ThiEYE T5e action camera comes in an elegant and sturdy black box with silver metallic inscription. Therein, in two layers of black foam is the cam in its waterproof casing, placed alongside another box which contains one rotating buckle, two Li-ion batteries, a micro USB cable, two double-sided adhesive stickers, and a wiping cloth. There is also a small Quick-start Guide booklet.
The clear plastic underwater casing appears like any other action cam housing. Its port and sealing / locking elements and the way its command buttons are seated makes it pretty much standard nowadays. Actually, there is an impression that one single manufacturer makes those water and pressure-proof cases for all action cams. Of course, there is a difference in dimensions, placement of commands, and its pressure resistance.
T5e casing should withstand depths to 60 meters (7 Bar).
But when you take the camera out of its casing, the feeling of manufacturing quality is more prominent. The camera is quite small; 61mm wide, 42mm high, and 23 mm deep (body) or 33mm (body + lens). There is no “plasticky” impression, and the cam feels neat, sturdy and safe in the hand, thanks to its body texture (design of which hints at “easy-cleaning” idea).
Someone at ThiEYE has a nicely developed sense for detail! Many inexpensive cams lack certain manufacturing finesse; not this one. Even the battery cover on the underside is hinged and spring-loaded; not merely a snap-on afterthought.
It engages slidewise, but has an additional lock which makes it impossible to accidentally open. Another not so common detail is a standard ¼” metal tripod bush, placed properly under the cam’s optical axis. This does away with the need for an extra skeletal accessory that some other cams must have in order to connect to the tripod.
The left hand side of the cam is reserved for a recessed area with microSD memory card (preferably UHS-I U3 Card up to 64GB) spring-locking slot, and two ports; for a micro USB cable (data transfer & charging) and for D-type micro HDMI (cable not included). This area looks like it should have a cover, as there is even a nail notch along the rim, but my sample came without it.
- USB Port
- Micro SD card slot
- HDMI port
- LCD Screen
The command layout is logical and self-intuitive. On/Off button is in the front, the Start/Stop on the top surface, while two more on the right hand side are used to browse through the menu, operating mode and setup. While pressing of those commands feels crisp and precise with clearly defined click, when the cam is in its protective casing the buttons work against the sealings and biased springs, which requires more pressing force. It can be somewhat bettered though… more about this later, related to the casing specifics.
ThiEYE T5E Specification
The cam utilizes Ambarella A12S processor & Sony IMX117 sensor to record high image quality up to 4K. The sensor sits behind a bright 8-element f/2.8 lens which has a sapphire glass front, resistant to scratches.
Its 3840×2160 Ultra HD 4K/30fps is four times the 1080P. For slow motion, T5e action cam can record videos at speeds up to 240fps, that is 720P/240fps, or 1080P/120fps.
Camera can make 16MP (12 megapixels is maximum native resolution) photos using a 170° super wide-angle 7G lens, which takes in huge range of landscape. 2″ / 5cm LCD screen helps with previewing video and setting up the camera.
IPX8 waterproof casing protects the camera from dust and shock, and shields the camera down to depths of 197’/ 60 m, so that majority of divers and outdoor sports people can make wide range of underwater recording.
The casing connects via standard friction swivel to proprietary 360° rotating buckle for flexible adjustment of shooting angles. Similar mounts can be found in Dazzne cameras.
Rotating mechanism in the buckle is sturdy enough to keep the camera stable against vibration. There is a range of accessories and connectors for fixing the cam to persons and objects; depending upon user’s wishes.
NOTE: As opposed to some other cameras (for instance, my SJCAM M10+), the ThiEYE T5e in its waterproof casing and without any mounting accessory maintains negative buoyancy, meaning IT SINKS. Naturally, any added mounting element will make it sink even quicker.
Bearing that in mind, it would be practical to add some means of flotation to it – even while just riding in a boat. Otherwise, one could accidentally drop the camera overboard just to sadly watch it sink out of sight and possession, perchance also taking some nice memories on its card with it! Added flotation means can save one from such disasters.
For diving and snorkeling purposes it would also be sensible to either acquire a proprietary floating handle, or improvise a wrist strap with 3-4 champagne-corks-worth of flotation elements. Experiment a little with the camera and materials at hand to construct this.
I have made me a sort of wrist bracelet from small fishing net floating “donuts” lined on a piece of paracord which has a quick-release snap to attach it to any of my watergoing cameras. It is simple, cheap and effective even in deep dives, as the “donuts” do not change volume (e.g. flotation ability) down to -400 meters.
