Review: Midland XTC300VP4 Wearable Action Camera

Wearable point of view camera are all the rage right now with everyone that is doing any kind of action sport strapping cameras on to give the viewer a sense of what he/she was seeing. a newcomer to this field is Midland Radio….yes…I said Midland Radio…the same company many of us older folk knew and loved back in the CB radio craze. (yesssum, that was before all these crazy internets). Those of us who chose Midland gear did so because the stuff just worked so when I saw that Midland had an action camera, I just had to get my hands on it and give it a test drive.

Did Midland score a win with the XTC300VP4? There is only one way to find out….put it to the test!

Features

There are not a whole ton of features, settings, dials, inputs, outputs or really much of anything to the XTC300VP4. The camera is what it is, and what it is, is a video camera. There are only three settings shooting modes:

  • 1920×1080 High Definition @ 30 FPS (16:9 Aspect Ratio)
  • 1280×720 High Definition @ 60FPS (16:9 Aspect Ratio)
  • 848 x 480 Standard Definition @ 60FPS (16:9 Aspect Ratio)

There are only two controls on the entire camera, the on/off slide switch and the video resolution switch. There are no menus to dig through, cryptic codes to remember, just set the video resolution you want and turn it on to start filming.

Highlights:
  • 1080p True HD Wearable Action Camera
  • First Person Point Of View Video & Audio
  • Records with the flip of a switch
  • Includes Submersible Case and 4 Different Mounts
  • Multi-Coated tempered glass lens
  • Focus: 5 inches to infinity
  • Aspect Ratio: 16 x 9
  • Video Format: MPEG4 / H.264
  • Audio: AAC
  • Light Sensitivity: 1.4 V/Lux second
  • Transfer: USB 2.0
  • Power: 1100 mAH (up to 5 hours recording time)
Key Features:
  • Records to a Micro SD Card
  • 127˚ Wide Angle Lens (1080p)
  • Records 30 frames/sec (60 frames/sec at 720p setting)
  • Includes a LI-Ion 1100 mAH battery pack
  • Weather Resistant

Setup

With a camera this simple, there isn’t much to the setup process. Plug the USB cable into the camera and then into the AC adapter, car adapter, or into a computer to start charging the battery. You will need to supply a Micro SD card as one is not included.

With the battery charged, a Micro SD card in place, simple select the video resolution you want as follows:

Position Resolution Frame Rate Viewing Angle
Top Position 1080p (1920×1280) 30fps 127°
Middle Position 720p (1280×720) 60fps 170°
Bottom Position 480p (840×480) 60fps 170°

To start filming just slide the large switch on top towards the front of the camera.

Usage

These days I am not much of an action sports kind of guy but I do fly radio control helicopters and multi-rotor copters (see http://droneflyers.com).  With these aircraft I do some aerial photography and video for fun. The “go to camera” has been the GoPro HD Hero camera with it’s lightweight and good image quality. The downside to the GoPro is that to really mount it to anything you need to use the heavy waterproof case that comes with it.

The Midland XTC300VP4 however, has a standard 1/4″ thread on the bottom for attaching to a regular tripod or quick connect plate. This can really cut down on the overall platform weight.

The only time you need the waterproof enclosure is if you are taking the camera into the water.

My biggest gripe about these types of cameras is the ultra wide-angle of the lens. While not a true fisheye lens, its pretty darned close. While this may work for some things, it’s often a bit much for my taste and what I would like to shoot. With a 127 degree field of view, the image will have a bit of distortion.

The following video clip demonstrates how the video looks and how the camera deals with going from bright to dim conditions and how it handles backlit images.

In order to make cameras at these price points, they use essentially the same sensors found in camera phones. Since there is no mechanical shutter, they take an image by scanning one line at a time from the top to the bottom of the sensor. The problem with this rolling shutter is that a fast-moving object may move from when the scanning started and when it finishes. When this happens you get what is referred to  as “the Jell-O effect”.

The XTC300VP4 suffers from this rolling shutter issue which didn’t really come as a surprise considering the price point. This is only a problem under certain conditions and is less noticeable when shooting in 720p mode because the shutter is working faster.

The following video demonstrates this rolling shutter issue. Keep in mind that this is NOT unique to the XTX300VP4, all the small action cameras in this class have the same issue.

This next video puts the XTC300VP4 on a tripod to shoot a fast-moving QuadCopter.

In this last video, a white streak is visible in the top and a lens flare is visible in the lower middle of the frame. Without a lens hood and with such a wide-angle lens, getting a piece of the Sun in the shot is bound to happen.

As I explain in the video, the tripod mount on the bottom of the camera is not deep enough for most tripods and mounts. With most tripods you can’t tighten the camera down onto the mount tightly. With the tripod I used the camera would have a tendency to just spin around making it hard to set up a good shot.

Results

The XTC300VP4 will set you back $249 which is in the same ballpark as the GoPro and Coutour cameras so making a decision isn’t really a price issue. The XTC’s streamlined design may fit certain situations better than the much wider GoPro. While I really wish the field of view was adjustable I can’t knock the XTC for it considering other action cameras are the same or even worse.

The simplicity of the XTC300VP4 is what really sets it apart from the crowd. While some of the competitors in this field also shoot stills, their ultra wide-angle is better suited to video than stills. By sticking just to shooting video, the XTC300VP4 has taking simplicity to new levels that anyone can use even if they are wearing thick skiing gloves. The lower resolution mode doesn’t change the frame rate although the smaller image size would mean you can fit more video onto one card. The XTC300VP4 comes with a nice choice of mounting options and a very nice touch is both an AC charger and a car accessory port charger.

Score Card

The XTC300VP4 gets high marks for its dead simple setup and one-touch control. Since it can be operated even with thick gloves on, the usage score gets high marks as well. The features category takes a small hit due to not having the ability to take stills and the super wide-angle field of view. The final results category took a minimal hit due to the rolling shutter issue which, although it is problematic when the camera is being flown, not everyone will have a major issue with. The overall value gets full marks for the nice accessory package that comes standard and the price point is in the middle ground of the competition.

Midland Website: http://midlandradio.com

KerryG

Kerry Garrison is a wedding, portrait, and product photographer living in southern California. With 10 years of experience shooting products and 3 years of experience in the wedding industry, Kerry brings a good deal of technical know-how and can explain topics in easy-to-understand terms. Kerry's work can be found at http://kerrygarrison.com and on Facebook at http://facebook.com/KerryGarrison

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