that are based on the 32nm, 45nm, and 65nm process. The Ambarella A12S75 is powered by an ARM® Cortex™-A9 CPU up to 792 MHz and features an H.264 encoder allowing native 4K video recording at 30fps. This is particularly important to point out as the 4K action cameras ModSynergy has reviewed in the past have claimed 4K, but at the lowly 10 and 15fps. This was in fact what you'd call fake 4K, a software interpolated resolution where the chipset does software trickery and manipulates the resolution. Fake can't be real.
On the flipside we have a Sony IMX 078 image sensor in the EKEN H8 Pro, this was made for the consumer digital camera market about five years ago, but despite that, a Sony image sensor is definitely a better solution than old Sunchip and OmniVision sensors (that were never 4K capable to begin with). Let me remind you that Sony is a worldwide leader supplying all the biggest names in the industry with image sensors, companies such as Nikon and Canon use Sony made image sensors. This is where things get a bit more interesting though...according to the official spec sheet I found about the Sony IMX 078, it is a 1/2.3" (7.81mm diagonal) sized (backlit) BSI CMOS image sensor with an effective pixel count of 12.4-megapixel. The twist here is that Sony's IMX078 image sensor is only advertised as capable of achieving full HD video at 1920 x 1080 at 60fps. Fake can't be real.
So in that the other 4K Chinese action cameras ended up being 100% fake, this time around we have something that ends up technically being 50% fake on the 4K claim. The EKEN H8 Pro definitely has a clearly better Ambarella A12S75 that is truly capable of 4K, but the Sony IMX078 is a native 1080p image sensor. Upon further inspection of the Sony IMX078 spec sheet I find that it could technically do 2.7K, but anything past would be technically software interpolating or in this case up-scaling resolutions to a higher degree. We'll just have to see how well this whole combination comes across on screen. EKEN basically limited the H8 Pro's full potential.
Visual Overview & Build Quality
The EKEN H8 Pro unfortunately does not subscribe to having its own unique design. It's a replica of you know what. I wish EKEN applied its own sense of style, too many Chinese action camera makers have followed suit and done nothing to differentiate themselves. I wish EKEN would have been bold and different with their design.
I think all Chinese action camera makers should take note of what Zeblaze did with their iShot1 action camera, which was reviewed back in the first quarter of 2015. Zeblaze is also a Chinese company, they took the same form factor that everyone else just replicated from GoPro, but made it their own and into something uniquely different. It looked set apart from the status quo by managing to integrate waterproofing without an external case, they slapped on a dazzling aluminum alloy faceplate, and they managed to integrate two very useful high power LED flashlights on the front the action camera. To this day nothing and no one in the action camera market has been able to replicate what Zeblaze did with putting two high power LEDs in front of an action camera. Too bad Zeblaze was hardly known outside of China, because LEDs integrated inside action cameras should start to become a standard feature. I really hope eventually someone else follows suit and does this.
The H8 Pro comes in six different colors of black, silver, gold, blue, pink, and yellow. Dimensions without factoring in the lens sticking out are 59.3mm (L) x 21.4mm (W) x 41.1mm (H). The H8 Pro is heavier than advertised on their website, it's not 66 grams but actually 76 grams, making it identical and in line with what we've come to expect. Placed inside the clear waterproof housing with one a quick release buckle and thumbscrew attached, a weight of 152 grams (0.335 lbs) is observed.
The EKEN H8 Pro's plastic body feels like one of the toughest I've come across on a Chinese action camera. I think it edges out both AMKOV action cameras I've tested in the AMK5000S and AMK7000S, however, not nearly as tough as the Zeblaze iShot 1 that had its aluminum faceplate and waterproofed body. I like how the EKEN H8 Pro feels tough; the plastic body has some type of thin matte finished rubberized coating almost reminding me of a powder-coat finish. Unfortunately I've noticed there are slight build quality issues on the camera I’m testing, it has a small defect at the top of the camera, almost as if the plastic mould didn't come out perfect, and the side profile shows a visible split in the middle where the two pieces of body panel are not properly touching.
For scenarios where the EKEN H8 Pro will see more action and in unpredictable weather, its advised to put the H8 Pro into the supplied waterproof housing. The housing is rated up to 30 meters and made out of thick, and likely, Polycarbonate construction. The housing comes pre-attached with a sealed back door, but a second and vented back door is bundled with the camera to allow audio to be recorded than with a fully sealed back door, a great addition. Both doors are sealed with a bright orange color silicone o-ring, so in tandem with the locking mechanism that requires a lot of force to open and close, it gives the H8 Pro a watertight seal. The housing gives access to all buttons on the camera.
One of the nice things about this EKEN H8 Pro is that it comes with an extra battery. This means you'll be swapping frequently. H8 Pro has a small battery compartment door that comes completely detached from the camera making it possibly to lose. I would have liked to see the battery compartment door tethered to the camera instead.
Let's have a look around the camera...
At the very front of the camera we finally see a lens ring shroud that is the same color as the rest of the body. In my other reviews I was complaining that Chinese action camera makers should be doing this and not have mismatched colors. This black lens ring shroud encompasses the fixed focus 170° ultra wide angle lens on the H8 Pro.
An OLED display is situated at the front of the camera. This 0.95” OLED display sets the H8 Pro apart from other action cameras having a basic and inferior monochromatic dot-matrix design. This OLED screen is superior in every way imaginable; significantly higher brightness meaning easy outdoor visibility and better viewing angles. The OLED display gives relevant information such as which mode you’re in, video recording time and length, battery status indicator, photo capture information, and more. This OLED screen is a keeper, I wish it were used more on other devices.
A WiFi button is situated on the right profile of the camera, whereas on the opposite profile we have connectivity in a micro USB port, mini-HDMI port (no live viewfinder, but only playback) and micro SD card slot. Lastly a microphone port hole is found here as well. An additional microphone port is located on the top of the camera beside the shutter button. All buttons on the camera have good tactile feel to them and is hard to accidentally press.
The EKEN H8 Pro is the slowest action camera I've tested to date when it comes start up time. It takes 8 seconds from the time you push the power button, to when you're up and ready to start recording, while power down takes 6 seconds.
Coming to the rear of the camera we find a 2.0” LCD display which is used to not only frame your footage, but to enter and navigate through the settings menu. The LCD display is covered and protected by a thin and clear layer of film, making the LCD screen clearer to see at different angles. While the brightness is good and sufficient for indoor use, outdoors the brightness of the LCD can struggle in sunny conditions. You'll have times where you'd be using your hand to shade the screen so you can make out and judge if the objects being filmed are in your shot, but this is a very common thing and just something that just about all LCD panels have to deal with. In terms of the LCD panel uniformity, I found no clouding or backlight bleeding, sign of a quality component. This is not a touch screen unit so I advise not touching or pushing, with force, the rear LCD display or else you’ll see waves and ripples and possibly damaging it altogether. Having a rear LCD display is far more intuitive and a huge advantage than without. Having to force users to change internal camera settings through an app is not as productive.
In terms of the user interface (UI) of the H8 Pro, it could have been much easier to navigate. Its manageable, but it’s far from perfect and takes longer than it really needs to be. The major reason why UI is not as good is because it doesn't correlate or match with the physical buttons on the camera body. The UI has an up/down arrows but physically there is no up/down buttons on the camera. The UI has an OK button, but likewise the camera doesn't have a dedicated OK button and in general does not have these buttons located in the same positions where they are on screen. The camera has one front power on/off button, one WiFi button on the right side, and one shutter button at the top of the camera. So you can see how this can be seen as an annoyance.
The top shutter button becomes the OK/enter button to select whichever setting you are presently in, the front power on/off button becomes the button where you navigate down through the settings menu one by one, and the right side WiFi button becomes the exit button. There is no possible way to cycle up and down, there's only going down in the menu. Doing this is annoying because there will be multiple times when you press the front power on/off button going down the menu and end up cycling past missing a setting you originally wanted to go in, only having to cycle through the whole menu again to get back to the same point since there’s no dedicated up and down buttons the UI is designed for. This is extremely frustrating at times because the menu isn't exactly short, there's a couple of pages to cycle through.
Looking around the EKEN H8 Pro action camera, you'll notice that something is missing, and that missing thing is a LED indicator light. In fact there are no (meaning zero) LED indicator lights anywhere on the body of the H8 Pro. This is baffling to me to why EKEN would decide not to put any LED indicator lights, the only reason being as a cost cutting measure. As an alternative, the EKEN H8 Pro has an audible tone, but having an LED indicator would be great for times where you want discretion, and when using the wrist watch remote control from afar trying to judge if it executed the command or not. It's just a weird omission.
EKEN H8 Pro - Is It Any Good?
Short Summary - The EKEN H8 Pro performs atypical than the other budget Chinese action cameras I've reviewed. From a photo and video performance standpoint, it's absolutely the best Chinese action camera I've tested to date, and by a country mile it should be mentioned. The Ambarella A12S75 chipset and Sony image sensor combination comes through and plays a huge role in H8 Pro's photo and video performance success, though I think this has more to do with the Ambarella SoC.
That is not to say the EKEN H8 Pro is without problems though, because it certainly has flaws that bring it down. H8 Pro has features that are not present and usually are in these action cameras, and it has things that don't work at all, reminding me that at the end of the day that it's still a budget Chinese action camera. The biggest attribute it has going for it is being 2-4x less expensive than first-tier action cameras on the market, that alone is enticing and should be considered for applications where you don't want to gamble on something really pricey. But is it on the level of the Dutch based TomTom Bandit 4K GPS action camera I reviewed previously? Not even in the slightest! Again these are 2-4x less expensive.
Finally a budget Chinese action camera that contains real hardware based 4K resolution at 30fps through the potent Ambarella A12S75 chipset. It really is a positive night and day contrast compared to the lower tier Sunchip and Novatek chipsets I've seen in other budget Chinese action cameras that have played software trickery to interpolate the image to 4K, but is unable to do it at steady frame rates. Those ones can only do software 4K at 10/15fps frame rate. There's clearly a difference of the overall look of the video footage coming from the Ambarella A12S75 chipset compared to the lesser ones I've already looked at. The Ambarella image comes through as more natural and less artificial, for example with the Novatek chipsets I've looked at in the past, the blue in the skies tend to be deeper and more artificial, and the Sunchip variants look like its color gamut is flat and unappealing, in both cases the more powerful Ambarella A12S75 chipset does not exhibit these symptoms.
Along with the omission of any LED activity lights around the body of the action camera, the H8 Pro also fails to implement features that are present in others. For example, missing from the H8 Pro's arsenal is having the ability to change field of view (FOV) of its 170-degree wide angle lens to a more narrow and less fish-eye look. Furthermore, there's no simple option to flip the image 180-degrees. I can't possibly understand why this option doesn't exist. So you'll have upside down footage when the camera is upside down. Lastly there's no option to record automatically after powering on the camera (without a power source), something very useful for car dash cam use.
The EKEN H8 Pro does something I've not seen done in other action cameras I've tested. It creates two files on the memory card, one is the original video file, and the other is a hidden duplicate file scaled down to 576 x 320. The only reason I can think of why the camera is doing this is for making in-camera video playback easier on the small 2.0" LCD screen. Unfortunately by doing this, micro SD card capacity is reduced. For example, if you record 8.57GB worth of original video files, there will be an extra 1.36GB worth of duplicates.
Speaking about memory cards, EKEN recommends that H8 Pro users utilize an UHS (Ultra High Speed) micro SD card that can do speeds of UHS-3 for the best possible experience. I learnt this very quickly after having problems recording in 4K with a Speed Class 10 card, I could not record for a couple of seconds at a time, and had other issues such as freezing. It was only until I switched to an SD card performing to UHS-I mode SDR104 specs that I did not have any more issues. So you can get away with this, but they recommend to get the fastest UHS-3 card you can buy. A list of tested and recommended cards is in the included manual.
UHS Speed Class and Class Speed memory card ratings are not compatible with one another. UHS is currently the fastest performance category available today as it defines greater bus-interface speeds than what was capable before.
One poorly implemented thing about the EKEN H8 Pro has got to be that it can only record in 5 minute file intervals. I'm scratching my head who thought this was a good idea because it's not. I understand that FAT32 has a 4GB limit, but the largest 5 minute 4K file I've seen that this camera can push out is 2.1GB. You can stitch the videos together in post editing, but still it's just a bad idea to enforce a 5 minute video record limit.
Miscellaneous Bullet Point Observations
Usable 4K 30fps On A Budget
The Ambarella A12S75 chipset allows the EKEN H8 Pro to record in true hardware based 4K 30fps resolution without trickery of interpolation. 4K is recorded in 16:9 aspect ratio making the resolution 3840 x 2160. Paired with the Ambarella A12S75 chipset and a Sony image sensor combination, the video looks quite satisfying and will meet the needs of most people, especially when factoring in the price tag.
Though as I mentioned before, some corners were obviously cut, and it's simply puzzling why you'd pair a real 4K chipset with a 1080p image sensor. By doing this EKEN limited the true potential of this action camera.
But the good news is that this odd mixture still ends up working out. Video quality is still satisfying to the eye and definitely a big difference from the 100% fake 4K Chinese action cameras I've already tested. And in this case 4K is shot at 30 fps making is very useful to use. Part of the reason why the EKEN H8 Pro still manages to look pleasing to the eye is that the variable video bitrate is as high as 57.6 Mbps at 4K resolution. The video is clear during daylight without noisy artifacts, the picture is surprisingly sharp from end to end which shows the lens is a good match, and the color rendition has that natural looking tone, though it could have more saturation if I'm to be honest (at least as an in-camera option).
Having 4K on a product is huge nowadays, especially for marketing purposes. 4K is increasingly popular and will continue to rise in dominance in 2017 as it becomes even more affordable. Technically speaking, 4K resolution is 4096 x 2160 (in 4:3 aspect ratio), while 2K resolution is 2048 x 1556. The EKEN can do both 4K and 2K, but does so in 16:9 aspect ratio. EKEN's 2K is technically 2.7K. Comparing the paper specifications of the EKEN H8 Pro to the GoPro lineup, the H8 Pro is comparable to the GoPro HERO 4 Black.
2.7K 60fps Is The Best Compromise And Best For Motion
Recording action on an action camera is appropriate. With all this movement in action, 30fps standard works fine, but 60fps is definitely the best to use to make movement appear fluid with less motion blur. The EKEN H8 Pro can do 2K at 60fps with its resolution at 2560 x 1440 (perfect for those QHD IPS monitors) in 16:9 aspect ratio and at 60fps making it the best compromise between the added benefit of increased pixel count and increased video bitrate (as opposed to 1080p), all while minimizing motion shake with 60fps for fluid movements.
I've observed variable video bitrate at 2K resolution for the EKEN H8 Pro as high as 41.7 Mbps.
Adjustable FOV (Field of View)
While other action cameras have the capability of manipulating its FOV in camera to reduce the fish-eye effect, the EKEN H8 Pro does not have this option.
The EKEN H8 Pro records in typical AVC video stream as a .MP4 file container, however, I've noticed issues opening the video files in some video editing software that I use, and I think it's because the AVC decoder profile used in the H8 Pro is not the usual 4.0+ which is compatible with most software and hardware, but rather EKEN used the Main@L5.1 AVC decoder profile, which offers a higher bandwidth limit ceiling (if taken advantage of), but comes at the expense of compatibility with certain software and hardware.
In great outdoor lighting conditions the EKEN H8 Pro's video footage provides clean video with little to no artifacts, and the image is surprisingly sharp from end to end, which shows the lens is a good match. The color rendition has that of a natural look to it, though it could have a tiny bit more saturation, adding an in-menu option would have been great though is not present.
Lens sharpness is great from end to end with no softness on the edges as seen on some other action cameras. This means the lens optics are at least good, that much is known. I do have to point out though, that the H8 Pro does exhibit moderate glares when pointed directly at the sun, but it's not the worse I've seen. What is interesting to note and is somewhat disappointing, are the amount of chromatic aberration/purple fringing that is showing up in video footage, in areas that are really bright and contrasty (there are a lot of these places at any given time). The amount of chromatic aberration/purple fringing is noticeable enough for me to bring this up and say it's a bit too much for my liking. Every lens has levels of these aberrations happening, some are better at minimizing it than others, but the H8 Pro has enough of it for me to say it's happening a tad too much. I believe the reason why this is happening is not because of the optics of the lens, but rather the lack of AR coating in front of the lens or I suspect it may have to do with having no (or proper) IR filter at the back of the lens to minimize chromatic aberration/purple fringing. This is pure speculation on my part though.
