ActionCameras sent us the Drift X170 helmet camera to have a look at, I was busy trying to build a cable cam that week so I gave it to local tester Leaky Lewis to take it out for a spin.
This stand-alone video unit costs about £200 and comes without the wires and separate battery/recording “tat’ that tended to get in the way with earlier recording devices. It does however come with a range of fittings to enable you to record most of your extreme sports pursuits. It’s about the size of a can of Redbull and weighs in at 190 grams. Playback can be made instantly but frustratingly via the robust and rubberised colourful casing incorporating a LCD screen only half the size of most mobile phone screens. Although the weight doesn’t sound much it can be felt when worn on your helmet especially if it’s of a looser fit than recommended.
The first ride out led to a few low branch encounters and a fair bit of tree bark was stuck in the battery hatch when we got back. There is a bar mount for the camera which would enable you to power-up the camera without a mate doing it for you (or taking your lid off…), but bizarrely you need to remove the handlebar controls first to slip the clamp on – it isn’t a split design. That said it’s a very simple unit to get up and running -even when lacking proper instructions (ED: sorry Leaky I lost them), and once we’d worked out that the lens has to be twisted and orientated according to how the camera is mounted… ( there is a notch indicating ‘up’ on the lens swivel that I failed to spot before recording two days of North Wales trail centre footage!) ….operation is as they say ‘Simples’.
Playback revealed awesome quality with very little in the way of pixilation evident, no mean feat considering the rough granite tracks and sorely inadequate 1.9″ Jones Mud tyres…The 170 degree lens works like a fish eye and you get a view when helmet mounted from the ground under the front tyre, right to the tree tops and skies beyond.
Singletrack riding is given the ‘Star Wars’ effect as features like trees and rocks accelerate past you faster as you near them. After dark and on our Wednesday night ride out the camera was able to pick out reasonable detail when the subject was right in the spot of a 35 watt Halogen light set-up, but that meant hanging off the rider in front’s back wheel at about ten foot… at full pelt down ‘Deadend Down’ (local trail) this was going to be a tall order knowing the number of ‘offs’ this trail creates – although the mix of Downhill action and ‘Blair Witch’ video was pretty cool.
There is a rather cartoon-like remote control that you strap to your wrist to stop and start recording once the camera is booted. You get a barely audible ‘bleep’ to tell you if you’ve pushed the remote’s buttons but ideally (and being very picky) it could do with a red-to-green LED on the remote that confirms the camera’s operation.
Sound is acceptable but not brilliant when the camera is helmet mounted, the upside is that it doesn’t seem to record as much ‘wind noise’ as some.
Battery life was dire with normal Alkaline AA’s and investment in Lithium or good rechargeable NiMh’s is the way forward.
The 2GB SB card at high resolution giving at least an hour’s recording and in the name of research we mounted it rear-facing to a seriously quick remote controlled racing buggy and the picture was spot on even at the 2 seconds the car takes to get to 30 mph!
Using it gives you great post ride, wall-mounted pub TV viewing of you and your mates riding, crashing and generally showing-off (as they will…) in front of a camera, it beats bloody ‘X-factor’ although that’s hardly the endorsement it deserves!
Price:£199 from ActionCameras
• Sensor type: CMOS
• Lens angle: 170°
• Built-in Microphone
• Video format: MP4 or MJPEG AVI (user selectable)
• Frames per second: 30 fps
• Video format: 4:3 or 16:9 (user selectable)
• Batteries: 2x 1.5V AA batteries
• It is highly recommended to use Lithium-ion batteries
• Power-Save option saves batteries by powering down the screen
• Built-in memory: 32 MB
• SD memory capacity: Supports memory cards up to 16 GB
• Video resolution: 720 x 480
• Photo resolution: 5 Megapixel
• Exposure: Auto
• LCD screen: 1.5” colour TFT
• Lens focal range: 0.5m to infinity
• Dimensions: Camera – 133 (L) x 50 (D) x 33 (W) mm / Remote Control – 52 (L) x 40 (W) x 13 (D) mm
• Power: Camera – DC 3V, 2x AA batteries (included) / Remote control: DC 3C, 1x CR2032 battery (included)
• RF: Receiver (Camera): 433.92MHz ISM band / Transmitter (Remote): 433.92MHz ISM band
• Weight: Camera – 128g / Remote control – 19g
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