Today, we’ll be taking a close look at the MGCOOL Explorer 3, which happens to be MGCOOL first true 4K camera released.

Looking at the specs sheet and the features that it offers, it really looks like it’s too good to be true. But is it actually the case, let’s find out!

Contents of Review:

Specs

Specs Explorer 3
Image Sensor 14MP Panasonic Sensor 34112
Chipset iCatch V50
Video Resolution 4K 30fps
1080p 60fps
720p 120fps
Max Picture Resolution 14MP
Video Encoding H.264+ (H265)
H.264
Screen 2.0" TFT Touch Screen
Storage Up To 64GB Micro-SD Card
Accessories Camera
Waterproof Case
USB Cable
User Manual
Flat & Curved Mounts
Battery 1100 mAh Li-ion battery
About 75 mins in 4K@30fps
About 120 mins in 1080P@60fps
Field Of View Wide Angle 170˚
Stabilization Up to 4K
Raw Photo
Best Buy:

What It Comes With

mgcool explorer 3 accessories waterproof case user manual flat mount curved mount spanner portable case

The Explorer 3 comes with a basic set of accessories, which is everything you’ll need for a general use, with the exception of the bicycle handlebar mount which is not provided.

Also, like almost cams, it doesn’t come with a memory card so if you don’t already have one, check out my top memory card recommendations here!

Body

Upon first looks, it certainly feels well-built with its rubbery body. The battery cover is well made, buttons feel solid and responsive and everything feels really compact and nice.

explorer 3 mijia 4k and explorer k side by side
The shape is pretty much the same as other action cameras.

However, the camera’s 2 side by side buttons makes the Explorer 3 immediately stand out from the rest.explorer 3 body shot 2 buttons

The button with the red circle is used mainly to change modes and scroll whereas the blue circle acts as a select & power button.

On the side, there is the standard stuff, a Micro-SD memory card slot (supports up to 64GB), a mini-USB for charging (can also be used with an external microphone) and a mini-HDMI port for TV display.

The design of the Explorer 3 is really nice except that because of the lens curvature, hence the wide field of view, (especially in photos) your finger can easily get in the way of the footage.

explorer 3 photo sample with finger in shot
Finger getting in the way of the shot

Interface

explorer 3 4 modes video playback photo and settings
Modes Using Touchscreen

 

explorer 3 4 modes video playback photo and settings
Modes Using Button

The Explorer 3 is divided into 4 modes, video, photo, settings and playback, which you can navigate around either by pressing the right button or by tapping right arrow on the touchscreen.

I found the interface to be almost identical to the one used in T5 edge which you can see above. Not sure if one company copied the other or maybe it’s a general firmware.

Anyways, the settings are very neatly organised into these 4 modes, photos, videos, effect and general.

For simplicity and not to bore you, I’ll just highlight the important few you’ll have to take note.

Video Settings:

Image Stabilization – Works on all video modes except for 720p 120fps

Fast Motion Movie – Similar to ‘time-lapse’ effect except it measures in speed instead of a time interval

Effect Settings

White Balance– Different from scene mode as this is for temperature correction; Auto, Daylight, Shade, Tungsten Light, White Fluorescent

Scene Mode – Shoots in the preset exposure and shutter speed for a particular use.

Video Scenes: Manual, Water, Riding, Winter, Diving, Night;

Photo Scenes: Manual, Portrait, Landscape, Outdoors, Night

Control Settings

RF(Radio Frequency): Not sure what it’s for but it has something to do with remote control

Unique Features

Wind Noise Reduction

explorer 3 wind noise reduction dual channel stereo audio recording

Because the camera is equipped with 2 microphones, it allows for wind noise reduction to work.

How It Works:

It works by having a 2nd microphone and using information from it, the camera is possible to distinguish sounds from different directions, thereby being able to detect and hence remove the wind noise.

