“Sign here. And here. There’s your package…”
Remember the excitement when the postman hands over that somewhat worn plastic-sealed box, reinforced with tactical turns of Sellotape and many important-looking stickers?
Know that specific aura of Distance, that fog’n’dust Faraway scent? Imagine myriad touches of so many hands; all the way from making a thing exist thru bringing it to your address?
Sure you do. Even my doggies are excited, aiming their uncannily acute noses to read all about the package in the way I’ll never even be able to comprehend.
Well, the new camera has arrived. Here it sits on my table while I search for something to cut open the package and expose it to the light of destination – on the other side of the World.
Snip, snip, rip…
What’s inside the box?
- 1 x RunCam3
- 1 x Micro-USB Flat Cable
- 1 x Micro-USB TV-Out and Power Cable
- 1 x User Manual
There are also some things not mentioned in the manifest. A bonus?
- 4 x Velcro fastening straps
- 2 x double-sided 3M sticky pads
RunCam3 comes in white, hard cardboard box sized 10 by 10 by 6 centimeters. The box is imprinted in elegant, metallic silver and smaller gray lettering. Side of the box shows Manufacturer data and a silver sticker displaying the camera model and control symbols. There are two more stickers. One has a package QR-code (too small for my phone scanner to read) but there is a scratch-to-check field right underneath. The other sticker you have to cut through to open the box.
There is a thinner cardboard profile that keeps this small orange camera in the middle of the package, and under it there is another small box. Within, you’ll find a Micro USB flat-cable, and Micro USB TV-Out & Power cable. I have also found four orange Velcro strips (sized to girdle the cam) and two double-sided stickers, presumably meant to facilitate camera mounting, for it has neither a standard ¼” tripod bush nor any other accessory fixing points.
A small package of Silica-gel is in there too, with its usual hilarious DO NOT EAT warning.
- Size (L x W x H)
- Video resolutions
- Video compression format
- Video File type
- Image format
- Recording time
- FOV (Field Of View)
- Image resolution
- WDR (Wide Dynamic Range)
- TV Output
- TV Output
- USB Power Input
- Image Flip (180° Rotation)
- Operating Current
- RunCam 3
- L 37.5mm x W 38mm x H 38mm
External, up to 64MB microSDXC memory card
(should be a class 6 or above)
- Li-ion rechargeable Battery 960mAh
- 2 MP
- On / Off
- NTSC / PAL
- Micro USB
- NTSC / PAL
- 5-17 VDC
- ~600 mA
It seems like the range of accessories that come with the camera is quite short. All of the GoPro- or -alike mounting elements are missing. But there are options. Almost all those things are also made by independent manufacturers, and can be bought for small money. What you need actually depends upon your camera usage requirements, which are pretty well-rounded in the Manufacturer’s motto: RunCam; Born for RC Fanatics!
The optional RunCam underwater case (not included / not reviewed) is compatible with aforesaid mounting elements via the usual two-pronged swivel joint on its underside.
The optional RunCam skeletal mounting frame (not included / not reviewed) is needed to physically connect the camera to one’s body or other objects. It also has the typical swivel joint on the underside.
The optional silicone rubber protective frame (not any more produced / not included / not reviewed) seems good for mounting and stabilisation purposes. When I looked for it, there was only an offer to download the 3D printing file and DIY. Shucks! Pret-tee frustrating…
There are another 1.5 milimeters of frustration between RunCam3 and GoPro Session, its nearest look-alike. RunCam3 (L37.5 x W38 x H38mm) and GoPro Session (L36 x W38 x H38mm) are thus different, so you will have to use RunCam’s own and optional mounting frame and dive housing . Aforesaid silicone rubber frame would fit both cameras, though.
These accessories were not sent in for reviewing, so I can’t offer much more than a fleeting comment, but I found that mounting frame and dive housing come with a quick-release lock and two bases to snap on. The bases can be sticky-taped to a variety of surfaces.
Among interesting details there are some which might not be visible upon the first glance:
RunCam3 has high-sensitivity dual microphones and an independent audio chip to ensure clearer sound recording. It did generate some question marks you’ll learn about later on.
The camera also has internal shielding enclosures, made to effectively reduce radio frequency interference (RFI) to its transmitter and receiver.
Hi-strength aluminum alloy frontal frame holds a square of Corning Gorilla™ glass, to shield the lens: great idea! This tempered glass plate is an accessory that can be replaced.
