The latest GoPro HERO6 Black is a serious investment, so the chance to record video in 4K quality for just £100/$ 100 is tempting. Add water resistance to 10m and it's seriously so. Can this low-budget water baby compete in the big leagues?
- 4K video capture at 25fps
- Waterproof down to 10m
- 16MP still images
No bigger than a GoPro, the Barracuda from German brand GoXtreme can be used up to 10m underwater without any housing, has a 170º field of view, and has a 2-inch touchscreen. That's not all. In fact, the first thing you think when unboxing the Barracuda is that it has no clue what it wants to be. There's a bike mount, a helmet mount, a tripod adaptor, various mount buckles, a frame mount, USB cables and a hard case amid an orgy of cheap-looking wrapped plastic items that are begging to get lost (or, more likely, never used). However baffling it might seem at first, full marks to GoXtreme for including everything any action cam user could ever think of needing instead of charging extra for everything.
Measuring 65 x 46 x 28mm and weighing 97g on its own, the Barracuda's headline act is that it can film video as .MOV files in 4K at 25 frames per second (fps). However, it can also capture in 2.7K (2704 x 1524 pixels) at 30fps, Full HD (1920 x 1080 pixels) at 60fps or 30fps, and HD (1280 x 720 pixels) at 30 fps, 60fps or 120fps. The default resolution for still JPEG images is 16MP, though it's possible to go right down to three megapixels, or up to 20MP. The latter is a resolution-boosting interpolation technique that makes little difference; in reality, 16MP is the top resolution.
Although it's possible to watch a live feed through the free iSmart DV app when the Barracuda is broadcasting its own WiFi network, it doesn't work if the camera is in 4K mode. However, the short battery life is more problematic; in our tests the Barracuda never got beyond an hour.
- Useful standard tripod screw
- micro USB slot for recharging
- Weighs 97g
As well as being packed-up in tough transparent plastic packaging, the Barracuda's instructions are riddled with spelling errors, which is never a good sign. However, the product itself is well designed, with a really useful standard tripod screw on the undercarriage. A flap on the side hides a small 1,050 mAh lithium battery alongside a micro USB slot for recharging, a micro SD card slot, and a HDMI output for connecting it to a TV. That last inclusion is rather unexpected on such a budget action camera.
- Reasonably detailed, and clean JPEGs
- Poor quality start-stop button
- 4K footage choppy and hard to watch
Easily the highlight of the Barracuda is its wide-angle 16MP still images. If you keep the Barracuda still and take photos outside in relatively bright conditions, the Barracuda produces some excellent results; colourful, well saturated, reasonably detailed, and clean JPEGs. That's not the case indoors or in less than bright conditions, where the Barracuda really struggles to take photos with any kind of clarity, or without picture noise.
As with most action cameras, the only problem with taking still photographs with the Barracuda is that its poor quality start-stop button causes the entire unit to judder when it's pressed. Consequently, it's all too easy to take a very blurry photograph. So it's at its best when it's on a tripod and controlled via a smartphone, which is hardly ideal for impromptu photography. However, that is exactly what you always need to do to film a time-lapse, of course, which the Barracuda produces effectively. Options go from one photo every minute to one every 0.5 seconds over between five minutes and an hour. The results are reasonably impressive.
Action cameras need to have at least 60fps to give smooth, watchable results, and for 4K, the Barracuda is seriously underpowered. If you film fast-moving action or use panning, the 4K 25fps video it produces is choppy and hard to watch. Its Full HD mode is smoother, though even the Full HD at 60fps isn't as smooth as predicted. At resolutions below that a lack of detail becomes more of an issue, though if the results are going to be watched primarily on small screens, the 720p HD at 120fps is by far the most watchable setting.
Transferring files between the Barracuda and a phone is a cinch. A long press of the shutter switches-on WiFi, and within seconds the free iSmart DV app will be showing a live view of what the Barracuda could see. Operating it remotely is possible, as is changing most settings, though the app does tend to hang slightly while saving new settings. It is however, a rather basic app, good for transferring files to a smartphone, but not good for much else at all (there's no live streaming, filters, editing or sharing).
Not helping much with video quality is the microphone, which during our test failed to pick-up much at all of a beautiful performance by a singer in an acoustical chamber (the same recording on an iPhone was so much clearer), while outdoors it mainly picked-up wind. In that regard it's nowhere near as good as a smartphone. Meanwhile, the user interface is reasonably easy to navigate, though it does require constant switching between photo and video modes, and far too many button presses to complete simple actions such as changing the resolution.
For all its focus on 4K video, unless you put the Barracuda on a tripod it produces by far its best results in basic HD quality, though its best feature is its colourful, detailed and clean 16MP still images. Its fiddly user interface requires long-winded switching between photo and video modes, while the app is little more than a conduit between the Barracuda and a phone's own camera roll. Overall the Barracuda comes across not as a bargain action cam, but as a below-par effort that's priced about right considering its shortcomings. However, if you're after an all-in-one option that ships with all the accessories you're ever likely to need – and you're happy with either HD for action sequences and/or 4K shot only from a tripod – the easy to use, and conveniently small-sized, Barracuda could nevertheless be a decent option.