TomTom Bandit Action Camera Hands-on Review

TomTom's Next-Generation Action Camera Includes Editing On the Fly

TomTom Bandit Action Camera
The TomTom Bandit action camera has a built-in media server so you can edit and upload footage from the field. TomTom

TomTom's first entry into the growing action-camera market, the Bandit ($399), represents a re-thinking and re-invention of the category. TomTom's engineering and design teams took a hard look at every downside of the existing offerings, and sought to remedy all of them. They have succeeded in creating a more user-friendly and enjoyable, and shareable action-camera experience.

There are plenty of hardware, firmware, and software differences between the Bandit and the action-camera herd: The Bandit and its free companion app turn your smartphone into a video controller, viewfinder, editor, and video publisher and sharing platform.

This means you can highlight and edit video right in the field and even share to social media and other platforms if you have a smartphone data connection.

The Bandit accomplishes this by having a media server built right into its hardware. The server does a lot of the heavy lifting of processing and tagging while you shoot. For example, the camera's sensors constantly measure G-forces and speed as you shoot. High-speed, high G-force, and high heart rate (with optional wireless heart rate monitor) moments are automatically tagged as highlights. You may also manually tag highlights by pressing the camera's rear button, which is easy to reach as you do activities such as cycling or skiing.

With your highlights tagged as you shoot, and a media server on board the camera, it becomes a much simpler and quicker task to assemble a highlights edit, and even put it to music, using the free companion TomTom app for the Bandit.

Shake to Edit Option
There are multiple ways to edit video right on your phone. The quickest and most convenient is the shake to edit option. Just shake the camera while in the app mode, and the software automatically assembles the highlights. You may touch-to-drag the editing sequence. You may even add a music track from your music collection, and a data overlay meter showing speed or G-forces.

It's simple enough that you could do a video edit and publish to social media while riding on the ski lift to your next run, for example: Impressive, and fun.

The app serves other purposes as well. You may manually edit your auto-tagged footage for more control over what you show. The app also serves as a viewfinder and camera controller, and lets you engage specialized options such as time-lapse and slow-motion shooting.

The smartphone app and the camera link via a high-speed WiFi connection, rather than much slower Bluetooth. I found the WiFi connection reasonably easy to make with the iPhone.

Camera Hardware and Functionality
The camera itself takes cylindrical form, which makes it a little easier to handle and mount than the more common boxy shape. The camera is sturdily built and rated to withstand mud and impacts. You control the camera with a small monochrome screen and a four-way toggle-button on the top of the unit. You start the camera with a button on the rear which is easy to find even when you are not looking at the camera, such as when it is mounted on a helmet. The rear button also serves to manually tag video highlights as you shoot. The front button (see photo) stops and turns off the camera.

From the main toggle button, you select the desired camera mode before you shoot, including still photo, video, slow-motion, time lapse, and cinematic mode.

Also setting apart the Bandit is its "no cables" connectivity and charging. The camera's cylindrical battery pack pops out of the back of the unit and has its own built-in USB port for charging and for directly uploading video, and for getting firmware updates. The cylinder core also houses the MicroSD card, and I used a high-speed 16GB card capable of storing more than 3 hours of HD video and sound. The core mount fixture has a tight O-ring seal to keep out water and dirt.

The camera also features a quick release metal mounting cleat and the camera comes with three different mounting brackets. Optional brackets are available for many purposes including an adapter that fits existing GoPro mounts. 

The camera is waterproof and I used it with the optional dive lens cover (no clunky waterproof box housing needed) to shoot underwater footage in both fresh and saltwater. The camera remained waterproof and fully functional during and after my underwater shoots.

The camera may also be used with an optional, mountable (or wrist-worn) remote controller button.

Using the Bandit
I found the Bandit and its companion app to be easy and intuitive to use. Its high-resolution imaging looks great on screens big and small. The slow-motion, cinematic, and time-lapse modes all worked  beautifully and were rewarding to show and share. I cover the Bandit smartphone app more thoroughly in a separate review, but I found it to be easy to use for the most part, and the ability to shake and share video quickly, works as advertised.

Overall, the Bandit is a big step forward in action-camera technology and companion app and software. It held up well to rigorous use, including underwater, and delivered great video under a range of conditions.

Technical Specifications
Video: 1080p30 / 1080p60 / 720p60 / 720p120
Burst Photo: 16 MP / 8 MP (Capture at 10/s, 10/2s)
Built In Microphone
Connectivity: WiFi, Bluetooth, Built-in USB
Camera Display: 22 x 25 mm / 0.87 x 1 inch
Weight: 190 g / 6.7 oz
Battery Life: Up to 3 hours at 1080p30
Supported Languages: English, Spanish, German, Dutch, French, Italian