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GoPrawned: Melife i3 Action Camera Review

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  • GoPrawned: Melife i3 Action Camera Review

    Melife i3 action camera review

    This review gives rise to a new section called 'GoPrawned' where sports and action cam products reviews will be posted. The review structure is matched to use this forum capabilities and to fit its limitations. Click image for larger version  Name:	 Views:	1 Size:	100.5 KB ID:	1483

    Product page at the official manufacturer site:
    Last edited by fatcat; 12-22-2016, 07:58 AM.

  • #2
    Technical Specifications
    • SoC: Novatek NT96660
    • Sensor: 12Mp Sony IMX078 (1.55 micrometer pixel size)
    • Lens: FOV 150 degrees, F/2.8
    • Display: 2" LCD Preview Screen
    • Video resolutions and format: [email protected] fps, [email protected] fps, 1080P(4:3)@30 fps, [email protected]/30 fps, [email protected]/60 fps. MP4 file format.
    • Photo resolutions: 14М/12M/8M/5M/3M
    • Connectors: microUSB, microHDMI
    • Wireless features: Wi-Fi, RF RC
    • Additional features: EIS gyro image stabilization, UVC webcam, AV-out via microUSB
    • Storage: microSD up to 32GB
    • Battery: removable, 1000mAh
    • Dimensions: 61.7 mm * 42.8 mm * 29.3 mm (23.2 mm without lens)
    • Weight: 74 g (55 g without battery)
    Last edited by fatcat; 01-02-2017, 11:47 AM.


    • #3
      Package and Accessories

      The dimensions of the package are 225 mm * 130 mm * 65 mm. The outer package cover contains the information about the camera and its main features. Click image for larger version  Name:	01-box.jpg Views:	1 Size:	52.9 KB ID:	1498

      The inner box is made of high-quality white cardboard. It consists of two plug-in pieces with a window in the upper part, showing the RC device and the camera itself which is inside the waterproof box. Click image for larger version  Name:	01-box-2.jpg Views:	1 Size:	29.9 KB ID:	1495

      There is a sticker with QR code and scratch-off layer covered password for the product authenticity check. You can do it here. Click image for larger version  Name:	01-box-3.jpg Views:	1 Size:	24.6 KB ID:	1496
      Click image for larger version  Name:	03-sticker.jpg Views:	1 Size:	62.4 KB ID:	1499

      In addition to a micro-USB cable with two ferrite beads, a very handy protective plastic frame, a good underwater housing and a pretty common mounting set, the camera bundle has a wireless wrist remote control. It feels rather solid and can be charged via standard micro-USB connector. In addition, the bundle includes a plastic wrench to tighten the bolts. Click image for larger version  Name:	02-bundle.jpg Views:	1 Size:	61.7 KB ID:	1497
      Last edited by fatcat; 12-22-2016, 10:12 AM.


      • #4
        Camera Design

        The camera body is made of black plastic covered with soft-touch coating. The protective lens rim (20.65 mm outer diameter) is made of metal alloy, the lens itself protrudes to a fraction of a millimeter forward, making it necessary to keep in mind the protection against scratches. The unique camera design is achieved by rounded housing edges: left and right in the front, top and bottom in the back. In addition, the camera differs from many models by its unusual layout of the controls. Camera feels solid and the materials applied do not raise any questions. Click image for larger version  Name:	01-i3-header.jpg Views:	1 Size:	32.1 KB ID:	1500

        Two-inch LCD display has decent viewing angles, the colors become inverted only when you turn the camera to the left. Brightness is enough even for shooting under direct sunlight. The screen is not touch sensitive and is covered with glossy transparent plastic. Click image for larger version  Name:	03-back-alt.jpg Views:	1 Size:	45.2 KB ID:	1501

        The front panel has the WiFi switch button, it is also used for navigation through the menu. The power / camera settings button and the combined shutter button / camera mode switch are located on the top. Click image for larger version  Name:	04-top.jpg Views:	1 Size:	28.8 KB ID:	1502

        The front panel has the blue LED WiFi indicator integrated into the button. There are two indicators in the center of the upper panel: the red one (lights up during charging) and the blue one lighting continuously in standby mode and blinking during shooting.

