In recent years the GoPro has reigned supreme, with other models providing competition. Now satellite navigation giant TomTom has joined the market with its Bandit action cam, which it reckons is a bit different to other cameras, and it sent me one to try.


The Camera
TomTom tells me that the Bandit is the first camera to come with a built-in media server, to eliminate the need to download footage before being able to edit it.
“We took a simple but radical approach to solving the editing problem,” says TomTom’s lead engineer Slobodan Stanisic. “With existing action cameras you first need to download gigabytes of footage to a powerful PC, a time-consuming process. Then you need to find the highlights, put together a story and format it.
“Instead, we’ve designed a camera where the footage is processed on the camera itself, making the editing process far easier and much faster.”
The Bandit achieves this with in-camera motion and GPS sensors to automatically find and tag exciting moments, based on factors such as speed, altitude, G-force, acceleration and heart rate. Highlights can also be tagged manually with a tagging button on the camera or by remote control.
The Bandit works with a smartphone or tablet app and includes a super-fast viewfinder. Footage can be reviewed instantly by using the app assisted by the built-in media server.
In Editing mode, a simple shake of the smartphone instantly creates an edited movie. Users can then make changes and add music and overlays of favourite metrics, such as speed, before sharing their footage.

The Design
The TomTom Bandit Action Camera uses a high-end 16MP CMOS sensor and a powerful processing engine. Video can be captured at 1080p30, 1080p60, 720p60 and 720p120 or Cinematic at 2.7k30 or 4k15.
Shooting modes include Slow Motion, Time Lapse and Single or Burst Stills at 16Mb at up to 10-second intervals. Connection to either smart devices or computers is achieved via wi-fi, Bluetooth Smart or USB3.0.
The camera and housing can be depth-rated to 50m with the addition of the Bandit’s lens-cap accessory. A squeeze-to-release steel-ring system allows it to be attached quickly to TomTom’s range of base mounts and accessories, and the barrel-shaped body swivels within the ring system to allow for adjustments in orientation wherever it is mounted.

Batt-Stick
The Bandit is powered by an integrated battery housed in what is known as a Batt-Stick, which combines the 1900MAH li-ion battery, micro SD card and SuperSpeed USB 3.0.
It plugs directly into a computer via the USB to charge and download footage, removing the need for additional cables or adaptors. The USB connection is also compatible with mains chargers used for phones or tablets.
Additional Batt-Sticks can be purchased so that loss of power during a full day’s diving becomes a thing of the past. A power cable available for extended time-lapse shooting connects to the rear of the Batt-Stick via corrosion-proof gold-plated terminals.
The Batt-Stick is easily removed from the Bandit body by depressing a small catch and turning it anti-clockwise.

Display and Controls
The Bandit has a single multi-functional LCD display. Menus covering all aspects of the camera’s settings can be easily accessed and scrolled through by using a multi-directional game-pad-style button below the display.
Two other push-buttons are used to turn on the device, start and stop recording and manually bookmark the footage.
The rear button is integrated into the Batt-Stick and indicates the battery power state using four tiny LEDs when the stick is removed from the camera body.

In Use
I used TomTom’s dedicated GoPro mount adaptor to secure the Bandit onto a Big Blue GoPro base-tray with arms and ball-mounts, giving me a stable platform from which to shoot. With the Video Shooting mode set to 1080p 60, I took the camera under water on the house reef at the Egyptian resort of Soma Bay.
There was plenty to shoot, with anemonefish and glassfish among the usual Red Sea suspects.
The battery life was very impressive, with the stated duration from a full charge being three hours, although at the higher end recording modes (cinematic 4k and 2.7k) the battery didn’t last as long but still gave more than 2.5 hours.
While switched on but not recording the camera goes into Standby mode, and consumes very little power in the process.
Shooting couldn’t have been easier. A single push of the rear button started the camera, and flashing red lights at both ends of the body indicated that recording was taking place.
The long battery life and editing capabilities meant that I could shoot the whole dive, bookmarking the important bits along the way, in the knowledge that when I connected the camera to my iPhone I could instantly edit the footage and get rid of the boring stuff, cutting straight to the action with just a shake.
Once on land I opened the dedicated Bandit app, and the footage was instantly displayed in the library. I shook the phone to edit the film, added music from my iTunes library and could instantly share the results with onlookers.
I decided not to download the footage on social-media sites because of the music’s royalty rights.
Footage needs to be transferred to a computer to store it, but this is a simple task using the USB connection on the Batt-Stick.
Once done, a multitude of editing suites can be used to produce a final polished movie.

Conclusion
This action cam is a joy to use – it’s simple and almost idiot-proof (a good thing in my case).
The flashing red lights were a godsend, letting me know that it was actually recording, and negating the disappointment of thinking I’d captured some amazing encounters only to later find that it hadn’t been switched on (we’ve all done it).
I found the camera’s close-focus ability to be limiting, however. The minimum focus distance was around the 45cm mark, making wide-angle macro shooting disappointing.
The mount system was secure and quick to use, with the ring system allowing a fast change in orientation. TomTom’s addition of a GoPro converter is genius, with the plethora of mount accessories that can be interchanged increasing the Bandit’s versatility.
The addition of a powerful video light enhanced the footage, bringing out the natural colours and reducing the cyan cast we all see under water without artificial light. The Bandit did seem to struggle initially with blown-out highlights as the lens iris squeezed down to compensate for brighter light, but after that the footage looked natural and well-exposed.
I’m a bit of a muppet in the video-shooting department – my expertise lies with stills photography. I did, however, for the first time record some movies that I was proud to share, and that alone pushes this little red and white Bandit to the top of my wanted list.

SPECS
PRICE: £299, dive lens cover £30, spare Batt-Stick £50.
MATERIAL: Advanced polymers
POWER: 1900MAH integrated rechargeable li-ion battery.
CONNECTIVITY: USB 3.0, wi-fi, Bluetooth Smart
EDITING: Instantly via the Bandit app
BATTERY LIFE: Up to 3 hours
SIZE: 95 x 50mm diameter
WEIGHT: 192g with Batt-Stick and dive lens
DEPTH RATING: 50m with dive lens cover
MOUNTING: Quick-release ring system
CONTACT: www.tomtom.com
DIVER GUIDE 9/10