I've noticed that the H8 Pro does not have a proper 60fps lock. Whereas the Amkov AMK5000S/AMK7000S action cameras I've reviewed in the past had proper 60fps lock, the H8 Pro does not. So if you're footage is transitioning between excellent lighting to poor lighting, you'll notice the frame rate will drop from 60fps and become slower until the camera gets back to better lighting area. This is not a problem with the image sensor, but rather the Ambarella chipset. It should be able to be resolved in firmware, so I hope EKEN will eventually fix this.
In terms of low lighting conditions, and compared to other budget Chinese action cameras I've tested, the H8 Pro is indeed better with the Sony image sensor, but the gains are marginal. So in the dark, it will still look darker than your own human eyes can see. I can see the differences between low lighting performance in the previous budget Chinese action cameras I've tested and in this EKEN H8 Pro being instead of pitch black dark, there's an extra bit of light that the Sony image sensor can pick up (not a big difference) along with the associated grain and artificial noise that comes with low light. Maybe they could have had a night mode option that ramps up ISO and brightness.
EKEN 2.4GHz Remote Control Wrist Watch
We've seen this exact style of remote control wrist watch for a different Chinese action camera before, but this remote control EKEN is using has been upgraded and works perfectly. Not only does it operate on the better 2.4GHz frequency, which allows use from distances up to 8-meters (I can confirm it works outdoors at this distance), its splash proof meaning as long as it isn't submerged in water you'll have no issues with the outdoor elements. Velcro straps of different sizes are bundled so you can choose the best fit. The symbols on the two buttons leave no guessing what they're meant for as they're universally recognized symbols to prevent misunderstanding, the orange is the photo mode button and the gray is the video recording button. Two red LED lights illuminate for whichever button is pressed.
Operation is dead simple and requires no pairing between remote and action camera.
It is important to note that the remote control does not power on or power off the action camera, that's about the only negative I can think of associated with the remote. Therefore I'd suggest turning off automatic power saver function of the camera if using the remote control.
While the camera is powered on, simply press whichever button you desire to start video recording or to take a photo capture. The remote control is designed to automatically start recording video or to take a photo on its own. Press the respective button to stop either operation. Henceforward the operation is exactly the same, press whichever button and the action camera automatically jumps into that mode and automatically executes the command. Press the respective mode button again to stop video recording or to take another photo. I told you it was dead simple, so easy, anyone can do it.
Excellent job EKEN on the operation of your 2.4GHz remote control!
Video Footage Samples
(YouTube compresses video uploads even further to maximize efficiency on their end. Original raw source files are substantially cleaner and sharper than what you're going to see on YouTube. Take any sample videos you see in this review as a general idea of what you can expect. There's nothing that one can do to avoid YouTube's higher compression rate...)
Of all the budget Chinese action cameras I've tested on ModSynergy, the EKEN H8 Pro easily wins in the still photo department. It wins because no more funky interpolation is being used to manipulate the photo into a larger size, therefore we don't have any more bad interpolated artifacts ruining the photo. Because the Sony IMX078 image sensor being used in the EKEN H8 Pro is an 12.40M-effective pixel BSI CMOS image sensor, the photos it can at 12MP are at native resolution.
The photos taken with the H8 Pro are decent, but I'd say not the H8 Pro's strongest suit. H8 Pro takes better video than photos. For some reason when taking photos with the H8 Pro, white balance becomes a game of chance, sometimes the color of the photo is off by a little and sometimes by a lot. I feel the photos also are overexposed more than the videos are, because I notice more chromatic aberration/purple fringing in the photos than I do for video. In photo mode H8 Pro has a tendency to overexpose the scenery. You'll have good looking photos and you'll have bad ones at different times and scenarios. This leads me to believe that EKEN has programmed the metering mode in photo mode differently than how video mode is set up. There's no way to modify metering mode in the camera (another option missing) so I can't really say for certain, but it's definitely all in the firmware with the way its set up.
I've seen smartphone's packing Sony image sensors that have this characteristic of almost like an oil pastel art painting. In the case of the EKEN H8 Pro, this characteristic is also observed, and again this is the way it's being set up in the firmware. I've seen this oil pastel art painting look on some smartphone's with Sony image sensors, but they had a worse effect, but thankfully this was fixed by an firmware upgrade addressing the issue and minimizing the effect. EKEN may have to do the same thing and release a firmware upgrade down the road to minimize this.