        All connectors are located on the left side and covered with the plastic cap protecting from dust and splashes. This cap is attached to the camera body using a thin plastic piece, which reliability can be questionable. There is also the reset button hole under the cap. Click image for larger version  Name:	08-connectors.jpg Views:	1 Size:	30.5 KB ID:	1503

        Removable battery compartment is located on the bottom of the case. It has hinged cap that remains attached to the body in the open position. Battery dimensions are 33 x 31 x 11 mm, weight is 19 g. Battery is not compatible to other action cams. One interesting feature here is the power-saving mode automatically disabling the Wi-Fi connection when the battery is running out off juice. The battery capacity is marked as '1000mAh', this will be checked below in the Teardown section of this review. Another thing to mention here is that Melife i3 keeps its full functionality being connected to external power source. In other words, you can shoot with this cam while charging. Click image for larger version  Name:	09-battery-door.jpg Views:	1 Size:	38.2 KB ID:	1504
        Last edited by fatcat; 01-02-2017, 12:32 PM.


        • #5
          Functions and Settings

          Video modes
          Mode Resolution, pix. Frame rate, fps Horizontal Field
          of View (EIS
          off/on), °
          Bitrate (average,
          min-max), Mbps
          Compression type I-frame
          interval, frames
          4K24FPS 2880x2160 24 ~112/~93 24 (10-71) H.264, VBR 12
          2.5K 30FPS 2560x1440 30 ~112 / ~93 20 (12-65) H.264, VBR 15
          1080P 60FPS 1920x1080 60 ~99 / ~82 28 (15-42) H.264, VBR 15
          1080P 30FPS 1920x1080 30 ~99 / ~82 24 (9-57) H.264, VBR 15
          720P 120FPS 1280x720 120 ~112 / ~93 20 (19-32) H.264, VBR 15
          720P 60FPS 1280x720 60 ~99 / ~82 13 (9-20) H.264, VBR 15
          1440P 30FP 1440x1080 30 ~99 / ~82 16 (10-24) H.264, VBR 15
          Encoding profile: [email protected]
          Audio: mono, AAC 32kHz 96kbps

          User interface and Settings menu

          The user interface is on minimalistic side showing the current mode, resolution, remaining card space (in minutes for video and in numer of files for photo) and the battery level. The display also shows actual date and time if the 'date stamp' option is enabled for video mode. Click image for larger version  Name:	01-lcd.jpg Views:	1 Size:	120.8 KB ID:	1516
          Camera settings are grouped into three sections: Video, Photo and System settings. Video and Photo settings can be accessed from corresponding modes by short pressing the power button. System settings can be reached from there for both modes by the long press of the shutter button. The following functions of the buttons are used for the navigation through the menu: Power - go back, shutter - OK, WiFi - next. Pressing the power button in playback mode opens the menu with two options: delete or protect the selected file.

          Almost all menu items names and options available are pretty obvious to use, so I put some ♦ notes only for a few of them.

          Video settings
          Resolution: see table above
          Loop recording: Off, 3 Minutes, 5 Minutes, 10 Minutes
          ♦ If set to 'Off' the video length will be limited by 12 minutes for 4K and by 25 minutes for other modes.
          Time-lapse Record: Off, 1 Second, 5 Seconds, 10 Seconds, 30 Seconds, 1 Minute, 5 Minutes, 10 Minutes
          Slow Motion: Off, 720P 120FPS
          GYRO: Off, On
          Exposure: -2.0 - +2.0 EV in 0.3 increments
          White Balance: Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent
          Color: Normal, Black & White, Sepia, Dive mode
          Metering: Average, Center, Spot
          Sharpness: Strong, Standard, Low
          Saturation: High, Standard, Low
          Record Audio: Off, On
          Date Stamp: Off, On

