GoPro HERO9 Black Bundle: $349.98
GoPro is running a Black Friday deal on the new HERO9 Black. The $200 Savings HERO9 Bundle includes the HERO9 Black, a 1-year subscription to GoPro, a Magnetic Swivel Clip, Floating Hand Grip, and Spare Battery, as well as a case, 32GB SanDisk Extreme SD card, and 2-day shipping. It comes to $349.98. You can find the deal at GoPro.com.
The AKASO Brave 7 LE is the latest 4K action cam that’s a lower-priced alternative to GoPro and DJI cameras. Here’s my hands-on review.
AKASO is a Chinese company that has been making some of the best GoPro alternatives. I’ve previously covered the AKASO EK7000 and EK7000 Pro. They copy some of the core features of GoPros but at a much more affordable price. Indeed, there are a bunch of GoPro copycats–a sure sign that GoPro is onto something with this whole action camera thing–but AKASO has started to rise above the pack with consistent quality at a very affordable price. And they clearly put real thought into the product and how users will use it, something that’s evident in something as basic as how the cameras are packaged.
The AKASO Brave 7 LE is in many ways closer to the DJI Osmo Action than any of the current GoPros. The shape is more similar to the Osmo Action than the HERO8 Black. And the key similarity–the front-facing color LCD screen–is something the Osmo Action has but the HERO8 doesn’t (the new HERO9 Black does). There’s also the round lens port, as with the DJI, rather than the square port used by GoPro.
The LE, in this case, stands for Launch Edition. I’m not entirely sure why or what that’s referring to—or, more specifically, why that’s part of the model name—but that’s what it is.
- BORN ALL-WEATHER ACTION CAMERA - Brave 7 LE action camera is weatherproof and distinct to unlock all the...
- CONVENIENT DUAL-DISPLAY - With innovate dual color screens design, you can change framing and monitoring...
Design & Build
The overall shape and size are very much in keeping with what we expect of an action camera. It’s small and compact with very few knobs or buttons.
But since it’s natural to compare this with the GoPro and DJI cameras, it’s worth pointing out a big area of difference in the design and build. Especially one so fundamental to an action camera.
It’s that the Brave is waterproof, but only when you use it in the waterproof housing that comes with it. So if you’re familiar with the older GoPros around the HERO4 series, it’s like those in this respect. Starting with the HERO5 Black (well, technically, the Session), GoPros have incorporated the waterproof housing into the camera body itself, so you don’t need an extra housing. With the Brave, you’ll need to use the housing for it to be waterproof. It’s rated for the pressures equivalent to a depth of 131 feet / 40 meters, which is much deeper than a typical recreational Scuba dive. And it’s worth noting that you can’t use the camera’s touch screen through the housing’s back door. You can still see the screen—it just won’t respond to touch.
It’s, in many ways, a simpler and cheaper design choice. Making the camera’s body reliably waterproof is hard and expensive to develop. There even some positives to it; namely, that the housing provides extra protection to the camera. If you end up knocking or banging it, the housing will break first, which is much easier and cheaper to replace than replacing the whole camera. You also get a little extra peace of mind that all the waterproof seals are fully closed. The housing uses one large seal; with the other method, you need to be sure that each of the camera’s doors is fully closed to prevent leaks.
It’s a clear plastic housing that fully encloses the camera. The back door locks in place with a large swing lock on the top of the camera. You can still see the back screen, and you can operate the camera’s buttons through mechanical, spring-loaded button extensions. The bottom of the frame has a built-in three-pronged attachment point.
Rather than try to reinvent the wheel, Akaso has decided to stick with GoPro’s three-pronged attachment point. It keeps things simpler for them, but much more importantly, it means you can use this camera with the universe of GoPro mounting accessories.
Battery & Charging
It uses a small Li-ion battery that’s rated at 1350mAh. It’s model number PG 1350.
There are two ways to charge the battery. You can charge it with the battery in the camera by connecting the camera to a power source using either a micro-USB or mini-USB cable (the camera has both ports) or by using the external USB charging cradle that’s included.
As with most action cameras, the battery life isn’t great—maybe a bit over an hour of video shooting if you’re lucky. Precisely how long you get depends on a bunch of factors, including the shooting mode you’re using, whether you have features like video stabilization enabled, and even the outside temperature (lithium batteries don’t work well in very cold or very hot conditions).