RunCam3 would be very practical as an usual dashcam thanks to its image quality and small size – except for the Manufacturer’s warning: IT SHOULD NOT BE USED AS A DASHCAM WHILE BEING POWERED BY AN OUTSIDE SOURCE, because it is detrimental to the built-in battery, and thus a fire hazard!
This got me thinking: would it be possible to bypass the internal battery overcharging when the cam is set to, say, a Dashcam Mode? Could it be powered only by the charger, Dashcam Mode effectively bypassing the built-in battery? So, other Modes could draw from the built-in battery – except for the Dashcam Mode. Is it a question of wiring, or is it solvable by clever firmware tweak? A question to be aimed at designers and developers, methinks…
The fact of the matter is, RunCam3 actually could be used as a Dash camera if it is not powered from the outside source while operating. This means you can power it by its own battery while driving, and re-charge it from the car battery when the camera is not operating. Just make sure to use the properly rated charger (5-17 VDC / 1A)…
RunCam3 already has the option to record inverted image, which helps with such usage.
You can also apply the RunCam3 as a web camera on a Windows PC by running amcap.exe. If your Windows version does not already have it, you can download and install it from here.
User’s Manual & RunCam Web Page
RunCam3 User Manual is one refreshingly concise and correctly written booklet printed in English, German and Chinese. Well, I was able to check the English and German versions, but I really had no time for thoroughly checking Chinese… yeah, right! I’m kiddin’…
Initially (before you connect to your smartphone/ tablet via the App), you have to learn:
Long-press the Power/Shutter button for three seconds. The camera powers on and
beeps three times. (By default, camera switches on to video standby mode).
Long-press the Power/Shutter button for three seconds. The camera powers off and
beeps ﬁve times.
After powering on, long-press the WiFi/Mode button to cycle among the three modes: Video/Photos/OSD (On-screen Display).
Camera Status Light: Blue. Press the Power/Shutter button to start/stop recording.
Camera Status Light: Green. Press the Power/Shutter button to capture photos.
Camera Status Light: Orange.
Press the Power/Shutter button to browse. Press the WiFi/Mode button to select.
OSD makes sense when you have a screen – which requires connection.
Exit the Menu by long-pressing the WiFi/Mode button.
The 9 by 9 centimeters booklet is something you’ll want to keep with the cam at all times, as the camera has no monitor. It talks to you in beep’n’blinks tongue. Every function is always confirmed by its unique number of beeps and by showing either steady or blinking light in blue, orange, red or green! This light is under the Power / Shutter button, and it is all you have. That is, at least until you have the RunCam3 connected via its App to your smartphone. Then it becomes easier.
As time goes by, I should be ranting about font sizes that seem to be chosen exclusively for young eyes… but I won’t. Fortunately there is a PDF version of the Manual where font size can be changed. In the meantime, I’m happy with well written text and clean drawings.
The same standards are found in the Runcam’s web pages but some jump links there do need corrections. In short, both the Manual and web pages show the general attitude and effort invested in correct presentation. Go look for yourself; starting maybe at Web Page Intro…
First things always come, well, first. After quick rummaging through the package to see what all was in there, I polished my glasses and leafed through the User Manual. You know… “if nothing else helps, read the instructions”, but believe me that reading once and right away through the Manual sure is much more effective. And especially so with this kind of camera!
First thing to check was the battery charge. You press the top button to see how the LED light around the button will respond. If there is more than 50% capacity, the green light blinks five times. If charge is less than 50%, the green light blinks ten times. If battery is at less than 15%, the green light goes on blinking. More blinks = less power! Easy!
So I set to check the battery status. The blinking LED revealed the battery was many-blinks, and I connected it to my Tesla smartphone charger outputting 5VDC / 1A. Steady red light confirmed the battery was charging. The Manual says a flat battery is fully charged within 2.5 hours, when the red light should go off.
That is when I noticed that the top button on my sample sits at a slight angle; can’t rightly say whether this was intended by design or not. It didn’t affect its function in any way, though.
After two hours of charging the red LED started to blink again, very quickly and in irregular tempo. Since the cam was neither heating up nor otherwise misbehaving, I prolonged the charging to full three hours. Not knowing any better I hoped this would be normal, even if it wasn’t what the Manual led me to expect. Three hours passed, and with the red light still flickering, I quit the charging.
The next day I recorded some lengths of video plus twenty or so photos, maybe 4GBs of total content. I then put the camera battery to recharge. The steady red light was on for the duration of charging time, which took 35 minutes. This time the battery signalled its full charge by extinguishing the red light – just as the Manual says.
