There’s a new action-camera kid in town — but proceed with caution, the sensor is old and the body is plastic.
GoPro has another budget camera competitor — earlier this month, the China-based start-up MGCool launched sales of the Explorer and Explorer IS, two action cameras with Sony sensors and budget price tags.
The MGCool Explore IS uses a Sony-manufactured 12 megapixel 1/2.3 inch sensor to record 4K at 24 fps or 1080p HD at up to 70 fps as well as still images. The camera uses a 170-degree wide-angle lens that’s adjustable using different modes down to a narrower 70-degree view. Wi-Fi is built in and a separate case allows the camera to head underwater down to 98 feet or 30 meters. Despite the feature list, the camera retails for about $70.
The MGCool Explorer (without the IS) uses a smaller 12 megapixel 1/3.2 inch sensor, though still manufactured by Sony, according to MGCool. 4K is limited to 15 fps in the slightly cheaper $60 list-price camera, but offers the same lens angle as well as an identical depth rating with the case. Both cameras also use electronic image stabilization and have a two-inch LCD display at the back.
The cameras ship with housing as well as a bracket, bike stand, and helmet mounts.
MGCool has only been around since 2016, though it is a sub-brand of the older Elephone company, so it’s tough to say how the made-in-China cameras compare to the pricier GoPros. The company also manufacturers fitness bands and even a 360 camera. The latest GoPro versions don’t require housing while the MGCools are constructed from plastic and rely on a plastic housing for both waterproofing and dust resistance. While the sensors are made by Sony, the model numbers appear to be versions from 2011, so they won’t have the low-light improvements made over the past five years.
MGCool isn’t the only one trying to enter the action camera market not by features but by the price point — Xiaomi also makes a YI 2 action camera capable of shooting 4K for up to two hours on a charge, though that sits at a higher $250 price point compared to the Explorer.