Date reviewed: November 2021 | Tested by: John Milbank | RRP: £149.99 | www.akasotech.com
When GoPro first launched there was plenty of speculation over whether this unknown brand would be able to cut it in a world of big names like Canon and Nikon, yet now it’s the benchmark for action cameras.
So is Chinese brand Akaso the ‘next big thing’? With claims of more than half a million cameras sold each year, if – like me – you’d not heard of it before, you might be a bit behind the curve; checking the best-selling action cameras on Amazon showed that – on the day of writing at least – the Akazo Brave 7 on review here (currently £129.99) is the 6th best-selling action camera on Amazon.co.uk. The £59.49 Akazo EK7000 Pro is 2nd, and the GoPro Hero 10 – at £479.99 – is 5th, though that’s on Amazon; buy that from the GoPro website direct and it’s £379.98 with the subscription that’s free for a year and can be cancelled at any time.
Basically, Akaso already has a strong foothold in the action camera market, but I’ve been testing out the features of the twin-screen Brave 7 that are most relevant to motorcyclists, to see if you’re wasting your money on a premium brand…
You get a lot with the Brave 7, making it seem pretty good value
Given the price, which at the time of writing seems to be hovering around the £130 mark, the spec of the Akaso Brave 7 – and the accessories included – make it an apparent no-brainer. Note that there seems to be a fair bit of discounting going on, with the long-promised Akaso Brave 8 apparently due for release soon.
With front and rear colour screens, this 4K camera is claimed to be waterproof to 5m without a case, and it comes with a remote control, two batteries and a fair selection of mounts and brackets.
There’s even a dual battery charger included (though you can charge the battery in the camera if you prefer), and the mounts are (to some extent) compatible with GoPro fittings.
I’ve got three GoPros (all of which I’ve bought myself) – a Hero 3+, a 5 and a 7, so while I can’t compare this Akaso to the most recent Heroes, I was pretty excited at the idea of upgrading my current kit for less money.
It’s good to see a removable lens cover on the Brave 7 – I’ve replaced it on my GoPro Hero 7 twice due to welding spatter and having it too close to an angle-grinder. The Hero 8 didn’t have a replaceable cover, but 9 nine and 10 do. The problem is that I can’t find replacement lens covers for the Akaso for sale anywhere online.
As well as video mode, the camera features timelapse with intervals of 0.2 seconds to 1 minute and a duration of up to one hour, still photos and a driving mode with loop recording.
The remote control is included
The Brave 7 is powered up by holding the button on the top. Once the blue LED comes on, pressing the same button again starts the recording and the blue light flashes. Sadly there’s no one-touch recording option, which is great on a bike as you can leave the camera turned off then just hit the button to power up and start recording, hit it again to stop and power down.
The supplied cage makes it a little hard to press the button with gloves on; it’s more difficult than a GoPro, but easier than the Insta360 One R. Settings are adjusted via the rear touch-screen, while the buttons on the side allow you to control the digital zoom, switch WiFi on for app control (iOS or Android), or swap to the front screen, which can be particularly helpful when setting up a shot or for vlogging (though the screen is square so you only see the centre portion of the 16:9 frame).
One thing I particularly like about the Akaso’s cage is that you can open the side door to access the USB-C charging port (also used for the optional microphone), and the MicroSD card while the camera’s in it, meaning that – unlike my GoPro Hero 7, I don’t have to take it out of the cage, unclip the door (which I could then lose) and put it back in.
One flat an one curved mount is included, but they don’t quite fit GoPro brackets
The Brave 7’s interface tends to show the budget nature of this camera – one of the first tests I did was of filming myself talking in a bike dealer, but only when I got home did I realise that I’d somehow flicked it into timelapse photo mode.
There are little things that make it frustrating too, like the fact that when you touch the area that says ‘Video 1080P60’ it only allows you to change modes, not resolution (and mode changes are easy to do with light brushes of the finger from the main screen, hence my filming mistake). When using the front camera, there’s less information displayed, and that’s very small so it’s easy to miss that you’re in the wrong mode.