So paint me perplexed…
The camera connects to remote-control & viewing smartphone or tablet via its mobile App, “apptly” named Runcam which you can download from GooglePlay, and also from here.
This App is available for Android (v.4.2 or higher) and iOS (v.6 or higher). Current version is / was 1.9.0. Installing it to a smartphone is a no-brainer, same as making the connection. I did have a stumble or two with my first two attempts where the connection inexplicably broke, but on the proverbial third go everything worked as smoothly as it should. User Manual explains it concisely, and operating the cam via RunCam App is positive and speedy.
The RunCam App lets you control and/or modify built-in WiFi module, Live preview, Video playback, and various other camera parameters and settings. Cam will chirp as usual with every change, confirming your choice, and its signal LED will change colors accordingly.
On the same page there are also links to download Firmware upgrade (in two ways), and links to the User Manual, which you can download as .pdf files, each in your favorite language – if it happens to be any among English, German, Spanish or Chinese.
RunCam3 supports TV-OUT, and its delay (lag) is ~45ms, with 1080px at 60fps and WDR (Wide Dynamic Range) switched on. In all, the camera records in 1080px at 60fps / 30fps and in 720px at 120fps / 60fps. The default video setting when the camera is used without its App will be 1080px at 60fps, which, of course, is easily modifiable via the App.
Being primarily made for First Person View (FPV) with Remote Control applications, the RunCam3 has no image stabilisation, which is quite understandable since it would also slow down the transfer speed and augment the lagging. As it is, the whole unit should be stabilized well enough to suppress any excess vibration.
To my eye, picture colors are attractive and (considering the small sensor and resolution limitations), action videos are pretty good. As with photos, you have to resist the temptation to overly insist upon detail, but rather enjoy the action. It is easy, owing to the fact that the 155° FOV records a lot less distorted picture than many other small action type cameras.
Photo size is 2MP resolving in 2304 x 1728 x 24b (or more impressively specified, 95.551488 megabytes). In reality, it represents image sizes that are quite sufficient for general monitor-based viewing – if you decide not to pixel peep, because its JPEG engine is pretty merciless with details. Frankly, the photo results might look “meh” to those among us spoiled by contemporary 16, 24, 50 or more megapixel sensors of today’s photo cameras.
However, let’s recall that we’re talking about a first-person-view camera, made for remotely controlled usage where data transfer speed comes first. Signal delay (lag) should be as close to real time as possible. For now, high resolution imaging remains within feasible and above all, affordable technology. Hovering amid all those aspects, the RunCam3 actually shines.
RunCam3 has two microphones. One is placed on top, right behind the Power / Shutter button, and the other is in the back, to the left of the WiFi / Mode button. Such microphone placement does not quite suggest the camera records in stereo.
Truth is, there’s not much to find about the camera’s audio anywhere. The specifications just mention high sensitivity dual microphone and an independent audio chip, for clearer sound recording, but when I set to convert the video file, my (VSDC) Converter treated the sound track as “stereo”. And I suspect the Converters should know what they’re doing…
Anyway, the twin mikes record somewhat weirdly, as can be heard in the test. The way it works, the sound recorded with bare camera* kinda made me wondering just what has happened. For all the world, it was as if the audio chip couldn’t decide which mike to use. It just kept switching from one microphone to the other, with no discernible reason. I coudn’t rightly figure it out. Let’s hope it is limited to the unit I was testing. Otherwise… meh.
*I had no way to test the sound in the camera’s protective casing, but it is certain the sound input would be significantly suppressed, like in any other waterproof housing.
Battery depleting tests were made with the bare camera – no waterproof casing was delivered for testing, as it is an optional extra. For charging I used a Tesla smartphone charger which outputs the recommended 5VDC/1A. Since the battery is non-removable it has to be charged in-camera. It is thus the only battery you can use (and keep the Warranty).
The cam was spending power outdoors – at highest resolution and possibly the highest power consumption rate. WiFi emitter was switched ON so as to generate higher energy demand. Recharging was made “at room temperature”. This never fails to strike me funny, because whatever temperature of any room, it will always be “room temperature”! Well, during all charging times, my room temperature read exactly 16° Centigrade.
1. 1080px @ 30fps Recording time: 80 min, Recharging time: 142 min
2. 1080px @ 60fps Recording time: 65 min, Recharging time: 144 min
NOTE: These values are rarely constant, since several variables influence such tests; like ambiental temperature, internal camera temperature, usage with or without protective casing, specific charger, battery production batch, whether WiFi was On or Off, etc.
