The Apeman A100 or Trawo action camera is an affordable well featured action camera recently upgraded to support 4K 50 fps resolution. It has electronic image stabilization, WiFi control and comes with a generous bunch of accessories.
It costs under £100 or $100, about a third of the latest GoPro. But is it any good, and how does it compare to the latest GoPro Hero 8 and more importantly an older GoPro Hero 5 which you can pick up second hand for not much more.
It comes nicely packaged with a huge amount of accessories including a waterproof housing and most notably two 1350mAh batteries. Unlike many of Apeman’s cheaper cameras in its lineup, it doesn’t come with a remote control.
You’ll still need at least a fast microSD card and most likely some grip mount for general use.
The camera without any housing looks quite smart but has a fairly cheap feel to it, which does at least make it very light at only 73g with its battery and a microSD card installed.
It’s almost identical in size to the GoPro Hero 5, measuring 61mm x 45mm but shallower at 30mm.
Unlike recent GoPros it’s not waterproof without its housing and fortunately the housing is the most well built accessory included.
If you want to mount it without the housing it comes with a lightweight frame with the standard GoPro two-fingered mount system that will fit to any included accessory as well as a massive amount of GoPro and third party accessories. This does make these budget cameras very versatile.
The bottom of the camera has a sprung door opened with a small latch. The battery’s inserted with its contacts facing the side of the camera.
The left side of the camera has a tethered flap revealing a microUSB charging port, a microHDMI output port and the microSD card slot. Cards are inserted with their contacts facing the front of the camera. You’ll want at least a faster Class 10 card for 4K recording. There is a menu option to test the speed of your card. Above the flap is the microphone.
The top of the camera has the power button which also changes modes and the record button which is also the select button.
The right of the camera has two buttons for moving up and down through menus.
In recording mode, the up button turns on WiFi and the down button disables audio. Next to the buttons is the speaker.
The back has the 5cm non-touch IPS screen with a red LED beside it that lights up when charging with the included microUSB cable.
And the front has the glass 170°, f1.8 lens and an LED that lights red when recording video. Unfortunately there’s no front LCD screen to show current settings.
A firm press of the power button turns the camera on and a long press turns it off.
When you turn the camera on the first time you’ll go through the initial setup which you can get back to by selecting Default Settings from the menu. The power button cycles through the modes from video to photo to playback to settings. Use the record button to select an option and the mode button to go back.
The settings are all in one long list which does make it quite slow adjusting many of the options.
I won’t go through all the settings – most are pretty obvious. I will come back to quality but I’d recommend changing the default 4K 30 fps to 4K 50 fps – a new mode in this upgraded version of this camera. I use PAL 25 or 50 fps with my other cameras here in the UK so this setting is preferable anyway. But all the other framerates are multiples of the NTSC 30 fps standard which is confusing, and ideally you need to be careful mixing these two standards in one edit.
Surprisingly there’s no indication of space remaining whilst recording.
Timelapse mode lets you set intervals between 1s and 60s and will create the resulting video in camera.
Loop recording is on by default which is useful if you want to use the camera as a dashcam. You can choose from 3 minute to 15 minute loops. It is a true dashcam mode that will write over older recordings as the card fills up. But if you’re not going to use it as a dashcam I’d recommend turning this off.
Turning Slowrec on will reduce your recording options to 60 fps at 1440p, 1080p and 720p and an additional true slow motion 120 fps 720p. The resulting files will be slowed down in camera which might be useful, but I’d recommend leaving this switched off and slowing down the footage yourself in post.
The anti-shake or Electronic Image Stabilisation setting is disabled by default. I’d recommend turning this on for any sort of action footage in decent light. But unfortunately it does narrow your field of view from wide to medium without any warning.
By default the camera records using the slightly less efficient H264. But you can change this to the more modern H265 with its smaller file sizes. I’ll show the difference in quality shortly.
As you can see the field of view or lens angle was set to medium after turning EIS on. Again slightly confusingly and without warning if you change this to Wide, EIS will be turned off. Even if you lower the resolution to for example 1080p it switches to medium field of view.
Turning on Boot Recording automatically starts a recording when you turn the camera on. But unlike this setting on GoPros, stopping recording doesn’t automatically turn the camera off.
As well as exposure compensation, you can also set ISO and white balance manually.
Under WiFi SSID you can change your WiFi settings, and Default settings resets everything back to its default which is always handy but unfortunately it’s actually a full factory reset so you’ll need to set the language, time and date all over again.
You can manually flip the screen if you’re using the camera upside down, but there’s not the automatic orientation sensor GoPros have.
There’s an accompanying app that works pretty well and makes it easier to change settings and frame your shot. The Yutu Pro app is available on iOS and Android but Apeman are developing their own app. I was able to try the beta version of the app on Android which is similar to the Yutu Pro app but a little slicker.
It’s straightforward to connect to the app. Press the up button to turn on WiFi which also displays the name and password for the network. Then connect your phone to this WiFi network and open the app.
Frustratingly there are quite a few options that can’t be configured in the app, like EIS and rotation for example, but apart from that it works quite well with an acceptable amount of latency. And you can playback media or copy it across to your device.
One unexpected feature is if you connect it to a PC, it will work as a webcam, a handy bonus in the current lockdown with webcams very hard to get hold of and Zoom calls the order of the day. To change to webcam mode from data transfer mode you just press the select or record button with the camera on and connected with the microUSB cable.
