Swann Freestyle HD video camera
This low-budget sports video camera comes with a swathe of accessories
- Low street price
- Smart modular design
- Good quality video & options
- Dark auto-exposure at night
- Poor low-light capability
- Confusing button-and-switch layout
The Swann Freestyle HD is an action video camera that's very similar to the GoPro and Contour ranges -- it's small, has a wide-angle lens, and can take photos and record high-quality 1080p and 720p video. It's got a clever removable LCD screen, comes with a high quality waterproof case and remote control, and can be mounted on several different surfaces. It can be found for a bargain price on the 'net, too.
Price$ 299.95 (AUD)
Best Deals (Selling at 1 store)
- Video Door Phone 299.95
GoPro and Contour have an established history in ‘action’ video cameras — small, durable video recorders with basic controls and wide-angle lenses. Swann is not a name you’d associate with these products — they’re a security camera company — but the Freestyle HD is nevertheless a genuine competitor when it comes to recording decent quality video in a miniature package.
Swann Freestyle HD: Design, accessories and features
When you compare it to the swathe of GoPro and Contour video cameras available, the Freestyle HD isn’t especially good looking. It’s a squat rectangular box that mimics the GoPro HD Hero, with a central lens, a smattering of buttons and switches on top, and a tripod screw socket on the bottom.
Just above the lens, there are two LEDs — one shows when the camera is recording, and the other shines a laser that shows you the centre of the camera’s field of view. This can be enabled or disabled in the camera’s menu system.
The top panel of the camera is logically and sensibly laid out. There’s a switch to toggle power, a very small liquid crystal display that has indicators for power, battery, storage, and recording or snapshot mode, separate buttons for video and photo recording, and an interesting ‘vox’ switch — this enables sound-activated video recording, which starts the camera and begins capturing video if it detects a loud noise (above 65dB).
The rear of the camera is, at first glance, uninteresting — it’s where the battery compartment is. There’s a small data port on the rear left of the camera, though, which can clip in the Freestyle HD’s bundled 1.5in LCD screen. The LCD screen attachment, which is a reasonably high-resolution but very small screen, also includes some navigational buttons — usefully, since it’s also got a menu button to let you change some of the Freestyle HD’s more advanced settings. The buttons aren’t very responsive to input — we had to hit a couple of them twice to get through menus — but they do work with a little effort.
The accessories that come with the Freestyle HD put any Contour or GoPro to shame. The 20m-rated waterproof case is free, the remote control is free, the LCD screen is free, and inside the packaging you’ll also find a carry pouch, three different mounts, extra adhesive pads for mounting, a permanent clip-in, clip-out mounting bracket, a wrist strap, as well as power and USB cables.
Swann Freestyle HD: Video quality, audio quality and performance
The Freestyle HD can record in a variety of resolutions and quality settings, with a few extra features that can be toggled. Video can be captured at 1080p at 30 frames per second, 720p at 60fps, 720p at 30fps, and WVGA (848x480p) at 30fps. Two quality settings are available for each video capture resolution and frame rate — 12Mbps or 6Mbps for 1080p, and 8Mbps or 4Mbps for the other modes.
You can enable the alignment laser in the menu system, as well as an audio-only recording option. Beyond that, there’s a separate menu for the photo-capturing Snapshot mode, with options to select single or triple photo, continuous capture every 2, 3, 5, 10, 20, 30 or 60 seconds, a self-timer option (which works with continuous capture as well), and resolution options of 3, 5, or 8 megapixels.
The Freestyle HD’s lens captures a 135-degree field of view in the full-quality 1080p mode, and an even wider 170-degree FOV in 720p mode (including 60fps) and for photo captures. In practice, even the 135-degree FOV was more than enough in our testing, with minimal distortion around the centre of the video. Distortion at the edges and corners of video is more evident in 720p mode, but it is still bearable and generally well-controlled.
Here are some samples of 1080p, 720p, and WVGA video from the Swann Freestyle HD:
Here are some photos taken at 3, 5, and 8 megapixels:
Click here for a full-size image.]]