But in a nice touch, it comes with a spare battery (so there’s a total of two batteries included in the box) and a USB dual charging cradle.
There are three buttons on the camera. On the side is the power button. When the camera is powered on, you use that button to enable the wifi connection (normal press to turn on wifi; hold down to power off).
On top of the camera are two buttons. The one with the circle is the shutter button. In photo mode, it takes a photo. In video mode, it’s the start/stop recording button.
The button with the M does double-duty too. If you press it once normally, it gives you quick access to a shortcut menu system that gives you a way of rapidly changing the shooting mode. If you press and hold the M button, it switches the display to the front screen.
Many models of GoPros have had a small front screen, but until the HERO9 Black, it was only a black and white screen for showing the status of things like the recording mode, how many shots remaining, etc. The DJI Osmo Action was the first of these action cams to have a full-color front screen with live view. The HERO9 Black has now added one too.
The front screen is primarily useful for taking selfies and vlogging, when the camera is pointed at you and you want to see what’s in the frame. So it’s a live view/preview screen, and while it does include some basic informational icons, it’s not a touchscreen, and you can’t control the menu system with it.
It’s also worth mentioning that the front screen is a square, and the preview fills the entire frame. What that means is that it’s not a complete preview of what’s in the frame; you can’t see what’s on the sides of the standard rectangular video or photo.
To enable the front screen, press and hold the M button on the top of the camera.
The back screen is bright and clear. And while it’s not as crisp or bright as we’ve come to express from the latest generations of smartphones, it’s pretty good compared to the terrible screens that some other cameras still have.
The back screen is also a touch screen, and you can use that for changing modes or working with the settings menu. I’m impressed with how simple and intuitive the menu system is—I haven’t come across too many head-scratching quirks that slow things down.
There are a couple of quick shortcuts when using the back screen that come in handy. In regular shooting mode, if you swipe up from the bottom of the screen, you’ll get a settings screen that gives you quick access to changing the settings for whatever shooting mode you’re in.
If you swipe from either side of the screen, it’ll immediately switch to the other shooting mode. In other words, if you’re in photo mode, swiping on the back screen will switch it to video mode.
If you tap in the center of the screen, it’ll toggle the informational displays around the edges. So if you want just a clean image without any other distractions, just toggle that.
A simple remote control is included with the camera. It’s a wrist-watch style, with two buttons. One starts and stops video recording. The other is a still photo shutter button. You can’t access settings or view media on it. And it’s water resistant (but won’t work underwater due to the limitation of wifi not working underwater).
It’s pretty straightforward to connect the app to the camera. It’s all done over a direct wifi connection between the phone and the camera. The prompts on both the phone and camera screen are broadly helpful in telling you what you need to do. The biggest thing I had to remember was to turn on the camera’s wifi every time I wanted to connect. Probably as a battery-saving precaution, the wifi is disabled when the connection is closed. So the next time you want to connect, you have to press the button on the side of the camera to enable the wifi again.
I’ve found the app to be serviceable but lacks polish. The basic controls of shooting and changing settings have worked for me, and the connection with the Brave 7 LE has been stable. But the app lacks polish, and there are some stray text tips and popups that don’t make much sense in English. I wasn’t able to format the microSD card using the app–it kept warning that there was no SD card detected–but it worked normally when formatting through the camera’s screen. And some settings don’t seem to be available through the app (e.g., turning off the camera’s feedback sounds). And while I haven’t investigated thoroughly to find the precise culprit, my phone did seem to get unusually warm when running the AKASO GO app.
Viewing and downloading the photos and videos through the app worked normally and as expected.
Overall, the app has worked for me and is fine. But there’s plenty of room for improvement and refinement.
Even though most action cameras can shoot still photos and time lapse, it’s video that really is their bread and butter feature.
The Brave 7 LE encodes its videos with the H.264 AVC encoder. Files are saved with a MOV file extension.
These are the resolution/framerate combinations available on the Brave 7 LE:
The available resolutions are:
|4K||3840 x 2160||30|
|2.7K||2704 x 1520||120 / 60 / 30|
|1080p||1920 x 1080||120 / 60 / 30|
|720p||1280 x 720||240 / 120 / 60|
4K30 gives you the highest resolution (largest image area) at a framerate of 30 frames per second. 720p240 gives you a much lower resolution and image size (but still big enough to qualify as “HD” on most video sharing and social media sites like YouTube or Facebook) but at a very high framerate of 240 frames per second, which is best suited to shooting slow-motion footage.
There’s no “right” answer as to which is best to use. The default setting of 4K30 is a good place to start. If you’re shooting action, the 60fps modes will give you a more “realistic” look. If you’re primarily sharing your videos online or through social media, most views will probably be seeing it at 1080 or 720.
The maximum video bitrate is around 50 Mb/s, which is relatively low. Bitrate refers to the amount of data used to represent the image. Put another way, the lower the bitrate, the higher the compression and the lower the compression. The higher the bitrate, the higher the potential quality. 50 Mb/s isn’t bad, but it’s on the low end compared to the latest GoPros and DJI action cams, both of which top out around 100 Mb/s (some high-end cameras go much higher, up to 400 Mbps or beyond). The maximum bitrate is only used in a few of the video modes; most of them use one that’s significantly lower.
The BRAVE 7 LE has in-camera video stabilization (they call it image stabilization, which sounds like it should be for still photos, but in this case refers to video imagery). This is a software approach that offsets shaky video at the time of capture and saves the results in a smoother video to the memory card.
This is an area where GoPro, in particular, and DJI, to a somewhat lesser extent (so far), have invested enormous efforts in their proprietary algorithms. Action cameras naturally tend to be used in situations with lots of movement. But jerky and shaky footage can be a real buzzkill that makes the video much less watchable. Being able to smooth out that footage without using cumbersome and expensive gimbals or spending a lot of extra time and effort doing it in post is a big selling point of their latest cameras.
By comparison, AKASO’s video stabilization is quite rudimentary. Yes, it helps—and I have some real-world examples below—but you’ll still get much smoother results with an external gimbal.
The video stabilization is either on or off; there are no fancy modes for it.
It’s worth noting that video stabilization is not available in the high-framerate modes of 1080p120, 720p240, or 720p120.
Resolution. The Brave 7 LE has a 20-megapixel sensor that produces images 5120 pixels wide by 3840 pixels high.
If you wish, you can reduce the size of the images that are saved to the memory card; the options are 20, 16, 14, 10, 8, 5, or 2 megapixels. In general, you’re better off shooting at 20MP (which is the default) and downsizing later. The only real reason to shoot at the smaller resolutions is to save space on your memory card, but that’s much less of an issue now that 128GB and 256GB microSD cards are so easy to come by and so inexpensive these days.
Image File Format. The Brave 7 LE shoots JPG images; there’s no option for RAW images. For most users who are likely to be using this camera, JPG is ideal.
Quality Setting. In addition to selecting the resolution (up to 20MP), you can also select the image quality. The options are High, Middle, or Low. These refer to the amount of JPG compression being applied. The high-quality setting has the least compression applied and therefore has the best quality; the low-quality setting has much more aggressive compression applied. In nearly all cases I can think of, it’s best to shoot with the High setting and reduce the size later if you have to. Again, the reason not to do that has to do with saving space on the memory card, but that’s really not much of an issue these days.
ISO. ISO refers to how sensitive the sensor is to light. A low ISO number means that it’s not very sensitive, which is best for bright lighting conditions. A high ISO means that the sensor is much more sensitive, which is best for low lowing conditions. The tradeoff is that the higher the ISO, the more the impact on image quality. The higher the ISO, the more image noise you get. So you generally want to keep the ISO as low as you can get away with.
In addition to Auto ISO, in which the camera adjusts as part of its automatic exposure calculations, you can manually set the ISO. The options are: 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, and 3200.
In most cases, you’ll want to leave it on the default setting of Auto.
Exposure Compensation. While the camera’s automatic exposure algorithm tries to get a good exposure for whatever scene you’re shooting, it doesn’t always get it right. Sometimes it’s thrown off by bright or dark sections (high contrast), or it just might not be the look you’re going for.
If you want to override the camera’s automatic exposure, a quick and convenient option is to use Exposure Compensation. This underexposes or overexposes relative to the automatic exposure (as compared to using manual settings, which is absolute).
The Brave 7 LE gives you two stops in both directions in one-stop increments.
Metering. This refers to the area of the scene that’s used in the automatic exposure calculation. The default is the multi-mode (it’s called “Average” in the mobile app), which uses several different areas throughout the frame and averages them. It works well in many situations, but it doesn’t work well in every scene. Sometimes you might want to expose for a particular part of the scene that’s more important—think a person’s face on a bright background of snow on a ski slope. In that case, you can narrow down the area that’s used for the calculation by using the Center option.