          Photo settings
          Capture Mode: Single, 1s repeat, 2s repeat, 5s repeat, 10s repeat
          ♦ This option is for timelapse recording in photo mode (sequence of stills).
          Resolution: 14M 4320x3240, 12M 4032x3024, 8M 3264x2448, 5M 2592x1944, 3M 2048x1536
          ♦ The sensor is 12 Megapixels so it would be not a bad idea to use 12M without the use of interpolation .
          Burst: Off, On
          Quality: Fine, Normal, Economy
          Metering: Average, Center, Spot
          Sharpness: Strong, Standard, Low
          White Balance: Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent
          Color: Normal, Black & White, Sepia, Dive mode
          Saturation: High, Standard, Low
          ISO: Auto, 100, 200, 400
          Exposure: -2.0 - +2.0 EV in 0.3 increments
          Anti-Shaking: Off, On
          ♦ This option can be seen in many Novatek cams, but EIS can not work for photos. Maybe it affects the shutter speed.
          Quick Review: Off, 2 Seconds, 5 Seconds
          ♦ Really useful option. It shows the captured image after shooting.
          Date Stamp: Off, Date, Date/Time

          System settings
          Screen Save: Off, 1 Minute, 3 Minutes, 5 Minutes
          Date/Time: date and time settings (WiFi button to change value, Shutter long press to switch between input fields)
          Auto Power Off: Off, 3 Minutes, 5 Minutes, 10 Minutes
          Beep Sound: Off, On
          Language: English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Italian, Chinese, Russian, Japanese
          TV Mode: NTSC, PAL
          TV Out: Off, On (AV+ signal is on pin 4 of the microUSB connector, so any standard cable adapter should work for FPV)
          Frequency: 50 Hz, 60 Hz
          Format: prompts to format memory card
          Default Setting: prompts to reset camera settings to defaults
          Version: shows current firmware version (MELIFE_20161021_V01)
          WIFI SSID: allows changing WiFi AP name
          WIFI Password: allows changing WiFi AP password

          WiFi connection and Remote control

          The camera switches into wireless access point with 'MELIFE' SSID and '12345678' password after pressing the front button. WiFi signal is very high due to a couple of antennas embedded into the frontal part of the camera case (see this picture in Teardown section). Liveview on the camera display turns off when WiFi is enabled. Click image for larger version  Name:	01-lcd-wifi.jpg Views:	1 Size:	116.8 KB ID:	1517
          The remote control is waterproof, it is made in the "watch" form-factor and is powered by built-in 90mAh rechargeable battery. Three buttons for the camera control are: 'Power' - for turning the camera off, 'Photo' - for taking stills from both shooting modes, and 'Video', which starts and stops video recording. Only the power off function of the RC can be used when WiFi is enabled.

          RC pairing procedure:
          1. Make sure the RC is charged. Press and hold Photo and Video buttons at the same time.
          2. Turn on the camera and wait until it starts live view then release the buttons.
          3. RC's middle blue LED will light up showing the remote control is successfully paired. Click image for larger version  Name:	01-rc-on-hand.jpg Views:	1 Size:	48.6 KB ID:	1521
          USB PC connection

          After connecting the cam to a PC with a microUSB cable a mode selection prompt appers. Where you can choose between Mass Storage and PC Camera modes. The first one is used for file transfer. In fact, it is a standard Novatek USB storage device with VID_0603&PID_8611.

          Selecting the 'PC Camera' mode (use the wifi button to change selection and the shutter to confirm) enables the webcam mode. A very nice feature of it is that the 'Gyro'-stabilization keeps working and we get an EIS-stabilized UVC device which can be used for online video streaming.

          List of available webcam modes:

          Compression type can be set to MJPEG or H.264 codec.
          Last edited by fatcat; 12-27-2016, 02:59 PM.


          • petesimon
            petesimon commented
            Editing a comment
            fatcat hm, menu screens look something like a Soocoo C30(R) or an Extral SJ8000

            current price on Amazon USA is okay

            any firmware updates for this cam?

          • fatcat
            fatcat commented
            Editing a comment
            petesimon Yes, the UI seems to be Novatek's default.

            I don't think Melife will ever release any firmware updates for this model...

