Have you ever wanted a camera you could take anywhere? That's what a smartphone is for, surely. Not quite, thinks Akaso, whose new Keychain camera is small, light, magnetic and captures video in 4K. It's for filming everything anywhere. That means TikTok and YouTube.
It's the smallest and lightest 4K camera you can get, and it's a third the price of the cheapest GoPro, but is it any better than your smartphone? Does this USP earn it a place in our best action cameras guide, and how does it stack up against the other cheap action cameras around? We tested it out...
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AKASO KEYCHAIN REVIEW: DESIGN AND HANDLING
The Akaso Keychain is barely there. Weighing just 36g and measuring 63x33x18 mm, this tiny camera is all about filming things you normally wouldn't be able to. In essence, its magnetic design means it can be used by one person for vlogging, selfies and other kinds of mobile video. It sticks to fridges, gym equipment, even objects like a kitchen knife and, thanks to the inclusion in the box of a magnetic base, anything else you can think of, too. That base is useful for attaching the Akaso Keychain to a T-shirt, while there's a magnetic clip for attaching it to backpack straps. Or a head-torch. Or a bikini strap.
There are a couple of other options, too; a pivot stand allows it to be attached to any surface using a sticky base (perhaps a skateboard, or to make Akaso Keychain work as a basic dashcam). It also has a hidden 1/4 inch tripod/selfie stick thread. There's also a wraparound protective case that allows it to be worn around the neck.
The Akaso Keychain is designed to go anywhere and shoot in regular widescreen or smartphone-style portrait aspect ratio. It's splash-proof and has a battery that lasts about 45 minutes. It stores video and photos to a microSD card, which slips into the bottom of the camera next to a USB-C slot for recharging.
That all-important lens has a narrow 124º field of view and, in an unusual move for action cameras let alone ‘life-loggers' like this one, the Akaso Keychain has six LED lights arranged around the lens to act as a ‘fill' flash to illuminate its subject – most likely your face.
AKASO KEYCHAIN REVIEW: FEATURES
Its headline feature is its ability to shoot in 4K. Sadly it maxes-out at 30 frames per second (fps), which is pretty basic. However, it also offers 2.7K resolution at 60 fps as well as a hi-def 720p in 120 fps that automatically creates a slo-mo file. The Akaso Keychain also has dedicated modes for filming in a loop (so you don't miss a ‘moment') for 1, 3 or 5 minutes, and a handy time-lapse mode that can produce a sped-up video that lasts up to a minute. It also deals in photos up to 20 megapixels, and even has burst and interval modes.
However, the real magic comes from the app that's required to get content from camera to phone. Called Akaso Go, it's the real secret sauce. After downloading content from the camera to your phone via this app you can indulge your boundless creativity in its ‘advanced editing suite'. We're talking fades, crops, subtitles, re-orientation, doodles and endless filters and special effects. Some of them are goofy – such as options to reverse videos and others to make them look like grainy old TV footage – but, hey, welcome to TikTok.
For videography enthusiasts attracted to the Akaso Keychain for its hands-free design and its time-lapse feature should also know that there are all kinds of tweaks possible to everything from white balance to saturation.
AKASO KEYCHAIN REVIEW: PERFORMANCE
Arguably a more important feature than resolution on any video camera is electronic image stabilisation (EIS). Here it's a six-axis system that works really well on 4K. It makes sure footage with any kind of movement – which is pretty much everything the Akaso Keychain is designed to capture – has a smooth look. You can see footage captured with EIS turned on here:
... and compare it to footage with EIS turned off:
The 4K video it spits out is easy to watch, but rather soft for 4K. It's colourful, though we did notice a lack of shadow detailing in shots with a lot of dynamic range. All that said, it's absolutely fine for TikTok and YouTube. Just don't expect it to make a top-quality movie to playback on your 4K TV.
Its battery life won't impress, but nor is that a deal-breaker. In our tests, it lasted about an hour, which for an occasional use camera isn't a hardship. Besides, if you're using it a lot you can plug it into a battery via USB-C and still use it via the app. However, during our test, there were a couple of lock-ups whereby the camera had to be manually reset. Hopefully that only applies to this very early sample.
Should I buy the Akaso Keychain camera?
Do you need the Akaso Keychain in your life? Probably not, but if you're yet to embrace the world of action cameras then here's a cheap and, in some ways, more versatile alternative. With a more urban feel – and clearly designed for TikTok, YouTube and vlogging than extreme sports – the thumb-sized and stupidly easy to use Akaso Keychain has a narrower field of view that's easier to work with than content from a GoPro. Add features like time-lapse, loop record (so you don't miss a moment during, say, a live event or during extreme sports) and the big-hitter – image stabilisation that, incredibly, works well even at this tiny size – and the Akaso Keychain is an oddity that's worth investigating. However, most of what it can do is only a slight upgrade on a smartphone.