Video Comparisons of Waterproof Video Cameras

With the growing availability (as of 2012) of small video cameras that can be used as helmet-cams, I am providing a subjective comparison of four that I own. All these cameras are waterproof so that they can be used underwater and in a kayak. For a reference standard I am using my Sony HD (non-waterproof HDR-CX150) video camera. The video clips are the original unedited videos with their original extensions. To put them on Youtube would be reducing the differences, because of format conversion and being displayed in FLV format. I am not interested in various other helmet cams that are only splash proof and would not survive total immersion. Click on the photos for a large actual size of the video frame. Click on the legend under the video for the video itself.

If presented options for the video file, click on Open. Your default media player will open the file. If you wish to save the files to examine them closer, you should right click on the video link and "Save the file as...". When playing the video make sure the video player (options for Windows Media Player) are set for 100%, and Fit player to video. If using VLC media player, set Video options to Zoom 100%, uncheck Scaling, and Deinterlace to Automatic. Viewing the videos this way will give a better comparison.

Other waterproof cams may be examined in the future. The "GoPro Hero" line is a possibility. Their newer Pro camera has an option for a narrower 90 degree FOV. These Youtube examples of the Hero2 Pro show the changes in FOV. Example 1 puts forth the question, how do they change the FOV? It appears to be digital cropping. Conversely Example 2 does not appear to be digital cropping, and the perspective actually appears to change from the 170 to 90 deg FOV's. Example 3 while good comparisons of Hero and Hero2, only show one 90 deg FOV. Example 4 using views from a model airplane for three FOV settings comes to the conclusion that the FOV settings are digitally cropped. Example 5 is a side by side comparison which has nice blowups, showing that the perspective is the same in all three FOV values, indicating digital cropping. This is quite different from using an optical zoom lens to change the FOV.

AVI_0001.AVI (20MB)
ATC2k - One of the original helmet cams introduced several years ago. Did not take comparative video with the rest so have used an older clip which should give an idea of the quality. This camera has a Field of View (FOV) of about 60 degrees, in standard format. The camera can take a beating and is small, but the video is choppy and is quite contrasty. The camera uses up to 2GB SD cards for 1 hr of video and uses 2 AA batteries. Later models are available . About $80 when purchased.

VID_0030.AVI (37MB)
Tachyon XC (2010) - This specific camera is now discontinued but still available, I think. It has a little more dynamic latitude and is not quite so contrasty as the ATC. The FOV is about 90 degrees. The camera uses 2 AA (lithium needed)and 8 GB gives 2 hrs of recording. About $150 when purchased.

TACH0005.MOV (32MB)
Tachyon mini-HD - This is one of the latest of several models (early 2012). The camera is 720p HD and uses 2 AAA (lithium) batteries. An 8GB SDHC class 6 or above gives 2 hrs video. The lithium batteries are also rated for 2 hrs. This camera has a 125 deg FOV and exhibits spherical distortion of the image. About $140

FILE0039.AVI (23MB)
DXG-5B1V - This camera is the familiar small "handycam" style. It not specifically a helmet cam but can be mounted if you devise a plate to take a standard 1/4-20 bolt attachment. It uses a proprietary lithium battery pack. I have not tested the duration of the battery pack, but should be greater than 2 hrs. The camera will do 1080P HD but I run it at 720p for the 50 degree field. It is rated waterproof to 10 feet. This is a cheap camera with no manual zoom. About $130 when purchased.

20120210124618.m2ts (42MB)
Sony HDR-CX150 - 2 years old and already discontinued. This camera is not waterproof but gives very good HD videos and is used as a standard which I wish was available in a cheap waterproof helmet cam. It has about 60 degree FOV. It uses a proprietary lithium battery (which comes with the camera)pack for about 3 hrs video. The video format is a problem in that it is Sony/Panasonic specific AVCHD 1080 60i format. This is not common format and video editing is more challenging. It is with a extension of .m2ts which plays with interlace [on] using VLC media player or Windows 7 media player. It plays best in Sony's included PMB software.

Rev. Feb. 11, 2012