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Is the Olfi One.Five Camera Better Than a GoPro?

Olfi One.Five

A screen shot from the Olfi One.Five.

It’s easy to understand how I wound up with an Olfi One.Five camera: I like sticking it to The Man. I have never owned a Gibson guitar or Marshall amp — Carvin guitars and Fryette amps for me, thanks. And no “Trekalized” bikes for me, either … when I worked at a bike shop and Santa Cruz came on the scene, I yapped at the owners about the then-emerging brand until they became a dealer and that’s what I’ve preferred since. I also love laughing at MacBook sheep from behind the screen of my Linux-based laptop.

And let’s face it: GoPro is The Man when it comes to action sports cameras. It’s the one brand you know even if you don’t know anything else about action sports cameras. I’ve been using an older Hero model for years, and time has taken its toll. When I started looking for a new action sports camera, I started looking for GoPro alternatives to assuage my iconoclastic buying habits.

That led me to the $150 US Olfi One.Five. I now have enough time using the Olfi One.Five to assess whether it’s a potential GoPro killer – and whether you should by the upstart or simply stick with the man. My aim is mainly to make more and better mountain bike videos, along with fun silly stuff like sledding, skiing and other crazy stuff that crosses my mind.

Camera Test: The Olfi One.Five from Justin Schmid on Vimeo.

Olfi One.Five by the Numbers

On paper, the Olfi slaughters my old GoPro. It has 4k video, wifi controls, an LCD screen and a very solid protective enclosure; it also includes a slick carrying case. It’s also inexpensive at about $150 – you have to fork over a lot more for a GoPro with the same features. Compare all this to the 720 resolution of my old GoPro. That thing doesn’t have wifi, and the enclosure is frankly on the shitty side. It’s also about twice the heft of the Olfi.

Olfi One.Five

The Olfi One-Five, ready for action.

Here’s a dose of reality, though: 4K is nice, but I — and most other action camera users — make videos for YouTube. The Olfi wifi controls are so wonky that I quit trying to use them. The LCD screen shortens the battery life dramatically.

The Olfi One.Five produces decent video at 1080 resolution, though. That enclosure is also a beauty. It stays in one piece, so you won’t lose bits of it. The mountain parts are also compatible with GoPro accessories, which is great if you have a drawer full of them. The form factor is idiosyncratic: It’s a rectangle like GoPro, but mounted vertically instead of horizontally. I’m not sure how I feel about it, to be honest. I’d rather have the mounting parts on top of the camera so it can dangle below the mount. But that would make the controls harder to reach.

Olfi One.Five

A sharp screen grab from the Olfi One.Five. And yes, this is Arizona!

Care and Feeding of the Olfi One.Five

The Olfi One.Five also has some annoying habits. Its battery life seems to drain just sitting there: I’d charge it immediately after a ride. I’d come back a few days later, head out to the trail, turn the camera on and it would have 25 percent battery life (and yes, I checked immediately after charging to make sure it was fully charged). I also had problems with the date – I set it, and it seemed to reset to factory defaults a few weeks later. There were also incidents where I thought it was recording video – right down to the flashing red lights – and I’d go home, plug it into the computer and find absolutely nada. It failed to record, and I just don’t know why. I leave open the possibility of some sort of user error – still, I have never had a single problem with my old GoPro Hero. It simply works when called upon, end of story.

Olfi One.Five

Taking a look at the Olfi One.Five from a different angle.

Here’s another advantage for GoPro … its GoPro Studio editing software. It’s free, and does a really nice job for basic movie making. Unfortunately, it only plays nice with GoPro footage. The Olfi One.Five footage wouldn’t import. Being able to use GoPro Studio is a nice little advantage.

Where the Olfi One.Five excels is in a few little extras: The package includes a nice carrying case complete with high-density foam that features cutouts for the various pieces. The protective plastic case that protects the Olfi One.Five from on-the-job damage is also far superior to the GoPro case: It snaps shut with a reassuring sound, and it’s all one piece (I’ve lost pieces of the closing mechanism on my old GoPro).

Verdict on the Olfi One.Five

Look, I don’t hate the Olfi One.Five. But I wouldn’t buy one again. I’d find an entry-level GoPro (and no, I wouldn’t miss the LCD screen one bit – it’s entirely possible to frame a good shot without it) for about the same price and call it good. My old GoPro sets a precedent for reliability, even if diving into its options is a bit clunky because it lacks an LCD screen. But I rarely adjust that stuff anyway. The advantages of the One.Five just don’t overcome what GoPro offers, especially from ease of use and editing (which is the most-laborious part of the process for me).

I hate to say this, but sometimes The Man is The Man for a reason. And Olfi is in no danger of taking GoPro’s place.

Think your company’s action camera can beat the Olfi One.Five and the GoPro? Let’s talk!

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