Addicted to Facebook Live? A phone makes a fine way to share a concert you’re at, a tour of your new house, or your friend’s best Taylor Swift impression, but what if you want to be in front of the camera, instead of just operating it from behind?
Enter the Mevo ($400), from Livestream. Dubbed the live event camera, the Mevo lets you broadcast to the Facebook Live and Livestream platforms. Paired with an iOS device, the Mevo can be remotely controlled as if it’s a personal cameraman, giving you the ability to zoom into subjects and pan around a frame. Whether you’re a journalist conducting a remote live broadcast of an interview, or a tourist giving a description to your friends and family of what you’re seeing, the Mevo is a handy tool for shooting Facebook Live videos with professional-looking results.
Design, features, and specs
The Mevo (formerly called the Movi) is a cylindrical, palm-sized device with a soft, rubber-like exterior. Design is simple: There is a single power/control button on the top, surrounded by a ring of LEDs that flash different colors to signify a particular status, including Wi-Fi strength and battery life.
On the front are the lens, stereo microphones, and speaker, while on the back are the Micro USB port, SD card slot, and reset button. The magnetic bottom attaches to either the included tripod mount or the optional Mevo Boost accessory, which adds an extended battery, water resistance, Ethernet jack, Micro USB “quick charge” port, and tripod mount.
Like a cameraman, Mevo can digitally zoom and pan without losing HD quality.
The Mevo has a built-in 1,200mAh battery that lasts about an hour before it needs to be recharged, which isn’t very long. If you anticipate recording longer than that, simply connect a portable USB battery pack (if remotely) or plug it into an outlet.
The f/2.8 aperture lens has a 150-degree field of view. Like the lens on an action cam, you do get that slight curvature in the corners at the widest field of view, but it’s not so drastic that it ruins the picture.
Besides the camera, the box includes a tripod mount that snaps onto the bottom of the camera magnetically; a 16GB Micro SD card; 10-foot USB cable; and charging plug. Livestream also provides a one-year warranty.
The Mevo can operate independently, but it needs to pair with an iOS device (Android isn’t supported at this time, but Livestream says it’s in the works) running the Mevo app, if you want to take advantage of the advanced settings and controls, like pan and zoom. For this, the Mevo uses Wi-Fi (802.11a/b/g/n at 2.4 or 5 GHz) for either a direct connection with an iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad, or via a Wi-Fi network. You also need to use an Internet connection (Wi-Fi or cellular) to enable live streaming. The camera also uses Bluetooth, but it’s only for initial setup (to connect the camera to a Wi-Fi network, or switch it to hotspot mode).
The guts of the Mevo resemble what you might find in a quadcopter or action cam: a 12.4-megapixel Sony 4K sensor and the A9SE chipset from Ambarella. The sensor delivers a 16:9, 3,840 x 2,160-pixel resolution at 30 frames per second. However, in actual use, the camera downscales the resolution to 720p (1,280 x 720) at 30 fps during streaming and recording (20Mbps when strictly recording, but 5Mbps when streaming as well).
Why use a 4K sensor, then? It minimizes quality loss, particularly when you pan and zoom. So, when you view the video at actual size (1,280 x 720), it looks pretty good, without degradation in quality when zooming in. In short, while the Mevo has a 4K sensor, it’s not a 4K camera, or even a 1080p camera for that matter. You can dip below 720p to 480p (medium) or 360p (low), for lower-quality Internet connections, or if you are using cellular LTE and you want to limit data usage.
Performance and use
Before you buy or use the camera, we recommend checking out the Mevo’s online support website. Livestream has done a great job with online support articles and tutorials. Whether it’s a question about pairing the camera to a phone or setting it up to record the best-quality video and audio, there is most likely a document about it. Browsing through the articles will help you better understand what this camera can and can’t do.
Although the Mevo can record to a Micro SD card like any standalone camera, the real appeal is live broadcasting. With a paired iOS device (we used an iPhone 6S and an iPad Air Mini for testing), you can quickly zoom in and pan around in any part within the frame.
The Mevo supports Livestream and Facebook Live platforms, but it’s the latter that most users will be interested in.
Imagine you’re recording an interview between two people. In this scenario, the camera would be positioned to capture both subjects within the frame. On the iOS device screen, you can tap on a face to quickly zoom in on the subject, or pinch-in with your fingers to “draw” a box around the subject, to initiate a smooth zoom; pinching out from the subject zooms the camera out. When the camera is zoomed in, you can also pan the camera around the frame.
The effect is similar to using a cameraman or a multi-camera setup, and it’s very easy to accomplish. And what you get is something that looks more seamless and polished than physically moving a phone back and forth.
The virtual zoom and pan functions aren’t the same as using an actual zoom lens on a camcorder, but the quality is stronger than typical digital zoom because, as mentioned, the Mevo is cropping into a 720p video on a 4K sensor. This feature is an advantage over smartphones, as there is no capability when broadcasting in Facebook Live from a phone.
The Mevo supports Livestream’s broadcasting platform and Facebook Live. We wish there was also support for other platforms, like Periscope, Ustream, and YouTube, but if you’re going to target the masses, Facebook Live is the one to hit. In the live-view screen, pressing the record button brings up the option of live-streaming to either Livestream or Facebook Live; you will be asked to enter your login info during first-use.
