MGCOOL (previously known as Elephone ELECam) is releasing a bunch of new action cameras. One of them is the low priced MGCOOL Explorer series, their entry level model. The EKEN H9 is quite famous in that price range, so I wanted to take a closer look. Let’s start with a comparison:
|EKEN H9/H9R||MGCOOL Explorer||MGCOOL Explorer Pro||MGCOOL Explorer 1S|
|Sensor||4 MP Omnivision|
|8 MP Sony|
|8 MP Sony|
|12 MP Sony
|Processor||Sunplus 6350||Allwinner V3||Allwinner V3||NT96660|
|FOV||170°||70°,110°,140°,170°||170° (less distortion)||70°,110°,140°,170°|
|4K Resolution||25 fps (interpolated)||15 fps (interpolated)||30 fps (interpolated)||24 fps (interpolated)|
|2K Resolution||30 fps||30 fps||30 fps||30 fps|
|HD 1080p||max. 60fps||max. 60fps||max. 60fps||max. 60fps|
|HD 720p||max. 120fps||max. 120fps||max. 120fps||max. 120fps|
|Display||2" TFT (320*240)||2" TFT (320*240)||2" TFT (320*240)||2" TFT (320*240)|
|Ports||microUSB, micro HDMI||microUSB, micro HDMI||microUSB, micro HDMI||microUSB, micro HDMI|
|A/V out via USB||no||no||no||no|
|Mic in via USB||no||no||no||no|
|Dimension||59 x 41x 24mm||59 x 41 x 29mm||59 x 41 x 29mm||59 x 41x 29mm|
|Mounts & Case||included||included||included||included|
|Price||39.99 USD||36.99 USD||38.99 USD||58.99 USD|
MGCOOL Explorer is the same price as EKEN H9, but has some interesting features. Explorer offers a 8 MP Sony sensor, compared to the 4 MP Omnivision used in H9. The frame rate in 4K is just 15fps, compared to 25 fps on EKEN, but it’s interpolated anyway.
Compared to MGCOOL Explorer the Explorer Pro offers a better lens, called “Sharkeye” lens which is shows less distortion. Due to the lens there is n FOV selection.
In contrast the Explorer 1S shows several changes. With its 12 MP Sony Sensor is offers the sensor with the most MP available.
MGCOOL Explorer series
MGCOOL Explorer and Explorer Pro feature a 8 MP Sony IMX179 sensor, a 1/3.2″ CMOS backside-illuminated image sensor. This sensor is not widespread among action cameras but is found in several smartphones such as OnePlus 3, several Huawei and Lg models.
MGCOOL Explorer 1S features a larger 12 MP Sony IMX078 sensor, also used in EKEN H8.
Explorer and Explorer Pro hold an Allwinner V3 SOC processor, found in some other action cameras like V3 sports camera.
Video Resolution & Frame Rate:
- 4K – (3840 x 2160) – 15 fps (interpolated)
- 2K – (2560 x 1440) – 30 fps
- 1080p – (1920 x 1080) – 60 / 30 fps
- 720p – (1280 x 720) – 120 / 60 / 30 fps
4K resolutions is just available in 15fps, which is too low for a smooth video. Anyway it’s interpolated (upscaled from a lower resolution), real 4K cameras are at least double the price.
Explorer 1S has a better framerate in 4K resolution, 24fps, but is still interpolated.
.mp4 format, .h264 codec.
Max. photo resolution is 16 MP, which is upscaled from the 8 MP sensor. File format is .jpg.
Explorer 1S will give you better results with the 12 MP sensor.
All MGCOOL Explorer series cameras feature a 2″ TFT Screen with 320 x 240 pixel resolution. That’s about the same as comparable action cameras.
The battery got a capacity of 1050mAh which lasts for 80 min. video recording in 1080p.
microSD card support for cards up to 64GB; Class 10 is recommended.
Connectivity & Ports:
You can connect Explorer camera to MGCOOL App (available for iOS and Android).
On the side of the camera you’ll find microUSB & microHDMI port
as well as microSD card slot.
Currently I’m not sure if A/V out via USB is possible,
Mic-in via USB is not available due to the microUSB port.
All MGCOOL Explorer cameras are available in black and silver.
Dimensions & Weight:
Weight: 55g camera;
Dimensions: 59 x 41 x 29mm.
Explorer Packaging includes a 30m waterproof case, camera bracket, clip, Bicycle mount, 2 adhesive mounts, adaptor and manual.
Body, Buttons and Ports
The body of the MGCOOL Explorer (as well as Explorer Pro and Explorer 1S) is the same size as the SJ4000 and EKEN H9, so you can use their accessories as well. On the frontside of the camera there is the power and mode switch button. The camera’s top side holds the shutter button, which also acts as select button when browsing the camera’s menu, and a LED indicating recording.
On one side you’ll find 2 buttons to navigate the menu. Pressing the up button during video or photo mode activates wifi. You can remote control the cam with an iOS or Android app. On the other side, there’s a microUSB and micro HDMI port as well as the micro SD card slot. Cards up to 64 GB are supported, class 10 is recommended. Above there are holes for the microphone.
