On Friday evening I used and assembled the helmet cam for the first time. The thing that I’m most interested in with this camera is how well it actually attaches to a helmet. Is it going to be practical on the hill? Will it be steady enough for usable video? This is the main subject of this early review.
I do however have some other observations. I won’t go into much detail, but I will list them here at the top:
- The video quality is actually ok, as good as I’d hoped
- The sound quality is aweful, almost a waste of time
- Connection to the pc and transfer of files is very easy
- It’s not difficult to start and stop recording while the camera remains helmet-mounted
Here are the contents of the ATC-2K package:
The batteries (2 AA), SD card and connections are all at the back, which has a well sealed cover.
Mounting the camera on a helmet
A rubber strap is used to wrap around the helmet. The strap is held in place by a plastic buckle, which also acts as the female part of the camera-to-strap connection. It’s a slot and click connection.
The strap itself seems good; once in place it’s pretty damn tight and doesn’t appear to be going anywhere. The major problem with the design is the way that the strap is fed through the buckle. It leaves a gap.
Once attached, the weight of the camera causes it to sag, which in turn causes it to wobble once in motion. As part of the package there are a few rubber strips with sticky backs. I’m certain that these are intended to be used a padding for this gap – to help prevent the wobble.
The padding actually works pretty well. I tried 3 video tests: one with no padding, one with a single rubber strip and one with two pieces of rubber. The difference was cleary visible. The optimum seemed to be a single strip, and it cut out a lot of the wobble.
Side mount vs. top mount:
As per some of the pictures I’ve seen, it’s possible to mount the camera on either the top or the side of a helmet. To facilitate this, the connector that is attached to the camera can be rotated. This means you can set the camera to be level wherever it is mounted.
I chose to side mount the camera for two reasons. 1st, I can’t see how the rubber strap will wrap around a helmet to achieve a top mount. 2nd, I think I’ll look more of a dork with it in that position.
There are two issues that I’ve encountered with having it side-mounted. 1st, you can actaully feel the weight of the camera. It’s slight, but it’s there non the less. 2nd, it really gets in the way of your googles. I’m going to have to wear the goggle strap under my helmet.
Aligning the camera:
I didn’t find aligning the camera to be that difficult. After the first attempt of setting it up, I walked around the room looking at specific objects and then watched the video back to see if the camera was looking in the same area. After a few slight adjustments I’ve made a reference line on the helmet, and it seems pretty reliable.
These comments may be a little premature, but I can’t help thinking that a half decent slam is going to smash the whole thing. The camera unit itself seems very solid, but there are quite a few plastic pieces in the whole connection jigsaw, and that seems like a weak link.
What’s more, when the camera is disconnected it still has part of the plastic connection wrapped around it. I’d hoped to carry the camera in my pocket as an ultra portable alternative to my video camera, at times when I don’t want to carry something larger. Now I’m just worried that I might damage the plastic connector…
At this stage, I’m still fairly encouraged. The design of the helmet mount could be better, but it might just work out to be ok. Time will tell. On the plus side, the quality is good enough for what I want and the operation of the camera is dead simple. On the down side, I don’t like that plastic connector being wrapped around the camera all the time; it’s in the way. I might be able to get it off, but it looks to be a right fiddle.
I’d like to try the helmet cam on my skateboard before I go to Fernie – and see how the footage comes out…
For a second opinion, check here for some good reviews of action cameras, including the ATC range, GoPro and others.