And it doesn’t get any easier than that: Once recording is initiated, anyone with permission to view content on your Facebook page can watch whatever you’re streaming live (the content remains available on Facebook as recorded video). We used Mevo with both personal and group accounts, and it worked flawlessly.
Live streaming on Facebook Live is no different than using a phone. The benefit is the aforementioned pan and zoom functions, but also a wider field of view than what smartphone lenses can capture. Image quality is good and colors are accurate, with subjects exhibiting smooth motion (you can set the Mevo to track and follow faces automatically). Make sure the lens is wiped clean, otherwise your videos could look soft and hazy, as we noticed in some of our earlier videos. Don’t use the Mevo like an action cam, because otherwise the non-stabilized video is nauseating to watch; it’s best to keep the camera still on a table or tripod.
Although 720p video is technically lower quality than what the best phones can produce, the difference is negligible when viewed in small sizes, whether on a phone or within the Facebook feed. If you’re looking for very-high-quality video for Facebook Live, your only option right now is to invest in much more expensive equipment and services.
The Mevo is an automatic camera, although you can adjust the white balance and exposure compensation, as well as fine-tune brightness, contrast, and saturation. For the most part, the auto setting works well, although you can add one of a handful of filters for a unique look, like black and white or sepia tone (vivid was our favorite). Annoyingly, some of these settings are hidden within submenus.
As with all small sensor cameras, the Mevo is not a low-light performer. The subject was completely lost in a noisy picture when we used the Mevo inside a dark room. You can adjust the exposure compensation, but it ends up looking overexposed and unusable. The camera really needs light, however, at an event like an indoor concert, there should be enough illumination.
You can also monitor the audio and adjust the gain on the microphone through the Mevo app. Increasing it lets you pick up audio better, but at the risk of distortion; the Mevo has auto gain control and adjusts accordingly for the environment.
Livestream says it works best when the Mevo is close to the subject, and we agree – the audio sounds distorted and muffled the farther the camera is away from the subject. We wish the volume was a bit louder and cleaner, but it was audible and clear enough. Boosting the gain definitely increases the volume, but also background static. For instance, we found the microphone was able to pick up not only the subject’s voice inside a quiet room, but also the low hum of an air conditioning unit in an adjacent room. And outdoors, the microphone picked up way too much background and wind noise.
But the Mevo can capture better audio through an external microphone. To do this, you will need to connect a TRRS-compatible microphone to the iOS device’s headphone jack (or the Lightining headphone adapter with newer iPhone 7 and 7 Plus), such as a lavaliere mic or iPhone headset. With the Mevo app, you can check volume levels and also adjust the gain of the external mic. We tried it with a budget shotgun mic from Audio Technica and thought the audio sounded cleaner, but you will have to play with the gain levels.
A successful live broadcast relies heavily on a solid internet connection, whether it’s through Wi-Fi or LTE. For the best quality video, you will need a Wi-Fi connection with upload bitrates between 1 to 3.6Mbps or higher, or at least 1 to 2.1Mbps with an LTE connection. If the connection isn’t particularly strong, you may need to reduce the video quality. If you’re planning to live-stream an important event, you may need to connect the camera via Ethernet by purchasing the optional boost accessory.
There currently isn’t anything else like the Mevo.
Generally, a typical home or office Wi-Fi network is sufficient for delivering quality broadcasts. Wi-Fi is the preferred method, but if you’re broadcasting from the field, you could rely on a phone’s LTE connection by putting the camera into hotspot mode. Note that this method will gobble up data, so unless you have enough data to spare in your mobile plan, Wi-Fi is best.
On a good network, we encountered no major issues; the Mevo logged on and was ready to go in less than a minute. However, we had some problems where the Mevo just refused to connect to our office’s Wi-Fi networks. It turned out that the routers, not the camera, were faulty, and in situations where the networks are unstable, the Mevo won’t work.Our Take
Is there a better alternative?
No, there currently isn’t anything else like the Mevo. Sure, your phone is the cheapest way to stream on Facebook Live, and the best option for casual users. But for $400, the unique Mevo delivers polished production values well above what you can get with a phone, and it’s still much cheaper than pro-grade equipment.
How long will it last?
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You’re probably not going to break the Mevo, but shifting standards could render it less useful if Livestream doesn’t update it. Facebook Live is unlikely to go away anytime soon, but we do hope Livestream adds support for more platforms in the future, and Android. Of course, Livestream could also release a higher-resolution model, but bandwidth limitations mean that 720p will be a very reasonable streaming resolution for a long time.
That said, expect competitors. Facebook Live is an open API, and as it gains greater adoption, we anticipate more cameras to add support.
Should you buy it?
Yes. If you’re a Facebook Live junkie or a small business looking for a studio-like camera without dropping four figures, then the Mevo is an affordable, easy-to-use option. But if you only live-stream videos to Facebook once in a while for fun, it’s cheaper to just use your smartphone. Anyone looking for pro-grade streaming should consider using a true Full HD or 4K camera with a device like the VidiU from Teradek.