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 + Best Buy
- Interface (Modes, Video, Effect & Video Settings)
- Unique Features (Wind Noise Reduction/H264+ Video Encoding)
- Comparison With Explorer K
- Smartphone App
- Image Quality (Photo & Video)
What It Comes With
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!
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.
However, the camera’s 2 side by side buttons makes the Explorer 3 immediately stand out from the rest.
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.
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.
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
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
Wind Noise Reduction
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
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
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.
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.
The app is pretty typical in that it can remotely control, shoot videos & photos wirelessly through the phone.
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)
Other than that, you can also customise any of the settings that you see on the camera with the app.
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?
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.
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.
Comparison With The Explorer K
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
I think after reviewing these 2 cameras, I’ll feel the main difference between these 2 is user-friendliness vs image quality.
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 388.99
Bang For Your Money9.0/10
- 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
- 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