Is the Olfi One.Five Camera Better Than a GoPro?

It’s easy to understand how I wound up with an Olfi One.Five camera: I like sticking it to The Man. I have never owned a Gibson guitar or Marshall amp — Carvin guitars and Fryette amps for me, thanks. And no "Trekalized" bikes for me, either -- when I worked at a bike shop and Santa Cruz came on the scene, I yapped at the owners about the then-emerging brand until they became a dealer and that’s what I’ve preferred since. I also love laughing at MacBook sheep from behind the screen of my Linux-based laptop.

Olfi One.Five
A screen shot from the Olfi One.Five.

And let’s face it: GoPro is The Man when it comes to action sports cameras. It’s the one brand you know even if you don’t know anything else about action sports cameras. I’ve been using an older Hero model for years, and time has taken its toll. When I started looking for a new action sports camera, I started looking for GoPro alternatives to assuage my iconoclastic buying habits.

That led me to the $150 US Olfi One.Five. I now have enough time using the Olfi One.Five to assess whether it’s a potential GoPro killer – and whether you should by the upstart or simply stick with the man. My aim is mainly to make more and better mountain bike videos, along with fun silly stuff like sledding, skiing and other crazy stuff that crosses my mind.

Camera Test: The Olfi One.Five from Justin Schmid on Vimeo.

Olfi One.Five by the Numbers

On paper, the Olfi slaughters my old GoPro. It has 4k video, wifi controls, an LCD screen and a very solid protective enclosure; it also includes a slick carrying case. It’s also inexpensive at about $150 – you have to fork over a lot more for a GoPro with the same features.

Compare all this to the 720 resolution of my old GoPro. That thing doesn’t have wifi, and the enclosure is frankly on the shitty side. It’s also about twice the heft of the Olfi.

Olfi One.Five
The Olfi One-Five, ready for action.

Here’s a dose of reality, though: 4K is nice, but I — and most other action camera users — make videos for YouTube. The Olfi wifi controls are so wonky that I quit trying to use them. The LCD screen shortens the battery life dramatically.

The Olfi One.Five produces decent video at 1080 resolution, though. That enclosure is also a beauty. It stays in one piece, so you won’t lose bits of it. The mountain parts are also compatible with GoPro accessories, which is great if you have a drawer full of them.

The form factor is idiosyncratic: It’s a rectangle like GoPro, but mounted vertically instead of horizontally. I’m not sure how I feel about it, to be honest. I’d rather have the mounting parts on top of the camera so it can dangle below the mount. But that would make the controls harder to reach.

Olfi One.Five
A sharp screen grab from the Olfi One.Five. And yes, this is Arizona!

Care and Feeding of the Olfi One.Five

The Olfi One.Five also has some annoying habits. Its battery life seems to drain just sitting there: I’d charge it immediately after a ride. I’d come back a few days later, head out to the trail, turn the camera on and it would have 25 percent battery life (and yes, I checked immediately after charging to make sure it was fully charged).

I also had problems with the date – I set it, and it seemed to reset to factory defaults a few weeks later. There were also incidents where I thought it was recording video – right down to the flashing red lights – and I’d go home, plug it into the computer and find absolutely nada. It failed to record, and I just don’t know why.

I leave open the possibility of some sort of user error – still, I have never had a single problem with my old GoPro Hero. It simply works when called upon, end of story.

Olfi One.Five
Taking a look at the Olfi One.Five from a different angle.

Here’s another advantage for GoPro -- its GoPro Studio editing software. It’s free, and does a really nice job for basic movie making. Unfortunately, it only plays nice with GoPro footage. The Olfi One.Five footage wouldn’t import. Being able to use GoPro Studio is a nice little advantage.

Where the Olfi One.Five excels is in a few little extras: The package includes a nice carrying case complete with high-density foam that features cutouts for the various pieces.

The protective plastic case that protects the Olfi One.Five from on-the-job damage is also far superior to the GoPro case: It snaps shut with a reassuring sound, and it’s all one piece (I’ve lost pieces of the closing mechanism on my old GoPro).

Verdict on the Olfi One.Five

Look, I don’t hate the Olfi One.Five. But I wouldn’t buy one again. I’d find an entry-level GoPro (and no, I wouldn’t miss the LCD screen one bit – it’s entirely possible to frame a good shot without it) for about the same price and call it good. My old GoPro sets a precedent for reliability, even if diving into its options is a bit clunky because it lacks an LCD screen.

But I rarely adjust that stuff anyway. The advantages of the One.Five just don’t overcome what GoPro offers, especially from ease of use and editing (which is the most-laborious part of the process for me).

I hate to say this, but sometimes The Man is The Man for a reason. And Olfi is in no danger of taking GoPro’s place.

Think your company’s action camera can beat the Olfi One.Five and the GoPro? Let’s talk!

My Favorite Bars for Craft Beer – New Zealand Edition

new zealand craft beer
The tap list at the awesome Craft Beer Depot in Nelson, New Zealand.

If you like traveling and craft beer, I have a destination for you: New Zealand. The Kiwis grow all sorts of great stuff in their country — a sense of adventure, friendliness -- and heaping amounts of craft beer-compliant hops.