Here are some quick sample images taken with an AKASO Brave 7 LE. These are straight out of the camera without any editing. They were taken with the fully automatic settings. The odd green tint is something the camera applies but is easy enough to correct in something like Lightroom. You can click on each image for a full-size version.
Burst mode fires a rapid sequence of images. It’s ideal for fast action, letting you choose the best split-second image. It’s a mode I often use when I’m shooting photos with an action cam.
The Brave 7 LE has options for 3, 7, 15, or 30 shots in a second.
There’s also the opposite: a slow, long exposure mode. For freezing fast action, you want the shutter to be open for only the briefest moment. But for that, you need plenty of light.
The long exposure mode is well-suited to situations where there is less light. Keeping the shutter open longer allows more of the available light to go through the lens and hit the sensor. The drawback is that any movement, whether it’s the subject moving or the camera shaking, will result in blurring.
But if you can keep the camera still by mounting it on something solid, like a tripod, for example, you can use the long exposure mode for some stunning effects. Think star trails, silky smooth waterfalls, or even disappearing crowds of people from tourist landmarks.
The Brave 7 LE doesn’t give you the full range of power that some other traditional cameras give you, in part because you can’t control the aperture (i.e., the size of the lens opening).1 But you can still use it for some really interesting effects and for shooting in low light.
The long exposure increments available are: 1, 2, 5, 8, 30, and 60 seconds.
Time Lapse Capture
As with many other cameras these days, the Brave 7 has two options for recording time lapse footage.
One is a traditional approach that captures and saves a series of still images. You can then download that sequence of images to your computer and compile them using software on your computer. It’s a more cumbersome and time-consuming approach, but it gives you much more control over image quality and settings.
The other is a video time lapse mode where the end-result video is compiled in the camera itself. So it’s much more convenient, but you’re stuck with the automatic settings used in the camera.
Interval Settings: 1, 3, 5, 10, 30, or 60 seconds.
Duration Settings: A useful feature is that you can preset the duration of the capture (NB., this refers to the duration of the capture, not the duration of the resulting video). The options are 5, 10, 15, 20, 30, or 60 minutes. There’s also an unlimited option; that is, it’ll stop when you stop it manually, the battery runs out, or the memory card fills up.
The default setting is a 3-second interval with an unlimited duration. In other words, it’ll grab a frame every 3 seconds until you stop it, the battery runs out, or the memory card fills up.
- Loop Record. This is a continuous recording mode. The difference is that with regular recording, the recording stops when the memory card fills up. With Loop Record, it will keep going and write over the old data. But so that you don’t lose all of the old data at once, you set the increments of each snippet to write over (e.g., 1 minute).
- Fast Motion Video. This is speeded up video. The default is double-speed (i.e., 2x). You can also set it to do 4x, 6x, 10x, or 15x speeds.
- Self-Timer. A self-timer sounds like a pretty basic feature, and it’s something that has been available cameras in either mechanical or electronic form for at least half a century. (But surprisingly, it has only been the most recent GoPros that have included one.) It’s especially useful for taking selfies for Instagram or TikTok, for example. The self-timer on the Brave 7 LE gives you the option of setting delays of 3, 5, 10, 30, and 60 seconds.
- Diving Mode. This is for Scuba diving and, to a lesser extent, snorkeling. When you go underwater, the red and orange wavelengths can’t penetrate very deep into the water. That’s why so many photos and videos you see that have been taken underwater come out as shades of blue. Diving mode helps with that by boosting the red and orange to compensate. Because different water has different colors, there’s not a single filter that will work in all situations. The software filter on the Brave 7 LE is optimized for tropical and blue water at depths of 10 to 80 feet.
- Driving Mode. This is an unusual feature for an action cam, but it makes some sense. In this mode, if you connect your camera to the external power of a car’s cigarette lighter, it will turn the camera automatically when you start the car and turn off when you turn the car off. This is useful if you’re using the camera as a dashcam (which makes the most sense in combination with the Loop Record mode).
What’s in the Box?
- waterproof housing
- 2 x batteries (model PG 1350). So you have a spare and can be charging it while shooting by using the USB cradle charger.
