Go-Pro Wide and wide angle thoughts….

Hey everybody, I am back! Whew, been really busy and haven’t had time to really jump on anything new lately. It’s not like there are really any new updates in the Helmet Cam world.

The only big news is maybe Cisco cashing out $590 million in stock to acquire Pure Digital, maker of the pint-sized Flip Video line of cameras, a favorite among the YouTube crowd. Not a helmet camera but interesting news.

So lets go back to the helmet camera

I have not really tested any product or bought anything new. But I have been monitoring boards, forums and reviews. So I noticed that Go-Pro has a wide-angle option now and since I ranked them in my last review “The Big seven of wireless helmet cams” second, I figured I needed to do some research to see if they could possibly move up in the rankings. I was waiting for a new release or major update to any of the Big 5 helmet cam manufacturers to write another review. But due to the overwhelming amounts of emails I have received about the Go-Pro wide I figured I would write a bit.

Click the pic to see the review

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I was so excited to see a wide screen helmet cam hit the market at 170 degrees field of view. When I first read the specs page on GoPros website I was ready to pull out the credit card and buy on the spot.  But then I hesitated for a minute, 170-degree field of view? Isn’t that wider than the average human peripheral vision? Will that not distort the outer edges of the video?

“The normal human visual field extends to approximately 60 degrees nasally (toward the nose, or inward) in each eye, to 100 degrees temporally (away from the nose, or outwards), and approximately 60 degrees above and 75 below the horizontal meridian.” Wikipedia

One other problem I noticed on the Go-Pro spec sheet was their 512×384 video resolution, OUCH…compression, compression, compression. Stretching the rez so far out will for sure compress the video. And with only allowing a 2GB card (for the time being the 4GB upgrade is on the way) the video is already weaker than competitors that offer larger SD cards. Now like I always say, I am no scientist, tech geek or mathematician but it seems to my like the pixel ratio must be pretty weak in the 170 compared to everyone else’s normal 50 degree field of vision, of course it is. (Email me if you have answers) It’s not a true widescreen, its almost like a door pinhole or a fishbowl view. I really does bother my experience as a viewer; I think the videos look like alien navigators viewing the spaceship screen. .

I was so excited at the wide angle opportunity, I mean look at the website. The riders and videos on the page are insane, are you kidding me, John John Florence. I’ve been following him since he was a wee little grom ripping north shore out of the womb. The Yamaha video, it would be insane if the FOV wasn’t so forced out, ok there are some pretty awesome shots in that teaser, the tail whip by the Yamaha rider about 75% through. The base-jumping video made me a little queasy. On the highlight video the bmx guys helmet is huge with a wee little bike below him. You can really tell on this photo below the “fishbowl” distortion.

gopro-wide-bridge

Here are a couple of quotes I pulled off a few review sites and forums echoing my frustration.

“GoPro Hero Wide: 170 degrees sounds great, right? If your subject is really close maybe. But man, if you are pointing at something a bit further away it’s like looking through the wrong end of binoculars. 70 of those degrees are pure distortion.”

“The wide angle lens looks like a fishbowl. And it takes away from the quality.”

The wide however is really wide. The subject can disappear very quickly. It is great for close quarters and to show speed and the surroundings, but this 170 degree wide is a bit too wide. I consider a wide in the 120 degree range….. In my perfect world, the GoPro standard would be about 90 degrees and the “wide” about 120 degrees. Currently, if you have even a question, I’d go with the wide.”

Here is a You Tube video that shows a side by side comparison of the wide vs regular, the guy didn’t upload his video in HD or HQ so it is quite pixilated but it does give you a pretty good idea.

Go-Pro vs Go-Pro Wide Video

I echo the last quote that I pulled from Helmetcamreview.com 90-120 degrees would be perfect for the helmet cam world. You really don’t need any more, any wider the 90 I feel will lose pixels on the edges and become distorted.  Anyways that is my daily, weekly, actually monthly rant. The second somebody releases something new, I will save up or get a sample to so some more video reviews.

I have noticed that GoPro is now calling itself the number one selling helmet cam in the world. I pulled that straight form one of there ads. Call it marketing, call it advertising, whatever, it just kind of bothered me. Oregon Scientific has been on the market for ages! The ATC2K I believe has sold millions of cams. Interesting, that I seem to see a really large number of ATC and Tachyon XC videos from all over the world, but only a few international GoPro videos? Hmmmmmmmmm….

Am I being harsh, ok maybe a little but I expect big things from whoever claims to be the #1 Selling Helmet Cam in the world. C’mon GoPro, seriously it’s a fish eye. Will someone please release a wide screen in the helmet camera market that is a real widescreen? I am waiting. Send me your thoughts. I might be slow to answer, but I eventually will. And if anyone from Go-Pro reads prove us that you are the #1 selling helmet camera in the world, email me, because the readers and I want to know..

C-YA……

The Big 7 of Wireless Helmet Cams

Everyone who uses a helmet camera or at least one in the class I reviewed uses the camera for different purposes.  My friends and I are quite active in a number of action sports. I myself have recently gotten addicted to the helmet cam genre. If I had the money to splurge on a soon to be released Red One, or scarlet camera I would, but then again I don’t have an extra 15-30K sitting around, yet; so for all of my first person footage and for activities that will end in a possible broken video camera I absolutely love this class of wireless helmet cams.

I have decided to review the top selling cameras in the wireless action helmet camera market. I will be comparing 7 models in 11 different categories. Each categories will be rated on a four star system, 0 for poor and 4 for great. The review will consist of these specific models: Oregon Scientific’s ATC2K, 3K and 5K- The Epic Stealth Cam- The Go-Pro Hero (standard edition)- Tachyon Inc’s Tachyon XC, and 20Twenty’s Vholdr.

In no particular order, the categories up for review will be; battery life, SD card capability, resolution, field of vision, shock resistance, waterproofing, still photos, tv system capability, remote control, sound and pricing.

Note: I have not personally tested every camera. This review has been compiled from website information, user manuals, FAQ’s, forums, blogs, new feeds, video comparisons (YouTube, Vimeo, etc) and camera tests.

THE REVIEW:

resolution

All of the cameras except the Go Pro have a resolution of 640X480 and claim to shoot 30 frames per second. (ATC2K shoots at 23 FPS) This however does not mean that the video quality on each camera is the same. All of these cameras use a CMOS sensor and are all VGA. (Because they are designed to be played on your CPU except for the Go Pro which shoots at 512X384 for TV). The Vholdr does compress using an MPEG 4 format which can hurt the video quality. You can go to the YouTube links at the bottom of the review to see for yourself. (I have chosen the videos from each camera with the most hits) To learn more about CMOS and CCD sensors you can view this link-             http://electronics.howstuffworks.com/question362.htm

 

Shock resistance ratings were based on how well the cameras power holds up on extreme terrain. All of these cameras are built for action so they are much more shock resistant than your ordinary run of the mill cam. The XC actually has its own patented free standing compartment. This compartment is designed to hold the batteries tightly, thus preventing them from rotating or separating from the batteries connection and turning off the camera. The Vholdr uses a rechargeable battery so like the XC, is possibly free from connection problems. The other models all seem to have some sort of problem with loss of power due to shock under rough terrain. You don’t have to take my word for this one, there are a plenty of forums online with people commenting on the problem of a number of these camera’s shutting off under extreme conditions.

The SD card ratings are based on the size GB SD card that each camera can hold. The VHoldr, Go-Pro, and ATC2K all use up to a 2GB SD card which is adequate but not great compared to the other cameras (Vholdr uses micro SD cards). The Epic stealth, ATC3K and 5K all hold up to a 4 GB SD card so they can hold more footage than the others. Tachyon XC incredibly allows users the option of 2, 4, 8, 16 and 32GB SD cards, so obviously are ahead of the pack.  I highly recommend using  a SDHC card for best quality in any of the cameras.

Battery life was based on the batteries used in each camera as well as record time. The Epic and the Go-Pro use of 2AAA batteries with a standard recording time of 1 hour of course that time will adjust with the use of lithium batteries. The ATC5K takes 2AA batteries with a 1 hour record time with the LCD on (can record up to 2.5 with the LCD off) The ATC3K and 2K have a record time of 2.5-3hrs with 2AA batteries. The Vholdr uses a rechargeable battery that lasts up to 2 hrs per charge; the rechargeable battery is lithium polymer so it will hold up in extreme weather conditions unlike alkaline batteries. The Tachyon XC received 4 stars for battery life, using 2AA batteries including the long lasting lithium batteries which allow it to record up to 10hours. (The ATC models use 2AA batteries as well but do not state how long lithium batteries extend their battery time) If you have more information on battery life please contact me.

Note: Alkaline and regular rechargeable batteries will not hold up in cold weather conditions. Always use lithium batteries in cold weather.  Battery information was taken from each of the cameras user manuals/website.

Field of view ratings were based on the actual percentage of view the camera films. The field of view (also field of vision) is the angular extent of the observable world that is seen at any given moment; humans have an almost 180-degree forward-facing field of view. Leading the field with a 90 degree FOV is the Vholdr followed by the Go-Pro at 54 degrees, the ATC5K at 53 and the Tachyon XC at 50degrees. I know that a lot of guys love a wide angle shot or lens including myself, but I do understand that in VGA a 90 degree FOV will result in a loss of video quality.  The other cameras are sitting at a 48-43 degree FOV.

Waterproof ratings were based on depth and camera construction. The VHoldr is not water proof and the ATC2K and 3k are only waterproof up to 3 meters/10 feet. The ATC5K is waterproof up to 5 meters/16.4 feet, The Epic stealth which requires a separate outer casing to waterproof the camera holds up to 20 feet, but there is only one small plastic disc (removable) that stands between water and the lens inside the casing. Tachyon XC is the only helmet camera that doesn’t require an outer casing that is waterproof over the 20 foot depth; it is designed to be waterproof up to 8.5 meters/28 feet. The Go Pro also requires an outer casing like the Epic stealth but claims to hold up to the 100 foot depth, I contacted Go Pro to see if there were any official tests to send this way. They pointed me to a video of divers using the camera at the San Diego Yukon ship wreck diving at 100 feet with the camera. If that is true then the casing is equal to some of the top underwater casings that cost $1,000 USD and up.

This one was easy because the Tachyon XC and the ATC5K are the only cameras in this field that comes with a remote control. The remote control is very handy when you are wearing gloves or can’t get to your camera while you are riding or for taking still shots from a distance.

stillshots2

The ATC2K, 3K and the Vholdr do not take still photos. Even though I will use my Canon 40D for the majority of my stills, this is still a nice option to have since I am not going to lug my Canon around all day on the mountain or at the skate park for fear of breaking it. The ATC5K and Tachyon XC still photos are all in VGA and the Go-Pro has a 3 megapixel capture. The Epic stealth claims in their manual that there still photos can be shot at “5 megapixel on high and 3 on low settings in VGA”. I am no tech genius but how can you shoot 5 megapixel in VGA? If anyone has any further information please let me know.

Only the Go-Pro and the Tachyon XC are playable on NTSC and PAL. The ATC models are either NTSC or PAL depending on the region you are buying from. The Vholdr and Epic camera only play on NTSC.

Being that the majority of these cameras are all waterproof the sound quality is not going to be that great. The lowest quality of sound came from the came from the ATC models and the Epic, receiving 1 star each. The Go Pro and XC received 2 stars. (Sound quality in the Epic and Go Pro drops drastically with the outer casing applied). The Vholdr has the best sound quality out of the group because its microphone is not protected by waterproofing agents.

These ratings were based on overall performance and package for the price. The Vholdr is the most expensive; I can’t see paying $350 for a cam that is not using CCD, the video itself is no better than the other cameras in this class. The Epic is just not in the class of the others for its price, the construction of the Epic stealth is pretty shabby and the ATC5K is obviously more expensive due to the LCD screen. The Go-Pro would have been 4 stars but you are really paying the majority of your money for an outer casing. The ATC3K, 5K and Tachyon XC are all in a great price range for what they offer.

So, after the first review I got a pretty nasty email from someone claiming I was extremely biased and didn’t know my information. Well this is my review blog so obviously I am going to prefer one camera over the other. Trust me; I am trying to be as fair as possible. Each of these cameras has weaknesses and strengths, so this is what I am trying to show.

Let me clarify, in the ATC3K vs Tachyon XC review, I tested both cameras as stated. So my results were all based on the tests that I actually performed, as well as using the cameras during activities. This review (like I mentioned above) has been compiled from research I have done using website information, user manuals, FAQ’s, forums, blogs, new feeds, video comparisons (YouTube, Vimeo, etc) and camera tests. Again I am no camera expert. However; I am an action sports expert, having worked for the world’s largest action sports company; Quiksilver, as well as having friends and a network of professional action sports athletes along with the many years I myself have participated in this lifestyle.   So, I believe my experience and active involvement in the action sports industry makes me somewhat of an expert on what other people who enjoy this lifestyle would need in a helmet camera.

I hope that this review helps whoever is out there reading it decide on a camera that fits their needs. Snow season is about to hit so get your camera or cameras fast and remember not to use alkaline on the slopes, too cold for them to work, use lithium batteries. Maybe I will see you in Tahoe or CO on the slopes. Until the next review…….

Here are the links to YouTube videos for each camera, you can also do a more extensive search for yourself by entering the camera’s name into the YouTube Search bar.  I chose each video based on the amount of hits.  Just click on the brand and it will take you to the video.

ATC2K, ATC3K, ATC5K, Epic Stealth, Go-Pro, Tachyon XC, Vholdr

The YouTube Video of the Review:

 

 

 

Helmet Cam review ATC3K vs Tachyon XC

Alright, so to begin my first full review of helmet cams, I will be comparing the ATC3K (or ATC 3000) from Oregon Scientific and the newly-released Tachyon XC.

Construction and Dimensions
At first sight, we can see the big difference in shape and construction. Many of today’s helmet cams are constructed in a cylindrical lipstick shape just like the 3K, while Tachyon’s new product has a completely different exterior casing that is actually a little bit boxier and slightly lighter. As I noticed, the ATC3K was identical to my old ATC2K in terms of size, shape, weight, etc. After some measurements and weigh-ins, the XC is about one ounce lighter without batteries. When measured for size, the XC was three quarters of an inch smaller in length. The exact measurements put the ATC3K at 4.75” (12cm) and the Tachyon XC at 4” (10.16cm).

Buttons
On the top of each camera, there is a series of buttons. Both cameras are standardized and provide a power button, a record button, and a menu button. Although the controls perform the same function, the 3K’s controls do prove a little more difficult to press than the XC’s bigger buttons. Both cameras provide a beeping sound to identify when buttons are being pressed, and when recording has commenced. On the front of the Tachyon XC, there are two small LEDs to help indicate status of power on and of recording.

Casing
Just like the ATC2K, the ATC3K offers a twist off cap to reveal its interior workings: battery compartment, SDHC card slot, and TV and USB plugs. Its battery casing is a simple slide-out tab that makes battery placement easy, but then again, maybe it’s too easy. One of the leading problems with helmet cameras comes from battery movement within the camera while you are recording. This leads to camera shutdown and lost content. Along with several complaints I have seen online and with friends, I did have a problem with occasional shutdowns and losing video with my ATC2K, so I’d hope the 3K does not suffer the same problem.

The XC goes with a locking door rather than a twist-off cap, similar to the design of professional waterproof camera cases. It offers an O-Ring clamp with some padding on the door that pushes up against the battery cartridge and the SDHC card, locking them in tight. The cartridge and the padding really seem to keep things tight. I haven’t had any shutdowns yet.

Waterproofing
One of the first great features of each of these cameras is full waterproofing. According to the manuals, the ATC3K is intended to work up to a full 10 feet (or 3 meters), while the Tachyon XC is assured to work well up to 28 feet of water (or 8.5 meters). The maximum time for both is listed as 30 minutes. I didn’t exactly jump in the full pool to test these claims, but I did allow both cameras to get wet with no problems. The ATC3K requires you to do a bit more than the XC does to keep your camera waterproof. You need to take care of your O-ring (rubber seal) with silicon grease. And I have to wonder what the constant screwing and unscrewing of the cap will do to the O-ring over the long run. The XC, on the other hand, needs no attention. Just close the door and you’re sealed tight.

Stills and Secrecy
One of the new features for these types of cameras is the option to take still photos. The Tachyon XC can do this, while the ATC3K cannot. The photos are straightforward and are taken in the same VGA resolution as the video. Is this really useful? In action situations, probably not. Your hands will be too busy to be pressing buttons anyway. But if you want to go out with just one camera instead of two, it might do the job.

Both of these cameras come with a ‘secrecy mode’ for shooting hidden cam shots. The beeping sounds that both cameras make are silenced when in this mode. As are the red and green LEDs that the Tachyon XC uses to show when your power is on and when you are recording.
So if you want to sneak some video of your friends or family, either one of these cameras could do the job.

Remote Control
Something that might be very useful with the secrecy mode is the XC’s remote control that can start and stop your recordings from a distance. This could also be useful for certain sports where the buttons are not easily reachable, such as when the camera is mounted on the top of your skiing helmet.

Mounts
Both cameras have included standard mounts so that you don’t have to go out and build them from scratch. Both camera’s mounts can easily slip on and off of the camera and have loops for attaching straps. The “swivel” mount of the XC can attach to a standard tripod and will rotate in a complete circle. It also attaches to their optional handlebar mount.The ATC3K comes with a simple handlebar mount – not as substantial looking as the XC’s. Both cameras come with straps, pads and Velcro, but the XC gives you a lot more of the pads and Velcro than the 3K does.

TV Modes
The Tachyon XC is a multi-TV system that can work on TVs anywhere in the world, while the ATC3K will work on either NTSC or PAL systems, but not both. So you need to be careful where you buy the ATC3K. If you live in Europe, don’t buy from the US, or vice-versa.

