Top-of-the-line action cameras tend to be on the pricey side, so it’s no surprise that several contenders have sprung up to offer a similar experience at a bargain price. Into this crowded field jumps the OCLU Action Camera, a water-resistant little 4K shooter with Wi-Fi connectivity and a stack of video modes.
Designed for outdoor adventures, the OCLU is available with a raft of accessories. The “Adventure Bundle” is the complete set, giving you two grips, one of which unfolds into a rudimentary selfie stick, as well as an underwater shell, a handlebar mount, a grip mount for a paddle or ski pole, a chest harness and three sticky helmet mounts. You can also get these in various combinations if your needs are more specific.
So, it’s an adventurous proposition, and entering a highly competitive market. Does that OCLU 4K Action Camera have what it takes to stand out?
• 4K video at 30p; Full HD video at up to 120p
• 12MP back-illuminated sensor
• IPX7 water resistance
• Ultra-wide angle F2.5 150° lens
• Weight: 101g (with battery & metal door)
• Dimensions: 62.5mm x 61.5mm x 28mm
The OCLU shoots stills at 12MP, and video-wise, you have a few options to choose from. There’s 4K at a maximum frame rate of 30p, and you also have the option to shoot in “Super Wide” 2.7K or Full HD. Dropping the resolution down to Full HD opens up a few more options – you can use “Super Straight” mode to correct the worst of the lens distortion, or shoot at a super-slow-mo 120fps, and Full HD also has some built-in stabilisation.
It also offers “Livecut” mode, which is a rather fancy name for a pretty simple function. Basically it allows you to delete unwanted recordings on the fly and seamlessly start recording again. This does help keep down the clutter, which is especially useful when working at high resolutions as the files are so large.
Build and handling
The OCLU looks the part. Its streamlined black design has won multiple awards, and the minimalist three-button handling works pretty well once you get used to it. The buttons require a fair amount of pressure before they’ll respond, but this does reduce the risk of accidental presses.
The LCD screen is small, but nice and bright. The decision to mount it on top is a slightly curious one; it keeps the profile low, but is only useful if you’re shooting from waist height. And how often do you do that, especially if you're using a grip? All too often, composing an image amounts to a process of point-and-hope.
It might seem the obvious solution is to use the app and compose on your phone, but, well, we’ll get to that.
Images from the OCLU are pretty decent, with colours that punch through nicely, and the wide-angle 150° f/2.5 lens gives shots that unmistakable action-camera feel. Things get a little soft if you get too close to a subject, but this is unlikely to be an issue for most users.
The 4K and 2.7K footage are of perfectly acceptable quality. The only real issue I noticed was when shooting Full HD – I’d mounted the camera to a bike using the included handlebar mount, and figured I’d shoot in Full HD to see the stabilisation. Dismayingly, the stabilisation hadn’t worked at all, resulting in distorted, wobbly footage that looked like a special effect from an early episode of Star Trek. I’d say avoid it, but I’m not sure it’s possible to turn it off.
Connectivity-wise, well, there are a lot of problems. The app barely works; the Live View connection is laggy, and I found it simply refused to preview or download any images or videos. The Android version constantly nagged me to revert to different firmware, but would throw up oblique error messages whenever I tried to do so.
Using Wi-Fi also has a seriously deleterious effect on the camera battery; I spent about 15 minutes messing about with the Live Preview, and the battery dropped from 90% to 65%! I hadn’t even shot any video yet! Even when you turn this off though, the battery is not great. For the love of god, turn on the screen sleep timer.
Connecting the camera to a computer via USB straight up didn’t work. I tried hooking it up to both a PC and a Mac, and neither were able to recognise it. Getting my images and videos off the camera required me to take them directly off the SD card.
I also consistently encountered an annoying bug, where turning the camera on and off would cause it to forget it had an SD card inserted. Popping the card in and out would fix it, but would then cause all the files to disappear from playback mode as though I’d inserted a fresh card. I feel I should also mention I was using a SanDisk 64GB UHS-I card – which is exactly the kind of card the manufacturers recommend.
It feels a shame to criticise the OCLU too harshly. At its core, it’s a device designed to shoot images and videos while being able to take a few knocks or a splash of water, and it does all that quite well. The problem is everything else – the buggy UX, the poor connectivity, the features that simply do not work.
All these things feel fixable with firmware or patches. In the future, the OCLU could be a real contender. For now, there are better options out there at this price.