Another good thing with this arrangement is that the donut bracelet rolls off your wrist in a second – so you can free yourself of the camera in an emergency!
Two 1100mAh 3.7V lithium-ion rechargeable batteries come in the package, each records up to 70 minutes of 4K/30fps video or 100 minutes of 1080P/60fps video on a single charge. ThiEYE T5e supports up to 64G high speed class 10 or UHS-I U3 micro SD cards.
There is a ThiEYE HD App for remote control, edit and sharing. It connects your devices either via Bluetooth or WiFi. Using the app, you can edit the videos and add effects, music and transitions.
Quick start guide
This booklet is composed in eight languages, and has eight pages of content per language, listing the parts and most basic procedures, actually guiding you through the camera parts and how to access the camera Menu. Once in the Menu, you’re on your own.
For people which have no prior experience with cameras, some terms and acronyms can be quite a mystery, more so since there is no detailed .pdf manual to download and to learn about all of the camera’s possibilities and options. In my humble opinion, such Manual should be available.
Truth be said, there is such a manual for ThiEYE i60 camera, containing well-detailed explanations. Unfortunately nothing similar exists as yet for T5 models.
What’s inside the box?
- 1x camera
- 1x waterproof housing
- 2x 1100mAh Battery
- 1x quick startup guide
- 1x wiper
- 1x accessories pack
While waiting for the cam to arrive, I read what I could find about it, got me a SanDisk Ultra 32GB (Class 10) micro memory card for the cam, and also downloaded the latest firmware from Thieye website (link).
So upon the camera arrival, first thing to do was put the batteries to charging. The dedicated charger is an optional extra, so I charged the batteries one after another in the camera. Fortunately, my phone charger has just adequate charging characteristics.
The batteries can also be charged off the computer’s USB, but in both cases the camera will be unusable as long as it is leashed to the charging spot. For those folks which use their action cams extensively it pays to invest in a separate charger where spare batteries can be topped without putting the cam out of use.
After browsing through the camera’s (well conceived) menu, so as to become familiar with where is what, I then set to upgrade its firmware.
Firmware RAR container unpacks the (.bin) upgrade file and (.txt) Instructions for Firmware Upgrade. Instructions are clearly and correctly written in English, unlike many that I have seen. The procedure was quite simple and went without a hitch.
As already stated, ThiEYE T5e can record 3840×2160 Ultra HD 4K/30fps, through various 3:4 and 16:9 formats. For slow motion, T5e can record videos at speeds up to 240fps, that is 720P/240fps, or 1080P/120fps. It can also make Timelapse videos, which consists of a series of photos made at intervals from 1 thru 60 sec which are then turned into video file replayed at standard speed. This way one can record long stretches of time / distance in short time, adding variety to presentation.
There is an electronic image stabilisation system (EIS) which works by dynamically aligning the recorded pixels over the sensor. There has to be free sensor area for it, so EIS needs certain marginal space. That’s why EIS only works with image size up to 1080px. An action cam can’t really have moveable parts like hardware stabilisators, as such wouldn’t last long in rough usage the action cams are created for, so EIS will have to be sufficient.
Static camera renders nice vistas, though convoluted due to its fixed wide-angle lens but due to this also warrants great depth of field.
An example of automatically created Timelapse Video can be found in the video below.
Of course, this can also be made with cam’s Photo Timelapse function during your post-processing, where you decide to use the photos for either video or stacked-photo presentation. The latter then appears as if made with long exposure.
In normal daylight there is not much of the rolling shutter effect. If your scene does not have much of straight vertical lines, this won’t be too disturbing.
Night records do need somewhat more light to discern the scenery. The camera’s 1600 ISO isn’t much, even when boosted by the cam’s max EV of +3, but this boost might help. Lightsources and their immediate surroundings will show, such as Moon and certain reflex from the waters, but not much else. Depending upon your circumstances it might look better than this
Expect a lot more from dynamic scenes, such as
Interestingly, the ability to record with the camera upside down is missing, which somewhat complicates the mounting under or beside the car rearview mirror. Perhaps the manufacturer’s idea was that this is easily done in post-production? Still, I have sent mail to ThiEYE, suggesting that this simple function be added within the next Firmware update, so maybe they will oblige.
While at that, I have also suggested that the cam’s Down button be used for deliberate switching the monitor On / Off in the same way its Up button works for the camera microphone. There is a time-delayed option to switch the monitor off (to save power), but no way to switch it on again without interrupting the recording, so the Down button would be just right for this. Maybe the next Firmware will contain that as well.
ThiEYE photo modes offer various image sizes and resolutions throughout its range of 16MP (interpolated from its 12MP sensor) to 3MP. Quality can be dialled between Superfine, Fine and Normal.