During our first trip to New Zealand back in 2010 or so, we discovered epic hikes, incredible scenery, ridiculous activities and very friendly people. Back in December, we returned with a little person about to turn two years old. That meant revisiting the Tongariro Alpine Crossing and looking into the crater of an active volcano was out. This would be more of a family vacation.

craft beer new zealand
One of the hoppier, harder-hitting IPAs I found in New Zealand.

The Kiwi craft beer scene was in its infancy last time, and it’s progressed to at least the tween stage at this point. New Zealand brewers are taking more advantage of their hops. They haven’t yet gotten quite as aggressive as the hop monsters on the US West Coast. And they don’t age everything in barrels fashioned from the nuclear reactors of sunken Russian submarines. That sort of fun will come in time, though.

Here are the stand-out breweries/pubs we visited as we drove from Auckland to Wellington (via Rotorua and a sheep farm in the wop-wops). These concentrate mostly on the venues themselves – I have brief tasting notes in my Untappd profile, though.

Rotorua — BREW Craft Beer Pub

In Rotorua, Croucher Brewing is kind of the big dog. They have a pub, but it’s a bit of a haul from where we were staying -- we wanted to walk. Fortunately, BREW serves most of what Croucher Brewing seems to offer. My personal favorite was the Croucher Grapefruit Warrior; if you love Ballast Point Grapefruit Sculpin, this is a beer you’ll dig.

craft beer new zealand
Dive into this box to sample the flavors of Lakeman Brewing Company. I found this at grocery stores throughout Wellington.

Of course, I had to try a few others. If you want something a little sweeter, you’ll enjoy the Double Trouble Imperial IPA from Tuatara Brewery (just so you know, a tuatara is a penis-less reptile).

They serve food at Brew Craft Beer Pub, too, and they even have paper and crayons for kids to color. Their burgers are super-satisfying, and they have a green-lipped mussel dish that is worth the flight to New Zealand. Avoid the pizza at all costs, though: I showed up starving after a long mountain bike ride, and that pizza did not hit the spot at all.

Wellington — Crafters & Co

If I could, I would clone Crafters & Co and bring it back home with me. It has a very nice vibe to it, with an enthusiastic, knowledgeable staff that is eager to talk about beers, espresso or anything else gastronomic with you. They seem to love working there.

For good reason. They have an ever-rotating selection of taps and bottles. According to my Untappd notes, I was enthusiastic about the Lakeman Brewing Co Hairy Hop IPA, and it puts the locally grown hops to good use. OK, one more nice offering at BREW: The Imperial Nibs from Kereru Brewing Company satisfied my craving for a darker beer. The bartender was sad that I missed out on the barrel-aged version recently on tap, but happy that he got to try it.

craft beer new zealand
Not only does Crafters & Co have a great beer selection, but they have one of my favorite charcuterie boards ever.

And here are two really huge bonuses: Crafters & Co has assembled a charcuterie board for the ages. I cannot entirely, positively identify everything that was on it, but I just don’t care. It was all delicious, and we devoured every last crumb. Also, the owners spotted Anneka and brought out a barrel full of toys to keep her occupied.

Nelson — Craft Beer Depot

You have to work a bit to find Craft Beer Depot. It’s behind a bunch of stores and down a little alley. You can sit outside at some old cable spools or on an old couch. People will bring their dogs, and it’s all good fun.

craft beer new zealand
The Craft Beer Depot in Nelson, NZ, isn’t easy to find.

I only saw one employee at Craft Beer Depot, who was a fellow American. She had some solid opinions about beer, and she’s more than happy to talk to people who really like their beer, too.

I made a few visits here – once to sit down and enjoy beer in good company, and another time to get some bottles to go. Here are the ones that stood out: the Funk Estate Bad Mama Jama imperial IPA and Perris Sky Juice IPA from Moa Brewing Company (odd, since I’m not a huge fan of the Moa beers that make it to the US).

New Zealand has definitely hopped wholeheartedly into craft beer. I can still taste a bit of UK-tinged restraint in many of its recipes, with just a few pushing the envelope into wilder flavors. The pubs and beer bars, though, seem to be pushing the brewers in that direction. And they’ve created a very nice vibe for enjoying beer and food. Great stuff!


When Should You Get a New Mountain Bike?

new mountain bike
My current full-suspension bike – a Santa Cruz Superlight.

When is it time for a new mountain bike? If you’re the bike industry, the answer is "every time we come up with a new wheel size or standard" -- both of which they seem to be doing with ever-accelerating frequency these days.

If you’re a guy like me, the answer is a bit more complicated. Here’s what I mean by "a guy like me:" I go out on frequent rides and love nearly every damn thing there is about the bikes I’m riding. But I also know that everything has a limited lifespan, especially stuff that gets pounded by a 200-pound dude plowing over rocky terrain with -- let’s say not exactly the most deft of skills.

I want to start a fun conversation about how we decide it’s time for a new mountain bike. I’ll start off by talking a bit about my bikes and my impressions of riding them. It would be great to get your thoughts, and also to hear about your thought process for deciding to retire a mountain bike.

Bike #1 is a 2012 Raleigh XXIX that I built up largely piece by piece -- back in 2013, when I scored a killer deal on the frame and the previous iteration of the Gates Carbon Drive singlespeed drivetrain (that’s right, I don’t have CenterTrack).

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