It’s 2017 and that means it’s time for another round of cheap so-called 4K cameras to be released! Allwinner technology has got us covered with their new low end processor, the V3s.
For fake 4K action cams there are three main makers of processors. These are like Intel or AMD for cameras, except they’re not really like Intel or AMD because those two are actually good and some of these are, well, questionable at best. Each processor has a maximum video quality it can produce and none of them have enough power to produce actual 4K footage. They all do it in some weird resolution or frame rate or some sort of software tricks to fake it. From best to worse, in my experience, is Novatek, then Sunplus and Allwinner are kinda tied for a sad last place.
The video you see is from an Allwinner camera based on their new processor, the V3s. This is a lower end version of the common V3 processor, and since it is cheap to make cameras with low end processors I’m expecting to see a lot of cams based on it to be released soon. There are already a few brands that use this configuration including MGcool and the generic F60C.
The older Allwinner V3 was not a great processor by any means, but in most cases the cameras that were released based on it were crippled by software, meaning that with some hacking the V3 cameras were actually capable of producing decent results, up to 1080p60 or 2K30. At least with the V3 you’d be guaranteed the same consistent level of image quality across multiple vendors, even if that image quality wasn’t particularly good on the Sony variant.
Now that the V3S has been released, some cameras are being advertised as containing Allwinner SoCs but now they do not have the V3. Instead they have the S variety and, surprise surprise, it’s almost like the S stands for S***! The V3s only supports image sensors up to 5 Megapixels (despite these cams being advertised as 16 MP), and they have a maximum video resolution of 1080p at 40 FPS (despite being advertised as 4K). This is a case of newer is not better as it is a step backwards in image quality. It’s almost like comparing the slowest Atom processor to a Pentium. The cameras look similar, the user interface looks similar, but the results speak for themselves. And the V3 isn’t great to start with!
My recommendation, if you’re looking at an Allwinner camera, is to stay vigilant and read the specs very carefully so you don’t get ripped off. The V3 is bundled with one of two image sensors: an OV4689, which has the best image quality out of the box despite only being 4MP, or an IMX179 which is 8MP and generally has more mediocre image quality. The V3S on the other hand is being bundled with one of two sensors: a GC2023, which is 2MP, and not even high enough resolution for 1080p let alone 4K, or the OV2720 which is also 2MP but can do 1080p resolution. At the price point of these cameras, it’s worth spending the extra $10 – $20 to get something with far more capable specs instead of cheaping out.