After reviewing Akaso Dashcam, it occurred to me, that there is very little difference between a dashcam and an action cam. Every feature that would make for a good dashcam would also work for an action cam too. Perhaps this is why I’m here with Akaso Brave 7 action camera in my hands. It feels strangely familiar, even if I never covered Akaso action cameras before. Can it beat GoPro and other brands? Price-wise, sure…
Too good to be true?
At first glance, it reminds me of a GoPro Hero 11 with its protruding lens and front-facing display. Akaso Brave 7 is almost three times cheaper. $170 will get you the action camera and a hefty box of accessories, to begin with – including a dedicated charger and 2 batteries. Other accessories are the typical universal mounts and clips supplied with many other action cameras. There is enough there to keep you experimenting, but the main components include the Bluetooth remote and a dedicated cage with screw inserts.
I’m looking at Akaso Brave 7 and I can’t help but wonder, how they managed to pack all these features inside without going over the $170 price tag. Let’s sum up:
- 4K30, 2K60, 1080P90, 720P120 video resolutions
- 20MP photo resolution
- Image stabilisation, 170° wide angle
- 2 displays (touch and front-facing one)
- WiFi, Bluetooth
- Voice controls
- Microphone (optional external mic)
- Battery 1350mAh (approx 2h)
- IPX8 water resistance
- 2 batteries + charger
It’s a package that is really hard to beat. At least on paper. Let’s hope the trend continues further.
Akaso Brave 7
The action camera feels well build. The three buttons and a touch display handle all interactions. The power button doubles as a shutter, other two toggle shooting modes, zoon and when held down longer – WiFi and front-back display.
Water-tight caps seal the battery inside, USB-C charging port and micro SD card reader. Apart from charging, the port supports external microphones and file browsing from the computer. I tried a couple of USB-C adapters to see if any mics I have at hand would do the job… without luck.
You could take the camera underwater up to 5 m, which corresponds with the level of waterproofing visible on Akaso Brave 7. What I liked, in particular, was a dedicated lens protector which you can remove and replace if scratched. Action cameras have a knack for ending up battered – having extra protection for your lens is always a good thing.
As the camera missed the opportunity to go to Marrakech with me, I couldn’t take it for a quick dive in a warm pool. There is no way in hell, anyone going to convince me to jump into the North Sea at this time of the year.
The touch interface is easy to navigate with the most important options available at the fingertips. Switching between back and front displays comes in handy. I do feel like the UI elements feel a little dated, but the layout is practical and usable so I’m not going to take this against the action camera. What’s missing is the ability to retain the screen selection on power-up. I’d love Akaso to boot back to the last selected screen. It would save me some hassle.
Remember when I said the whole package is too good to be true? Akaso Brave 7 offers excellent features for the money, but the weakest part of the product is the main function: video quality.
At first, I shot the footage in the worst possible conditions (cloudy weather, forest with lots of compression artefact-inducing foliage, terrible light condition), but it’s not a massive saving grace for the action camera.
First of all, avoid using anything else than the 170° angle setting in your Akaso Brave 7. It’s the native field of view of the camera and selecting anything else results in the digitally cropped image (poorly upscaled to chosen resolution).
The image in 2K also feels upscaled. In fact, every setting I tried felt odd. I thought scaling down all the way to 1080p60 would result in a somehow crisp image, but at each level, I feel like the camera is producing an image artificially scaled up from a lower-than-selected resolution. Something is up and I can’t explain what. (read more, as I discovered something later).
The next test will be in the sun…
The pictures are actually great. The 20MP camera can take still images that are good in quality even in low light. The difference between pictures and videos is simply night and day. Even in shadows, the images are full of details, exposed correctly and simply pleasant to look at.
As I was using the widest angle (to avoid digital cropping which you can apply in the post), the lines towards the edges of the frame are heavily distorted by the shape of the lens. It’s typical for action cameras, so I’m not going to hold it against it.
This is where things get spicy. In terms of stabilisation, I think the results are decent. The footage is smooth, jerkiness is removed… this all comes at a cost. Look at the corp at the left picture and the drop in quality compared to unstabilised at right.
I thought the best way to showcase how stable the footage is, was to take Akaso Brave 7 cycling. I slapped the camera on my chest to create an interesting perspective, but I also took my selfie stick so you could all admire my cycling and filming skills.
I foolishly assumed that selecting a 170° angle and placing the camera on my chest roughly pointing in the right direction would result in the frame filled with my thrilling downhill ride. I couldn’t be further from the truth. Once I got back home and downloaded the footage (my mistake, I should have previewed it while shooting), I discovered that the camera points mostly at my handlebar (my bad) but the field of view was far from promised 170 degrees.
It leads me to the conclusion, that despite the angle settings, software stabilisation overrides it, removing the unwanted motion by cropping and panning the image and then scaling up the reminder to the desired resolution. While this provides relatively smooth video it also looks incredibly poor.
To prove my theory, once again I waited for good weather in the UK and took the camera to the seaside. This time knowing what exactly I’m going to test for. If my theory was right, shooting at 1080P60FPS without stabilisation should provide a better video quality. To make it comparable, I used my recently-reviewed Hohem iSteady M6 gimbal which would stabilise the results mechanically for me.
Don’t you hate being right?
It turned out that I was right. I believe that the camera records the footage in probably 1440P and then upscales it to the required resolution (2k, 4K). Physically stabilised footage looked slightly better than 1080P but nowhere near what I would expect from a 4K sensor.
When software stabilisation is enabled, the frame is cropped sufficiently to remove the unwanted motion (creating probably an equivalent of 720P) and then upscaled again to the selected resolution. This is why I was so unimpressed with the video quality in my initial tests.
Even without the external microphone or the windsock (foam) on, the microphone sounds really good. My voiceover was loud, and punchy while the camera was able to pick up other sounds like birds in the background. I was unsure if I could use the audio for anything, it turns out – this is where the camera shines.
Impressed with the initial sound quality, I put the camera on a 1m selfie stick, popped the windsock on and took the Akaso Brave 7 for a spin on my bike. I ride relatively fast, and most of my cycling videos have unusable audio due to wind noises. The microphone in Akaso Brave 7 is definitely punching above its weight. The audio was very usable at various speeds – and despite moving air, my voice came through strong and understandable.
If the Bluetooth remote controller isn’t enough, you can enable WiFi and connect to the camera with your phone. It’s a great option to check if the view from the camera is what you expect or use the phone for remote operation.
There is more, Akaso Go app serves as a social hub where you can share your clips with other members of the Akaso and use a built-in editor to edit your clips. At least in theory, my attempts to access videos stored on my phone (and recorded with the phone) resulted in preview errors at first, then a couple of days later the videos decided to load. Thankfully, it’s not the only tool for editing out there, Akaso needs to address the inconsistency.
I’m glad Akaso Brave 7 arrived after my trip to Morocco. I’d probably discover soon enough that I get much better videos with my Hohem iSteady M6 gimbal and stabilisation for the action cam disabled, but footage shot with my mobile looks simply better. Akaso has to take this model back to the drawing board. The sensor is clearly capable of decent photography, the microphone is just shy of amazing and the list of features is long… It’s such a shame that image stabilisation runs the video quality. Let’s hope Brave 8 didn’t get the same treatment. Thoughts? Let me know in this Reddit thread.
🆓💵 – See the transparency note for details.