by Rick K. and "Burn" for webBikeWorld.com
The AEE HD50 is kind of a hybrid hand-held action camera that definitely isn't made for motorcycle use.
This was a surprise, as we took a complete chance on buying this brand-new video camera sight unseen.
It also has a color live view and a speaker, both of which are very handy.
It isn't specifically designed for motorcycling, and its form factor means mounting is an issue. It's also not water resistant at all. And the date/time stamp can't be turned off, unfortunately.
But video quality is important and the AEE HD50 has almost no lens flare and takes perfectly exposed video with no rolling shutter effect.
AEE makes a variety of very small video cameras and the HD50 is so new that ordering one from our Singapore agent, who procured the camera through China was a real adventure.
We ordered it completely sight unseen and took the chance only because the AEE MD80 (review) was fairly impressive for what it is, so we had faith in the company.
But the price was fairly reasonable; it's the most expensive of this group at $240.00 USD.
However, as always, it's all relative. That's less expensive than the GoPro Hero HD (review) at $300.00 list or the Drift HD 170 (review) at $330.00 list (and the only other camera so far with a live view).
The AEE HD50 arrived safely within a few days, and it was fairly easy to figure out while we waited for an English language owner's manual to be sent in .pdf format.
The camera takes 720p video at 30FPS (Frames Per Second). It will also take WVGA video at 848x480 at 60FPS or QVGA 320x240 at 30FPS video by choosing it in the menu system.
It will also take 5MP photos and it can also record audio files only if you wish. The video file size is 1GB only, after that, the file is split and another file is started.
[UPDATE (March 24, 2011): AEE just released the PD50, a full HD version of the HD50. It takes 1080p (1920x1080) HD video and it includes an 8GB Transcend Micro SD card and the same type of remote control as the HD50. The list price is $399.99.]
It has an internal Lithium-Ion rechargeable battery that is claimed to last for about 5 hours of recording. It has an automatic standby mode and a color menu system on the LCD screen.
The menu choices are good but somewhat limited.
It's curious that the AEE HD50 also saves files in H.264 .MOV format, but we had no problem playing these or editing them in Adobe Premiere Elements 8.0 or 9.0, unlike the same type of files created by the Tachyon XC HD (review).
It just goes to show that sometimes a standard isn't a standard. Unlike Tachyon, AEE says the files can be uploaded or edited on a Windows PC without problems and we found this to be true.
The AEE HD50 has a unique form factor that looks sort of like a smartphone.
The case is non-water-resistance and it weighs a light 84 grams (3 oz.). It measures approximately 50 mm wide by 20 mm thick by 80 mm long.
The AEE HD50 body has a built-in metal tripod mount, but unfortunately it's only a few threads deep, which makes it a problem to hold the camera on the tripod mounting system.
AEE lists several different mounting options that appear to be suited to motorcycle use, but we were not able to procure them through our retail source. Apparently the camera is so new, the mounts aren't in production yet.
It comes with a clip-style holder with an alligator clip on the back, but the holder can scratch the top of the camera due to the tight fit. A fleece storage bag is also provided.
The HD50 also comes with a Transcend brand MicroSD card of 4GB.
The camera also comes with an electric outlet charger (North American style when shipped here) and it can also be charged via the USB port.
A remote control is provided and it has a replaceable battery, although we haven't unscrewed the case to see what type. But experience had indicated that the batteries in a remote controls last a long time.
Once the camera is switched on, the center button on the remote will take photos, while the red and gray buttons start and stop the video recording.
The camera also comes with a wrist lanyard.
The AEE HD50 is similar to the AEE MD80 (review) in its operation and layout.
On the left side is a power switch on/off slider; an AV out port; the USB port and an HDMI port.
On the right is the record on/off button; the on/off slider for VOX activation; a recessed reset hole for just-in-case and the MicroSD card slot.
Turn the camera on and the red LED light comes on, the menu activates and the live view screen comes on. The HD50 has an overly-sensitive keypad on the back that can be locked out if desired. Once the camera is on, simply press the record button and the video starts recording. Press it again to stop.
Press the center button on the keypad to take a photo. The keypad has an "M" button to activate the menu; a "back" button to return to the last screen, and forward, reverse and up and down arrows to make menu selections.
The menu is similar to the type used in a digital camera. There are settings for video, still photos and "tools".
The keypad is touch sensitive and you have to be careful because it can easily be activated as you handle the camera.
It can be temporarily locked out by pressing and holding the center button for 5 seconds, then activated again by pressing it again for another 5 seconds. This locks the keypad.
The camera goes into standby in 30 seconds and this can be changed to 1 minute or 5 minutes if desired, or turned off completely.
The live view screen is small at about 25 mm across by 20 mm tall, but it is in color and gives an accurate representation of what the lens is seeing and what will be recorded.
The camera also has a loud beep to confirm menu choices and this can be turned off also, although not all the beeps seem to disappear when "off" is chosen.
The menu screen also includes battery status and memory status indicators.
The HD50 is the polar opposite of the Tachyon XC HD (review), the only other HD video camera in this comparison.
The Tachyon XC HD takes decent video in the studio or in smooth lighting, but the quality of the video from the AEE HD50 isn't as good under those controlled conditions.
The HD50 does a very good job in bright sunlight though, where the Tachyon XC HD let us down. You can see the example of this in the video on the Introduction page to this comparison review.
The AEE HD50 also is surprisingly immune to lens flare and the "rolling shutter effect" that plagues most motorcycle video cameras.
The pros for the AEE HD50 include its comparatively low price for an HD camera when compared to some of the other HD motorcycle video cameras we've reviewed.
It also has a live view and excellent quality video. The menu system is relatively easy to use and it has the included Micro SD memory card (and internally rechargeable batteries).
The cons include the unusual case format and lack of motorcycle mounts from the factory (they're supposedly in production).
The lens can not be rotated on this camera and video recording is limited to 1GB file size before it is automatically split (which isn't really that much of a problem because it makes uploading and editing easier).
The AEE HD50 takes excellent quality video and it's a bit quirky and probably not as well suited to motorcycle use as the others, although we may have more on that if we can find someplace to purchase the optional mounts.
But it takes the best quality video of any of the cameras in this comparison by a good margin and it's really the only video camera here that's just as useful off the bike, due to its small form factor and live view.
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