The Eken H8R action camera certainly belongs to the higher class and perhaps the best that this manufacturer has ever created. If Eken keeps on improving the products, we can definitely expect a competitive company. Who knows, maybe improving the lens of the camera, optimization of the software and angle of view reduction would be enough for them to get to this point. We would get a chance to meet an action camera with both great video and photo quality.
As partly notified, we have quite an amount of stuff to review in our editorial office. Recently, we were privileged to test two cameras of rather disappointing performance – Eken H9 and Midland H5. Now it’s Eken’s double-time once again. The first examination of Eken H2R was documented by a colleague of mine, Martin a few days ago and we have to admit that this product revived our trust in this company. I got the chance to try out their flagship model which was really exciting for me because I didn’t have a clue of what to expect. It’s not that long since Eken didn’t make an impression on me with ,,nine” so how well can do a model with lower model number? Anyway, Eken H8R can really confuse the costumers with their model numbering. After detailed research we can tell that it really overcomes Eken H9R which was tested by us a while ago. Eken H8R is the top model of the manufacturer at the moment, but the question is whether it can compete with other producer’s flagship models.
Firstly, we have to mention that the H2 and H8 line belong to a new Eken’s product generation which had definitely a positive outcome.
Also, let’s make clear what R in the product number stands for. This letter is present all over Eken’s product line and basically means there’s also a remote control in the box. It comes as a part of the basic accessory kit.
The camera arrived in absolutely the same package as ,,nine” we reviewed. Once again, I’m struggling to find any name of the producer on the box and on the camera as well. Both, the camera and the box are dominated by a huge lettering saying the camera is 4K (UHD) compatible. However, I have to point out it’s appropriate this time because of highly usable 30fps framerate.
On the top side of the box we can see the actual camera placed in a waterproof case. The camera finish is matte black in my case. And I’m immediately adding that it looks just great. Besides, there’s a variety of shades to choose from, mostly combined with black (see pics below).
The gallery of the camera:
Further the images printed on the box inform us about standard accessories. Also, we can find some basic tech info from the back.
The amount of accessories is so vast it can’t be disappointing to anybody and is basically no different from the H9 line. Because this is the R version there’s also a remote control with a wrist strap delivered with the camera.
The accessories are of noticeably higher quality than in the “nine’s” case. The instability and fixation issues of various mounts are now a thing of the past. The camera holds now rock-steady after tightening some screws.
Even the screws themselves got cosmetically changed a bit with their more ergonomic heads.
The waterproof case also met some face-lifting where the lens area got this new circular design. It might be considered an improvement in the terms of aesthetic, but it’s certainly a step back when it comes to practical use because It’s difficult to get rid of dust that’s gathering behind the frame.
Again, the AC adaptor or a Quick Start Guide are a welcomed addition to the whole package.
THE ACTUAL CONTENTS OF THE BOX:
1x EKEN 4K action camera
1x 30M waterproof case
1x Frame – holder
1x 1050 mAh interchangeable battery
1x handlebars mount
1x USB cable
1x flat surface adhesive mount
1x bent surface adhesive mount
1x long screw for the base
1x short screw for the base
1x long mounting arm
1x short mounting arm
1x tripod adapter
1x cleaning cloth
1x remote control
1x wrist strap for the remote control
1x instruction manual
straps and a steel wire
DESIGN AND BUILD QUALITY
Right after unpacking I can say that the camera made a much better impression on me than in the case of ,,nine”. Design and build quality are really a higher class. When compared to other cameras, the level is actually similar to SJCAM 5000+ Wi-Fi. However, the build quality is still not perfect. For example, the camera doesn’t snap together on the top edge.
The thing that catches the eye is the front status display that’s similar to the one we can find on most of the rectangular shaped GoPro camera. In this case, the manufacturer even put the effort in equipping the camera with a color display. At the expense of the status display, the notification LED disappeared from the top edge of the camera which makes it difficult for a user to get oriented in the camera status. In addition, there’s a 2-inch screen at the back of the camera which makes setting the camera up and composing shots much easier. Despite being the biggest display in this class, it’s not good enough for a little bit better control of the results. As you can see on the blurry pics below which looked perfectly sharp when presented on the display.
Eken H8R utilizes the 12,4 MPx Sony IMX078 sensor. The same one can be found in action cameras like SJCAM SJ5000X Elite.
The camera uses the same Sunplus 6350 image processing chipset as the Eken 9.
- 1080p/60 fps
- 1080p/30 fps
Any smaller resolution like HD (720p) won’t come as an option as well as an opportunity to set a higher framerate which is usable when taking slow-motion videos. On the other hand, you probably won’t find any other camera at this price level which supports 4K recording at 30 fps. There are similar cameras on the market, but with a lower framerate, 24 fps to be specific.
CONNECTIVITY – PORT
Wi-Fi connectivy goes along with the recommended Ez ICam app. The camera also possesses a simple remote control.
Data transferring is done through microUSB connector. There’s also a microHDMI output next to it. Unfortunately, there is no A/V output present on the camera which means there is no way to connect external microphone.
There is no internal memory in the camera, so microSD memory cards are the only option. According to the manufacturer, cards up to 32GB are supported. However, it shouldn’t be a problem to use a card with a higher capacity like 64GB (at least I didn’t experience any issues when formatted in the FAT32 file system).
1050 mAh, the same as with Eken H9.
One of the more apparent changes is the placement of control buttons. It’s similar to the GoPro Hero 4 which means GoPro accessories can be used with this camera. The up and down navigation buttons are now missing on the side of the camera. Instead of those, there’s only a single button which is primarily meant to turn W-FI on and off. This one also serves as a quick return button which was missed a lot on the H9. It means that, after a few presses, it takes you back to the standby screen from wherever in the menu you are.
The two remaining main buttons stayed at the same place. The on/off/mode one is situated on the front panel. After a longer press the camera turns on and off and when the camera is on you can change the camera modes (including gallery and settings) with a single short press. Confirming is done using the top trigger button, but sometimes you have to use the main one or the Wi-Fi one. This makes the camera control a little bit uneasy. The primary task of the trigger button is of course starting and stopping the recording or a cycle like timelapse and shooting stills. Don’t look for another control element on the camera.
The H8R can be also controlled by its own remote control which consists of only two buttons. It has to be synchronized using Wi-Fi. It can also be worn like a watch using the included wrist strap.
Although the manufacturer included an instruction manual on how to use this simple remote control, instructions on how to pair the camera with it are lacking so if you’re struggling with it, search no more – the pairing gets done after the turning on process with a long press of the power button and a simultaneous press of the red button on the remote control.
You have to get used a bit to the remote control. Some of the operations are done in illogical ways. You can find two buttons on it – one with a red camera icon and the other with a camcorder icon. The buttons’ purpose is obvious here – to start/stop the recording or to take a still.
The disadvantage is that you can’t get to other modes using the remote control so there’s no other choice but to set it up right on the camera. Then you are free to control them with the remote control which means pressing the red control element that starts burst mode or timelapse. In the end, the remote control is a good helper.
The settings menu is very similar to the Eken H9 as well. There are however some advanced options which is a positive thing. Even the navigation itself came upon some changes that we described in the previous paragraph.
The front button takes you through all these modes..
Video -> Camera-> Burst mode-> Time-lapse -> VR 180 Video -> Video Gallery -> Photo Gallery -> Menu options
The last option is the settings menu. Entering is done by the trigger button on the top of the camera.
The settings menu enables following options:
4K – 30 fps
2,7K – 30 fps
1080p – 60 fps
1080p – 30 fps
The camera records video in a loop which basically means older data get overwritten when the card is full. Longer videos are split into 10 minute clips. This option is available in FullHD mode only.
This is a new feature which wasn’t available on the H9. There is a choice of three options – center, full area and spot metering.
There is also an option of timestamp in the recorded videos or stills.
In this case you can manually correct the exposure of the camera. Following EV steps are available: + -2,0 / + – 1,7 / + – 1,3 / + – 1,0 / + – 0,7 / + – 0,3 / 0
The camera records three stills in a row at a single half-press of the trigger button. This function is on by default and can’t be turned off.
BURST MODE INTERVAL
Now you get to set up the interval between single shots. You can choose from 2s / 3s / 5s / 10s / 20s / 30s / 60s.
This options come in handy especially for time lapsing. The Eken camera takes a sequence of different shots which are then put together and comes out as video.