There is also a choice of scene modes: Normal, Flash, Night, Sports, Landscape, Portrait and Sunset. Effects include Normal (meaning no effect), Art, Sepia, Negative, B&W, Vivid, and 70Film (this is supposed to offer the „film look“ of the seventies).
However, the camera’s Auto settings joust rather well with various kinds of lighting. Its wide-agle lens gathers lots of light, and not-too-picky users might find the quality sufficient for majority of scenes.
A night photo at Auto-everything setting as it appears straight out of a camera:
… but it can be somewhat bettered in post-processing
ThiEYE T5e records in Mono only. Its microphone is placed on top surface, right above the lens (visible as two slots), while the small speaker (visible as three slots) is to the left of the lens.
The Microphone Volume Menu allows the settings of OFF (no sound), and then from 50% to 100% in 10% increments. It has to be experimented with to get an idea what the results will be, but then it will always depend upon the actual situation.
I’d suggest, start with 80% and see what’s to hear. Then set the acuity to your liking.
Of course, expect the sound to be a tad muffled when the camera is sealed in its protective case, so you might have to tweak the audio record in post-production, mainly to get the higher frequency range more acute. There is an optionally available slotted back door for the protective housing which warrants better sound acquisition. But then, rain, dust and smoke are also invited in along with the soundwaves, so this option requires careful choice of circumstances.
My test was made at 80% microphone level recording the natural sound with some added tones, both with and without the casing, so you can hear the difference. Let me just say that the camera’s audio performance is satisfactory, which is another good point for the buyer.
ThiEYE T5e Battery Test
I have alternatively tested both batteries that came with the camera. Good news right away: there was no significant difference, and both batteries performed within two minutes.
All tests were made at room temperature with the camera out of its waterproof casing. Batteries were re-charged in-camera, using NIKON EH-71P charger outputting 1A/5VDC.
The testing was done at settings of highest resolution and also of highest frame-per-second rate. In all tests the monitor and WiFi emitter were constantly set ON, to generate the highest energy spending.
Take these values as anything but guaranteed, since there are variables that influence the tests, such as ambiental temperatures, internal temperatures (recording with or without protective housing), specific chargers, battery production batch, and also taking care to switch on only what is required.
When the battery is depleted, ThiEYE T5e emits a triple warning sound, stops recording, and switches off.
Waterproof Case Care
Outdoors people will use their camera within its protective case. As noted before, the casing command buttons do not respond so crisply to pressing, because you’re pressing against their biased springs, and there are also dry rubber ring seals around the pins. The sluggish button response can be remedied, and here’s how:
You will need WD-40, a small vial, shot glass, or something similar, and a wooden toothpick.
Spray some lubricant gently from the pressurized can of WD-40 into the vial or shot glass. When the propellant evaporates, you have some pure, chemically neutral oil in the vial. Open the waterproof case and locate the commands from the inside. Press the command button in as far as it goes. Use the toothpick to carefully transfer one small droplet of oil to each command button pin. The thing to remember is: use as little lubricant as possible!
Work the button several times and note the difference.
Alternatively you could oil the command button pins from the outside of the casing, but button springs make it more difficult to reach the pin. However, after adding the lubricant and working the command button, use tissue to remove as much of the surplus oil from the area as possible. The trick is not to smear the oil around because it will eventually end up all over the camera, especially where you don’t want any.
Sometimes the camera hatch sealing sticks in opening and closing, which twists the sealing ring. This can dangerously affect the quality of the seal and you risk water ingress. Again, this can be remedied by careful application of little WD-40 or silicone grease.
Do not use any other kind of lubricants, as some can chemically damage the materials of the casing! Lubricants do not seal; these just make sure that sealing elements slide properly to their position. In this sense, silicone grease is preferred for diving purposes, as it does not wash off so easily as oil.
Do it this way:
Open the hatch, remove the cam. Pinch the hatch seal with thumb and forefinger on its left and right side and slide the sealing ring along its groove until it pops out on the hatch top side. Gently remove it from the groove.
Pull the ring through lubricant-greased fingers. Don’t use too much; the ring just needs to appear grease-shiny from all sides. Carefully replace the ring to its groove, making sure it is properly seated. Pass the greased finger along the inner rim of the housing where the seal engages. This will ensure proper seating of all the sealing parts.
Wipe off all lubricant from anywhere on the case so it won’t attract lint, hair and alike. It doesn’t take much dirt to break the seal and let water in, so work carefully.
