Monday, January 11, 2016

Best Budget Bargain Action Camera: ELE Explorer Action Camera

Interested in a dirt-cheap action camera with usable 2.7k video footage? And even better 1080p footage? Stick with me for this latest review on a brand-new action camera, the ELE Explorer. I am a sucker for the latest action cameras, as I love to catch neat footage from fishing and hiking trips here in Southern California. The fantastic year-round weather (despite the current El Nino) offers excellent recreational opportunities and capturing this on a waterproof action camera to watch and share with others is a blast. Thus, when I was offered the chance to review a new camera, the ELE, I jumped at it! Recently, there has been a trend of cheaper and cheaper action cameras offering up to 4K video resolution (see my review of the nice EKEN H9 camera here), and the ELE is no exception. Let's take a look at it!

More after the jump

Friday, December 25, 2015

Fish Hunter 3D Portable Sonar Fish Finder Review

Recently there has been an explosion of portable sonar fish finder devices. As a kid angler, I could only dream of getting my own boat and mounting a sonar to it. It seemed like an eternity till this dream could ever be realized. Now, you can purchase all sorts of portable fish finders, including several exciting models that sync with your phone via Bluetooth or WiFi. Many of these can be casted or trolled, allowing anglers to learn precious information on bottom contour and fish locations. 

One of the more powerful portable options is the Fish Hunter 3D. This device is jam packed with fish catching tools, all packed into a ball-shaped sonar roughly the size of a baseball. Courtesy of the guys behind Fish Hunter, I've been using one on recent fishing trips and wanted to share my thoughts on it. I hope this review is useful for anyone considering such a portable fish finder!

Monday, December 7, 2015

More uRbAn CrEeK Fishing Fun: Bass and Green Sunfish + Underwater Video

[Video report, report with new photos!]
Will I ever get tired of urban creek fishing? Tired of fish eager to bite, the thrill of finding a new spot smack dab in the middle of suburbia with no other anglers in sight? Tired of bass and sunfish fishing that doesn't cost me a ridiculous $12-$15 (cough Diamond Valley Lake cough) just to fish?

Received a friendly tip on this new urban creek from a great fellow angler. Tales of eager bass were readily received and I quickly hit the road. The creek had recently overflowed its banks, spilling the trash of modern wasteful life across the banks and leaving gross suds in the water. Still, the fish were incredibly eager to bite. I had a hit on my first cast, with a black  Mangler 4'' swimbait (not my favorite lure but it got the job done), then landed another on the swimbait on my second cast. Nothing amazing, just typical urban creek bass (10'' or so).

I continued fishing the rest of the afternoon, catching green sunfish and largemouth bass with wild abandon. The greenies were everywhere, tearing up the bugs on the surface, chasing minnows and other forage in the shallows, competing with the bass for food. I didn't manage to land any massive fish, although I witnessed a fellow angler land a nice 20'' common carp (he promptly kept it for eating which was pretty disgusting considering the water quality) and I had two large bass chase my Mangler swimbait near the shore. I also used the Strike King Bitsy Pond Minnow (best lure for urban creek fishing, period!) extensively, landing the majority of my bass and sunfish on this versatile micro crankbait, 2lb mono fishing line and ultralite rod/reel. Here's a video I've put together, with underwater footage of one of the fish, of the trip to this urban fishing creek.

Graffiti and the other trash that people who don't respect the environment left were all over the place. One of my goals with these urban creek videos is to help raise awareness of the plight of many of these tiny watersheds; often turned into a dump heap or concrete gutter by individuals and authorities. With proper care and resources, these could be sparkling streams, free of litter and accessible for fishing and hiking to a public that knows how to properly dispose of their garbage. Sadly, that is not the case, at least not yet. Maybe, one day...

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Inland Empire Crappie Fishing

Secret Pond. Big Crappie. Success!
Nailed on a Yamamoto Swim Senko, White.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Dirt Cheap 4K Action Camera: Eken H9

How much should an action camera with 4k video cost? $200? $100? $60? How about $58? The Eken H9 Action Camera is simply the cheapest 4K video option on the block today. It is really shocking how the price on these action cameras has dramatically dropped just over the last year. Still, what use is a 4K camera if it doesn't hold up under use? Is the Eken H9 worth picking up? Keep reading for my full review of the Eken H9, courtesy of GearBest and check out the sample footage while fishing and hitting up local beaches in California!