Click here for a full-size image.]]
Click here for a full-size image.]]
We think the Freestyle HD has comparable video quality to the GoPros and Contours that it’s competing with at 1080p 12Mbps, and the lower quality modes do a good job of cutting down on file sizes and extending recording times. The Freestyle HD shows good quality in bright day-light and moderate light settings, although it does tend to slightly under-expose video and there’s no option to make adjustments. It is not great at night-time, with noisy video that lacks detail and the same propensity to underexpose.
What we dislike most is the quality of the internal microphone. Whenever there was a sound that was anything above moderate volume levels — going over a pothole, or turning the music up even slightly on our test drives — the Freestyle HD’s microphone distorted and introduced annoying popping noises. There’s also no way to change the gain of the microphone, and no way to turn it off during recordings. To solve this problem, we’d probably just cover the microphone port of the Freestyle HD with sticky tape to muffle it and prevent the pops from occuring.
Battery life is good but not great — we were able to wrangle just under three hours of battery recording 1080p 12Mbps video from a full charge. The camera charges over USB, although an AC power adapter is also included, and the camera can be charged while recording is taking place (except via computer).
The Swann Freestyle HD is generally quick to respond to button commands, although it takes around ten seconds to turn on fully. Starting and stopping recordings happens within half a second of pressing the button, and taking a photo is a quick process, although you’ll need to be aware that the photo is captured when you release the snapshot button rather than when you press it.
Swann Freestyle HD: Conclusion
The Swann Freestyle HD is a small video recorder that comes bundled with an impressive range of accessories. Its video quality modes are diverse, with the best quality (daylight, 1080p, 12Mbps) rivalling the Contour ROAM. Its microphone isn’t particularly good, and its buttons aren’t great, but it is a good price and can be found even cheaper online — we saw it in an online sale for $150 a few weeks ago.
Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!
Most Popular Reviews
- 1 Review: TCL C1 series 4K TV
- 2 Sony 75-inch UHD TV (X9400C) review: Sony and Android are a winning duo
- 3 LG 55EG960T OLED UHD TV
- 4 Panasonic Viera UHD TV review: good hardware, fragmented software
- 5 Microsoft Lumia 640 review: Honouring Nokia's legacy
Best Deals on Good Gear Guide
Latest News Articles
- Nvidia's pricey Shield Android TV adds some value with 4K YouTube and Netflix HDR in US
- Netflix's Fast.com download tester takes its war against slow ISPs directly to the user
- Nearly 100 classic NFL games headed to YouTube
- Netflix isn’t big on virtual reality for the obvious reasons
- Netflix loosens up streaming video, letting users choose their cellular speed limit
GGG Evaluation Team
First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.
- CCChange Manager- ProcurementNSW
- CCSenior Business Analyst - NV1VIC
- CCTransition Project ManagerNSW
- FTSenior Programmer (Data Engineering)NSW
- CCProject CoordinatorACT
- CCiOS Developer x 2NSW
- CCContract Analyst Programmer (MS SQL Server/C#.NET)160520/AP/vmtAsia
- CCSenior iOS DeveloperNSW
- CCService Desk analystSA
- CCData Migration Quality Manager- SAP ECCNSW
- CCSAP Hanna ConsultantNSW
- CCProject ManagerACT
- CCTIBCO Integration ConsultantVIC
- CCProject Manager/Iteration ManagerVIC
- CCContract Computer Operator (UNIX/Windows-based) 1610524/CCO/vmtAsia
- CCContract Analyst Programmer (JAVA/J2EE/SQL) 160523/AP/568Asia
- CCBusiness Analyst, ReportingNSW
- CCScrum MasterACT
- FTNV2 Defence Project Manager | Major exciting White Paper projectsACT
- FTNV2 Defence Project Manager | Canberra | Major exciting White Paper projectsNSW
- FTAgile Implementation LeadNSW
- FTDevOps SpecialistVIC
- CCDigital Content ProducerVIC
- CCechnical Specialist ApplicationsACT
- FTProduction ConsultantVIC