Click the cog on the bottom right of the screen to access the resolution in the video sub-menu, but irritatingly the field of view is hidden in a separate sub-menu. This isn’t the end of the world, but it shows the lack of the refinement that’s found in the (far more expensive) GoPro.
Controlling the camera via the app is pretty straightforward, and as it gives a live view of the camera, it makes framing shots relatively easy. To connect to your phone you have to create an account, but once done it takes you through steps and it’s easy to use. The app community has a credits system that makes it look a bit like BangGood, but overall it works and isn’t too laggy.
It’s great to find a remote control included with the camera – this can be fitted to a key ring, or one of the supplied straps can tie it to something. The hook and loop strap won’t go around a jacket, but the two clasp-type straps will, especially if they’re linked together.
The camera powers off automatically even when the remote control is activated in the menu, so be sure to change the auto power-off setting.
The working range of the remote is very limited – I couldn’t get it to work between rooms unless it was a plasterboard wall, and in line of sight it was only about five meters. Still, this is fine if you have the camera mounted out of reach on the bike, and there’s also a small display on the remote that shows how long it’s been recording for, which is handy. The camera will last up to two and three quarter hours in standby mode before the battery’s dead, though of course that doesn’t take into account any filming.
You get a lot with the Brave 7, making it seem pretty good value
With (mainly) GoPro compatible mounts, setting up the Akaso is easy, and you get a long and short mount, a curved and flat bracket, three connecting arms, a bar mount and a male and a female ¼ inch tripod mount. The brackets also have loops in, so you could tie them to your arm with the supplied straps, plus the flat bracket has a ¼ inch tripod mounting point.
Overall it’s an impressive collection though it’s worth noting that the brackets are slightly shallower than GoPro ones, meaning GoPro-original (and most knock-offs) won’t fit in these brackets, while the Akaso mounts are loose in GoPro mounts.
Finally, if you mount the camera upside down, you’ll need to rotate the footage in edit as, unlike the GoPro 7, it doesn’t flip itself automatically.
With the ‘wings’ of the Akaso mounts measuring 3.45mm thick, and the GoPros 4.45mm, the mounts and brackets aren’t really compatible. Fortunately the cage’s lugs match, so you can use standard GoPro kit.
For the price, this seems a reasonably well-made bit of kit – there’s a decent heft to it, the plastics seem quite robust and the lens cover has resisted scratches from my pen-knife.
The battery and micro-SD / USB-C port covers latch down in a similar style to GoPros, but I have found them increasingly hard to open with use, which appears to be down to surface corrosion.
The Akaso Brave 7 is claimed to be IPX8 rated, the ‘8’ meaning it can be immersed in a meter of water with no leaks. Akaso says it’s good down to five meters on its website (or 10m according to its Amazon listing), but that’s not what I’ve found...
As a rider, what matters to me is that it can survive the rain, and in my testing – with it exposed on the front of the bike – it showed no immediate signs of water ingress, but the removable lens cover only seems to be sealed on the inside, leaving the possibility of water creeping past the outside. I’m not sure if this is where it got through, but the camera started glitching, then shut down completely before I found water in the battery case the day after I had it on the front of the bike and had also left it for 30 minutes in the sink under 10cm of water.
The cage seems to help protect the battery door from rain, but on the camera I have at least, water has got in, so I’d be nervous about using it on a long ride in heavy rain.
While writing this review and going through all the features, the camera died – the screen faded to black and it was done. Taking the battery out and putting it back in, it came back to life but the lens cover had misted up and the screen was unresponsive, then it died again after a couple of minutes. I left it to dry in a bag of rice in the airing cupboard for 24 hours and it seems okay again now.
Water found its way into my camera, rendering it useless until it had dried thoroughly
For the price (there’s that phrase again), the video quality from the Akaso Brave 7 is pretty good. You don’t get the same level of control as you do from a GoPro, but few riders want to faff about with ProTune, LUTs and time-consuming post-processing. Slap the Akaso on your bike then hit record and unless you’re used to high-end kit, you’ll not be disappointed.
From bright sunlight to night-time, the Akaso gives good footage that’ll hold up fine in most YouTube videos.
