4K isn’t always better – Explorer Pro vs ES Action Cam

Many of us assume that larger megapixels in camera means a better photo, but that isn’t the case. There are hundreds of variables that can be attributed to image quality, and this applies to video as well. 4K resolution might be higher than 1080P resolution, but that is simply a matter of size, not quality. The MGCool Explorer Pro is the 4K big brother to the 2.7K Explorer ES. On paper it appears to be a better camera, but that is very subjective. Let me explain.

The Pro has all the features of the ES, and adds 4K at 30FPS, a slow motion mode, motion detection recording, various field of view options, image rotation, and packs a Sony IMX179 sensor. Just like the ES it comes with a ton of accessories but also with an extra battery. The waterproof case has been refined — it is now slimmer, uses a better latch, uses larger buttons with more travel, and features a round lens surround that no longer shows itself in the footage.

I’ve tested the Pro and ES side by side to see how much of a difference there is between these cameras. Of course the Pro is able to shoot 4K but it also produced better colors and had an overall crisper picture than the ES, but that is where the benefits stop. I noticed a lot more banding in gradients like the sky and the video wasn’t as smooth as the ES. It looks as if it’s capturing in a lower frame rate than it is set too. I troubleshooted this by purchasing the fastest SDHC Micro SD card I could find, thinking it could be a write speed issue. The results were identical with either a Class 4 or Class 10/UHS-1 card.

I also tried to use the HDMI out feature with a field monitor, but it would constantly glitch. The big question is whether or not the Pro is better than the ES. And to that I say, it’s more about what matters more to you. Would you prefer a higher resolution image, with better colors and a crisper picture but with random banding and a slower frame rate. Or, would you prefer a less crisp image, with smooth frames and minor but consistent linear banding? That decision up to you. I’ve included some still captures from the video I’ve recorded with it.

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