Considering Polaroid’s photographic pedigree I had high expectations for their XS100 HD Action Cam. Once I received the review unit, I expected it to be a formidable competitor to many of the current action cams on the market today.
As is usual, I didn’t look for situations where I expected an action cam to shine. I took the XS100 to one of my regular shoots, a Willie Nelson concert, and set it up back stage looking out onto the audience. I use action cams on a regular basis at concerts to get unusual shots which would normally be distracting to the audience. I also set it up on my car and drove around town a bit at different times of the day – another typical usage for action cams in my documentary work. This allows me to test for shutter roll and low light / extreme light performance.
The XS100 includes a “Professional Sensor With Low-Light Performance” according to the marketing spec sheet. My experience with the device is that the low-light performance for a camera at this price point (you can get one on Amazon for $129 without WiFi and for $179 with WiFi as of this writing) is acceptable, but not earth-shattering. We will revisit this point later.
Uniquely, the XS100 vibrates to confirm functions when visual confirmation isn’t practical. It also has a “G-Sensor” which controls auto rotation so the camera always knows “which end is up” – a great time saver in post. It is also waterproof up to 30 feet. The distortion-free ultra wide angle lens provides 170 degrees of coverage – you can see this in the sample video below. While the XS100’s aerodynamic design and shock-proof exterior minimizes wind noise this feature would not really factor into my usage since I typically only shoot b-roll/second camera OR have a separate audio person on my shoots. However, the single button record feature is easy and is always ready for action – which I liked a lot.
The camera allows for recording in 1080p, 960p, and 720p. It also provides dual file recording: with every HD video, an additional smaller file is created for more efficient uploading and sharing. This is useless in my opinion as it just creates an additional step in the workflow when you have to separate the small files from the HD files. I’d rather Polaroid just produce the high quality file and save the space on the card for more video.
- Still Image Options: 16MP, 5MP, 3MP;
- 1 x or 10x (burst) Shooting Mode;
- Time Lapse;
- Adjustable Frame Rate for 720p Allows Effects Like Slow or Fast Motion Shots-Even in HD;
- iOS & Android Apps Available;
- IEEE 802.11 b/g/n – Distance:8M+;
- Full Helmet & Handlebar Mounts Included and;
- One Year Warranty
While I’ve used just about every sports camera on the market, rarely do I use them for action or sports footage. I tend to put them on stages at concerts, use them as b-roll cameras in documentaries, take them out fishing and hunting when shooting tv shows, put them on tour busses, or capture time-lapse by leaving around the city attached to road signs, parking meters or railroad trussels.
Running the risk of using the “G-word” it’s difficult to complete a review of any action cam without comparing it to a GoPro. With that said – The Polaroid XS100 HD beats the GoPro in its price point flat out in performance and value. One plus with the Polaroid XS100 HD Action Cam is the all-in-one main power button design, with a large main power button that is made so that one can easily find it by feeling for it, to take photos and videos, without actually being able to see it. Since I’m usually having to feel around in the dark (on a riverbank or on a stage) this one single design element is no small feature for me. All other things being equal, it would the the one defining element in me choosing the XS100 over another action camera.
In most situations, low light is the action cams enemy. The photo quality on the XS100, especially in low light, is decent with both video and photo. In bright light, colors are vibrant and the video is detailed enough to be passable with other action cameras at its price-point. But here’s the kicker – the XS100 HD is less than half the price of most other action cams on the market today. And that my friends, is the punchline here: at less than $200 street for either model, I haven’t seen another action cam which produces better video than the Polaroid XS100 HD Action Cam. Oh, and it’s waterproof out of the box. Did you get that?
This camera includes plenty of accessories like mounts for everything you could want, a carrying case and a thin wrist strap. One way they keep the cost down on the camera is by not including the microSD card in the box. That’s more than fair since they stock the cam with so many other accessories.
In the sample video for this review, we used the mounts to attach the Polaroid XS100 to a mic stand behind the drum kit on the stage. No additional hardware needed. We had a few different camera makes & models on stage at the concert. Shutter roll on the vehicle tests wasn’t any more or less pronounced than would be expected from any other action cam in this category; that’s to say that it’s just a bad and all the other action cams I’ve every used. I was pleased with the relatively low noise in the video from the night-time drives and in particular with the nice, rich gradients the sensor produced in the skyline during dusk. We still haven’t made a final decision if the XS100 video will make it into the final edit. I’ll keep you all posted on that.
In the end, the Polaroid XS100 HD Action Camera is easy to set up and when compared to the Contour Roam and the GoPro Hero, the Polaroid has better video in low light conditions and is easier to operate. Add to this the out-of-the-box waterproofing up to 30 feet and the big, fat power button and there is no camera on the market that can compete with the Polaroid XS100 HD Action Cam at this price. Giddyup.