This feature is especially useful in almost all outdoor situations so that what you want to be heard will be heard and wind noises and ambient sounds will be kept to a minimum.

Listen for yourself in the samples section below.

I find the wind noise reduction indeed helps remove some of the wind noise but it’s not that great as I was expecting it to.

All in all, it’s definitely not a gimmick and a nice and well-needed addition to the Explorer 3.

H264+(H265)  Video Codec

h265 h264+ capability in explorer 3

This is a relatively new technology when it comes to action cameras.

H264+ which is what MGCOOL call this is just another name for H265/HEVC/Hvc1, a type of video codec method, which has a higher compression ratio than traditional H264 video so each video will take up less space without compromising quality so you can film more and worry less.

The only thing I can think that’s ‘bad’ about H265 video encoding is that it has a lesser compatibility with computer technology as it’s still a relatively new technology. I had to update my Mac to the latest software update (Sierra V10.12.6) which was only released on Dec 2017 in order to be able to view and process H265 videos.

Take a look at this quick comparison of the file size of similar clips with a different encoding method.

H265 Vs H264 In Explorer 3

50% savings for h264+ explorer 3 h265
Almost 50% Savings Using H264+

So here you can see for yourself that it saves about 50%, which in other words, mean you can film 2x more videos using H264+ (H265) than in H264.

This encoding method will quite useful especially during long trips but you’ve to be sure that your computer can read it before using it.

Smartphone App (Explorer 3 IOS/Android)

explorer 3 review smartphone app icon

To connect, you can either tap on the up arrow on the screen or go to the general settings and switch the Wi-Fi on. Afterwards, connect to the camera’s Wi-Fi on your phone and open the app.

explorer 3 smartphone app different modes and screen

The app is pretty typical in that it can remotely control, shoot videos & photos wirelessly through the phone.

explorer 3 bug
Can’t download to phone when file is greater than 10MB.

However, when downloading the footages to your phone, I’m not sure why there is an error whenever I try doing that but I’ve contacted the support team about it already. (Will update once I get any info)

explorer 3 smartphone app settings
Settings are neatly organised and exactly the same as the one on camera.

Other than that, you can also customise any of the settings that you see on the camera with the app.

All in all, in terms of user-friendliness and reliability, I’d say that it’s decent but it does not stand out in any regard.

Image Quality

Let’s take a look at the main reason you’re buying this for: to take photos and videos of your precious moments. So how does it fare?

Picture Samples

The Explorer 3 take 14MP (4320 x 3240) photos but it still does not have that much clarity and sharpness to the image, which kinds of look like its interpolated.

Here you can see that Mijia 4K despite having a smaller sensor (8MP), still has more detail and sharpness than the Explorer 3’s larger image sensor (14MP).

As for colour, it’s also not very vibrant and saturated so if you’re using this camera primarily for photos, this might not be the best for you.

Video Samples (Stabilization Test, Wind Noise Reduction, Comparison with Explorer K & Mijia 4K)

Let’s now take a look at some video footages.

There are 3 modes you can shoot in 4K 30fps, 1080p 60fps and 720p 120fps.

I find the only 4K 30fps is clear and detailed enough and anything below it lacks the sharpness and clarity on a normal display, therefore, 4K should be your default shooting res.

Video Frame Grab For Explorer 3 and Explorer K
Unedited Video Frame Grab For Explorer 3 and Explorer K

For video quality, I find the Explorer 3 to be above average but not the best from this price point as Explorer K seems to be better than it, both sharpness and accuracy.

On the whole, the photo quality, in my opinion, isn’t its strength as there are other alternatives such as Explorer K or Mijia 4K that has sharper and better performance but the video quality is pretty crisp and accurate.

I’ll be doing a more in-depth comparison of these 3 cams will be out soon so stay tuned.

Comparison With The Explorer K

explorer k and explorer 3 side by side comparison

Let’s first quickly take a look at the difference between the Explorer 3 and the Explorer K.

The Explorer K definitely is one of MGCOOL Explorer 3’s major competitor because they are offering pretty much the same things (EIS in 4K, H265 Video Coding) for almost the same price.

MGCOOL Explorer 3 Vs Rexso Explorer K Specs

Specs Explorer 3 Explorer K
explorer 3 body
Image Sensor 14MP Panasonic Sensor 34112 16MP Panasonic MN34120
Chipset iCatch V50 HiSilicon HI3559
Video Resolutions 4K 30fps
1080p 60fps
720p 120fps
4K 30fps
2K 30fps
1080p 30/60fps
720p 120fps
Max Photo Resolution 14MP (4320 x 3240) 16MP - 4608 x 3456 (4:3)
Video Format H.264+ (H265)
H.264
H.264+ (H265)
H.264
Stabilization Up to 4K Up to 4K
Screen 2.0" TFT Touch-Screen 2" LCD Screen
Storage Up To 64GB Micro-SD Card Up To 128 GB Micro-SD Card
Accessories Camera
Waterproof Case
USB Cable
User Manual
Flat & Curved Mounts
1 x Waterproof case
1 x Bicycle Bracket
1 x Back clip
1 x fixed base
1 x clip
1 X Switch Support 1
1 X Switch Support 2
1 X Switch Support 3
1 x J-shaped Mount
1 X commutator
2 X Helmet pedestal
2 x bandage
4 x ribbon 2 x 3M Adhesive Tape
1 x wire cable
1 x USB Cable
1 x Cleaning Cloth
1 x User manual
Raw Photo Capability
Best/Cheapest Place To Buy

I think after reviewing these 2 cameras, I’ll feel the main difference between these 2 is user-friendliness vs image quality.

While the Explorer 3 has a better overall interface with the touchscreen and neat categorisation, the Explorer K has better photo and video quality so it really depends on what you are prioritising.

Verdict: Good All-Round Budget EIS 4K Action Cam

The Explorer 3 definitely earns a spot in the top action cameras below $100 as it has really good image stabilization which works at 4K and the wind noise reduction feature even make it better.

Furthermore, it also has a responsive touchscreen interface to easily navigate around in and has a standard tripod thread which makes mounting to tripod, monopod or generally very convenient.

As far as image quality goes, I felt the Explorer 3 isn’t the best for someone using this to take photos, primarily but on the other hand, video quality at 4K is pretty sharp and good.

Should You Buy It?

If you are fine with a lack of wind noise reduction, stabilization at 4K & any accessories, I’d actually recommend the Mijia 4K over the Explorer 3 because the Mijia 4K feels more well-built, stable & user-friendly overall.

But having said that, you won’t go wrong with the MGCOOL Explorer 3 and if you feel like it has everything you need, go ahead.


That’s all for my review of the MGCOOL Explorer 3.

If you’ve any questions regarding the Explorer 3, want any samples or updated discount codes (any action camera is fine), feel free to leave a comment down below and I’ll be sure to reply to it as soon as I can!

Till next time, thanks for dropping by and have a great one! 🙂

MGCOOL Explorer 3

88.99
MGCOOL Explorer 3
8.8

Video/Image Quality

8.5 /10

Build Quality

9.5 /10

User Experience

8.5 /10

Bang For Your Money

9.0 /10

Audio Quality

9.0 /10

Smartphone App

8.5 /10

Pros

  • Comes with useful accessories Nice dual mic for wind noise reduction
  • Good build quality
  • Super quick switch on speed (about 1s)
  • Responsive touchscreen
  • Convenient tripod thread at bottom
  • Amazing 4k image stabilization

Cons

  • Few Video Resolutions Options
  • No Distortion Correction Option
  • Touchscreen Can’t Be Used With Waterproof Case
  • Bugs In App (Can't download footages)
  • Below Average 1080P Footage
  • Not Very Sharp Photos
  • No Raw Photo Option
  • Shape Of Lens Of Body Made It Easy For Finger To Get In Way Of Footage
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14 Comments

  1. Thanks for this extremely helpful review! I’m going to consider the Explorer 3 because of the image stabilization and noise reduction features. Do you think it would be a good choice for a hiking expedition?