12MP Photo Samples
The EKEN H8 Pro has decent audio overall. Compared to other budget Chinese action cameras I've tested in the past, H8 Pro is more or less the same, however, H8 Pro's audio is more prone to garbled distortion (clipping) audio picked up through the wind or just in general if the environment ambient noise is very loud. For example, if being used as a dash cam I've noticed the H8 Pro audio is more garbled and distorted than I've noticed other action cameras I've tested in the same environments. Another example is if it's outside and picks up a noisy airplane flying past, it will start distorting due to the rumble and vibration of the airplane droning by. Why this happens I'm not totally sure, but it could be due to a cheaper internal microphone being used with less sensitivity threshold, or possibly the audio recording gain is set too high and anything loud forces the H8 Pro to distort, clip, and garble.
As usual with almost all action cameras on the market there's only an internal Omni-directional microphone that picks up audio from all around the camera. It gets the job done and much can't be expected out of it. The EKEN H8 Pro records in mono and not stereo.
Musically speaking the H8 Pro's audio is just decent. It doesn't particular come off as crystal clear because it sounds a little muffled overall as if there's not enough clarity to its top end. This is disappointing because just by looking at the technical specifications alone of how the H8 Pro records audio, one would expect it would offer much better sound quality than it does in reality. It records using the (technically) better PCM audio stream which is lossless in nature, and does so at a higher constant bitrate of 768 Kbps at 48,000 kHz. It should be much better than it is and in the end that is not the case. I think the culprit is the microphone unit.
EKEN H8 Pro WiFi Software - Ez iCam Broken
EKEN H8 Pro Firmware:
Ez iCam WiFi Android App Version:
At the time of this review (Dec 2016), WiFi connectivity from the H8 Pro to Ez iCam software is broken and does not work for me on Android 4.4.4. Though I am successful in pairing both action camera and smartphone together, what essentially happens after opening the app is that there's no live WiFi view, just a blank black application screen. To make things worse, by this point the software is 100% frozen and unable to respond to any commands. Eventually after maybe 20-30 seconds the Android system gives me a pop up window stating that Ez iCam isn't responding and do I want to close it? The choices are to wait, report, or OK.
Furthermore the nightmare continues as I force close the Ez iCam app, I can no longer reconnect to the EKEN H8 Pro, because now the EKEN H8 Pro action camera itself is frozen and not responding to any commands, even to shut off. In the end I'm forced to manually remove the battery, reinsert, and power up the action camera to complete the whole process again. The problem is that every subsequent retry leads to the same outcome. It's a never ending loop without success.
So WiFi connectivity with the EKEN H8 Pro is totally broken at this point and needs to be resolved with a firmware upgrade to the camera and updates to the Ez iCam app itself. This is clearly a sign of a rushed product and should not have been released like this, EKEN should have checked that it works on multiple platforms.
Battery Life & Capacity Testing
EKEN includes two 1050mAh Lithium-ion batteries which will provide more runtime and less downtime. I like that they've included two batteries and a small battery recharge dock because most times these extras are not given. The EKEN H8 Pro batteries are labeled as 1050mAh and we'll see if that is valid. Not on EKEN's website nor in the manual states battery life claims so users are in the dark about this.
After I did some battery testing, I figured out why they added an extra battery. The battery life alone for one battery is poor and consumers would be upset. With the other Chinese action cameras I've tested, the average battery life is pretty much 2 hours at 1080p 60fps (LCD on) .
Upon further investigation, and with the help of an USB doctor device module, it was revealed that the labeled 1050mAh capacity is not the true capacity. From a dead battery to fully charged state, its revealed that the true capacity is roughly in the 878mAh range, so roughly 172mAh off of the labeled rating. Unfortunately I've found this battery overestimating to be typical of budget Chinese action cameras, all of them have misrepresented (so far) their battery capacity claims.
Since WiFi wasn't working for me, all battery testing was with WiFi off. Here are the results from EKEN H8 Pro battery testing for a single battery...
Now I know why EKEN added an extra battery in the bundle, to make the H8 Pro get 2 hours of battery life, a figure that I've seen in other Chinese action cameras. If they included only one battery with the H8 Pro, 1 hour of battery life is simply unacceptable.