          • marsu66
            marsu66 commented
            Editing a comment
            Hi, as I've seen [email protected] ' great job on Novatek firmware, I'm interested in giving a look to their firmware...
            Have you been able to backup it (or to get it => I was unable to find it)
            Thanks !

        • #6
          Camera Teardown

          Disassembling starts from the corner and goes on along the perimeter to remove the front cover which has two antennas glued to its inner side. Click image for larger version  Name:	teardown1.jpg Views:	1 Size:	73.6 KB ID:	1505

          Next remove the ports cover to pull off the main assembly. Click image for larger version  Name:	teardown2.jpg Views:	1 Size:	72.8 KB ID:	1506

          The sensor board is connected to the main board with two ribbon cable on both sides. Click image for larger version  Name:	teardown3.jpg Views:	1 Size:	103.7 KB ID:	1507

          The sensor board hosts microUSB, microHDMI and microSD sockets as well as the microphone and the reset button. The lens holder is made of plastic and has 19mm between its mounting holes. Click image for larger version  Name:	teardown4.jpg Views:	1 Size:	95.4 KB ID:	1508

          Here we see the flash memory chip, MCU, Gyroscope, the wireless module and RAM. Click image for larger version  Name:	teardown5.jpg Views:	1 Size:	91.0 KB ID:	1509
          Last edited by fatcat; 12-23-2016, 10:00 AM.


          • fatcat
            fatcat commented
            Editing a comment
            The battery capacity is confirmed. It has one 3.7v 1000mAh 102929 Li-polymer element inside.
            Last edited by fatcat; 12-22-2016, 11:45 AM.

          • fatcat
            fatcat commented
            Editing a comment
            Wireless antennas embedded into the front cover.

          • fatcat
            fatcat commented
            Editing a comment
            The RC disassembled.

        • #7
          Hackability and Hardware Mods

          The i3 cam does not react on 'engmode' file placed at the root of microSD card.

          Port scanning reveals the following results:
          Discovered open port 80/tcp on
          Discovered open port 554/tcp on
          Discovered open port 3333/tcp on
          Discovered open port 8000/tcp on
          Live view video stream can be obtained with 'rtsp://' link, but the connection fails after several seconds.
          RTSP stream parameters are: h264, 640x368 30fps, 1.6Mbps.

          The problem of mounting Melife i3 upside down for CarDVR/Dashcam use can be fixed with drilling two additional 10mm holes in the mounting frame. Measures are in mm. Click image for larger version  Name:	01-frame-marks.jpg Views:	1 Size:	34.3 KB ID:	1548
          Click image for larger version  Name:	02-frame-with-holes.jpg Views:	1 Size:	29.7 KB ID:	1549

          Now the frame became twice useable (you can also drill holes for the connectros on its side). Click image for larger version  Name:	03-cam-upside-down.jpg Views:	1 Size:	38.7 KB ID:	1550
          Last edited by fatcat; 12-26-2016, 11:52 AM. Reason: +frame mod


          • #8
            Mobile Apps, Firmware Updates and Other downloads

            Official Android App:
            Official Apple App:

            The camera comes with V01 firmware dated 21/10/2016. No FW updates are available at the moment.

            Melife Inspiration i3 action camera manual:
            Last edited by fatcat; 12-23-2016, 08:14 AM. Reason: +manual


            • #9
              Video and Photo Quality and Samples

              The quality of the recorded videos is fairly typical for this hardware solution. In good lighting the action camera successfully copes with its purpose. Like most products based on the NT96660 SoC, Melife i3 camera sets the white balance in automatic mode with a tendency towards cold tones (resulting in slightly bluish picture), there is frame dropping observed for 60 and 120 framerate modes when shooting in low light. The M12 lens is good and is focused correctly, providing good picture clarity and sharpness. The manufacturer has chosen a variable bitrate (VBR) for video encoding, its value can exceed 70 Mbps for action scenes in 4K mode, when shooting static scenes the bitrate can drop below 10 Mbps, which reflects in rational use of the memory card space.

