Action cameras come in a very limited range of form factors and sizes. The reason for this is obviously that most of them are styled (or flat out copied) from the grandfather of them all, the GoPro. Most cameras and accessories follow this form factor and its winning shape and size. Obviously so, because everyone who wants to capture themselves falling off a cliff or skating into a wall has a GoPro clone bolted to their helmet.
New ideas in the field of action cameras are rare, but Akaso has come up with something interesting, a sort of non-action camera, a camera for daily vlogging life.
What’s a Keychain Camera?
The Akaso 4K Vlog Camera is a keychain camera, that is to say it takes the form of a “fob,” with stylistically more DNA in common with a car remote than a camera. The case is a smooth lozenge of clear acrylic on the face and matt plastic on the back. The back of the camera contains a powerful magnet, and the lens is on the front surrounded by six LED fill lights which you can turn on and off using one of the pair of buttons on the side. On the underside is a silicone flap covering the charging and SD card ports. That’s it, that’s all you can see from the outside.
It’s a smooth, white, 40g pebble, personal equipment item that could easily just slide into a pocket, even a shirt pocket, without causing discomfort. Included in the kit are a USB-C charging cable, a magnetic plate, a clip, a stand, a silicone cover, and an instruction book.
Technically speaking, it’s a 4k 30fps camera with a 124-degree field of view, which takes 20-megapixel stills, is water resistant to the IP56 standard, and uses 5.0GHz Wi-Fi. Along with the standard video and photo modes, there are also slow motion and time lapse modes. The unit uses EIS 2.0 electronic image stabilization.
The build quality and design, as I’ve come to expect from Akaso, is exceptionally sturdy and good looking. The kit is very cleverly put together.
Vlog Your Life
Expectations were low I have to admit, after being told I was being sent a keychain camera for review. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but I thought it would be unusable for one very important reason. Camera shake. Action cameras are prone to a lot of wiggle, bolted firmly as they usually are to a mobile, wiggly person. The smaller they are, the shakier they are, especially if they are not bolted down. But the first surprise was how stable and usable this little camera is.
Let’s backtrack a bit: Clearly the purpose of this camera is to vlog your life. You can film any time, anywhere, at a moment’s notice, and in 4K. No prep, no need for tripods or light readings. It’s personal and quick. The accessories seem a bit minimal at first – for example, there was no sign of a tripod mount or any of that techie stuff. But you find there’s a secret tripod mount in the stand if you unscrew the base. It’s full of little moments like that.
The first way you can use it is in its little silicon case. The top of the case has a loop you can hook to a lanyard. So when you need to use the camera you can just grab it, press the button and point it at your face. When you’re done you can just drop it.
The second way is to clip it to something. The clip attaches to the camera magnetically. The magnet is very strong and I never felt it would fall off.
Another way you can attach it to you is by putting the magnetic plate inside a coat (in an inside pocket perhaps), and then sticking the camera to the outside.
Finally there is the stand which has one of those lovely perpetually sticky pads on the bottom. This is useful for attaching the camera onto a dashboard or other flat surface. The clip which holds the camera on the stand rotates 90 degrees so you can have it in landscape or portrait orientation.
As well as all that, you can link to the camera via Wi-Fi with your phone using the Akaso Go app (Android and iOS) and have a live viewfinder on your phone. You can also take photos and videos using the phone as a remote. Simply push the button for Wi-Fi on, connect your phone to the Wi-Fi address of the camera, and you’re in. There’s no need for a viewfinder or rear LCD because you can connect the camera to your phone if you need to see more precisely through the lens. Mostly, though, I suspect you’ll be using it as intended: either holding it up pointing at your face as you walk about or using the magnetic plate or clip to fasten it to your chest.
There are very few downsides to the device. Obviously being so minimal and only having two buttons and no LCD, most of the settings are only accessible via the app, like changing from photo to video, activating slow motion and time lapse, etc. The only other thing that bugged me was the pivot stand rotates 90 degrees to landscape but only in one direction so that the buttons are underneath the unit. Presumably, this means it’s intended to stick up on the windscreen of your car. It’s a bit annoying if it’s on the dash instead.
The Image quality is good as far as color rendition goes, but as with all action cameras, there have to be compromises, especially in the way of compression and noise. Pictures look fine, though, as any deficiencies in the compression are compensated for by the high resolution. Obviously these problems get worse in low light, but you have the built-in fill light for that.
The EIS 2.0 damping of camera shake in video mode is incredible, especially with shots where the camera is pinned to your chest and you are walking or running.
It’s a Lifestyle Cam
The Akaso 4K Vlog Camera is the perfect keychain camera for lifestyle vloggers who want to record their vlog without using an obtrusive camera or phone and with zero setup. It’s not cheap, but you can get it at IndieGoGo for $89. It’s stylish, useful and very easy to use. It’s a tool and not a toy. It’s not intended to be a professional high-quality still or movie camera. It’s fast and easy.