Accsoon M1 HDMI recorder review
Written by Gordon Laing
The Accsoon M1 is an adapter that lets you use an Android phone as an HDMI monitor, recorder, or streamer. It was launched in March 2022 and Accsoon loaned me one for this review.
The M1 lets you monitor the output from your main camera on the bigger and brighter screen of your phone that can also be positioned in any direction, enjoy a lower-latency feed than a Wifi app with all manner of shooting assistance, record, post or live-stream using your phone’s memory and connection, or simply capture menus and on-screen graphics which are useful for reviews and tutorials.
You’ll need a phone running Android 8 or above, and throughout this video you’ll see it tested with my own Samsung Galaxy S20. Note it does not work with iOS devices. See how it works in action in my video review below, or keep scrolling if you’d prefer to read a written version!
The market is of course packed with all manner of portable HDMI monitors and recorders, but the idea behind the M1 is you almost certainly already have a decent screen on your phone, so why buy another and carry it around? Plus your phone includes storage that could be used for recording, a connection to the internet that could post or live-stream, and an operating system that can run software that ties it all together.
Dedicated HDMI recorders like the Atomos Ninja V remain the best option if you want to record the highest quality video, in terms of resolution, frame rate, bit depth and codec, but they’re overkill for anyone who just wants to capture a smaller file that’s easier to post, go live, grab some menus, or simply flip a screen round to a more convenient angle.
Sadly the majority of phones can’t connect directly to the HDMI output on a camera, so the M1 primarily acts as an HDMI to USB-C converter. Now there’s already a wealth of cheap HDMI to USB adapters available at a fraction of the price that can do the same job, so Accsoon has tried to make their option as convenient and easy as possible.
First the electronics are built-into a clamp to hold your phone, with a quarter-inch thread at the bottom and a cold-shoe at the top for modest accessories like a small light or microphone. The clamp has a full-size HDMI port on one side for connecting to your camera and a USB C port on the other to plug into your phone. You’ll typically mount the clamp onto your camera’s hotshoe but you’ll need your own adapter for this.
The M1 will happily work, powered by your phone alone, but what makes it stand out compared to other solutions is the mount for a standard Sony NP-F battery on the back. This can be used to power or charge your phone (albeit at cable speeds in my tests) or even power your main camera or other accessories using the two DC outputs on the side, although you’ll need to provide the appropriate cables. Again while using an NP-F battery will extend your phone’s battery life, you don’t need one for the M1 to work.
The final benefit of the M1 over a cheaper adapter, or indeed using a camera’s own Wifi app, is the Accsoon SEE app which provides loads of shooting and view assistance which I’ll show you in just a moment. Third party apps for cheaper adapters are available, but the Accsoon app saves you from searching the Play store for one that’ll work with your hardware.
The M1 clamp feels fairly well-built but is made of plastic, so it’s not going to be as tough as a premium metal clamp or the best pro monitors. The spring-loaded gripping mechanism will accommodate phones between 65 and 90mm wide, but a screw-locking system could be more secure and less prone to breakage with rough handling. Similarly the cold shoe isn’t metal, so don’t mount anything too demanding on top, and the battery clip is also pretty basic, so use it all with care.
The flip-side to all this though is the M1 weighs just 75g, making it almost unnoticeable in your bag or even pocket, unlike a more substantial rig or pro monitor. As much as I love the quality of my Ninja V, it weighs closer to 650g with SSD and battery, so I only take it when I absolutely need it. In contrast, the M1 is so light, I would take it everywhere.
Ok before getting started, you may be wondering why you wouldn’t just use the Wifi apps provided for most cameras for remote monitoring without spending a penny. To demonstrate why, I have my S20 mounted on top of a Fujifilm X100V using a basic hotshoe adapter and the M1 as a phone clamp but nothing more. I’m running the Fujifilm app on my phone with a Wifi connection to the camera and you can see there’s a lot of lag, not to mention regular pauses and freezes in my particular setup here. Your mileage may vary, but in my experience most standard camera Wifi apps are very laggy and also only deliver the live view in a small window.
Next let’s compare that to the M1 in action, connected to my phone with the supplied USB C cable and to the X100V via a rather long HDMI cable. Sorry, it’s the only one I had to hand, but a shorter one would be neater. Right now I’m powering the M1 with my phone alone, and as you can see, there’s minimal lag between the live image on the camera and the HDMI output viewed on-screen. I’d say it looks pretty responsive here. Oh, note the phone will play the camera audio through its speaker when connected, so to avoid feedback, you should turn the phone volume down.
For comparison, here’s my Atomos Ninja V, a dedicated pro monitor and recorder showing a similar degree of latency, so a good first result for the M1 in action.
The next benefit of the M1 is the ability to position the phone to face you, allowing you to frame a piece to camera or a vlog. This is obviously invaluable for cameras like the X100V or the multitude of older Sony Alphas who’s screens won’t face forward. Again I could do this with my Ninja, but it weighs almost 50% more than small cameras like the X100V, so becomes really top-heavy, not to mention more than doubling the weight of the gear I’d need to carry just to frame myself.
The Accsoon SEE app also provides an impressive array of shooting assistance including a greyscale view, red, green or blue channel, resizeable histogram or vectorscope monitors, focus peaking, LUT preview, zebras, false colour, a selection of anamorphic squeezes, audio level meters, a wealth of framing crops from 2.35:1 to 1:1, a choice of grids, the option to display a full range or a flipped image, a screenshot grabber, and the chance to load an overlay image. While a Ninja may offer more flexibility or pro tools, there’s more than enough here for most people including myself.
Then in the bottom right you’ll see a red button to start recording video. The M1 can record 1080p video from 24 to 60p in 8 bit H.264, while a cog icon allows you to choose from a variable bit rate or a constant rate between 5 and 20 Mbit/s.
Regular users of, say, an Atomos Ninja will already see the limitations of the M1 for recording video. No 4k or higher frame rates, no ProRes or RAW formats, and no HDR or 10-bit either. Just 8-bit 1080p up to 60p and 20 Mbit/s. But this may look better than you think.
So here’s a video I recorded in 4k 25p using the X100V on the left and on the right is the recording made in 1080 using the M1 in its best quality 20 Mbit/s bit rate. Obviously the 4k file from the camera itself has more detail, but the M1’s recording isn’t bad and crucially is already stored on my phone, ready for sharing if I wanted an online preview. Note on Fujifilm cameras, I had to set the menus to record 4k to the SD card and output 1080 over HDMI. On my Sony cameras I didn’t need to change the HDMI output, but either way the M1 will only record in 1080p at best.
And here’s a video I recorded with the M1 showing the X100V’s menu system, which looks absolutely fine for use in tutorials or reviews. Previously I’d do this on my Ninja and have to deal with unnecessarily large files.
You can also exploit your phone’s Wifi or cellular connection to live-stream using RTMP to platforms including YouTube, Facebook, Instagram or Twitch. Again you could do this direct from your phone using its own camera, but the M1 lets you broadcast with a far better quality camera system, while also staying wireless or completely mobile if desired.
And if you are thinking of going mobile, this is where the optional battery really comes into play, giving you much longer life. With an NP-F pack mounted, a series of four LEDs indicate the charge remaining, while a small switch lets you decide whether to charge the phone with it or not. I’ve got quite a large battery here, but smaller ones are available. Ok, now for my verdict.
Accsoon M1 verdict
The Accsoon M1 is certainly a handy solution for anyone who’d find an external monitor or recorder useful, but doesn’t want to stretch to the cost and weight of a dedicated model, or mess around with creating their own with cheap adapters and third-party apps.
Yes, you can do it yourself cheaper if you don’t mind assembling a system and there’s plenty of videos showing you how to use an Android phone as an HDMI monitor. And conversely if you do want to record in 4k, 10 bit, frame rates above 60p or with more robust high-bit rate codecs, then models like the Ninja V remain your best bet.
The build quality also demands using the M1 with some care. The plastic clamp, cold shoe and small controls means this isn’t a pro tool to be thrown around. But again this is what allows it to be small and light enough that you’ll never leave it at home, and it’s especially well-matched for smaller cameras that don’t have flippy screens like the X100V.
So if your camera’s screen doesn’t face forward, if you’d like to record menus for a review or tutorial, or record or live stream from a nicer camera in a mobile environment, all without breaking the bank or unnecessarily weigh-down your bag, the Accsoon M1 provides an easy, convenient, light-weight and affordable solution. I’m definitely going to carry one around on trips where I’m traveling light.Check prices on the Accsoon M1 at B&H, Adorama or Amazon. Alternatively get yourself a copy of my In Camera book, an official Cameralabs T-shirt or mug, or treat me to a coffee! Thanks!