Right out of the box you will notice the Eken looks very similar to the SJ400 and associated clones. It utilizes the typical boxy form-factor that GoPro helped popularize, complete with a similar waterproof case. The LCD screen on the back is a little larger than the stock SJ4000 screen at 2 inches from corner to corner.

Eken on left, SJ4000 on right
The Eken comes with the usual selection of accessories: waterproof case,USB charger, wall charger, belt clip mount, handlebar mount, adhesive pads, and several other angle attachments. The case features a single spring to open and close, nice large buttons that respond easily to being pressed. The case I received had a few very minor scratches on it, not sure if this is a quality control issue or if the camera was a refurb. The camera lenses itself was fine. All the accessories and the waterproof case use the excellent GoPro mounting system, so it is compatible with the generic chest mounts, head mounts, and other mounting gear I find useful when fishing or hiking.
Battery is a standard 3.7v action camera battery, the same you will find in an SJ4000, GitUp and so on.
Eken's menu is really easy to browse through. You can select Video, Photo, Burst Photo (3 photos in 1.5 s), Time Lapse mode, Playback, and Settings. The settings are also a snap to scroll through, and unlike the SJ7000, you can actually turn off/on the date/time stamp on both the videos AND the photos (shame on SJ7000 for not including the ability to turn it off on photos!).
Now, on to the 4K option: It's neat but really not as useful as I had initially hoped, as it is only at 10FPS. Eken also offers 2.7k at a slightly better but still not very usable 15fps, then 1080p at 60/30 fps, and 720 at 120/60 fps. Really happy with the 60 fps support for 1080p and the 120fps at 720p, definitely helps set Eken ahead of other similarly priced action cameras, in addition to the 4k option. Video field of view is at a nice 170 degrees, and the camera supports WiFi control through a local app (EZ iCam App is recommended from GearBest). Under the hood, Eken uses the Sunplus 6330M OV4689 chipset, one I have not seen in other cameras.

I took the Eken out to the beach recently while fishing and bodyboarding. Conditions were initially very bright, hence the faded, washed-out look. Eken does have adjustable white-balance options, which I did not tweak with too much (used default). I then took it out on a cloudy day for bodyboarding, which you can see in the video. Video turned out reasonably good, on par if not a little better than the SJ4000 or SJ7000. However, it was not as good as the GitUp or BlackVue Sport action cameras. Details were somewhat lacking in the video. The 60fps was smooth, but the 4k was mostly unusable due to the low FPS. I also discovered there is no playback viewing mode on the camera! Duhoh! You have to rely on the app to view playback, a definite missed opportunity in my book. The case worked great underwater, no leaks, and the buttons responded easily to taps when needed.  Take at lok at the photos below, the frame-extracts definitely turned out better than the photos. Photos are shown unedited, unless otherwise noted, same with video. 


(1080p Frame)
(1080p Frame)

(4k Frame)

(1080p Frame)

Full video review:

The 4K option is neat and it is impressive that at sub $60 camera can offer it, but it's really not that useful at 10FPS, nor is the 2.7k option. However, both the 720 and 1080p work well. They aren't quite as crisp as my beloved GitUp camera, but they are better than both the SJ4000 and the SJ7000 cameras, which are closer in price range.

Overall, The Eken H9 is an amazingly affordable action camera that offers solid video, unimpressive photos, lacks a useful playback feature, neat but not as useful 4K mode, and probably one of the better deals on a budget camera at this time. You are unlikely to find the array of video recording options on any other camera + waterproof case at this price. Check it out at through GearBest here (as well as their other action cameras, on Amazon (more pricey), Banggood, or through Eken's website. Tight lines!

Monday, October 19, 2015

Quick SoCal Urban Creek Largemouth Trip

Old report but still a goodie! Fished at a new spot for a couple of tiny bites. Frustrated, I drove home, but not before stopping to fish an old reliable urban creek in the Inland Empire.
Success! Missed two and landed two more, including a nice one (by urban creek standards) in 30 minutes. Hard to beat that!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Tiny Creek Redband Trout San Bernardino

 Locating a tiny creek through online research and discussion with other fishermen, then hiking in and actually fishing it sucessfully is truly rewarding. Such was the case for one of my recent fishing trips in the San Bernardino National Forest.
 Armed with my ultralite fishing gear, I located this miniscule watershed and proceeded to catch many healthy Redband-strain rainbow trout in less than an hour. All fish were quickly released back into their mountain stream environment, colorful patterns and all.
The creek has been through a lot, with natural disasters and manmade problems really hurting the fish population. Still, some fish still exist here, as evidenced in the video I took of the trip: