The Replay XD HD cams are a truly unique design, with a low-profile and they're built like a tank. Made with hard-anodized aluminum cases that are water resistant without the need for an external housing for most applications, these lightweight POV action cams have the versatility and durability that even the most popular competitors can only dream of.
Replay XD1080 / XD720 HD Cameras
I first learned about the Replay XD cameras at last year's NAB Expo when my friend and colleague (and co-presenter of the POV Mini-Cam workshop) Douglas Spotted Eagle shared them with the crowd. Their form factor was amazing and so was some of the sample footage he shared, so I was intrigued. I was in contact with them for several months and they got a review kit with some of everything they make – both the XD1080 and XD720 cameras and all the accessories to try out; all in a nicely-designed foam-insert case. At first glance, touch and feel, this form factor is one to fall in love with. This is truly a sexy little production cam.
Not only is the build quality of their cameras remarkable, but the design and build of all their accessories are brilliant. And what these cameras may lack in features their competitors products, such as WiFi, menu screens and a dozen different frame rates and photo option, the Replay XD cams are made for serious production. Several racing teams and Motorsports events have chosen the Replay XD cams for their ultra-light profile and durability, mounting options and the ability to provide live streaming 1080 HD video through built-in HDMI to a video transmitter in the car or to an HD recorder.
It's no doubt that the Replay XD team is serious about their ties with Motorsports – they're drawing on years of racing experience.
Replay XD was designed by a group of racing professionals with over 50 years of experience in the high performance racing industry. The development team forever revolutionized Action Cameras, creating the smallest, lightest, ultra-rugged, and most versatile cameras. Replay XD Action Cameras endure and capture never before seen video from human and machine in the most extreme environments on Earth. We create the finest Action Cameras on the Planet. – ReplayXD.com
As of Feb, 2014 they were just selected as the Official Action Camera of the US Formula 100 Championship, and they have a long list of others listed on their website.
Replay XD1080 Camera
About the size of a mini Maglight (3.6″ length, 1″ dia), the Replay XD1080 is full-featured and rugged. Weighing only 3oz. it has a milled aluminum body and Mil-Spec hard-anodized for durability. Both the front bezel and the rear cap are threaded with double o-ring gaskets to make it weather/water resistant for the most severe conditions. *Note the image above is shown with the optional 37mm filter adapter installed.
The two external buttons on the camera body are simple access to power and recording, with a vidration feedback indicating a response to your action even in a loud environment (link at the racetrack). Blue and Red colored LEDs show you visually what mode it's in.
The back cap unscrews revealing the program setting buttons and LEDs, charge port and HDMI port and microSD card slot. The program settings are listed on the inside of the rear cap for quick reference, but once you've set it, it remains in that program until you change it again. Even powering it off and on again doesn't reset it so you can depend on repeatability time and time again.
Modes and options as listed:
- Audio: Int/Ext Mic
- Mode: 1080p, 960p, 720p
- 5MP Photo (3, 5, 15, 30 sec intervals)
- FPS: 30 (1080p/960p/720p), 60 (720p)
- Rec, Stop, Play, Skip Forward, Skip Reverse, Clip File, Live Video Out
Natural 135º FOV low-distortion f3.1 lens:
Unlike most competing POV action cams, the Replay XD1080 has a more natural FOV without the fisheye lens effect. This comparison image below is from their website:
Replay XD720 Camera
Even more compact and lighter than the XD1080, the XD720 is only 3.2″ in length and less than an inch in diameter and weighs only 2oz (about the size of a roll of quarters). This little POV cam can be mounted just about anywhere and will deliver either 30 or 60 fps and is equally as durable as the XD1080 because it's made from the same materials.
The Replay XD720 has the same power/rec button configuration as the XD1080 on the outside and also features the vibration feedback system when the buttons are activated. Under the rear cap however are only a couple of switches for simplicity sake – a frame rate (30/60fps) and internal/external mic switch. The microSD slot is in the same positiong as well.
360º Mounting Options
There are several well-engineered mounting options for the Replay XD cameras – two different sized mounts for the XD1080 and XD720, but the bases are the same for both.
Not only can you mount the Replay XD cams in various positions and angles like you might most any POV cam, but since it's cylindrical shape fits snugly inside the various mounts, it can also be rotated 360º so you be sure that you're capturing just the angle you want – or are perfectly level, even when mounted on non-level surfaces like car hood, decks and door panels.
The HelmLock Mount features a swivel/tilt base that gives spherical adjustments that locks down with a thumb knurl. This allows a great deal of adjustment so you can leave the adhesive Snap Tray VHB Bases in place and still have 360º movement. I've left two different bases attached on my FJ for 6 months now and they're still solid.
Mounting Stiffness and Unmatched Durability:
My friend and colleague, Douglas Spotted Eagle is a videographer/producer and spends a lot of time jumping out of perfectly good airplanes. He offered this side-by-side comparison test two different scenarios and stock mounts with both the GoPro and the Replay XD in the video below. Rigid build quality and lower profile of the Replay XD provides greater stability in the shot. Pretty impressive, to say the least!
And I sure wouldn't take product testing to quite this extreme, but Douglas also decided to have a little fun on a dare. “So tough you could drive a car over it!” – and that he did… with a little added kick. Watch the results in the video below:
Durability test: Replay XD1080 vs 2012 Dodge Challenger (don't try this with a GoPro!)
