Just the other day, I was at a popular bike racing event and when one of the fans had the opportunity to do a ride-along, he put on his helmet and then attached an action camera to it. I never got to see the footage of the ride-along, but it dawned on me that it had to have looked fantastic.
Small and durable action cameras have really picked up in popularity with the assistance of YouTube and the ability to share your action recordings with millions of people. The most notable action camera used among YouTubers is the GoPro.
GoPro has done an excellent job at building an empire around a small, durable, high definition camera that has become so well known, that most people refer to action cameras as “GoPros”. Similar to how tissues are referred to as Kleenex.
The new generation of GoPro cameras are truly amazing with their clear and well optimized camera sensor and reasonable sound recordings, but all of this amazingness comes at a price. At $399.99, it’s not a product that many will run to the stores to buy.
So, what if you’re like me and don’t want to spend an outrageous amount of money on an action camera, but instead want something that does a job close to the market standard? Well, at a sixth of the GoPro price, Tec.Bean may have an answer for you.
It doesn’t have a fancy name like “GoPro”, but it looks and functions just like one. Shipped with a plethora of different mounting brackets, a rubberized and waterproof case, and the ability to record in 4K or slow motion, Tec.Bean’s GoPro equivalent is going to make for an interesting review.
Welcome to my review of the Tec.Bean 900 4K HD Action Camera.
Whether in its waterproof housing or without it, the Tec.Bean action camera has a close resemblance to the GoPro. When the unit is outside of the hard-plastic shell, its compact body is of an all-black design with the sides and front containing a rugged pattern.
On the front of the unit, there is a power button that doubles as a mode selector when the unit is on. Furthermore, the front also contains the 16M sensor which is off centered. On every side of the action camera, you’ll find either a button or some sort of function of the camera. Up and down selection arrows for menu navigation as well as a speaker are on the right, the top has an OK button with a status LED and the left contains the microUSB charging port, a video output, and the microSD card slot. Then, the bottom is where your battery is inserted and it hides behind a small plastic door.
The SD card slot on the Tec.Bean action camera is something that causes me serious irritation. It uses a microSD card, which is not included with the unit, and trying to insert a microSD card into the slot can be very difficult. As most of us know, to insert an SD card it will click into the slot and stay in the slot until pushed. Well, on this action camera, you have to seriously push the microSD card far down into the slot before it clicks in. It’s so confusing that I honestly believed that my unit was bad upon arrival. To insert the microSD card, I used to use a small, thin metal tool that allowed me to push the microSD card down where my fingernail could not.
As for the back of the unit, there is a 2-inch screen that, in my opinion, does a decent job at showing a clear and crisp picture of the action that the camera is actually seeing. There were multiple times that I used the 2” screen to set up the recording.
If using the 2” screen isn’t ideal for you, then the unit also supports a wireless connection and can be hooked up to any smartphone by using the Tec.Bean mobile application. This is great if you are away from the camera and need to hit record or adjust functions.
Moving on to the waterproof housing, I am totally impressed with how well built it is. It is an all plastic shell and the plastic is thick and durable, even around the camera lens. When the action camera is slipped into the plastic shell, there is no movement whatsoever and it will prevent the camera from shaking or damaging itself if dropped. The rear is shut using a plastic retention clip and a thick rubber seal that stops water from entering into the unit.
To control the camera and its buttons, the housing has four waterproof buttons that make contact with the physical buttons. Or, you can opt for using the wireless option I mentioned earlier.
If driving with the camera isn’t your thing, Tec.Bean provides a ton of different mounts for nearly every application. There are mounts that can clamp onto something, ones that can clip into belts or straps, ones that can be taped, others can be put on stands, and a bunch of other types.
I chose to use the camera’s on-screen user interface for the entirety of this review. It takes a little getting used to, but it was something that I would call easy enough to learn.
The mode button allows you to navigate through the camera’s abilities including 4K@30FPS, 16MB pictures, 1080@60FPS/720@90FPS slow motion, video playback, and settings. Then, your OK and arrow buttons allow for navigation and selection.
