Yuneec ActionCam is your drone on the ground

Do you ever wish you could have the silky, smooth, “drone like”  video, but of footage close to the ground, and…without actually using the drone?

Maybe you’re a videographer looking for a gliding cruise down the sidewalk, or weaving between a crowded marketplace, but it’s simply too crowded to safely navigate your drone over and around people.

Maybe you want that drone “look” but simply don’t want to worry about packing it all together — the batteries, propellers, RC transmitter.

And maybe you quite simply don’t want to spend the money on the drone, but want to achieve video similar to what a drone produces.

That’s where the Yuneec ActionCam comes in. The $549 ActionCam is a handheld camera stabilization platform that helps photographers make ground shots that are as smooth as the ones taken from the air. It uses the CGO3 camera gimbal — found on many of Yuneec’s existing drones — with a handle for stable ground footage so you can walk with the drone in your hand, without the shaking or wobbling. It looks like you’re simply gliding through the crowd.

I thought it looked nothing like a drone, but apparently the citizens of San Francisco are smarter than me.

“Is that a drone?” a random passerby asked me on a street corner in the Castro district of San Francisco, where I was testing out the ActionCam this weekend.

It’s not — it just uses the same gimbal.

“Is that the next generation of selfies?” another passerby asked me. (Apparently I look quite approachable…or at least the ActionCam does.)

“No, but it’s better,” I responded.

The camera caught the attention of many on the street — not surprising since there is no other camera like it (save for perhaps DJI’s Osmo, a similar hand-held gimbal that retails for $100 more at $649). It’s sleek, professional-looking, small yet robust.

Here’s some video I shot this weekend:

I loved playing with the ActionCam. While drone footage looks great, it’s quite honestly too cumbersome to bring a drone everywhere you go. This is a grand solution. While the ActionCam is small enough to tuck into a purse, it is too fragile to toss in amongst all your other belongings. But, it’s still something I wouldn’t mind packing along on a trip where I wouldn’t necessarily want to haul all my drone gear.

The ActionCam competes with DJI’s Osmo, but it’s $100 cheaper, and I loved that the gimbal has a foot so you can set it down, like a tripod, and capture video without having to hold it.

There are some faults with the ActionCam. I don’t like that you have to sync it with your smartphone. (The Yuneec smartphone app allows you to see what the drone camera is seeing and control other settings). While smartphone synchronization is the norm for most drones, one of the reasons I was initially drawn to Yuneec’s Typhoon is it’s a standalone product — no need to sync it to an external product like an iPhone or Android. Syncing with my iPhone means eating up my phone’s battery, messing around with connecting it to the WiFi, and not being able to use my phone while shooting video!

The camera also occasionally started jerking and freezing up. It was easily fixed by switching the whole camera off and on, but it was an issue worth noting, and made some shots unusable. Like the drone camera, this doesn’t have a microphone — though generally speaking, a filmmaker should be using an external microphone anyway.

Some specs:

  • 4K resolution, four times higher than HD
  • 12 megapixel still images
  • Slow motion 1080p/120fps video
  • 115-degree field of vision and no-distortion lens
  • Run time of up to 90 minutes
  • ActionCam includes CGO3 camera, 1400mAh LiPo battery and smart charger
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A screenshot from Yuneec’s app, which is easy to use with a clean interface

All in all, I had a blast playing with the ActionCam this weekend. It’s something filmmakers or journalists should add to their tool-bag to get high quality, smooth footage without a massive Steadicam-like device or a cumbersome drone. It’s light, small and easy to put together — just turn it on and connect it to your smartphone app and it is ready to go. It’s also something for people who shoot drone footage mixed with ground footage, and want the same style of gliding video in the ground footage as what they’re showing in the air.

The videos it generates are unlike anything you would get with a drone, since you can get in tight to objects and between crowds. And like the rest of Yuneec’s products, the camera is high quality for the value.

It’s something I can’t wait to bring on my next vacation, or just walking around the streets of San Francisco. I might even opt to use this in lieu of a drone under certain circumstances.

Happy flying! (I mean, walking!).

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