- dual battery USB charger cradle
- micro-USB cable
- Remote control. It’s a very simple wrist-watch style remote with two buttons–one to start/stop video recording and a shutter button to take photos. It doesn’t have a screen or allow changing settings.
- 4 x very light-weight cable ties that can be used as tethers
- light wire tether
- 2 x self-adhesive pads
- 2 x helmet mounts
- several clip mounts and tripod adapters
- antistatic cloth
Something the camera does not come with as standard is a memory card. So you’ll need to pick one of those up separately; you’re not going to be able to do much shooting without it.
The Brave 7 LE takes a microSD card. You can use microSDHC or microSDXC cards.2 And you can use UHS-II cards in it, but you won’t get any extra benefit because the camera uses a UHS-I interface. While you can use smaller-capacity and larger-capacity cards in it, the sizes that probably make the most sense for this camera are the 64GB, 128GB, and 256GB sizes.
You can find the instruction manual for the AKASO Brave 7 LE here [PDF].
EK7000 vs. EK7000 Pro vs. Brave 7 LE
AKASO doesn’t have the most intuitive model-naming conventions. Their most popular action camera model up to now has been the EK7000, which sounds like the name of an android in a science-fiction movie. There’s also an EK7000 Pro. The “Brave” name doesn’t seem to fit directly in that logic. If I had to guess, I’d speculate it was inspired by GoPro’s “HERO” branding (but before trademark lawyers jump on me, that’s just my own speculation).
The short version is that the Brave 7 LE is the latest and best of AKASO’s cameras. The cameras in the EK7000 range are older, simpler, and significantly cheaper again.
AKASO Brave 7 LE vs GoPro / DJI
The reason to choose the AKASO Brave 7 over the latest GoPro or DJI action cameras comes down to price. The GoPro and DJI cameras are better cameras, period. They offer more features and have better quality. The Brave 7 LE is a good camera. It does several things well. It shoots 4K30 video and takes 20MP photos. You can do time lapse and slow motion. It has in-camera video stabilization. And it’s waterproof (with the housing). But the GoPro and DJI cameras do those things and do them at least as well and often much better. There’s only one area where the AKASO Brave 7 beats them hands-down. But it’s an important one: price.
The reason the Brave 7 LE is such an attractive option is that the price is not even close. The GoPro HERO9 Black, for instance, has a recommended retail price of $449.99. The DJI Osmo Action has a recommended retail price of $349 (although is widely available now for considerably less than that). The AKASO Brave 7 LE has a recommended retail price of $139. So it’s about a third of the price of the others. And for that, you get a very capable camera with features and quality comparable to the GoPro and DJI offerings of a few models back.
In other words, with the AKASO cameras, and in particular, the Brave 7 LE, is a very good budget option. It gives a lot of bang for relatively few bucks. If you’re looking for an action camera, but the GoPro HERO7 Black and DJI Osmo Action cost more than you want to spend, the AKASO Brave 7 LE is well worth a look.
Where to Find Them
You can find the AKASO Brave 7 LE at Amazon.
- BORN ALL-WEATHER ACTION CAMERA - Brave 7 LE action camera is weatherproof and distinct to unlock all the...
- CONVENIENT DUAL-DISPLAY - With innovate dual color screens design, you can change framing and monitoring...
- One workaround is to use it in combination with a neutral density filter, which reduces the amount of light hitting the sensor. For instance, the automatics shutter speed on a bright sunny day might normally be around 1/125 of a second. But if you want to deliberately force a long shutter speed in those same lighting conditions to blur the motion, you could use a strong neutral density filter to effectively darken the lens. ↩
- The manual’s guidance on memory cardsis confusing, to say the least. It says that you can use cards with a “capacity up to 64GB (FAT32)” and also says you can use microSDHC and microSDXC cards. It also says to use Class 10 cards. Different parts of that guidance conflicts with other parts. For instance, a 64GB card is a microSDXC card and is formatted in exFAT, not FAT32. I’ve personally tested 128GB, 256GB, and 512GB cards in it and found them to work well. You’ll have trouble finding a card that is Class 10–and only Class 10–these days. Most of them are rated for newer, faster speed ratings such as U1, U3, or V30 (or higher). Those newer, faster cards will also work well in the camera and are much more readily available at many retailers. ↩
Images and product information from Amazon PA-API were last updated on 2020-11-13 at 20:08. Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on Amazon Site at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product.