Continued on Next Page –>
Accessories – Pro/Hybrid Mounts, Optics, LCD Display and Portable Power:
The various mounts and accessories for the Replay XD cameras are just as cleverly designed and well manufactured as the cameras themselves. Since the cameras low profile, size and weight are minimal, then the mounts need to take advantage of that as well. There are a variety of mounts available for almost any application. The Pro Mount system (shown above with the Pro SuctionCup mount) are primarily aluminum and have various grooved connection points so nothing moves or comes loose after you've tightened them down. Beautifully manufactured as you'd expect for pro video gear.
Other accessories include a DeepDive waterproof underwater housing for the XD1080 that's good down to 197' (60 meters). I didn't have an opportunity to test this one out since the Replay XD cams are already waterproof for general outdoor conditions, but here's a video from their website that shows footage in action. You can really see the FOV of the lens on the XD1080 captures this amazing natural environment.
Replay XD also has an external lapel mic if you want to capture clear sound or get VO/interview from someone. I'm not sure how I might use this exactly, as I most likely would use a standard video camcorder for that type of shooting, but the capability is there should you so choose to utilize it.
Since there's no on-board screen or any other way to preview your camera setup other than plugging it into a monitor, Replay XD has developed a small, ultra-portable display called the ReView Field Monitor. This is a 4.3 inch HDMI monitor that you can either mount and view the action live while your recording (like inside the car with an external camera) or handhold it to plug into your cameras during setup to assure you're getting the shot you want. I found this little monitor helpful in setting up my cameras but it's not really bright if there's a lot of glare or direct sunlight in your environment. Still – it's self-powered and convenient and you can easily go from camera to camera with it quickly.
Probably my favorite accessory is the ProLens 37mm filter adapter. They're made of aluminum and screw-on in place of the stock bezel over the lens. There's one for both the XD1080 and the XD720 and it makes a big difference in trying to get good exposure on bright days or glare-filled skies. With the adapter ring, you can attach professional filters like the Tiffen Neutral Density filters or the Circular Polarizer filter. I would probably opt to have one of these for every camera – a very professional option for serious shooters.
Need more portable power and extended run-time? Replay XD has you covered!
There are two external battery options for both the XD1080 and the XD720 that will give you an additional 3-6 hours of operation.
The RePower 2200 Battery Pack is a 2200mAh rechargeable Li-ion battery that can act as a charger for your camera's built-in battery or used in tandem for extended run-time. Since it's the same approximate size and form as the XD720, so it will fit in the mounts to connect along with your Replay XD camera, wherever you're shooting from. This is especially important in live-streaming situations like during a race or if shooting time lapse over several hours.
The RePower 4400 Battery Pack is a 4400mAh rechargeable Li-ion battery that provides up to 6 hours of extended operation. It includes an LED battery level indicator and a power on/off for storage. However, it's double the size of the 2200 and has a belt clip type of fastening mechanism.
Advanced Features Settings:
I found the Replay XD cameras to be fairly straight-forward in their operation, however I desired to fine-tune some of the settings some to experiment with shooting in different environments and conditions. It wasn't until I contacted them* that I discovered a trick for “tweaking” the cameras though the .txt file on the microSD card. There are full step-by-step instructions on the Replay XD website that walk you through making the changes to the doc and copying-over the existing file on the microSD card which will reboot your camera upon the next power-up cycle. *Note that this information is in clearly listed in the FAQ section or their website as well.
So What About the Results?
While you can watch hours of fantastic videos promoted on the Replay XD website, how do the videos really look when shot with everyday environments and accessible locations, as most people may often shoot?
I've driven around some trails and roads in my Toyota FJ and recorded some shots in various locations and lighting conditions to test these cameras. I edited together a composite test video (see below) taking clips from some of these experimental shoots. While I did apply some basic color grading on the footage, no other plugins or effects were used (no lens correction or noise reduction, etc.) and all shot and edited at 29.97fps. While in my opinion had I been using the Tiffen ND filters or the Circular Polarizer on some of these outdoor shots, I might have had better exposure results. As it is, the Replay XD cams did pretty well with auto exposure control but it does get blown out quickly in the really sunny shots coming out of the shaded areas, so the dynamic range is a bit sharp and narrower than I had hoped. But the evening shots I took were quite impressive with very little noise or compression “blocking” in the dark areas. The FOV is great as well and not too distorted – giving a professional look to the footage – especially when dealing with multicam shoots, as you'll see in a few examples here.
What's Next for Replay XD?
Just as I'm releasing this review, Replay XD came out with a new 1080 Mini – which is a new larger sensor and f2.8 aperture, giving you 1080p in the same size and form as the XD720 (which I assume will eventually be replaced, I'm not sure). You can learn more about the new 1080 Mini on their website. Also watch for news around NAB 2014 in April as there may be even more surprises in store for Replay XD. If you're attending NAB, be sure to stop by their booth (C1321 – C1723) and tell them you read this article. I'll be following up after the show with updates and more tests with the new gear!
Jeff Foster is a published author of several how-to books and training videos in the motion graphics, animation and video production industries and is an award-winning video producer and artist. Visit his web site to learn more about his training methods, tips & tricks at PixelPainter.com