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I waited for a GoPro-type video camera that won’t the break the bank, and happily discovered Vivitar’s DVR 786HD ActionCam fits the bill.

It’s tiny, capable and totally scratches my itch for an easy-to-use video camera to wean me off using up my iPhone’s battery to capture longer videos.

I found one of these ActionCams for around $75 or so on Amazon, and while it doesn’t offer all the extreme insanity of a GoPro, it’s a pretty nifty little camera on its own.

This itty-bitty device takes full 1080p video at 60 frames per second as well as photos at up to 12.1 megapixels. It charges via an included micro-USB cable and comes with a waterproof case, a remote control, and a bike and helmet mount to make sure I can capture all my adventures out in the world. There’s a universal screw hole on the bottom that fits all standard tripod mounts, too, should I want to go a bit more traditional.

Oddly enough, it doesn’t come with a microSD card, which it needs to store videos and photos. Luckily, those are pretty inexpensive, too, with 32 GB SDHC cards running an easy $10 on Amazon.

Even though the 2-inch LCD screen on the back of the DVR 786HD is too minuscule to really do much with, it’s serviceable and can be seen as well as any LCD screen in outdoor lighting (read: it’s still tough to use in direct sunlight).

The ActionCam’s power (left) and recording buttons are easy to use.
Photo: Rob LeFebvre/Cult of Mac

You simply press and hold the power button, located on the upper left of the camera itself, to turn on the ActionCam, then hit the Camera button (to the right side of the device) to start recording. I strapped the camera upside-down to the driver’s side door handle on my car to take some video of my trip to and from my kid’s high school to try it out.

Even upside-down, Vivitar’s little video camera does exceedingly well in bright light; it captured the drive well. I found out later that there’s even a menu item to rotate the resulting video in-camera before shooting; this is a welcome feature when tying the camera to various things as you go about your extreme adventures.

The waterproof case is cool — I can’t wait to take this with me the next time I snorkel in Hawaii — and it doubles as a protective case even out of water. The mounting screw at the bottom is a handy plus, making it a simple thing to connect to my selfie stick or tripod.

Accessories are great, but we really could have used an SD card.Accessories are great, but we really could have used an SD card.
Photo: Rob LeFebvre/Cult of Mac

To get the video off the ActionCam, I can connect the device to my Mac with the same micro-USB cable used to charge it (though it doesn’t charge when plugged into a Mac, unfortunately). Or I can pop the SD card out, slide it into an adapter, and slap it into the SD card slot on a newer MacBook.

There ActionCam doesn’t have night vision, a Wi-Fi connection or 4K video capabilities, but honestly, that’s fine with me. I want to be able to take decent video of my kids’ performances and recitals, maybe bits of a concert or two, or even film my dogs running around at the dog park — I don’t need a camera with too many extras, including a high price point. And, if I feel like getting a little extreme and want to video my run down the bunny hill at the local ski area, or take video of the colorful fish in Kona the next time I’m lucky enough to visit, this will do me just fine.

The Vivitar ActionCam DVR 786HD fits my activity level and my budget, and for that, I’m recommending you check it out when looking for an affordable, capable action camera to capture your own exploits.

Purchase the Vivitar ActionCam on Amazon.

Vivitar provided Cult of Mac with a free unit for this review.

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