Almost the whole backside of the camera is covered by the large 2″ LCD display. Next to it are 2 LEDs .
On the bottom there’s the battery door. MGCOOL Explorer comes with a 1050 mAh battery. The size and shape of the battery is the same as the batteries for SJCAM or GitUp.
Functions & Settings
When you power up the camera by long-pressing the button on the front, it will start in video mode. A small icon on the top left side of the screen will show you that you are in video mode. The current settings (e.g. 10180p60fps) are displayed next to it. By short-pressing the power button you can cycle through the modes of the camera: Video Mode – Photo Mode – Slow Motion – Library and Settings. To enter the settings press the shutter button which will also act as select button. You can navigate the menu by pressing the up and down buttons on the side of the camera. By pressing the mode/power button you’ll to the next settings folder. The 4 settings folders refer to video, photo, camera and device settings:
You’ve got the following options:
- 4k – 15fps
- 2,7K – 30fps
- 1080p – 60fps
- 1080p – 30fps
- 720p – 120fps
- 720p – 60fps
- 720p – 30fps
There is no option to select PAL mode which will give you 25fps (and a multiple of that) and also no option for 24fps.
Explorer Pro and Explorer 1s offer a higher bitrate in 4K, hence it is also interpolated.
You can turn on/off audio recording.
The interval options are: Close (=off), 0.5s, 1s, 2s, 5s, 10s, 30s and 60s.
When you select on of the options: 2 min, 3 min or 5 min, video files with respective length are recorded. Once your SD card is full the oldest files will be overwritten. This mode is meant for using MGCOOL Explorer as a dash cam. Btw you can record videos while the camera is connected to a power source via USB.
You can either choose 1080p with 60fps or 720p with 120fps. When recording in Slow Motion mode the playback of the video on the camera is in slow motion.
When you switch this option on, Explorer will start recording when there is movement within the picture. Although you have to stop recording manually.
FOV (field of view):
You can choose Close (off), wide, middle or narrow field of view:
(FOV selection is not available on MGCOOL Explorer Pro)
The options are:
- 16 MP (Megapixel)
- 12 MP (= sensor size of Explorer 1S)
- 8MP (= sensor size of Explorer & Explorer Pro)
Since the sensor is 8MP (12 MP for Explorer 1S) I recommend this setting. When selecting a larger resolution the photo will be upscaled. All photos are taken in 4:3 format.
This option describes the self-timer which can be set to 3s, 5s, 10s or 20s.
Auto equals photo time-lapse mode with the optional intervals 3s, 5s, 10s, 20s or 30s. Great to have both options doing a video or a photo time-lapse.
Drama mode equals Burst mode. You can select 3, 5 or 10 pictures taken per second.
You can select: +-1/+-2/+-3 to correct the exposure of your camera manually.
The available selections are Auto, Sunny, Cloudy, Incandescent Light or Fluorescent Light to match the color temperature.
Besides using the up-button you can also switch on wifi with this menu item.
You can flip the image in case you mount your camera upside down. That feature is not possible with many other cameras such as SJ5000X or Git2 – I heard that is due to the Novatek chip used in these cameras.
Powers up the camera and starts recording once the camera is connected to a power source, needed for using MGCOOL Explorer as dash camera.
Light Source Frequency:
You can select 50Hz, 60Hz or Auto.
I guess it controls the shutter to avoid flickering as the frequency in lighting is different in several countries. (US 60Hz, EU 50Hz).
LED Indicator Light:
With this option you can turn off all LED indicator lights.
A nice option which shuts off the display to save battery: off, 10s, 20s or 30s.
Same for the camera itself. You can select a time and the cam will turn off automatically when in standby: off, 1 min, 3 min or 5 min.
Using this option the time and date will be displayed within your photos or videos.
You can set the menu language to English, Chinese, Korean, Russian, Deutsch, French, Spanish, Polish, Netherlands, Portuguese,
Date – Time:
Make sure to enter the right info when using the time stamp option.
To format your SD card.
To get your camera back to factory settings.
To display the current firmware version. My cam was delivered with version: “Explorer V1.0” dated 8.3.2017.
The menu of MGCOOL Explorer 1s looks different to the ones of Explorer and Explorer Pro.
Price Comparison / Retailer:
MGCOOL Explorer Pro
MGCOOL Explorer is an interesting camera in the low price segment. A price range where EKEN H9 is very popular. For a few extra bucks you get a 8 MP Sony sensor instead of the 4 MP Omnivision sensor used in EKEN H9. There are some issues with EKEN H9 in terms of firmware upgrades and app connectivity. If MGCOOL Explorer runs more stable it could be a better choice.
After testing the camera it seems the firmware runs more stable than EKEN H9. On the downside the video quality is not as much better as I would have expected from the better sensor. During recording I noticed that sound lags a bit behind. Here’s a comparison with EKEN H9, see yourself:
Here’s my review of MGCOOL Explorer and a comparison with the similar priced EKEN H9
Join the discussion in the MGCOOL Facebook Group