Through an USB doctor device module, I've encountered during recharging phase that the EKEN H8 Pro has a maximum charge rate of between 0.68-0.72A inside the camera making it moderate in terms of recharging times, not too slow and not too fast. If you want a little bit faster recharging times, its best to do it through the included USB charge dock where it has a maximum charge rate of 0.83A making it a little bit faster overall to recharge in under 1 hour, 30 minutes.Where Can I Buy One? And For How Much?
The EKEN H8 Pro can be purchased right now for $139.99 USD through Amazon USA making it an extremely affordable action camera solution and considering the large and complete bundle it comes with including two batteries, charging dock, and selfie stick, the EKEN H8 Pro presents a formidable valuable proposition. It's no wonder why the EKEN H8 Pro is selling well and running out of stock on Amazon.com.
Canadians can also purchase the EKEN H8 Pro through Amazon Canada, but its currently unavailable, but going to be restocked.
Both American and Canadian Amazon purchases will be fulfilled through Amazon and not through a third party, which makes it safe in that you're getting what you paid for, this way you can have Amazon's protection and peace of mind.
Why do I like Amazon? They are fast, reliable, honest, and their return policy is great. I actually got money refunded back to my account after Amazon overcharged me on duty costs, talk about being an honest company, most others would keep the money and not say anything!
If you're thinking of purchasing the EKEN H8 Pro action camera, or anything else for that matter, please use our Amazon links above, it will help us out greatly and go into supporting this website and any future contests we hold through Facebook.
Some Amazon Deals That May Interest You!
The EKEN H8 Pro presents a serious value in the action camera market. It's brought the ability to get good 4K footage to a price that most of the world can afford and not have to shell out 2-4x more money. For a budget Chinese action camera the EKEN H8 Pro is definitely the best one so far I've tested and the Ambarella A12S75 chipset has really done wonders and is a clear and night upgrade to cheaper inferior budget Chinese action cameras. Paired with a Sony image sensor the footage is overall satisfying, especially considering the price. Although the EKEN H8 Pro is 4K capable with the Ambarella A12S75 chipset, unfortunately it's still misleading half way because the Sony IMX 078 image sensor is technically a 1080p image sensor. So the Chinese action cameras are getting there, but they are not totally there yet. Yes it is real 4K in a sense because of the great Ambarella A12S75 chipset, but no in regards to the image sensor, even though it's still better than most others its competing against. In terms of video recording quality and photo image quality I don't have much qualms with the EKEN H8 Pro's performance, because it's still most satisfying. I love that it can do 2.7K at 60 fps because that really comes in handy with motion oriented footage. I've already pointed out the H8 Pro's deficiencies, but overall video is the H8 Pro's strongest point.
I love the bundle that one receives with the EKEN H8 Pro because it is the best one I've seen so far, I mean you get an extra battery, the charge dock, a selfie stick, a fully functional and excellent 2.4GHz remote control wrist watch, these are all great accessories to have.
Let's not forget to mention the very useful and quality 2.0" LCD screen in the rear, excellent OLED display in the front.
Unfortunately the EKEN H8 Pro does have other issues as I've described throughout the review, things that little by little start to add up to its negative tally. I'm going to say the EKEN H8 Pro was rushed out to market before it should have been released. Considering all the little issues it has, features that are missing such as something as simple as an 180-degree image rotation feature, no live viewfinder via HDMI (only playback), software UI that doesn't fully match it's buttons on the camera, a 5-minute video recording file limit, slightly overexposed chromatic aberrations, to things that don't work such as it's broken WiFi connectivity to the Ez iCam app, the subpar audio quality recording that has tendencies to distort and clip at loud noises, I don't know why EKEN decided to go ahead with the release. Thankfully though all these things can be fixed, added, and changed through a firmware upgrade. I really urge EKEN to produce a firmware upgrade as soon as they can, this would help the H8 Pro go a long way. A successful firmware update will definitely change my overall opinion of this action camera, but it's not quite there yet. I think as it is right now there are more cons than pros, but if you're never going to use WiFi and only care about video performance, the EKEN H8 Pro has satisfying 4K 30fps and 2.7K 60fps performance.
In the end the choice is up to the customer whether or not they can live with the drawbacks.