When you need to take the camera out of wet casing, always wipe it dry first. Even then, remember always to open the casing with the hatch pointing downward (careful: don’t drop the cam). There will be some water in the sealing gap, and that’s the way to keep it from entering the case. If there are droplets along the sealing area of the casing, remove those with dry tissue.
Before re-closing the housing, carefully inspect the sealing surfaces for any dirt. Prior to locking the hatch make sure it is symmetrically and completely pressed closed.
Never touch a camera casing with alcohol, benzene or similar chemical solvents. Wash it closed, using only warm water and non-abrasive cloth. If need be, apply only small quantities of dishwashing gel. Rinse in running water and dry in the shade. Never leave the casing, much less an encased cam, in the sunlight – not even in wintertime!
When you use the camera in the sunlight for long time, such as using its Timelapse function, whether with or without the casing, remember to arrange some shade for it. You can add a piece of cardboard from the cam’s sunny side to keep it from getting too hot (and consequently switch itself off, ruining the recording). DIY shades are the best, if you take care to arrange it so that it shields the cam during the whole recording time; especially shading the lens from direct insolation. Remember that the lens concentrates the sunlight to the sensor, and you don’t want to destroy it.
Following these advice will keep your equipment in good working order for a long time.
I enjoyed working with this cute li’l cam. Its form factor is not revolutionary as it is designed in a way that can be regarded as classic, but it is small and handy. The cam fits easily in any windbreaker pocket, or in the corner of any photo bag. And it works as advertised, which is the best it can, returning good value for your money. I can say it is well worth its price, and thus one safely suggested buy.
Its range of accessories isn’t as wide as some other manufacturers offer, but the basic connecting elements are there. Anyway, it all depends upon what you need. But the camera does have a standard metal ¼” tripod bush which makes it widely applicable.
That being said, a caveat: the accessories that come with the ThiEYE T5e are not entirely compatible with those of other manufacturers! Its quick-release rotating buckle-type connector will not fit the similar mount of, say, a GoPro or SJCAM. It looks similar, but there are certain milimeters of difference there to frustrate. A pity, really. All such cams should have totally compatible mounts by now.
However, the connecting point swivel on the underside of the waterproof casing accepts GoPro / SJCAM counterparts, as long as you use those longer tightening screws. So starting from there you can combine other manufacturers’ camera attaching systems, as per your requirements.
One thing I am missing in this ThiEYE model is the ability to record the inverted image. This means the camera mount has to be under, which is awkward if you use it as a dash cam mounted under your rearview mirror. I have suggested to ThiEYE to add the option of inverting the image to their next firmware, but so far it is still a maybe.
Good things are easy:
- Small format
- Solidly made
- Attractive design
- Comprehensive menu.
- Satisfactory audio quality
- The batteries perform as promised, although only after first two or three chargings the full capacity is achieved.
- Audio sensitivity is good, but normally muffled when the camera is within its closed casing, which is to be expected. If the ambiental sound is important, use the camera out of the casing and experiment a tad with the sensitivity setting to find optimal sound recording level.
- The camera has a tripod bush right below its optical axis, which allows for correct leading when tripod mounted. So there is no need for additional skeletal mounts: smart decision.
- One thing which I see as very important is the company’s Support team. If you have any problem or just a doubt, they will answer quickly and do their best to help with your inquiry. Many other manufacturers would do good to follow such an example.
Not so good things… also easy as there aren’t many:
- Accessories are neither plentiful nor diverse; there are only so many ways to mount the camera that come in the box. But there are standalone manufacturers which can supply what is missing, since the protective casing has the same swiveling attachment point as most other cameras of this type. Just take care to choose long screws, so the finger grip can always clear the casing rim.
- Audio recording offers only Mono, maybe important for people who prefer Stereo sound.
- The camera does not have INVERT PICTURE option (yet).
- The ThiEYE web page could do with some redesign, as it has been conceived to promote the new products, while you have to search somewhat to find whether there is a new Firmware for your model. Here and there, the page and other textual information (in English) also needs some minor English corrections.
- So far, there is only a Quick Start Guide for this model; both as a booklet and on-site. But considering the large number of options that the camera offers, a full-fledged, detailed User Guide for all ThiEYE camera models should exist. I’d suggest that ThiEYE adds an User’s Guide booklet to the box, and also has it available on their pages as soon as possible. And a chapter about Waterproof Case Care should be an important part of this information!
TOTAL VALUE FOR MONEY: 4/5
I feel confident to regard the T5e as a very good buy. This is augmented by the impression of ThiEYE being a company very interested in advancing their product line and also their relations with consumer horizon. A company to keep Thy Eye upon, so to say!