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.
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.
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.
The YouTube Video of the Review: