TomTom Bandit Action Camera Review
The company name TomTom brings thoughts of an organization that produces incredibly accurate GPS devices. What doesn’t come to mind is a company that makes an action camera. Well, TomTom did, and has stepped into the realm of the action camera industry, coming out with an action camera named the Bandit. After spending some quality time with the TomTom Bandit Action Camera, not only do I think of GPS devices but I now consider TomTom a serious player, carving out their own place alongside the other big name action cameras in the industry.
TomTom has gone with a bullet design for the action camera, which offers their unique way of packing in the battery and the micro SD card. They have named this the Batt-Stick, which is a USB rechargeable 1900mAh battery and micro SD reader/writer contained in one unit.
The battery stick is removed from the camera housing with a push of the lock button and a simple twist. It can be charged with a USB wall charger or a computer USB port. Combining the micro SD card housing and battery into one unit allows users to transfer media and charge the battery at the same time when plugging it into a computer, no need for extra cables or adapters. The Batt-Stick is USB 3.0 which allows for high speed downloading of your footage and faster charge times, the batt-stick is also USB 2.0 compatible. We all know that the two step process of charging the battery with a separate battery charger and ejecting the sd card, finding a card reader, just gets annoying when shooting a lot of video. Without the need to carry a battery charger and a sd card reader, it is not only extremely convenient, but saves you time, which makes the Batt-Stick one of the best action camera battery systems on the market.
The battery will last right around 3 hours when shooting in 1080p, which is excellent battery life for an action camera. While the Batt-Stick is charging, the LEDs show the charge level while one LED flashes. The battery status can be checked three different ways; pushing the start button on the rear of the battery stick will light up the green LED indicators, a battery status icon on the top display of the camera and on screen in the TomTom Bandit app.
While some may say that 3 hours of shooting just isn’t enough, TomTom does offer an optional external power cable that plugs into the back of the Bandit for continuous shooting. The external power cord will allow you to shoot videos beyond the three hour mark or shoot long time-lapses / night-lapses. If you need more portable shooting time (battery), TomTom has additional Batt-Sticks available for purchase. It comes with a splash case, so you never have to worry about it getting wet while carrying it around.
Out of the box the TomTom Bandit (Base Pack) is only rated as splash proof (IPX7). If you want to use the TomTom Bandit in water or underwater to depths down to 40 m (5 ATM), or for activities on the water surface, for example surfing, you will need to purchase and install the optional Dive black lens cover (IPX8). Removing the lens cover, is a simple press of the release button and turning the lens cover counter clockwise. Install it is doing just the opposite, turning the lens clockwise until it locks into place.
Purchasing the dive lens ($40) seems like a no brainer as it takes the camera from; be cautious with it around water, to, you can take it anywhere. When using the Dive black lens cover, the microphone will become muffled and barometer will not work as these two are concealed with this lens cover.
I personally think that the dive lens should be included with the base pack purchase, as it is part of what is able to give you the full action camera experience, but it is not. TomTom does offer a premium pack where it is included, this will cost an additional $100, however you will get a $195 worth of peripherals. Worth it? Definitely!
Moving on to the outside of the Bandit, it offers up a solid build that weighs in at 6.7 oz (190 g) with dimensions of 3.7 x 1.5 x 2.0 inches (94 x 38 x 52 mm). This falls into the heavier and larger end of the spectrum for an action camera. Not to say that it is heavy or large, but it does give the feeling of being well built and having a heavy duty resilience, exactly what you would want in an action camera that will take some abuse out on adventures.
The top of the Bandit has an 0.87 x 1 inch (22 x 25 mm) display screen and a four way control button. The screen displays the type of video or photo you want to record, and the control button lets you change the settings for each video and photo mode. The screen does not display the actual video or picture you are trying to capture, this can be done by using the TomTom Bandit app on your smart phone or tablet, more on that below. The controls of the 4 way button are fairly easy to figure out once you move through a couple screens, the basic operation is as follows:
- Move up or down to select items in a menu.
- Move right to select an item and open the menu for that item.
- Move left to exit a menu.
- To select an option in a menu, make sure it is highlighted when you leave the menu. The Bandit remembers the option you highlighted.
- If an option in a menu switches on and off, move right to change the setting.
The following screens can be viewed on the display screen of the Bandit:
The Camera Status screen is shown when you are not recording videos or photos. This screen shows the mode and the specific settings you have selected. The Mode screen lets you choose the mode you want to use. The modes are Photo, Video, Slow Motion, Time Lapse, and Cinematic.