Video Recording and FPS
We now move on to the most important factor in this review and that is how well these cameras can record. To begin my test, I held both cameras in my hands while riding my skateboard. I set each camera to their highest setting, along with using the same SDHC card. Although both cameras worked well, I did notice a difference in overall quality. As you can see in the video, the 3K’s video appeared lighter, less saturated, and a bit jerky, while the XC stayed truer to natural colors and was a bit more smooth.

The XC advertises 30, 26, and 15fps, depending on the settings you choose. The two highest modes are at 26, the medium mode at 30 and the surveillance mode at 15. I found these to be accurate. The ATC3K goes with two shooting modes, both at a claimed 30fps. This claim doesn’t hold up, however. I found the true frame rate to be 26fps. To get an accurate frame rate for each setting, I imported the videos into Photoshop as frames and divided the number of frames by the time. As for Field of View on both cameras, the XC is labeled at 50 degrees compared to the 3Ks 48 degrees. Though for the common video viewer, there really isn’t any distinctive difference.

Shock proofing
The ATC3K claims to be shock resistant, while the XC claims to be shock proof. One of the leading problems with many helmet cameras has always come from battery movement within recordings, which has led to shut downs and loss of video. As I mentioned earlier, the ATC3K is pretty much identical to it’s predecessor ATC2K which claims in its manual that it is not shock proof and that you should not to drop it! Along with several complaints I have read online and heard from friends, I myself did have problems with occasional shutdowns and lost video on the 2K. Because of this problem, I hope the 3K does not suffer the same flaw. Tachyon claims a patented shock-proof design that is intended to eliminate this common problem suffered by the 2K and other action cameras. During my earlier test, which was admittedly not very rough, I did not have a problem with either camera turning off on me.

Memory and Recording Times
Secure Digital cards (SD cards) are an important element of both these cameras, as they provide the only way to store content. While the ATC3K’s manual lists its camera of being compatible with up to a 4GB card, the Tachyon XC’s manual shows a capability of 4GB, 8GB, 16GB, and 32GB SDHC cards, and is marketing itself as the only helmet cam in the industry capable of using SDHC cards above 4GB. According to the manuals the 3K’s recording times with a 4GB card can range from 2 to 3.5 hours (depending on mode). The XC’s manual says a 4GB card will give you 1 hour at its superior setting to 8 hours at its lowest setting. For best performance, Tachyon suggests that customers use SDHC (High Capacity) cards of a Class 4 (10MB) and up. They also encourage the use of Lithium powered batteries to record up to 11.5 hours, and especially for use in cold weather. The ATC3K also encourages lithium batteries for cold weather.

Sound Quality
Now, to talk a little about sound quality. As you should know, many helmet cameras are not meant to have high-quality sound recording because waterproof casings make that pretty much impossible. But I decided to test them both out anyway. I sat both of the cameras down a foot away from my mouth and set both to the highest settings to test. The XC in fact soared over the 3K in relative audio quality. Both cameras provided audible sound but the XC had a touch more gain and a less tinny quality to its sound. The traditional helmet cam is not going to give you superior audio either way, so your decision could depend on how important audio is on such types of cameras.

Pricing
Just to also give you some pricing tips, the Tachyon XC sells worldwide, from its website, for $149. The price for the ATC3K varies depending on where it is sold. It ranges from $149 in the US, to €199 in Europe. For further information on pricing, please see the video above.

Conclusion
From a quick reaction, I would have to give the edge to the Tachyon XC for overall use and performance. There were of course things I liked about each camera. The 3K offered me a more standard shape and style for a helmet camera, while the XC gave me a mini-camcorder feel with a completely new design from standard helmet cameras. For another, I felt that accessing the batteries in the 3K was a bit easier, but then as I mentioned above, this might come at a price. Both gave me a simple, user-friendly design that can work for any age of user. Besides the fact that the XC gave me better video and audio quality, it just overall had a lot more features to go with its whole package. Overall, I can see how some people may prefer the standard look of the ATC3K, but in my opinion, there is no reason to compromise on the security and quality of your video in a strong, secure helmet cam, like the Tachyon XC.

You don’t have to take my word though to compare and choose one of these cameras; if you go check out YouTube or any other video hosting websites, you can search and find tons of user videos with these two cameras in action to see for yourself. All you have to do is hop on YouTube and search Tachyon XC or ATC3K


For other information on each of these cameras you can check out
Oregon Scientific for the ATC3K or Tachyon Inc. for the Tachyon XC

Introduction

Hello all. I decided to create this new side-blog to let everyone know what is out there for the world of helmet cameras. The plan here is to check out any new helmet cam that comes available and offer a review and some advice on it. Stay tuned as we get ready to launch our first full review and video, featuring the Oregon Scientific ATC3K vs. the Tachyon XC.