We have spent a lot of time here at JAMM with DXG cameras. I still remember the first time Thomas and I reviewed their offerings, and came away less than impressed. A lot has changed since then, and DXG has gone a long way toward putting the “WOW!” into their cameras. Their latest offering is the Sportster, really intrigued me. I love water sports. Whether it is playing in the pool, boating on the lake, or even a fun afternoon at the water park, you will find me there most of the summer. The problem has always been, however, that there is no easy way to document these activities. Sure, you can buy a bulky plastic case in order to turn your camera into something fit for a scuba diver, but that is hardly convenient. I want something I can take into the water without adding all that extra bulk. And that is exactly what I found with the Sportster. Although this one appears just like a regular camcorder, the casing is designed to be completely water tight, allowing you to take it on any watery excursion. I took that claim quite literally, bringing the camera to the swimming pool, two waterparks (including blasting down the water slides), and even boating on the lake. Want to know how it fared? Keep reading for a complete look at this latest camcorder from DXG.
What’s In the Box: One thing I can say about DXG, they certainly to pack their boxes fool of goodies and accessories. Unlike many gadgets, there will be no need to run to the store for that one cable which was left out of the box. In addition to the camera (of course), you will find:
- a CD ROM with editing software
- a battery, with proprietary charger
- USB-AV cable
- HDMI cable for high definition videos
- a pouch-style case
- about 3 pounds of assorted manuals and guides
What really impressed me here was that other than a memory card, there was really nothing I wanted to do with this camera which could not be accomplished using only the items included in the box, including connecting the camera to an external monitor or camera.
Quick Look: As we do with most gadgets here at JAMM, before we get into the features and functionality, let’s just take a quick look around the device.
Starting with the front view, you can see the lens…pretty much where you would expect it to be. What is usual here is the heavy, watertight protective plastic which surrounds the lens. This ensures that water will not damage the lens or the inside of the camera when you use it while swimming. I have to say, this worked great! Beneath the lens is a LED light/flash.
There is not a lot to see on top. The microphone is located up here, which seemed odd to me. This means the microphone is never actually facing the area or person you are filming. While the microphone did a fantastic job of picking up my voice and directions, it did a fairly mediocre job of recording sound coming from the actual subjects of my videos.
Additionally, you will find the zoom controls. These are perfectly placed to fit right under your fingers when you hold the camera using the included strap. You will also notice that the buttons are larger than you might otherwise have expected. This is to allow for easy access while underwater.
There is not much to see on the bottom of the camera. There is a door which opens to reveal the battery and memory card (it uses a standard SD card to store your images). You will notice the extra secure lock on the door. This is to ensure that no water will find its way into this compartment. The only other thing to see here is the tripod mount, which worked pretty much as you would expect.
The back of the camera contains your primary action controls. Here, you will find a standard D-pad, which can be used to navigate through the menus. Additionally, while you are in photo or video modes, this D-pad transforms into four quick buttons, which will jump right into the most popular settings.
The big red button is the record/shutter button, which is used to snap all of your pictures and video. Finally, the green button beneath the shutter button is the underwater mode button. Don’t worry, nothing will go terribly wrong if you start filming underwater without using this mode. It does not have any effect on how water tight the camera will be. What this button does do is optimize all of the settings for underwater shooting, ensuring you get the best possible pictures and video.
The right side of the device (as you are holding it) does not have much to see, which makes sense since your hand will be covering much of this part. There is a hand strap on this side, which will secure the camera to your hand.
The only other thing here is the macro toggle, which will allow you to switch between macro for close shots and regular mode.
The left side pops open to reveal a nice viewscreen, which is how you will stage your photos and videos. There is no viewfinder on this camera. Normally, this would not be a really big deal. I typically shoot from the screen these days anyway. The problem, though, is that this is an underwater camera, and the natural forces of shooting underwater can force the hinge on the screen shut, which will automatically turn off the camera. a viewfinder could have solved this problem.
In addition to just opening and closing, that screen can also swivel into just about any position, allowing you a great deal of control over the angle of the shoot. Inside the screen are a few more buttons, which allow you to control the camera mode. There is a power button in here, though I rarely needed to use that. Opening and closing the screen automatically turns the camera off and on. Display toggles the information on the screen. The mode button will cycle through the three modes: video (which is the default), still photos, and system menu. I did find it a bit annoying that there was no way to go from still photos straight to video without going through the menus. There was plenty of room for separate buttons for each of these modes on this panel.
Additionally, you will also find the menu button, which will display the appropriate menu for each mode. Finally, there is the playback button, which is obviously how you will watch the videos and photos stored in your camera’s memory. Hit playback from video mode to view your stored videos. Hit playback from picture mode to view your stored photos.
Video: Recording video could not be easier. Just open the screen, aim the lens, and hit that red button near your thumb. That is really all there is to it. This is just was easy to use as any of the popular one-step cameras, like the Flip brand cameras, but significantly more powerful.
While the camera may not give you all of the advanced settings many cameras, it does offer control over many of the important settings. From the menus, you can reset the white balance to better account for the light settings in your surrounds…or leave it on auto to automatically account for the light. You can also control the color effects, night mode, and video quality.
