Published on November 7th, 2009 | by Greg0
Action Cams: VholdR and Oregon Scientific
We’ve said it before, we’ll say it again: there is no excuse for anyone, ever, to not have footage of their crazy antics and over-the-top stunts. If it’s not on YouTube, it didn’t happen, and that goes for your skateboarding mishap and that prank which really wasn’t a good idea in hindsight. Enough with the pet videos though, thanks.
Anyway, we’ve taken a look at one of the main action cams which offered a wide array of interesting holders and harnesses. Now, we’ve got two other wearable camcorder contenders from VholdR and Oregon Scientific that each offer self-contained, hands-free video for use wherever you are outdoors.
We’ll start with the cheaper option of the two- the Oregon Scientific ATC3K weighs in at about half a pound to a pound depending on mounting hardware, uses AA batteries instead of rechargeables, and records onto SD cards (or the minimal internal 32MB memory). Resolution isn’t great- at 640×480, it’s standard definition and about the same quality as a decent webcam. Basically, don’t expect the videos to wow anyone with sharpness, but they do a pretty good job of capturing action at 30 frames per second. We were impressed with the shock-proof sturdiness of the case and the easy mounting onto bikes, though it doesn’t have the flexibility and variety of gear that come with some others.
The audio quality was abysmal though- but that’s typical for action cams, and about the same across the three we’ve tried; we’d recommend disabling it if you’re outdoors due to wind noise. Controls are easy- but again, that’s typical and necessary for an action cam, where you might be wearing gloves or on a moving kayak, etc. Waterproof to 10 feet, you can’t scuba dive with it, but can snorkel. Battery life isn’t great, and the screen is mediocre, but it does record in a flexible and widely-compatible AVI format and can work with both Macs and PCs easily. The primary downside we found though was the poor video taken in lower-light situations and issues in shade and changing conditions. Overall, it’s a good solution for those with budget limitations and is reasonably priced at under $100, but be cautious of a limited warranty of only ninety days and be prepared for video quality that isn’t likely to wow viewers.
Next up, a camera with lasers. Seriously- two of them! The VholdR 1200 Contour HD Camera offers a wide-angle lens (135 degrees versus the 48 degree field of view on the ATC3K). The end result is a better view of the action, though it does skew it a bit like a fish-eye. This camera is definitely the more serious piece of gear- it feels more solid, but manages to be lighter as well, about 4 ounces. It uses rechargeable batteries that last about 3 hours on one charge, better for the environment but a bit more of a hassle. You record onto the smaller MicroSD cards, and helpfully a 2GB one is included, good for about an hour of video in high-resolution or twice that in standard definition. Everything about this camera screams quality, and it shows- the company makes nothing but wearable camcorders and does it well.
Video quality is superb; check out their samples. We were impressed by the colors and reasonably good action shots in both SD and HD (1280×720 resolution). We look forward to future models including better anti-vibration technology, as it’s still too easy to make your recordings a bit unwatchable due to shakiness, if you’re on snowmobile for instance. They offer two modes- the HD mode at 30 frames per second, or an action mode at a lower resolution but double the fps- a nice feature for those wanting to capture something at higher speeds. Also note that the camera does come in a couple of resolutions, including the newer model 1300 that offers 1080p recording (1920×1280). We also didn’t try the wide range of accessories, but they offer a variety of mounts including one for your windshield and even one to strap onto your ski goggles, not to mention a bunch of neat ways to recharge the battery (USB and car chargers available). All in all, it’s easy to use, durable (though not waterproof) and the audio and video are the best of any action camera that we’ve tried. At more than $250, though, it’s definitely aimed at those who take their sport seriously and want a recording device to match. The ContourHD is the perfect gift for Santa’s little extreme sport lover.