    1. Hi, it’s no doubt going to be a great camera for hiking and many outdoors sport!

  2. At past there was only GoPro. Well, ok. Not only GoPro but the fat of the land in the action cam industry was GoPro, which still holds its place, and it’s great to see some other action cams is pretty vision broadening.

    I’ve heard about MGCOOL Explorer 3 but have never explored it deeply. Finger getting into the way is a general issue with action cams, at least I have this problem, but else of that it looks pretty cool and the specs are good. I might consider buying one. Thank you for the review!

    1. Glad you found it helpful! 🙂

  3. Thank you for the detailed review on Mgcool explorer 3.
    I am looking for an action camera for several activities – snowboarding, hiking and cycling. Which action camera would you suggest? Not only video quality but also image quality is important for me so I guess I need some other camera as you mentioned the image quality is not so good for explorer 3.

    1. I would recommend the Yi Lite or MiJia 4K if you’re looking for image quality actually, though it comes with a higher price of about $100.

  4. before even reading your post I was intrigued by the name of the device and ultimately it is what made me click on the link!

    The MGCool Explorer definitely seems like a great affordable action camera on paper but I am definitely left think about the resolution.

    I have had a cheap Chinese action camera and I have even done a review on my channel. The camera I had claimed to be full hd but I came to realize that they were increasing the pixel size of 720p to 1080p with software in order to give sudo Full HD.

    Is that the case with MGcool or is it true HD & 4k?

    1. Hi Salvatore, thanks for leaving a comment! What you said about interpolation and claiming fake resolution is really prevalent and I have even dedicated an entire article for it here: ‘Real’ Resolution In Action Cameras.

      Regarding your qn,  MGCOOL Explorer 3, it shoots in true 4K and therefore you don’t have to worry about stretched video.

  5. are there spare batteries available for this camera

    1. sorry not that I know of

  6. Does anyone know if MGCOOL ever publish firmware for any of their action cameras?

    Many Explorer 3 faults could be fixed or improved atleast with firmware update.

    1. I’ve received news that they’re discontinuing this product but I’m can’t confirm it yet.

  7. Bonjour,
    Je viens de me faire livrer début mai une caméra sport MGCOOL Explorer 3 avec laquelle je rencontre un problème,
    En insérant la micro carte SD fournie avec, 64Giga U3, j’obtient un message “espace disque faible”, et quand j’affiche
    l’info carte il m’indique = capacité 0 MB – Espace libre 0 MB
    J’ai fait un formatage carte depuis la camera mais cela reste pareil et puis aussi une remise à zéro usine et toujours pareil.
    j’ai essayé avec une autre carte et encore pareil.
    J’ai également formaté la carte avec un pc mais cela ne change rien
    Un ami à la même caméra et mes 2 cartes SD sont reconnu dans sa caméra avec une capacité de 60890 MB.
    J’ai contacté le vendeur chinois et le support mgcool resté sans réponse au 12 juin
    Pas cool tout ça…..

  8. Hello, I have been delivered the beginning of May a camera sport MGCOOL to Explore 3 with whom I meet a problem, by inserting the microcomputing card SD supplied with, 64Giga U3, me obtains a message “low disk space”, and when I show the information card he indicates me = capacity 0 MB – free Space 0 MB I made a formatting card since will be on drugs her but it remains similar and then also a reset manufactures and always similar. I tried with another card and still similar.
    I also formated the card with a pc but it changes nothing A friend the same camera and my 2 card SD is recognized in his camera with a capacity of 60890 MB.
    I contacted the Chinese seller and the support mgcool stayed without answer on June 12th. 18
    Steps cool all this … ..

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