The Recording screen is shown when you are recording a video or taking photos. The screen shows you the remaining time you can still record, and the time you have already recorded, or the number of photos taken.
The Settings screen lets you change the settings for the selected mode and the general settings for the Bandit. Selecting Status will show you the status of the action camera.
For each Video and Photo mode you can set different settings to customize the video or photo. For example, you can set the frame rate, the lens angle, and the scene.
The General settings set the options, for example Language, Units and Sound.
There are a number of icons on the display screen that show different statuses of various camera features and connected sensors:
- GPS satellite icon – bars display signal strength – 4 bars are required to fix the camera’s GPS location
- Heart Rate icon – Heart Rate Monitor connected (Heart Rate Monitor is not included with the Bandit)
- Memory card icon – card inserted
- Battery status icon – battery remaining
- 180 degrees icon – shows that the video or photo image is rotated 180 degrees
- Night icon – shows that the camera exposure is set to Bright or Night
- Airplane icon – shows that the camera is in airplane mode
- Microphone icon – shows that an external microphone is connected
- Remote icon – shows that a remote control is connected
The Bandit has separate START and STOP buttons, both on the camera and on the remote control. The separate buttons make it easy to start recording, add video highlights and stop recording because the function of the buttons are always the same.
Pressing the START button at the back of the Bandit for 2 seconds will switch on the camera. The TomTom logo will appear on the display and the red LEDs flash and you hear the start-up sound. The action cam is now ready to start shooting.
To turn off the camera, press the STOP button at the front for 2 seconds and it switch off. The red LEDs flash and you hear the shut-down sound.
To save power the TomTom Bandit automatically switches to standby after a few minutes if it’s not being used. You can wake up the TomTom Bandit by pressing the control button, using the remote control, or using the Mobile app. If you press the START button while in standby mode, the Bandit will start recording or taking photos, depending on the mode you have set. The camera will switch itself off after two hours in standby. Having the camera programmed in the this way allows for tremendous battery conservation and can give you the ability to capture clips through out an entire day.
Mounting and Peripherals
The TomTom Bandit has many versatile mounting options available.
The basic mount kit, which is included with the Bandit, comes with two basic surface mounts that will let you mount the action camera on a flat or slightly curved surface. The basic kit also includes the all important GoPro mount which will adapt to all of the GoPro friendly tripods, selfie sticks, bike mounts, helmet mounts and much more.
The actual mounting system and process was brilliantly engineered by TomTom. It is a low profile, push button quick release mount, that snaps into place, only taking a second to install or remove. It is done with the simple squeeze of the side buttons on the camera bracket and a push and snap onto any TomTom mount.
Below are the other mounting options available from TomTom.
Pro Tip: In some cases the best way to mount the Bandit is upside down, should this have to be done, set the rotation image setting to 180 to turn the image right side up.
TomTom offers a small Bluetooth remote as an optional accessory that comes in handy when you can’t easily reach the Bandit. It is also great for remote distance shooting when you are out there alone.
The remote control can be used to start and stop recording, and to manually add highlights to your video. It can be easily held in the hand or attached to just about anywhere with the provided wrist strap.
The buttons on the remote mimic the ones on the camera. The center button is the start button, pushing it for 3 seconds will wake up the remote and the LED at the bottom of the remote will flash green three times. From there, pressing the start button will start a video recording or shoot a picture, depending on the setting that is on the camera. To stop the recording, press the top button (on button), and the LED will flash once.
This is a convenient and simplistically easy to use accessory, that feels like a must have once you use it with the camera. Two things to note about the remote; it uses Bluetooth Smart to connect to the Bandit, and can only be used with one camera at a time and the other is that it is only splash-proof and should not be submerged in water.
Video and Photo Performance
The TomTom Bandit is classified as a 4k camera and technically it is, with the caveat that it only shoots in 4k at 15 frames per second. Before I get into that, let’s make sure there is an understanding of 4k, 2k, 1080p, and 720p with a simple graphic.
As you can see 4k (3840 x 2160 pixels) is four times the size of the 1080p (1920 x 1080 pixels), which is what most computers and televisions are in the average home. Playing a 4k video on a 1080p television will not be any different than playing a 1080p video, because the television is only capable of 1080p. So what is the point of 4k? There are two reasons to have it, the first and the most useful is for cropping the video, especially with an action camera video that has no built in stabilization. Most all action camera videos turn out incredibly shaky and make you feel as if you are going to be sea sick; by cropping down a 4k video and centering the main point of interest into the 1080p size, it will eliminate a large portion of the instability in action camera videos. The second reason to record in 4k is that 4k monitors and television are becoming more and more affordable and will eventually replace the 1080p standard.
