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

24 responses to “Helmet Cam review ATC3K vs Tachyon XC

  1. can you tell me how to mount the tachyon on a motocross helmet. ive ben having A LOT of trouble with it.

  2. this is a great comparison – absolutely invaluable in my web shopping. thanks!

  3. Yeah, looking at cameras for Mtbing..and the Tachyon is looking good.I wonder how it compares to the Vio POV, certainly beats it on price.

    Thanks for a great review.

    Adam, NZ

  4. is it possible to get this camera anywhere but its website for maybe cheaper??? (new not used)

    • helmetcamreview

      Thats the only place to find it. When I was doing the review I contacted them and they told me they have no interest in looking for distributors for the time being, so their website is the only place.

  5. Great comparison! You should work for CR!

  6. It’s so obvious that the XC is the best camera. But you must know this or you will be sucked into buying Oregon scientific. Their marketing is complete saturation of the web. You would think they are the only game in town.

    • helmetcamreview

      yeah, but they have been in the game for a long time…so they should have the market saturated!…if they didn’t they would need a new marketing dept!

  7. The ATC3000 is a decent helmet camera and very good value. Never used the other one, but I do own an atc2000 which the atc3000 is an improved version of. I use it for cycle commuting and find it to be a very reliable camera and fairly intuitive to use.

    The lack of screen on a helmet camera is a bit annoying when setting it up, but a bit of patients and you can get it all aligned correctly which is good.

    • helmetcamreview

      Always trial and error–trust me…don’t ever permanently affix your mount until your angles are tested out!

  8. Gregory Arding

    The tachyon is great for quality of footage and the shockproofing has withstood some pretty windy days at the top of a mast. The mounts are good too.

    The actual camera is made of a soft plastic though. Once the mounts are used 2 or 3 times the “clips” that hold it in place wear off so the camera smoothly slides out of its mount and into the sea, snow, mud – annoying as I love what it does. Maybe I have a duff one. I’ve written to them but no reply as yet.

    • helmetcamreview

      I am surprised you haven’t heard back from them yet, one thing I have heard overwhelming response to from readers of this blog is the customer service at Tachyon, try calling if you have only sent an email. I have gotten someone every time I have called with questions!

    • Gregory Arding

      I totally take it all back. They ARE amazing. Replacing camera once I send it back. Taking it to Cuba so should be great for the light. Check out youtube “tachyon windsurf calshot” for windsurfing footage

  9. I bought the ATC3K but I have one BIG problem, I have a MAC, and I can not use the CD that came with the camera, and I can not find the software on the net to D/L to make it use it, a bit upset, but like the camera none the less. Can you tel me where to get the software, have called Oregon Sci but have not gotten a call back as of yet. If anyone has had this working on their mac please drop me aline as to how you did it.

    Abdulah

  10. Thank you so far !!!! Thanks to you, I’ve done my choice on the Tachyon RC and actually waiting for it.

    Thank you !!

  11. Anyone ever use helmet cam for horseback riding on trail? Have been on some great trails & done some (for me) hair-raising hills. Would love to share but not gonna take my JVC Everio!! Recommendations welcome.

    • I havn’t but I have seen some pretty good goat cam videos from a guy who does some mountain climbing with his goats! I think a helmet camera would be a great and affordable choice to film your excursions..

  12. Thanks. Still haven’t bought one, but it’s on my “to get” list.

  13. If your in Australia you can get the New 2010 Tachyon Helmet Camera and all the accessories at The Specialist http://www.4040.com.au good prices too.

  14. I got suckered into buying the ATC3K. As said by one of you, the marketing and the looks are impressive. The menu buttons are not nice to use. The LCD screen is hard to read. The video quality is not bad though. Quite sharp for 640×480. The sound totally sucks. I have just ordered an XC. I might keep the 3K as a backup or just sell it off cheap.

  15. Digital memory,to me, is something that I seem to be unable to ever have enough of. It’s as if megabytes and gigabytes have become a permanent part of my every day existence. Ever since I bought a Micro SD Card for my Nintendo DS flash card, I’ve been on permanent watch for high memory at low prices. I feel like I’m going insane.(Posted by SPPost for R4i Nintendo DS.)

  16. Check out this link which answers your Megapixel vs VGA question:
    http://jalaj.net/2007/11/28/how-many-megapixels-is-a-vga-camera/

  17. Have you ever tried the Tachyon Micro? I´m thinking of buying either the “normal” tachyon or the micro. Which one should I get?

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