My Oregon Scientific ATC2K camera seems a long time ago now and the quest to find a replacement has been long, at times disappointing, and much more expensive that I had hoped.
I guess a bit of background is in order here. My first job involved me selling cameras, both still and motion, for best part of 10 years. I knew them inside out and how to get a technically good picture. Notice I said technically as I’m first to admit there is more to a good photo that simply technique.
Anyway, I write all that to give you an indication of why I am so fussy about the results I get. More recently I’ve worked with engineers who understand the transmission of sound and video and hence I’ve got an insight into that side of things as well.
Main issues with the ATC2K were “wobble”; I later learned this is an issue with CMOS sensors. My take on this is that they struggle to process the rapid change in horizontal image that clattering over roots causes, even on a full susser.
The second issue with the ATC2K was the angle of view was a bit on the narrow side meaning you often chop off the main point of interest, i.e. the rider in front. this is even evident on the new ContourHD camera although the wide angle lens makes it less noticeable (same as on the GoPro Hero Wide I assume).
So, when Oregon Scientific announced the ATC5K with much wider lens and a preview I was up for that straight away. Problem is the wobble remained and if you view the video on Vimeo entitled Chainbraker you see how unwatchable this can make the film, in my opinion.
So, enter Dogcamsports as a purveyor of all things fine in helmet cam paraphernalia. My eye was initially taken by the MiniDVR-1 and you can view my initial review on this site. I think I could have been happy with that package but my camera lost sharp focus after a few seconds and I think it was the RGB signal losing its sync.
The MiniDVR-1 had it’s issues, the main one being the fact the CCD switched to mono mode as soon as I lost the strong sun, i.e. under trees on single track so the majority of the stuff I ride. I could live with the compression and had it been sharp I could have lived with the black and white.
After a chat with Mark at Dogcam I paid a bit more to upgrade to a DV500 with SS30 camera (this isn’t on their website). I think I was most disappointed with this one.
Compression was way too high and the camera lost its colour in similar conditions to the MiniDVR1 but at considerably more cost. This coupled with a microphone that was way too sensitive put a downer on the whole experience, so it was back to the drawing board, more chats with Mark and a few more things to sell on eBay.
Finally I ended up with the top of the range HQR2 recorder and HQ2 camera. The recorder offers high bit rate MP4 or MPEG2 recording and requires a fast compact flash card to work. It’s basically a tiny PC dedicated to recording and running a Linux Kernal. It has a built in microphone with adjustable gain so there is another tick but also offers the option to plug an external microphone in if required.
The HQR2/HQ2 package comes with a USB card reader so you can plug the card into you PC with minimum fuss. You can also connect it to a network but I only managed to get this to work once and haven’t pursued this any further at the time of writing.
Probably the shining light that makes the package work is the HQ2 camera. This is a tiny beast, powered by the HQR2, and holds onto colour and definition like nothing else I have seen. No wobble at all being a CCD. There’s a few video’s up on Vimeo (including the one at the start of this write up) and lots of clips to be edited.
I’ve also tried positioning the camera in different positions to see how it works and so far it’s all been great. The HQ2 is waterproof to an extent so mud and splashes are easily coped with. I also noted that in the dusty conditions of the last week the clear lens filter doesn’t hold on to the dust too much either.
In fact I tried the camera on the Wednesday night ride last week and under street lighting on the way home it held onto the image really well (ATC2K would not have rendered an image) and on the trails under our retinal buring LED lamps the image was still remarkably good.
What I can say about the whole experience is that the guys at DogCamSports, Mark and Ed, couldn’t have been any more helpful or patient. I’d recommend them totally.
I think if you want to keep the budget tighter then the Mini-DVR1 offers a good entry point to helmet camera possibilities but the real results require HQR2 and HQ2. That’s my opinion as a fussy user, your experience may differ and feel free to offer your views in the comments section.
You can see all our mountain bike videos over on Vimeo.