The Akaso has a claimed maximum field of view of 170°, which sounds good but in practice it’s tighter than the GoPro’s. In fact, I’m not sure how it’s measured, but the 170° field of view is slightly tighter than the GoPro’s 133.6° 16:9 wide setting, let alone its ‘Super View’ setting.
The following resolutions are available on the Brave 7:
Purists will be disappointed to find no 24fps option for a filmic style, but I do miss 25fps, which is what I edit all my footage in.
The website boasts of 4x slow motion, but you’ll only get that on a 30fps timeline if you shoot at 120fps in the lower resolution 720P, which drops the quality; my Hero 7 will reach 200fps (8x slow-mo on 25fps) at 1080P, so while there’s no comparison in price, you should be aware that the slow-motion footage of a BMX on the Akaso website is not what you’ll get in-camera.
While you don’t get the control of a high-end camera, you can adjust exposure from the sub-menu up or down two stops, in single stop increments, and choose from five preset white balances, or leave it on auto.
You can see the video quality in the footage linked in this review.
The optional £9.99 microphone is an essential
The Akaso Brave 7’s in-built microphones give appalling audio quality; speech is very quiet and wind noise is totally uncontrolled. This is a real shame as the front-facing screen could make this great for vlogging, if that’s your thing, but as it comes it’s pretty much useless.
However, a USB-C lavalier microphone costs £9.99 from Akaso, and very much improves the quality. You could tuck this out of the wind on the bike (maybe even under the seat), though you do need to have the door open on the side so then the camera is definitely not water resistant.
To film yourself talking, the optional microphone is an absolute essential; again, watch the video in this article for samples.
Two batteries and a charger are supplied
Filming at 1080P, 30fps the Brave 7’s 1,350mAh battery lasted 1hr 41mins. The 1,220mAh cell in my GoPro Hero 7 managed 2hr 4mins (and that’s after a couple of years of use).
Shooting at 4K 30fps the Akaso lasted 1hr 30mins, with the GoPro only achieving 3 minutes more.
Two batteries are supplied with the Akaso, and can be charged via USB-C while in the camera, or pop them into the two-port charger that comes with it.
The supplied remote control is charged via a micro-USB port, which is a shame but not a problem assuming you have a cable at home, as one isn’t supplied.
As the files are a standard MP4, you can edit in whatever software you like. I use Adobe Premiere Pro as it’s part of my work package, but you can use anything you like.
Given the terrible performance of the audio, I was expecting there to be a firmware update, but there’s nothing as of 1 November 2021. There seems no way of downloading updates from the website, but you can check the status via the smartphone app; how effective an updating method this is, I’ve been unable to check.
There are many different action cameras available, and many, many more opinions on them. I can only comment on my experiences over several years of using a handful – mainly for work – and what I’ve heard from professional videographers.
These are just four of many alternatives – you can find all the action cameras and other tech we’ve reviewed here, plus be sure to regularly check for the discounts available through BikeSocial membership.
There are a lot of budget options out there under various names, but do your research as much as possible and read reviews carefully, looking out for bogus ones on Amazon for instance (for a start, see what else the reviewer has written about). Without having tried them I can’t comment on how good these other cameras are, but I know a fellow journalist had a cheap GoPro knock-off last about ten minutes on a Harley before the vibration killed it.
My GoPro Hero 7 is far from perfect, the battery sometimes being completely dead just a day after charging it (it seems to not properly shut down sometimes), and the odd glitch here and there. Close inspection of the footage can sometimes show over-processing in the camera, but there’s a reason that professionals use these; even the BBC World Service videographers use them as second cameras at times. The level of control and the general reliability and sturdiness help justify the higher price. You do get what you pay for.
The Akaso Brave 7 is not a GoPro beater, but if you’re after a relatively cheap camera, and you don’t intend to use it in very wet conditions, and you’re not expecting high-end levels of performance and quality – and you don’t care about audio – it’s not bad.
I try to avoid discussing price and value too much in reviews as it means different things to different people, but given the problems I’ve had with the Akaso I find it hard to recommend. On the other hand though, I do test everything as much as I can to the limit of what it’s claimed to be capable of. The Akaso could be a reasonable choice for those looking for a budget track-day or summer-ride camera, as long as you set your expectations realistically.