In order to make this mode available it has to be turned on in the settings. It won’t show among the camera modes when turned off.
You get to choose from 50 Hz, 60 Hz or Auto.
There’s a variety of languages to pick from.
DATE & TIME
Enables settings of date & time.
Enables settings of the shutter sound, welcome sound and beeping.
It’s possible to set up an automatic image rotation which is especially convenient when the camera is placed in reverse.
A possibility to set up automatic shutdown of the display after a certain time interval. The choice is between 1 minute, 3 minutes or 5 minutes.
An equivalent to the previously mentioned function. The camera turns off automatically after 1 min, 3 min or 5 min.
Erases and formats the microSD card.
Resets the camera settings to the factory defaults.
Shows the camera firmware version.
Unfortunately, I miss some functions like white balance (WB) or ISO settings.
A huge improvement compared to the H9 is the quick menu exit using the dedicated Wi-Fi button.
There’s no need to write extensive essays about the application because the whole interface is the same as with Eken H9.
But the worse thing was that the application didn’t want to become friends with the camera. Although I managed to find the camera signal and connect to it, the app didn’t accept this connection and tried to make a new one. This issue was solved by updating the app.
You can find a link to EZ iCam download here.
THE CAMERA IN REAL WORLD
Right from the start, I would like to point out that we can talk about a huge improvement compared to the Eken H9. Better build quality, design and the ergonomics of controlling. In addition, there’s a status display thanks to which the camera looks like a premium product. Can’t say that about ,,nine”.
But what do the actual video and photo results look like? It kind of reminds me of a runner losing all of his energy right before the finish line.
The overall still and video rendition shows significant improvements in all aspects. Colors are vibrant and vivid with no tinting. Shots in the direct backlight are a different story though. Once again, there is some purple tinting along with various disruptive reflections visible. Photos taken in backlight show a surprising amount of color noise.
If the camera is however used in good lighting conditions (daylight, before sunset, extremely bright sunlight) it may surprise with fully saturated colors and natural rendition. All in all, the H8R belongs among one of the best cameras I’ve had the opportunity to try out in terms of color rendition.
Probably the biggest downside of this camera is its rather low quality lens. There is some vignetting in the corners present which leads to a serious loss of sharpness towards the left side of the image. The image is a little bit sharper on the right side, although there is strong chromatic aberration present. Eken should probably start looking for a higher quality optics producer or consider lowering the angle of view of the lens because the 170° angle brings out a lot of barrel distortion. Sometimes, less is more.
- in the pic above we can see the vignetting which results in the loss of sharpness towards the corners
- these are some examples of the barrel distortion.
- the next one shows the inconsistency of the optics. The blurred out part when cropped in 100% – pic 1 and the chromatic aberration – pic 2
Forget about the macro already cause in none of the cases I was able to take a sharp image using the main lens.
As it was mentioned, the sensor does a very good job in scenes with good light. Its performance however weakens as the light lowers which introduces some unpleasant color noise. Nor the hardware or software can unfortunately handle this well.
Nevertheless, I can say that some pictures can look really good thanks to the wide angle. I would point out that taking stills is not the camera’s priority, so treat the examples above with caution. Let’s go check out video instead because it certainly is the priority.
But before that, check this good quality photos:
Some of the pics in the full resolution are available to be downloaded here.
We can finally talk more about 4K recording in the H8R’s case. 30 frames per second is not much, but it’s enough for most applications and it’s very usable. The camera records in .MOV format which may be a concern to some users during the post-processing stage.
Video recording is not especially surprising. The sharpness is average in its class, and comparable to the SJCAM SJ5000+ Wi-Fi. One of the H8R’s benefits is definitely the color rendition which is more vibrant, saturated and maybe even more natural.
Some disruptive elements are present when shooting in backlight – namely various reflections and purplish tinting.
Video recorded in backlight
However, night shooting is not an easy task to do for Eken. When a moving object appears in the image, the camera can’t focus quickly enough. I’d say it loses a bit over the SJCAM 5000+ Wi-Fi. High dynamic range is not an easy task for the camera sensor either. In this case, it loses over the GoPro Hero 4 along with SJCAM 5000+ and even Xiaomi YiSport Camera.
