Swann Freestyle HD Action Cam

June 7, 2012

I love the versatility of an action cam, not that *I* do anything you see in the GoPro commercials, but action cameras give you the ability to capture footage in a way that might be hard for other cameras. As I mentioned before I’ve been looking for an action camera so that I can take shots from unique angles and view points and I had been looking at a few models: GoPro Hero and Hero2, Swann Freestyle HD and a Contour Roam.  When I compared price, features and accessories I decided to start with the Freestyle HD; for the lowest price it comes with the most accessories in the box.

The Freestyle first came to my attention after it showed up on Woot.com for sale. Even though the price looked good I wanted more info on it and wanted to see how it compared to a GoPro Hero2. After seeing some footage from Youtube I found the Freestyle on Amazon for less than it was selling on Woot so I made my purchase. (It looks like I got a great deal because it is now listing for $50 more than I paid for it).

Action Cam

Freestyle HD Box

Unassuming box. I unpackaged everything and was surprised at how many accessories came with the camera, things that would be seperate with the other two camera. Accessories can push the price of these devices up another $200-300 easily.

Swann Freestyle HD Unboxed

Swann Freestyle and all the trimmings

The inclusion of the LCD screen and multiple mounts are a BIG plus in my book.

One problem I have with the mounts, however, is that instead of making them suction mounts they are adhesive mounts, POWERFUL adhesive mount, PERMANENT, POWERFUL adhesive mounts. The manual states that once the mount is attached it bonds and attempts to remove it “may damage the mount and the surface to which it is attached.” Needless to say it is not getting mounted in or around my car. Wisely Swann has included a standard tripod 1/4 screw mount on the unit which attaches nicely to my Satechi SCH-22 Camera Holder & Suction Cup Mount. (Smart purchase I made months ago). That worked well for the video I shot in my car to test out the unit (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KZHxanXyNbA). Turn on annotation for more information.

The video is decent and fairly good at 720 or 1080p, at resolutions less than that it starts to suffer a bit compared to camera with a larger sensor. The camera does not handle contrast very well between a bright sky and dark shadows on the street level. While you can set resolution (1080p, 720p and 480 and 240) and bitrates (varies by resolution) there are no higher level options to set such as white balancing for different temps or color adjustments such as saturation or video detail like sharpness. All of that must be adjusted in post.

I wanted to then see how well it would work on a bicycle but that is when I realized that I was missing a critical mount and there was no way I was using permanent adhesive on my bike. Fortunately, or wisely, Swann decided to use the same type of accessory system that GoPro uses with adjustable screw points on their mounts so I was able to pick up a GoPro Handlebar/Seatpost mount kit at my local Walmart for $20. I attached it to my bike connected the camera mount to the GoPro mount, reversed it because it connected it backward, and proceeded to try out a one mile ride around my area. Beside the streets we have great rolling hills that I thought would make for a good test, however I found out two things. 1. I’ve got to work my way back into being healthy enough for a full ride around my hilly neighborhood and 2. Don’t attach the camera to the handle bars; they move around too much to capture a great video.

How about the audio from this little camera? You will notice from the first video static noise being picked up. It had been mention in the reviews on Amazon by a few people but there seemed to be nothing specific happening that would cause the noise. On the bike there was no static though you have wind noise. On my next attempt in the car I didn’t get the noise but I also didn’t make any audio adjustments, though I don’t think the two are related. I didn’t get the camera for the audio and though I know of some cases when picking up the audio will be important (spy/nanny cam) the audio you get will not be very useful without post editing.

To sum it up I think I got a great camera for the price I paid; it shoots very good video, it has the ability to do 60fps at 720, it comes with more accessories in the box than its competitors and it can do timelapse pictures. At it’s current price ($50 more than my purchase price) I might have hesitated a little longer before buying it. I would like to run the same tests with the GoPro Hero2 which appears to be the best in terms of video quality. Compared to the original Hero the Freestyle HD is a winner.

I have a friend who does autocross and I am going to try to get the camera mounted in his car so that we can get a birds eye view of some auto action. Perhaps I can get some pics for a drag racing crew as well.  There are also a few other venues I’d love to use the camera though it doesn’t get high ratings for indoor shots. There is something coming up indoors in July where I will test it out and let you know how it comes out. Stay tuned.

If you missed it here are the three videos I shot with the Swann Freestyle HD Camera:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KZHxanXyNbA – Car Part I

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p-p93gDMTTc – Bike

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uwmg28IBOmA – Car Part II

If you have any question please let us know on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/SpaceAge-Consulting-LLC/118036591668944



  1. Hello.
    Can you tell me about bitt rate in the Swann HD Cam. In my menu I can chose between 12m and 6m, but what does it mean.

  2. Hi. The bitrate indicates how much information is recorded per sec. The higher the bitrate the more detail is recorded by the camera so 12M would be better than 6M. The higher quality cameras can record from 28N to 50Nbps (which is 50000000 bits of info per sec).

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