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Review: Yuneec Typhoon 4K ActionCam

Are you looking for an easy way to get smooth 4K handheld footage without breaking the bank? The Yuneec Typhoon 4K ActionCam is a handy little tool that makes it easy to get the smooth shots you want, if you can live with the limitations.

I recently purchased the Yuneec Typhoon 4K ActionCam from a local Yuneec reseller to assist me with my 4K footage acquisition. This handheld stabilizer uses the same stabilized camera module as the Typhoon aerial vehicle; in fact, the camera module can be transferred between the systems if you just want to purchase one camera module.

This is a very lightweight system that comes in a convenient carry/storage case. The battery is internal and is charged inside the ActionCam itself. I haven't tested how long the battery lasts but in the few times I've used it, it outlasted my need. Generally, handheld shots are short inserts into other footage, not hour-long endeavors, because you’re unlikely to get good footage when you ask an operator to hand-hold a camera continuously for an extreme length of time. That said, I used the ActionCam (Figure 1, below) as a second 4K camera on a shoot for probably a good half hour.

Figure 1. The Yuneec Typhoon 4K ActionCam as a handheld device

Setup

After charging the battery in the ActionCam, you can insert a MicroSD card into the back of the camera head to record. All the recording happens in the camera head (Figure 2, below), not the phone/device you use to control the head.

Figure 2. The Yuneec Typhoon 4K ActionCam camera head

Set the ActionCam on a flat surface or table and turn it on. The ActionCam will boot up and self-level the camera head. After a moment, your smartphone will be able to see the CGO WiFi access point created by the ActionCam. Type in your password and connect. After you do that, launch the CGO app (available at your respective mobile device app store) so you can control the settings of the ActionCam and see the camera display.

The ActionCam provides a clip to hold the phone in a comfortable viewing position for handheld operation, as you can see in Figure 1. But the phone doesn't have to stay on the ActionCam. If you want to rig it up on an arm of some sort, you can have the phone down where you can see the video, and control the recording. I did not test how far the remote control works. Only one phone can connect to the ActionCam, so you can't have multiple people watching the ActionCam feed, although that would be cool.

Operation

In the CGO app (Figure 3, below), you can select between multiple resolutions and frame rates: DCI 4K 24p and 25p; UHD 24, 25p, and 30p; 2K 24p, 25p, and 30p; and HD, 24p, 25p, 30p, 50p, 60p, and even 120p. I tested the 120p and I ended up with just 112 fps. When I slowed that down to the 30p in the video that accompanies this article, it provided decent slow motion, smooth and consistent.

Figure 3. Choosing resolutions with the ActionCam CGO app on my smartphone

However, the programming that controls the head which appears smooth at 30fps actually starts to become visible at 120 fps. You can sense a bit of jerkiness to the movement as the tiny motors move the head ever so slightly to smooth out motion. Also, when you slow down the footage (I used Premiere Pro's “reinterpret"” command), the Long GoP compression also becomes visible.

This is because you’re stuck at a given data rate of about 50 Mbps whether you’re recording HD 30p or HD 120p, meaning you now have 1/4 the amount of data for each frame. So the keyframes become more visible. In the accompanying video (if online compression doesn't obliterate it), you can see the all the fine detail pulse every second or so. The only way to improve this situation is to give 120p 4x the data rate as 30p, and no low-level or mid-level camera does that. They have a fixed data rate and just spread it thinner across more frames.