With each mode being a little different, they will be discussed separately rather as one camera, because they all have their positives and negatives.
Beginning with the 4K recording, I wouldn’t say it’s even close to 2K, let alone 4K. The outputted video by the action camera is indeed 4K resolution, but I wouldn’t call it a 4K recording and would say it’s a close 900p recording.
The intended use for the camera is for it to be used for action activities like biking, climbing, surfing, and racing. Yet, when I record in 4K@30FPS, the compression artefacts, as well as the motion blur, are so intense that trying to make out even close details is difficult.
Quite frankly, I just didn’t find the video quality to be generally good. I felt that the camera is really showing it’s inexpensive price and it needs a drastic improvement if they want to compete against the GoPro standard.
You can opt to record at 2K@30FPS, or 1080@60FPS and I find that the 1080p selection is far superior to the advertised 4K setting. At 1080p 60 FPS, the camera video is stable, doesn’t give the viewer motion sickness and is clear enough that you can see close or fast-moving objects.
I tried the action camera while stationary and recording 4K and it was significantly better, but there were still blurs and rough edges in the video and anything moving quickly is a blur as well.
How about the 16MB camera for picture taking? Well, the action camera uses a fisheye lens which allows it to capture more, but the edges of the picture are going to be bowed just slightly. You can see this in the picture below with a table and flowers on top. Notice how the table’s bottom is bowed outwards whereas in real life it’s level.
Colors in the pictures are fairly accurate to how you see them in real life. The Tec.Bean action camera isn’t going to outperform a point-and-shoot camera, nor will it beat your smartphone, but for an action based camera, I believe it does a decent job in this area for being a durable point-and-shoot.
Then, for the slow motion, it’s a lot better than the 4K in my opinion, however, it too suffers heavily from the compression artefacts and blurs all over the video. It’s certainly a nice and neat feature to be able to record in slow motion and when I tried 720@90FPS, a short 10-second video becomes very, very long.
Collectively, the image quality on the Tec.Bean could be a lot better. I would have rather seen Tec.Bean drop the 4K claim and instead install an excellent high definition 1080p 60FPS camera as the main video capture. We have an action camera here that struggles on action content. To say it’s better than a GoPro, it’s certainly not, but it is a sixth of the price so expect to give up some things.
In terms of using the device, it’s fairly easy. As mentioned earlier, the UI is easy to navigate and to start recording, it’s just a button click away. Starting a recording will start the recording on the current settings, meaning if you hit Record on 1080p slow motion, then it will record slow motion.
The action camera also has an internal microphone and speaker. When the action camera is in the waterproof housing, the microphone makes it sound like you’re underwater and then underneath a blanket. You can make out certain noises and sounds, but if you’re talking to the camera or trying to record something, I’d recommend using the open back mount instead.
Lastly, there is the battery life of the action camera. Inside the box there are two 900mAh batteries which can be swapped out at will. When recording for an all-day event, the action camera only lasted for about three hours before completely dying out and it wasn’t even three hours’ worth of recordings. Three hours is not a lot of time; in fact it’s painfully short. Having a secondary battery that can be swapped for more power is great, but it means that you’ll need to stop your recording to do so.
My Final Thoughts
At $59.99, the Tec.Bean action camera is a lot of fun to use and its lower price means I don’t have to worry about it as much as a $399.99 GoPro. If it happens to break, drop, or stop working, it’s not the end of the world and easily purchased again.
I would have liked if the action camera came with a microSD card, even if it was a small one. That said, the multiple different mounting options help you by getting a mount for every style and every activity.
The poor image quality really hinders the camera, but I was able to get some neat video and pictures that I would call good enough. I won’t be posting any action YouTube videos with the Tec.Bean, but to show friends and family, it’s a neat unit. Neat enough to where I would still recommend it to those who want to record their extreme activities but aren’t planning on sharing it with the world.
© 2017 Justin Vendette
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