If you’re looking for an action cam from the budget range, you’ll have already stumbled across the action cams of the manufacturer “EKEN”. Under the name “EKEN H9S” a new action cam has been released, which is located directly next to the other models of the H9 series. How the EKEN H9S fights, read more in this review!
Foreword: EKEN H9S – Budget Action Camera
In terms of price, the H9 Action Cams are currently among the cheapest action cams on the market. The standard model H9 is available from 25€. The model H9R with additional remote control already from about 35€. Last but not least, there is the model H9S, which costs about 45€ depending on the provider. The assessment is based on this pricing structure. Comparing the EKEN H9 models with a much more expensive GoPro HERO6 or YI 4K+ would be a mistake!
Scope of delivery, design and processing
The scope of delivery of the EKEN H9S is impressive. Despite the low price, the Action Cam comes with a waterproof case, numerous mounts, a remote control, two batteries with charger and even a tripod. A scope of delivery which can be quite respectable and from which other manufacturers could cut off a disc. The workmanship of the accessories must not be objected to.
In terms of design, the EKEN H9S follows the typical “SJ4000 Design”, which is already familiar from many other China Action Cams. The housing of the camera is made entirely of plastic. The front is adorned with a large EKEN print and the lettering “4K Ultra HD”. Due to the comparatively high profile of the EKEN Action Cams, numerous knock-offs of the Action Cam are already in circulation. You should make sure that the EKEN lettering is actually present to avoid a possible fake! Further features of the front panel are a power or mode button with an adjacent status LED. Of course, the lens with a 170° wide angle is also located at the front.
On the one hand, the connections are located on the housing frame. These amount to one MicroUSB socket, one MicroHDMI socket and one MicroSD memory card slot. The connections are exposed and are therefore not protected from dust or water! On the opposite side there are two additional control buttons, which are used for scrolling within the menu. The battery compartment is typically located on the underside of the frame. There is no possibility to connect a tripod with the Action Cam. The top side is formed by the recording button and another status LED.
The back of the case is adorned with a 2 inch display. This is a conventional LCD without touch function, which would not have been expected considering the price. The resolution of the display is 320 x 240 pixels. The workmanship of the EKEN H9S is not objectionable and corresponds to the price of the camera.
EKEN H9, H9R and now also the H9S use identical hardware equipment. The image processor is called “SPCA6350A”. Theoretically, this SoC can encode videos at a maximum resolution of 1080p and 60 frames per second in H. 264. Images are captured with a maximum resolution of 24 megapixels. How does the EKEN H9S manage to record videos in “4K”? For performance reasons, the processor is unable to encode videos in 4K with the H. 264 codec. Instead, individual images are recorded, which are then combined into a video by the MJPEG video codec.
In addition, the processor also offers the so-called “Super Resolution” function, which is nothing more than an interpolation. The native image is artificially resized to the desired size. The fact that the promised 4K function is only implemented interpolated is shown by the image sensor used. This is an OmniVision OV4689 that natively only resolves with 4 megapixels, i. e. 2688 × 1520 pixels (2.7K). As you can see, the EKEN H9S is also a “4K cheat camera”. A native 4K video resolution would not have been expected in view of the price. Another hardware feature is a 2.4 GHz WiFi module, which allows operation via app and remote control.
Commissioning and user interface
All you need to use the Action Cam is the battery and a MicroSD memory card. Various SDHC and SDCX memory card models were easily recognized with a maximum size of 64GB. An overview of the operation and the individual functions of the EKEN H9S can be found in the illustrated and, if applicable, well written operating instructions.
If you turn on the action cam, you will first be greeted by an EKEN logo and the following start screen. The start screen includes live image output and provides additional information about the selected recording mode, resolution, elapsed and remaining recording time, and battery level. You can change the shooting mode by pressing the Mode button. After pressing it several times, the settings can be accessed. The gallery offers the possibility to play back or display video recordings and taken photos directly via the action cam. Here is an overview of all shooting modes and settings.
The EKEN H9S offers a total of 4 recording modes. Here is an overview:
- Video mode
Burst mode (multiple recording)
Time-Lapse photo (time lapse recording with photos)
The EKEN H9S has very limited adjustment options. The following settings can be made.
- Video resolution – 4K@25 | 2.7K@30 | 1080p@60p/30p | 720@120p
Looping Video – On / Off (only up to 1080p)
Date Stamp – Off / Date / Date / Date and Time
Exposure – +2 to -2 in 0.3 steps
Image resolution – 12MP | 8MP | 5MP | 4MP
Burst-Photo – 3 pictures
Time lapse – 2s | 3s | 5s | 10s | 20s | 30s | 60s
Continuous Lapse – On / Off
Frame rate – 50Hz | 60Hz | Auto
Date and time
Sound – Shutter | Start-Up | Beep | Volume
Auto LCD – Off | 1min | 3min | 5min
Power saving mode – Off | 1min | 3min | 5min
It is important that there is no possibility to configure WiFi. This means that you cannot set an SSID! Even password protection is not required, so that anyone with an active WiFi connection and close proximity to the camera could theoretically connect to it.
Ez iCam and Firmware
The EKEN H9S can be remotely controlled either via the supplied remote control or by using the so-called “Ez iCam”, which is offered free of charge for Apple and Android mobile devices in the respective stores.
By and large, the app is a piece of junk. The connection between the app and the mobile device is established without any problems, but the stability of the app is a disaster. Crashes of both the app and the action cam are not uncommon. The setting options also leave a lot to be desired. The freely selectable resolution is limited to 1080p. Only positive is a low transmission delay. If the app runs stable for more than one minute, the image is transmitted with little delay. It is not possible to see how the crashes are related to the app or the firmware. In any case, the app ran without crashes during the EKEN H9R test at that time, but offered the same range of functions. You are looking for innovations, even after the app has been on the market for more than a year, but in vain!
The firmware version is also incomprehensible. The Action Cam is identified as EKEN H9R and has also installed a current EKEN H9R firmware. It can be assumed that the cameras are two identical models, even though they do not differ from each other in terms of appearance and hardware. As far as the firmware is concerned, this is anything but optimized. Unexpected crashes were not exactly a rarity during the test. It often happened that the camera was simply “frozen” and only a hard reset by removing the battery could solve the problem. There is a clear need for optimisation here!
If you assume that the Action Cam should not cost more than 45€, the video quality is still acceptable. With a resolution of 4K, the Action Cam actually achieves 25 single frames without using one frame twice. The same goes for 1080p at 60 frames per second. The strong noise is noticeable, which is mainly reflected in the 4K recording mode. At the same time, the Action Cam tends to over-saturated colors in bright light. Artifact formation increases noticeably in poorer lighting conditions. Shots become increasingly blurred and colors fade. There is no electronic image stabilization! The recording quality of the microphone is predominantly metal. Inserted in the waterproof case, the clay is only marginally captured.
Photo quality of the EKEN H9S
That said, when it comes to video quality, it is also transferable to image quality. The dynamic range, the artifact formation, which is sometimes lavish and the increasing blurriness in low light conditions, is again to be criticized. In view of the price, however, it was no longer to be expected in terms of photo quality.
The capacity of the battery is given by the manufacturer with 1050 mAh. In the test, with the 4K recording mode active and default settings, i. e. automatic display shutdown and WiFi off, the average running time was 85 minutes. In 1080p@60 recording mode, the average recording time was 60 minutes. A complete charge of a battery takes about 2.5 hours.
As you can see, the EKEN H9S does not differ from other “SJ4000 clones”. Despite the rather untypical battery format of the supplied EKEN batteries, alternatively available standard batteries are compatible with the Action Camera.