As an optional accessory, the RunCam3 protective case is one among the simplest casings ever. It has a sealed back door or hatch with its usual excenter-balance lock. There are two buttons, aligned with the cam’s Power/Shutter and WiFi/Mode switches; one is on top of the casing, the other in the back door.
The cam casing is rated to 2 Bar working pressure, or -10 meters water depth. Of course, neither WiFi nor any other electromagnetic signal will work underwater. Thus, the cam with no monitor of its own has to be guided underwater by feel, taking into account its field of view. That 155° FOV will be narrower underwater (about 117° with flat port), and one helpful accessory would be a classic “sport finder”. It is an old, simple and cheap solution, actually a wireframe in front of the camera to look through. Such a frame should be just a tad larger than the camera’s FOV, so it doesn’t get included in the picture.
Your best option for this is DIY, as it is not found with modern camera accessories. So if you are planning to do some underwater video, consider bending some stainless steel wire!
Waterproof Case Care
See it extensively explained here https://pevly.com/waterproofing-key-underwater-photography/
This attractive orange dice is one good FPV Camera; less so a typical Action Camera. It’s mainly so because of integrated monitor’s absence, which makes settings and control not as straightforward as usual. Seeing that this device has been produced for specialized rather than general action implementations, it is how it should be regarded and also evaluated.
RunCam3 is a FPV camera first, and action or sports cam second. It was made primarily for remote-controlled applications where data transfer speed is of top importance. For that very reason it has been stripped of all power-hungry luxuries, like a monitor and GPS. True, both of those could have been there; simply to be switched off in certain situations. But then the price would be a tad different, right?
About that quirky sound recording mentioned… It is likely that the problem I encountered rests with my unit, rather than being characteristic for the model. Anyway, with the kind of usage the cam has been made for, the original sound would rarely be used in the final video. It would probably consist of motor, propeller and rattle alike that I would prefer replacing with some action music, or more acceptable sound effects. So, not really a big problem.
You have to learn its beeps and color-coded LED response to certain setting adjustments, or simply remember to carry the Manual along with the cam, at least until all signals become familiar. To avid pilots of RC devices it will do very well the way it is, of that I’m sure.
It is my general and unwavering
rant opinion that all outdoor devices should be encased splash-proof, by default! It does not change much in production cost, mainly requiring different designing. Such an approach surely adds an important edge – and user confidence.
Having said that, I’d wish for pilots and all other users that RunCam3 had at least a quality weather-proofing, for some of those murky days or conditions. With acceptable battery and with very good lens protection, it wouldn’t hurt if MicroUSB connecting point, memory card slot, button seats and microphones were solidly sealed. And yes, there are ways to have a fully waterproof device of the similar size, even with a removable battery!
Cameras built for action rarely dwell in idyllic conditions. Things are meant to go out with all adrenaline addicts, and should be able to withstand whatever the climate throws their way. Water and dust are what our World is made of. It affects our gear. Since we understand it, all manufacturers should understand it too. And… now wouldn’t be too soon, thank you!
I’m not even thinking about going underwater; that’s another, er, kettle of fish altogether. Still, one can envision RunCam3 being present in whitewater sports, sailing, paragliding and other excitement-rich occasions – though only in its waterproof case which is, in effect, just one more accessory to worry about. RunCam, please abandon that box-in-a-box concept!
See, if one adds the price of a camera, its waterproof case, and a skeletal frame, it seems that putting all internal components straight into an amphibious box capable of ## meters working depth would be cheaper to produce than all those extra parts separately.
In the end, the price paid by the user wouldn’t suffer from that logic either.
- Solid build
- Well-made Manual
- Small & lightweight
- Well-balanced WDR
- Esthetically pleasing design
- Exceptionally protected lens
- Positive tactile (click) button response
- Bright orange color ensuring high visibility
Not so good:
- No monitor
- Non-removable battery
- No integrated weather-proofing
- Fidgety Menu operations (no monitor)
- No dashcam function (battery hazard!)
- Spartan choice of accessories in the package
- No attaching means on camera (such as ¼” bushing)
- Power / Shutter button set at a slight angle (in my sample)
- Weird sound recording* / alternating microphones (in my sample)
TOTAL VALUE FOR MONEY:
Considering what you get for under $100.- the RunCam3 is quite okay