Now, back to the 4k at 15 frames per second..this mode will truly useless, unless you are shooting a very slow moving object (time-lapses or night-lapses) or a stationary object, not usually something you do with an action camera. The 15 frames per second will produce a video that is choppy and unappealing. Here is an example of 15 fps vs. 30 fps, for a visual understanding.
With all of that said, that best mode for shooting video on the Bandit is 2.7 k at 30 frames per second which looks superb for action shots. If you don’t have a need to crop the video then 1080p60 is the way to go, as this will give you a smooth, brilliant and exceptionally crisp viewing experience.
The Bandit shoots 16 megapixel stills which is impressive as far as action cameras go. Most of the actions cameras on the market today stick with the standard 12 megapixel, the Bandit takes it a step further and allows you to use the burst mode at 10 pictures per second while still being able to capture the burst photos in the 16 megapixel format, which will allow you to capture shots like this one.
The TomTom Bandit Action Camera produces and captures first-rate quality video. It’s wide angle lens, high-end 16 MP CCD sensor and a powerful processor give you the ability to capture some exceptional action shots.
The TomTom Bandit is equipped with built-in motion sensors that automatically identify a highlight when you’ve made a big move, significantly increased your speed, or pulled a major stunt. It tracks G-force, Speed, Rotation, Acceleration, Altitude, and Heart Rate. Using the video highlights in the TomTom app will show the sensor stats in your final video. You can also press the highlight button to manually tag moments while on the go.
The Bandit is the first ever camera to come with a built-in media server, eliminating the need to download footage before being able to edit it. The camera makes editing and sharing videos quick and easy. Instead of spending hours downloading and sorting through your footage, you can create an exciting edit and share it within moments of capturing the action, simply by shaking your smartphone.
“We know that the biggest frustration people have with action cameras today is the time and effort it takes to edit,” says Corinne Vigreux, co-founder and managing director, TomTom Consumer. “With TomTom Bandit we’ve cut the editing time down from hours to minutes – all it takes is a shake!”
“We took a simple, but radical approach to solving the editing problem,” says Slobodan Stanisic, lead engineer, TomTom. “With all existing action cameras you first need to download gigabytes of footage to a powerful PC, a process that can take a long time. Then you need to find the highlights, put together a story and format it. We know this often takes hours. Not with the TomTom Bandit. We have designed a camera where the footage is processed on the camera itself, making the editing process far easier and much faster.”
The TomTom Bandit works seamlessly with the smartphone app, which includes a superfast viewfinder. Footage can be reviewed instantly with the app thanks to the built-in media server. In editing mode, a simple shake of the smartphone instantly creates an exciting movie. You can then easily make changes, add music and add overlays of metrics, such as speed, heart rate, etc., before sharing online.
TomTom went above and beyond to make make the video editing and sharing process as simplistic as possible and did an excellent job in doing so. With the built in server on the Bandit and a connected smartphone you now have the ability to edit and share a high quality video in minutes, rather than waiting to get to your computer, download the footage and spend hours editing it and probably posting it days later when all the excitement has worn off. This is a absolutely huge feature and one of the top selling points of the TomTom Bandit.
- Video at 4k15, 2.7k30, 1080p30, 1080p60, 720p60, 720p120
- Cinematic at 2.7k30, 4k15
- Native time lapse and night lapse at 4k30, 4k15, 1080p30 (various capture intervals)
- Native slow motion at 1080p x2, 720p x4, WVGA x6
- Single and burst photo up to 16MP at 10/s
- Audio – Built-in microphone
- External microphone Via optional cable
- Wi-Fi, Bluetooth Smart and USB3.0 connectivity
- Multiple accessories
- Smartphone app available
- Ultra HD Video (up to 4K) & 16 MP photo
- 3h non-stop filming with cable-free Batt-stick®
- Power saving Stand-by mode after 2 min
- Built-in action sensors (Speed, G-force, Altitude, Rotation, Heartbeat)
- Edit and share your action within minutes on the Bandit App (iOS & Android)
- Including basic mounts and GoPro Mount Adapter
- Easy editing in minutes
The TomTom Bandit is on the same performance and video quality level as the most of the other big name brand action cameras on the market. Where is separates itself is with it’s easy editing app that will appeal to a wide range of people that do not want to spend hours on their computer downloading and editing video.
For more information or to purchase, visit : www.tomtom.com