Cheaper alternative to GoPro 3 delivers good picture, but lacks shock resistance (July 2nd, 2014)
Product Manufacturer: DXG
- OLED screen
- Wi-Fi / Phone application
- Lack of modes
- Shock resistance
Since the introduction of the GoPro, numerous action cams have come out of the woodwork to tackle the consumer need for camcorders that can take a beating. Even though they existed prior to what's now the staple camera on the market, the small-form HD cams have now become the target to shoot for. DXG has entered the market with the IronX 5G9V HD action cam, bringing a number of accessories and a lower price to compete with the GoPro. But is the IronX worth $350, or is that money better spent towards a GoPro 3?
The IronX 5G9V is similarly sized to the GoPro 3, featuring measurements of 2.33 x 1.68 x 1.68 inches, including the lens. It weighs only 0.17 pounds, when not inside the waterproof case. A GoPro 3 on the other hand, measures 2.33 x 1.62 x 1.16 and weighs 0.16 pounds. The camera features a lens in the center, rather than an off-centered approach because of the LCD screen on the GoPro. A bright, easy to read OLED screen for selecting options on the IronX is located on the top of the action cam, centered over the lens.
Much like the GoPro 3, the IronX utilizes a plastic construction, but it feels like it lacks some of the bulk of its competitor. It doesn't feel as solid with the battery in, making the outer plastic stand out. Unlike the GoPro, the IronX doesn't have any rubberized coating on the outside for protection. Also, all of the ports and microSD slot are exposed if not in a case. The right side of the IronX contains a mini-HDMI connector and slot for a microSD card up to 32GB in size. The left side holds ports for micro USB and a microphone-in port for an external microphone.
Those that have used the menu on a GoPro 3 know how frustrating it is to work with, involving cycling around options with limited buttons. The spring-loaded buttons on the waterproof case make the experience worse. Unfortunately, the IronX system is only slightly better. The OLED screen makes it easier to see, but the icon system to show the current settings suffer the same problems.
The buttons take less effort to navigate through, but the same sort of continuous loop to find an option you passed over is still present. Then there's the fact that the option button on the IronX doesn't always want to respond. The button has a lot of give, requiring it to be held down longer or pressed harder depending on the reason it's pushed. When it powers on, it gives off a nice sound to let the operator know in case it can't be seen.
Several modes are accessible with the IronX, including video with three resolutions, a single shot photo mode, a 10 photo burst mode and a timed mode with a window of 1 to 60 seconds. Video is shot in 1920 x 1080 (1080p), 1280 x 960 (960p) and 1280 x 720 (720p). Both 1080p and 960p are shot at 30 frames per second, while 720p films at 60 frames per second.
The lens on the IronX is fixed with an f-stop of 2.8, a focal point of 0.098 inches and a focus range of 11.81 inches to infinity. Stills are shot at 2592 x 1944 through the five-megapixel sensor. Two different viewing angles are available for photos.
Video and picture quality from the IronX lacks some definition, and looks like it's smoothed out at the edges. Even recording at 1080p, the video doesn't resize well. Footage is left better suited for the highly-compressed YouTube video arena rather than viewing at home. Lacking the ability to change the field of view for video also hurts the device, especially when others like the GoPro 3 give users three different options.
Audio from the IronX is clearer than what can be picked up by the GoPro 3. Inside the casing, GoPro audio is muffled, while the IronX offers a more natural sound. It does pick up more cracks and pops as a result of wind, but it is worth it for the better overall sound.
One nice feature is the built-in Wi-Fi in the action camera, allowing pairing with Android or iOS apps for control and viewing. The app allows users to change the video settings of the camera, switch between video and camera modes, adjust the quality and transfer items to or from the IronX to the connected phone. The signal isn't very strong, cutting out around not far after 25 feet in most cases. However, the app gives great control to users looking for the same app functionality other manufacturers have. Those looking for other controls can use the included wrist control for triggering recording or snapping a photo.
Like many other action cameras, the IronX has a number of attachments and accessories that can be purchased. A standard mount comes with the IronX that's used in conjunction with adhesive pads. The waterproof case has two clips that can be used to attach to other mounts, a stand for the standard mount or a length of Velcro.
Additional mounts were tested, including a gun rail mount, handlebar mount and suction cup ball mount. The mounting system features an interlocking clip system, rather than a nut and bolt path, that feels secure when clicked in. Each mount performs well, with the gun mount being the standout piece. It features a metal construction, rather than plastic, and installs easily. The mount secures firmly to picatinny rails, causing no movement when target shooting with the camera attached.
There's a major problem when it comes to using the IronX, and it's something that an action camera shouldn't run into. During the testing of the camera, several attempts were made to give it a good run outside of filming steady, safe footage. The camera was attached to firearms, paintball guns and a suction cup mount of a moving vehicle. In most cases the IronX worked fine, unless there were cases of shock.
This comes in play in two different situations. Big impacts cause the camera to shut off, either from the sheer shock of the event or because of the poor fit of the battery cover. While the battery is easy to get to, unlike the GoPro 3's, the door pops off easily. This occurs even when the IronX is inside of the waterproof case. There isn't much room to work with, but it's enough to interrupt the connection between the battery and the camera.
Hitting a speed bump or rolling it on the ground is sufficient to trigger the event. If enough shock is applied, video can be completely lost, as was witnessed when shooting it with a paintball marker from a distance of about 25 feet at 280 feet per second. Other moderate impacts trigger a recovery mode.
The included waterproof casing doesn't help the durability problems of the unit. One direct hit during the paintball impact testing shattered the lens covering. In contrast, the GoPro 3 standard casing took over 80 shots without an effect. Subsequent beating on the camera showed damage to the clip to secure the IronX inside, and on the buttons. The weakness of the springs for the button navigation is a problem for the device. They're easily triggered if dropped or taking on some abuse.
The IronX action cam does well in most situations, but with the durability problem there will always be something holding it back. Since these cameras are made for action sports or other activities that a normal camcorder or DSLR couldn't handle, they should be able to stand up to some occasional abuse. Unfortunately, if there is any high-impact possibilities planned, the IronX DXG 5G9V should be avoided. It offers a decent picture and better sound quality than the GoPro 3, but unless it's going to be used for filming applications outside of sports, even the discounted $190 price tag on Amazon may not be worth it.