When it works and you have decent light, it’s a capable webcam supporting resolutions up to 4K 30 fps, but it crashed quite regularly on my system with the camera completely locking up. I had to hold the power button for 10 seconds to force it to turn off. It doesn’t record audio via the webcam so you will need to find another option for that.
Image quality and performance
Even the more expensive action cameras suffer in low light and I’ll say straightaway the more light you have, the better this camera will perform. The Panasonic sensor and Hisilicon chip yield some pretty good results with decent light, but in the often murky weather we get here in the UK video quality can look quite noisy especially viewed on a larger monitor.
The electronic image stabilisation is also more effective in brighter conditions but worked better than I was expecting. It’s better than the GoPro Hero 5 which has very basic EIS. But as you’d imagine it’s nowhere near the impressive image stabilisation of the latest GoPro Hero 8.
For mountain biking I had the GoPro Hero 5 and Apeman A100 on a chest mount. It was a pretty miserable day, very overcast and raining. Shooting in 4K, 50 fps with EIS on, the camera didn’t do too badly. The stabilisation works pretty well but the video is quite soft. The more effective stabilisation does make it look better than the GoPro Hero 5 though.
Running is often one of the harder tests for an action camera and the results were variable. I tried lowering the resolution to 2.7K with a slightly lower frame rate of 30 fps to try and let more light in and to match the GoPro Hero 5 which doesn’t support EIS at higher resolutions. Along a wooded trail, the EIS introduces a lot of wobble with the resulting video from the Apeman and the GoPro looks better even if it’s a bit jerky.
I tested the mics on this trail too. In the waterproof housing the mic is pretty much unusable. Here I’m using it in the included frame mounted to a GoPro grip. The frame has a cutout for the microphone. You can hear the microphone tests in the video.
It’s usable but the GoPro sounds better. For the best results I’d always recommend recording audio separately, and just using the built-in mic to sync up audio in post. I did test it with an external mic via a microUSB to 3.5mm adapter but that didn’t work.
With the camera set at 4k 50 fps, its highest quality setting, I tested running with EIS on and off. I preferred the results with EIS on. But I actually got the best results on this run setting the camera to 1080p 60 fps with EIS on. The results in this mode are very acceptable.
Just walking with the camera in relatively bright conditions the video quality looked good, even under closer scrutiny. In these brighter conditions it even compared favourably to the GoPro Hero 8. Automatic white balance did a good job and the colours looked accurate.
In these tests the camera was in its waterproof housing. When using the camera in its housing, it did start to mist up around the lens of the housing, but not enough to affect the image.
I tried recording in the default H264 mode and the H265 mode with its resulting smaller file sizes. Unless you’re restricted for space, I’d stick with H264. There’s not a huge difference in quality, but I still found the larger H264 files a little crisper.
As a final video test, I recorded a clip in the evening with just street lighting. This was too much for the Apeman. The GoPro 5 fared a little better and the iPhone 11 was the clear winner.
The camera takes photos up to 20MP resolution and the results aren’t bad. There’s even a RAW photo mode in the DNG format. It’s nice to have a RAW file to play with non-destructively but there wasn’t much difference in quality.
Battery life is quoted at 60 minutes in 4K and 120 minutes at 1080P which I found about right. This is comparable to my GoPro cameras but at least the Apeman comes with a spare battery. You have to charge the batteries in the camera – there’s no external charger and you can’t use a GoPro USB charger. Charging the 1350mAh batteries takes up to 3 hours charging at around 0.5A.
Apart from using it as a webcam I didn’t have many issues with the camera. The WiFi app did occasionally lose connection, and it did get quite hot testing the dashcam mode for a couple of hours running off external power. But apart from that it was reliable and easy to use.
The 5cm IPS screen is quite usable even in brighter conditions, but it’s not touch screen which would be handy for changing settings. With the waterproof housing, you need a very firm press on the buttons to activate them. It’s easy to think you’ve started recording when you haven’t and vice versa.
I didn’t test the waterproof housing in the sea, but it survived 30 minutes under water. I also got caught out without the waterproof housing in some fairly wet conditions, and it survived but there’s no attempt at sealing so I wouldn’t deliberately take that risk.
I didn’t test all the supplied accessories but whilst they’re not built as well as original GoPro accessories, they look like they will do the job.
The Apeman A100 can deliver good image quality in the right conditions and the electronic image stabilisation can also be effective – again in the right conditions. It comes with a generous range of accessories with the inclusion of two batteries being the most useful.
The WiFi app works pretty well, and I found it less of a faff connecting to it than with GoPro’s offering.
I would like to start seeing these cheaper action cameras being waterproof without any housing like GoPro have been doing for over 3 years now. But it’s not too inconvenient using the waterproof housing, and it does make the camera more robust overall.
The IPS screen is more than acceptable and generally bright enough outdoors, but I would have liked a touch screen at this price and I did find the menu system a little slow and clumsy to use.
The main reason for paying a little more for this camera is the 4K 50 fps mode, and for action sports lower frame rates don’t look great. So if you’re after a true 4K action camera for less than £100 or $100 this is definitely an option and can deliver very good results, especially in brighter conditions.
But if you’re happy to shoot at lower resolutions there are many even cheaper options available, including a few in Apeman’s own range and even the Akaso EK7000 I reviewed last year. And there’s always the option of picking up a second hand GoPro if you can find a good deal.
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