Adventures with the TomTom Bandit

TomTom Bandit Review by Val in Real Life

I have a new friend, the TomTom Bandit. This little guy is a feature-packed action camera and I’m quite tickled with it.

I’m very new to the action camera market. I only dived in just before I left for Bikes, Blues, and BBQ in September when I bought a Garmin VIRB. Shortly after, TomTom approached me about reviewing the Bandit. I had never even heard of it but having some frustrations with the VIRB, I jumped on the opportunity.

When it comes to a product like this there’s a lot I’d love to break down for you. Unfortunately that would be a blog post resembling a doctoral dissertation. Instead I’m simply going to try hit the high points that might be the most use to you if you’re considering the TomTom Bandit. Sprinkled throughout are videos I’ve made with the Bandit.

The TomTom Bandit…

The Bandit is a little different than the other action camera offerings I’ve seen. Let’s take a look at some of those details:

tomtom bandit - val in real life
Buddying up my cameras at the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont’s Autumn Brilliance workshop.

  • It has two main pieces, the camera housing and a removable media server. The server is equipped a USB port which means you don’t need extra cords and adapters to charge the Bandit or move your video files to your computer. While it is nice not to have to use a cable for charging but I opted for it so I can keep it charged while on longer adventures, namely motorcycle rides.
  • Another big difference is its cylinder construction rather than the more standard box shape of other cameras. It also uses a side-to-side plane of rotation rather than the front-back like most others. Those differences each have their advantages and disadvantages so which is more beneficial to you a matter of personal preference. Where the Bandit’s construction edges out the others in my opinion, is that it has a mount that can be used with competitor’s mounting accessories, meaning you get both directional adjustments. That’s a win.
  • The on-camera menus are very user friendly. That’s due in large part to the 4-way button that makes the menus easily navigable.
  • The TomTom Bandit attaches via a quick-release mount that works with their accessories like an armband and adhesive docks. I’m really enjoying being able to simply pop the camera off the mount rather than the more involved extraction of the screw-on mounts. At first I was concerned it could be released too easily and quickly at inopportune times but it has worked fine so far. You do have to press both sides to fully release it.
tomtom bandit - val in real life
The Bandit’s media server provides a lot of convenience for managing files and charging without cables and adapters.

Having said that, I’m still experimenting how to mount it to Nina to minimize shaking and deliver more stable videos. That’s not an issue solely with the Bandit rather one with any sort of action camera. I’m very opposed to having it mounted to my body when riding for safety reasons. Plus I don’t like the frenetic motion that comes with every movement of my body impacting the direction of the camera.

What I’d like to see improved:

  • It’s white. That means it gets dirty-looking quickly. I’d like to see it in a dark gray or black housing to keep it from looking pathetic from its adventures.
  • The start/stop buttons are difficult to use, I think. Their position on the device are awkward to me. The pressure and time required to engage the buttons is on the cumbersome side. Having the remote control helps a lot with that issue and is also more convenient in general so I highly recommend it.
  • I’m largely pleased with the video quality so far. Indoors there’s an unavoidable yellow cast and no white balance correction to be had on the camera. That can be fixed in post-processing on a computer but that defeats the purpose of quick editing. To be fair, this is an action camera that is really designed for outdoor use where the lighting usually works just fine.

The app…

One of the TomTom Bandit’s strengths lies in the app. It allows you to tag highlights and make videos in minutes. Here are the important details in a nutshell:

  • When recording, it automatically tags moments by in various categories: acceleration, deceleration, g-force, speed, rotation, and vertical descent. The option to highlight by heart rate is also available with add-on accessories.
  • You can also choose your own highlights with either the press of button during the action or when you are reviewing the clips. All of the highlights can be tweaked of your own accord as well by simply toggling them on or off for the video as well as moving them and adjusting their length.
  • What separates the Bandit from the field is the “shake to edit” feature. With highlights selected, simply shake your phone and it puts a video together. And, again, you can adjust and filter what’s included if you’d like.

It took me awhile to find all of the functionality of the app. There were many times I wanted a feature, then later on found out it did exist. This is where a detailed instructional video from TomTom would be fantastic and would have saved me a some time on the learning curve. I’m hoping I haven’t simply overlooked its existence, maybe it’s out there and I didn’t find it.

Smallish learning curve aside, by the time I handed the Bandit to George, I was able to give him a quick tutorial and he made his cubing video in minutes.

tomtom bandit - val in real life
George editing his cubing video.

Here’s a few improvements I’d like to see on the app:

  • The option to add stills to videos.
  • The app has the ability to mute video sound but not song overlays. That means you can’t really narrate sections and still have your voice heard over the music.
  • The ability to sort highlights chronologically. The app seems to sort them by the order you added them. As I’m trying to review and add them to a video, it’s somewhat messy because they are so scattered about.
  • The app does crash some (I use an iPhone 6 Plus) and sometimes won’t play back audio. There are some bugs in there that need to be extricated but overall it’s very user-friendly.
  • There were a couple of sections of video it wouldn’t let me tag for highlights and so I couldn’t include them in videos. There’s a minor technical glitch in there somewhere but it was a very small factor of all in the video I took.

These are all fairly minor complaints. None of these are deal-breakers for me and how I use the camera. And the TomTom Bandit app has me editing and sharing at lightning speed compared to my previous use of other media. I would simply be remiss if I didn’t point out the things I’d like to see improved.

Real Life Use…

My adventures aren’t necessarily as fast-paced as uber-adventurers. Even my motorcycle rides tend to be pretty chill. But I think that’s the point… I’m a fairly average adventurer and technology like this isn’t only for extremes. With the videos I created while trying out the Bandit, I’ve attempted to show you a few different ways to use it in everyday life.

tomtom bandit - val in real life
Mounting the Bandit on Nina’s flyscreen with my existing VIRB setup.

The truth is, I’m not a “to the limits” chick but I do embrace active play and travel as a lifestyle. When capturing video in the process, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the amount of footage that needs sifting through. So far, the TomTom Bandit is helping me curate that video much more efficiently. Every piece of technology has a learning curve but I’m already noticing the benefits of using the app and I suspect this process will smooth out the more I get familiar with it.

The big picture is the more I use the Bandit, the more I like it. That means there’s much more to come from me and the Bandit. Subscribe to my YouTube channel to see more videos as I produce them.

I’m also hoping to do a head-to-head comparison with the VIRB when time permits. Stay tuned! As always, feel free to ask more questions in the comments. I’m happy to share more of my experience that I couldn’t cover in one post.

By the way, you can check out TomTom’s YouTube channel for instructional videos on the Bandit. And visit the TomTom website for the specs on the Bandit. No need to regurgitate them here when you can get them straight from the goat’s mouth. Click and you’ll see what I mean.

Disclaimer: TomTom provided the Bandit to me free of charge to test and review. However, my opinions are my own and your experience may vary from mine.

Adventure on, friends!

And now for your moment of green…