Videos recorded in lowlight
An example of VR 180 video
The camera could use image stabilization. As I’ve mentioned many times, action cameras should be automatically granted this attribute. However, it’s not true in most of cases.
The final verdict is similar to photos. The quality of video would be satisfactory for clips published somewhere on social media or for watching them on a smartphone. Also, you would need higher 2K or 4K resolution when watching video on bigger screens and TVs. This is where the 30fps framerate becomes a limitation, at least in scenes with more action.
Check out this timelapse.
The battery is the same one as with the Eken H9 so I was not expecting a big change which came partly true. I’d say the battery life is a little bit better, but not very significantly. Again, we can’t rely on the accuracy of the battery status indicator. After turning on, the indicator says the battery is full, but only after few minutes a third of it is gone.
The battery life itself is around an hour depending on which mode and resolution is used. The truth is that the higher the requirements, the shorter the battery life gets. This means you should expect lower battery life when shooting in 4K. On the other hand, when taking stills or timelapse, the battery life can be extended to a few hours.
Of course, there’s no harm in saying that if we don’t want to limit ourselves, it’s necessary to purchase some more spare accumulators.
I’m confused a bit over the camera’s results. Maybe the reason is that my expectations were higher than this segment has to offer. I can’t imagine viewing videos recorded with this camera in FullHD on a bigger screen or TV where all the flaws of the video and even the camera itself are visible due to the size. However, the camera does very well if you’re fine with presenting the video on social media only where most of the viewers will watch them via smartphones and tablets.
Yeah, Eken H8R flaunts with 2,7K and 4K, but there’s a catch. 30fps wouldn’t be that bad if it was FullHD, but it might be an issue in 4K which is much more detailed. In spite of that, this value is praiseworthy and the results were pretty great. A stone of stumbling can be in the support of the devices that are to play the recorded videos. I’m sure I’m not the only one who came across this issue. I tried watching the raw 4K video on several 4K compatible devices and not a single one played it right (Smartphone OnePlus 2, Letv X800 and a Samsung SmartTV which I can’t recall the model number of, but it’s the curved one for ungodly money. Uploading this video to YouTube and downloading it back finally solved this issue.
Despite all the mentioned shortcomings, the Eken H8R action camera certainly belongs to the higher class and perhaps the best that this manufacturer has ever created. If Eken keeps on improving the products, we can definitely expect a competitive company. Who knows, maybe improving the lens of the camera, optimization of the software and angle of view reduction would be enough for them to get to this point. We would get a chance to meet an action camera with both great video and photo quality.
Even though this camera’s priority is not photo, I actually experienced more fun with this mode than with the video itself.
The Eken H8R action camera was lent to us by Gearbest.com where you can actually buy this or another model. Thank you guys for that.
- usable 4K/30fps format
- very good color rendition
- 2-inch screen
- plenty of accessories
- great price/value ratio
- chromatic aberration
- missing image stabilization
- missing white balance or ISO settings
- battery indicator accuracy
- no external mic plug
SPECS IN A NUTSHELL:
EKEN H8R – ACTION CAMERA
|Remote control||2.4G, waterproof to 3m / 20m reach|
|LCD||2” screen + status display|
|Waterproof case||Ultra Slim Design
up to 30m
|Video recording||4K @ 30fps (3840 x 2160 pixels)
2,7K @ 30fps (2704 x 1524 pixels)
1080p @ 60fps (1920 x 1080 pixels)
1080p @ 30fps (1920 x 1080 pixels)
|Input/output||Micro USB port
|Optics||Wide angle 170°|
|Battery||1050 mAh Lithium – rechargeable|
|Memory card||Micro SD card (not included in the package)|
|Battery and its life||1050 mAh (1080p30 – 1,5 hours, 4K30/2,7K30/1080p60 – 50 min)|
|Audio||WAVE Format (Bitrate: 176kbps)|
|Dimensions||(length x width x height) 59,3 x 21,4 x 41,1(mm）|
|Wireless connectivity||built-in Wi-Fi transmitter 802.11 b/g/n|
|Languages||Czech, Turkish, Dutch, Polish, Korean, Japanese, Portuguese, German, Chinese, English, French, Italian, Spanish, Thai
|Weight||66g (including battery)|