A 4K Ultra HD action camera for less than $50CDN, too good to be true?
Just under two weeks ago I bought the Vivitar 4k Ultra HD Dual Screen Action Cam from Walmart. I've been thinking about picking up a small camera like this with the hope that I might be able to use it to create better quality Youtube videos. At the moment I'm using a Microsoft HD 720p web cam as my primary camera, it's decent, but I thought the Vivitar camera might be better. But even if the camera couldn't be used as a web cam I figured it could be used for some B-roll action shots.
The camera I purchased is a Vivitar model DVR922, but this isn't mentioned anywhere on the packaging (it's on the Walmart web site). The camera is sealed in a plastic blister package. The term 4K appears on the front of the package 5 times, 3 beside the text Ultra HD / HD Ultra, once on the front of the camera and once in a front a picture of the camera. The term water proof appears twice on the front of the case, once at the top and once near the bottom. Below the top water proof term are more marketing terms indicating that the camera is shock proof, freeze proof, and dust proof. On the other side of the front of the packaging is a Wi-fi icon, the 4K marketing, a box advertising the camera's dual screens (for taking selfies), and some text about sharing on Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp, and Instagram.
At the bottom of the front of the packaging there are a couple of photographs of people, a front and rear view of the camera, and a cut out photograph of the "BLCYCLE" (spelled incorrectly) and helmet mount. Below all this is some marketing indicating that the camera is 16 megapixels, water proof, and has 2.0 inch dual screens.
The back of the blister pack contains a lot of the same advertising, but also includes a section advertising what's inside. Curiously the fact that the camera comes with a USB cable and can be connected to a PC isn't indicated anywhere on the packaging.
The marketing mentions that a Micro SD card is supported, but not included, and that the Micro SD card should be a class 10 or higher Micro SD card.
The good - cheap, 4k
The DVR922 was pretty cheap, I bought mine for $39.99 CDN (however I also spent this amount on a 128GB Micro SD/TF card, but more on this later). As an action camera it can take 4K video at 30 frames per second. The camera comes with more accessories than are marketed on the front of the case. Thankfully one of those accessories is a USB cable that can be used to connect the camera to the computer. Once connected the camera can be used as a USB drive, as a web cam (see details in bad section), or to charge the battery. The battery for the DVR922 is removable, but there's more bad news in the bad section. It's worth mentioning that I tested the DVR922 under Xubuntu Linux, so Vivitar gets points for not using some proprietary protocol to lock the camera to particular operating systems.
The bad - stabilization, terrible photos
I'm not sure where to start with the bad because there's so much that's wrong not only with this camera, but the sales and support by both Walmart and Vivitar. I'm going to leave some of the bad for the ugly section because it's so bad that it really can't be called anything other than ugly. The bad begins with the "action" footage - there doesn't appear to be any kind of stabilization. Scott Waldron recorded a great video comparing this camera to a similar Casio and Monba camera. Check out Scott's video for a look at how the camera looks at 1080p.
The claim that the camera can take 16MB images seems really exaggerated. Photos taken with the camera have severe barrel distortion and are square, not rectangular. The front screen on the camera is square, while the back screen is rectangular. The fact that the front screen is square isn't bad, but I now realize the reason - the square nature of the photographs (videos are rectangular).
Audio is bad, so bad that you should record audio with anything else. There's no audio jack for an external microphone.
While the camera comes with lots of mounting accessories there's nothing included that lets you mount the camera on a tripod.
The ugly - Vivitar/Sakar support, scratched up, defects
As many reviews on the Walmart web site indicate this camera is packaged and marketed as new, but is, without question "used." It's also worth mentioning that great trouble has been gone to in order to hide the fact that the camera is used. My camera in particular had a plastic green tab hanging out the front the camera where the front screen was. This plastic tab belongs inside the camera. I couldn't see the tab because someone at the company that packaged the camera hid the defect behind a sticker that's placed to cover the front screen.
The rear screen does appear to be 2 inches from corner to corner, but it was heavily scratched. Scratches like the ones I found on the back of my camera don't happen in transport. Buyers cannot see the fact that the rear screen is all scratched up because the blister packaging hides the rear screen.
Despite the fact that this camera appears to have been released in 2019 there is no mention of it on Vivitar's web site, and no support for the camera there either. This means if you want to order another battery, you're out of luck. Both Scott (whose video I mentioned earlier) and I have looked extensively to see if we could find a battery. We came close finding a battery with similar specifications and dimensions, but the polarity of the battery was wrong. Sadly I haven't been able to locate a battery that would work as a second battery, even on Aliexpress.
I reviewed the camera on Walmart's web site, noting the fact that the camera was heavily scratched up and had manufacturing defects. Twelve days later someone from Vivitar posted a "we're sorry, contact our support team" response. So I responded via email. The good news is I got a response back to my email within a day. In my email to Vivitar I mentioned the problem with the piece hanging out the front and I asked where I might be able to buy another battery. Here's the response I got back:
We apologize fro the issue with the unit and we will be glad to help you.
We are sorry to know that the camera is not working as expected,
We request you to connect the camera to the adapter, make sure that there is a RED LED light indicator on the camera.
In case you are unable to get the RED LED indicator light on the camera, we suggest you try with different outlets, and also try with a different USB cable on a computer and charge the camera for 4-5 hours.
Once the camera is fully charged for 4-5 hours, press and hold the power button for 3-5 seconds. This should turn the camera on.
The response has nothing to do with what I asked in my email. In order to escalate things I would need to give proof of purchase, the MID# of the camera (on the back of the packaging), date of purchase, item number, and personal details. The emailed seemed to hint that Sakar/Vivitar would replace defective units back if they were shipped (at owner's expense) to their facility in New Jersey.
Update - February 12,2021
While the 4k video meta data makes me believe the video is 4k, it just isn't as good as the 1080p or even 720p video that I can take from my Samsung Galaxy S7 or my older Canon T4i DSLR. Although the Vivitar is a lot more portable than the DSLR, for a portable option the cell phone has a better camera. As such the Vivitar 4K action cam has mostly sat un-used for a couple of months. The only scenario where I can see using this camera is mounted on the dash of our car, even then it's limited since we find the battery doesn't last much longer than 30 minutes.