It’s hard to put together a review for a compact action camera without comparing it to the GoPro, but I’ve aimed to highlight the differences rather than similarities with the TomTom Bandit, a relatively new action video cam from Dutch company TomTom, makers of portable GPS systems as well as multi-sport, fitness, running and golf watches.
Out of the box, the immediate difference is the tubular shape of the camera. It’s radically different in shape and design features than the GoPro, and for starters, the on and off button are located in two different spots on the camera.
The Bandit comes with a splash-proof lens cover; a waterproof diving lens cover can be ordered online. TomTom’s packaged the action cam two ways: base pack and premium pack ($100 more; adds a remote control, handlebar mount, dive lens cover, 360 pitch mount and power cable to the equation).
I was sent the Bandit along with the remote control and wrist mount, which I’ll cover in part two of this review. The camera is essentially two sections: the lens and mount, and the Batt-Stick. They come apart by lifting a little white notch near the square control button on top.
Once twisted off, the USB is exposed for charging as well as the micro SD card slot for either inserting into a reader adapter for the computer or leaving in and editing the footage via your smart phone.
Since my MacBook Pro is connected to both a wired numeric keyboard and Apple Cinema Display, I had a choice to make here: either let the Batt-Stick charge up on one of those two USB ports and walk away from the laptop, or (much easier solution!) simply plug the USB into a white Apple USB cube and plug that directly into my outlet power strip (or straight into the wall).
I’m thinking for the price point, it might not be such a bad idea for TomTom to actually include the (likely two-buck) charging cable for others in this situation.
Another note: if you own a JOBY Gorilla Pod, the included GoPro mount will fit nicely onto its adapter! I love how two competing companies make peace in this way.
The whole marketing concept behind the Bandit is its ability to edit and upload video on the fly without any need for cables, fancy editing software and the like. Once you’ve downloaded the app (iPhone iOS7 and higher, Android 4.4 and higher), just ‘shake’ your smart phone to create a story.
The mobile app shows the viewfinder screen along with your current mode, settings, and other prefs that can be changed here to reflect what the camera will do. Note that you won’t be able to create a story unless you have highlights in your videos.
So, you shake the phone, it starts to build a movie and plays in the video player. By turning the phone to landscape mode, you can view the video in full-screen mode. After you get the highlights selected and portions of the video you’re happy with, you can add music and overlays (overlays – adding metrics to the selected highlight – is currently only available via the iOS app).
By sharing the video, it’s stored in your phone’s video gallery, waiting for you to upload it to a website, iCloud Photo Sharing, Vimeo or YouTube.
There are several sensors built into the Bandit, recording metrics including G-force, maximum deceleration, vertical speed, heart rate (from the optional heart rate monitor) etc. It also records your GPS location.
Bandit Studio is available for Apple iOS 10.7 and higher and for Microsoft Windows 7 and higher (in BETA mode as of this writing). Additionally, once the videos are copied over to your computer, you can use other software such as iMovie and GoPro Studio to edit the footage.
I like that you can specify wide or normal view video capture as well. Interesting to note that the Bandit records slow-motion videos at a multiple of the normal frame rate (e.g. 2x, 4x or 8x) but video gets saved with the normal frame rate (e.g. 30 fps) for playback, resulting in slow-motion video.
Audio and sensor data are also recorded in slow-motion mode, the rate depending on the video resolution you choose.
Photos can be taken from the Bandit, the mobile app or the remote control.
– Shoots 1080p @ 30 and 60 fps, 720p @ 60 and 120 fps, 4k @ 15 fps and 2.7k @ 30 fps
– Takes 16 MP single and 8 MP (burst, capture at 10 per second or 10 per second rates)
– Time-lapse, slow-mo, bright, auto, low-light and underwater photo options
– Creates .MP4 video format files
– Built-in mic (with external mic available via optional cable)
– Wi-Fi, Bluetooth Smart connectivity, uses USB 3.0 via Batt-Stick
– Onboard microSD card reader on Batt-Stick
– Weighs 190 g/6.7 oz
– Measures 3.7” x 1.5” x 2” (94 mm x 38 mm x 52 mm)
– Up to three hours of battery life at 1080p @ 30 fps
– Goes into power-save mode after two minutes
– Charges via USB or optional charging cable
– Battery level indicator via Batt-Stick LEDs
– Unique spring-loaded mount fits several Bandit accessories
– Supports English, Spanish, Dutch, German, French, Italian, Chinese, Indonesian, Malaysian, Korean
In part two next week, I’ll reveal what I thought of the Bandit after taking it through its paces.