              Static footages (RAW) shot in all video modes:
              Dynamic footages shot (RAW) in all video modes:
              Photo samples:

              note: RAW here means non-processed video files

              Dashcam use:
              Last edited by fatcat; 12-30-2016, 03:34 PM.


              • #10

                EIS Gyro CAMparison. 1080p60 side by side with GitUp Git2 and SOOCOO C30:

                Melife i3 cam Gyro demo side by side:

                Last edited by fatcat; 12-22-2016, 03:12 PM.


                • #11

                  • Gyro EIS stabilization competes the best Novatek NT96660-based products.
                  • The original form factor.
                  • Rigid build quality and nice on the touch materials.
                  • Useful and practical wireless remote control.
                  • Handy covers for the ports and the battery.
                  • Strong level of WiFi signal.

                  • Soft-touch plastic gets dirty too easily.
                  • No CarDVR (autostart) mode. *
                  • No WDR/HDR. *
                  • No FOV selection option. *
                  • No accessory bundled or image rotation menu option to mount the cam upside-down. *
                  • WiFi connection is not stable when controlling the camera. *
                  • Lens slightly protrudes from the case.

                  * - could be fixed with a FW update.
                  Last edited by fatcat; 12-23-2016, 02:36 PM.


                  • #12
                    Where to Buy
                    • Aliexpress: available at several stores, search 'Melife i3'
                    • Amazon: link (official store)
                    • Everbuying link
                    • Gearbest: link
                    • Lightinthebox link
                    Last edited by fatcat; 12-26-2016, 03:58 AM. Reason: links updated


                    • #13
                      Well done Fatcat !!!!!
                      I've started a functionnal review -not ended at the moment- that can be complementary with yours....
                      Here is the link (in french for now, I will translate it at the end, you can use an online translator) :
                      I would have loved to compare it to a SJ5000X but i don't have one so I've compared it to a SJ5000+ (discontinued A7 SoC SJCAM)

                      I agree with your pro and cons, i will add as pro the sharpness of the image but as con the management of light that causes to high contrast and some issue with white balance

                      I have to do some extra tests including the dive mode....

                      PS : Do you allow me with quoting you and giving this link to use some of your pics (teardown mainly) ?
                      Ayant gagné une MELIFE Inspiration i3, après quelques péripéties liée à l'envoi, je vais pouvoir en faire le test... Je partagerai certainement de courts billets sur des sujets spécifiques (ex stabilisation, mode couleur plongée....) mais viendrai en faire la synthèse ici par des actualisations régulières. Pour l'achat sur le site officiel : La société…
                      Last edited by marsu66; 12-25-2016, 07:27 AM.


                      • #14
                        Originally posted by marsu66 View Post
                        Do you allow me with quoting you and giving this link to use some of your pics (teardown mainly) ?
                        Hi! Thank you for the feedback.

                        Sure you can use those pics if mine review will be mentioned.


                        • marsu66
                          marsu66 commented
                          Editing a comment
                          Many thanks, it's done :
                          Fatcat, Goprawn mentionned & link done to this article !

                        • fatcat
                          fatcat commented
                          Editing a comment
                          marsu66 Do you also have a bug with the timelapse interval in photo mode (photo mode - settings - capture mode - all modes shifted up and 10s freeze the cam)?

                        • marsu66
                          marsu66 commented
                          Editing a comment
                          fatcat : sorry for that late (no) answer : I'll try this evening and let you know asap after the test

                        • fatcat
                          fatcat commented
                          Editing a comment
                          marsu66 Thanx. Can you also check the burst photo in low light with your cam? Mine produces 3 frames in a row with low saturation while it is set to normal.
                          Last edited by fatcat; 12-28-2016, 02:37 PM.

                        • marsu66
                          marsu66 commented
                          Editing a comment
                          You were right : all modes except this one (10s) are working fine. This one "freezes" the menu (but on off stills fuctionnal)
                          Firmware : 20161021_v01

                          I've tried burst mode in "normal exposure" outside... "nothing to declare"....
                          Can you be more explicit ? maybe in mp
                          Last edited by marsu66; 12-29-2016, 01:23 PM.