But really, what you want to hear about right now is the video resolution setting. There are four resolution settings, starting with QVGA, WVGA, and then moving up to 720P and finally true HD with 1080P video resolution. I have to say shooting video in 1080P was absolutely incredible. The only problem was that due to the resolution settings, there is no zoom when shooting in HD, which means you will need to get in pretty close to your subject…or shoot in a lower resolution.
I already mentioned that I have been following DXG cameras for some time, and reviewed several of them. I have really been impressed by how far their cameras have come. The quality of the HD video is absolutely outstanding on this camera, and the ease of use is just about the best of any camera I have tested. In short, this camera makes shooting (and later viewing) HD video just about as easy as possible.
Photos: Traditionally, I have had hesitations about cameras which purport to take still photos and video from the same lens. Typically, the results are mixed at best. I have to say though, recently, I have been extremely impressed with the improvements in this technology, and DXG has really taken advantage with this camera. This is one of the first cameras I have used which really does just as well shooting video as well as still photos.
The only problem I noticed was that there was no steady shot feature, meaning an incidental jostling of the camera could significantly blur the shot, as you can see in the above image. Most modern day digital cameras have a steadying feature to account for this, and it would be nice to see something similar from DXG.
Like the videos, there are a number of settings you can use to fine tune your experience. For starters, I was quite impressed to find this processor goes all the way to 16 megapixels. To be honest, five is really the maximum point at which I tend to notice a significant difference…but still, isn’t it nice to know that you can go that much larger if you wanted/needed to do so?
Otherwise, the settings for the camera are much the same as the video settings: white balance, color effects, white mode, and quality. Additionally, there is a timer, so you can hop into the pictures yourself.
Underwater: The real main attraction in this camera is the underwater feature. I tested this extensively, taking the camera to two different waterparks, the lake, and numerous trips to the swimming pool. And I have to say that it performed admirably through all of these trials, even the waterslide and especially the giant buckets of water being dumped directly onto the lens (see the above video).
Now, I will say that the camera is only rated for 10 feet of water,which means you should not attempt to take it scuba diving with you. That being said, it was the perfect camera for the pool or waterpark. I could even swim with it underwater while filming, which was really pretty cool (as you can see from my son’s face).
The only problem I had here was that there is no viewfinder. The only way to frame your shot is by using the images on the screen. This was problematic for two reasons. First, it can be hard to see the screen underwater, and second because the water is constantly moving and pressing against the screen, causing it to close unexpectedly and turn off the camera. A viewfinder, which would rest right in front of your eye would clearly solve both of these problem. Nonetheless, my kids absolutely loved running around filming video in the water, especially on the water slides.
Playback: I am not sure about your kids, but mine are the type who want to see a photo or video of themselves the second it has been taken. No sooner have I snapped the shutter or finished the video, they are running toward me begging to see it. Sometimes, they start to run even before I have taken the picture. So, it is nice that the DXG Sportster makes it extremely easy to playback everything you just shot in an instant.
All you need to do is hit the playback button. If you are shooting video, then you will be taken to the video playback. Photos, and you will head to the photo viewer. I did think it would have been nice if there was an easy to to switch between watching videos and viewing photos, but I could not find a way to do so. In order to switch modes, you need to exit the playback viewer, switch from one camera mode to the other, and then reenter playback. Once you are in the appropriate mode, just use the D-pad to scroll through the stored images.
In addition to watching your stored photos and videos on the built-in screen, you can also connect the camera to your TV using the included cables in order to watch them in full HD playback. I was really impressed by how easy this was to do, and how well it worked. Not only that, but DXG may be one of the last companies to actually include all of the necessary cables in the box. You rarely see that anymore, and I certainly appreciated that final touch.
Battery: There is nothing worse than whipping out your camera to snap a picture or video, only to find that your battery has run completely dry. There goes that memory, now lost to the sands of time. Well…almost nothing. What is worse is what I did, brought a nearly dead battery and the wrong charger, so I had no way to recharge the battery for the whole vacation. So much for capturing those memories.
After testing this camera extensively, I have to say that I was extremely impressed by the battery. It lasts just about forever. I lugged this camera around with me all summer and almost never had to worry about charging it. That is absolutely fantastic.
What annoyed me, though, was DXG’s reliance on proprietary rechargeable batteries. Meaning this is just one more charger (and a pretty bulky one at that) which I must lug around when I travel. Not only that, but DXG perplexingly uses different batteries in many of their cameras. As such, the chargers I have received with other DXG cameras will not even work with this one.
I like to travel light, and that means as few chargers and cables as possible. It would be really nice if DXG would simply allow this battery to be charged via a standard USB-type connection.
Conclusion: I cannot say enough how impressed I have been with DXG’s latest line of cameras. They are really making great strides toward becoming an elite brand of camera. Their latest offering, the Sportster, is exactly the camera I have always wanted: an underwater camera, which can snap both photos and videos, without the need for a bulky outer shell or case. I had high expectations for this one, and it met every one of them..and offered plenty more. This is a fantastic camera for all occasions. Whether you are taking still pictures or video, on land, air, or water, the DXG Sportster is going to have a solution for you.
The DXG Sportster is available from DXG for $169.99