Saturday, February 6, 2010

Tachyon XC, Helmet Camera

Recently, while hunting down further information for the CJBC's Longest Day event, I found a rather neat video someone took of the 2009 Longest Day. The video came out pretty good but I felt it didn't fully capture the feeling of the Longest Day ride. I'm not some great photographer but there are certain things that standout on do this ride, such as: starting the ride before dawn, the early morning fog, some of the views on the early climbs and descents. The tunnel in Andover (you also need sound to go with this part ;-) and the list goes on. So anyway, I set out to see what was available for filming. I started with helmet cams and I found the Tachyon XC after reading a few reviews. The Tachyon was a bit more expensive but the overall quality was much better and the reviews were very positive. The available videos showed pretty good video quality. I still have some questions and soon I'll have some answers as I purchased a unit. :-)

So the other day my Tachyon XC and my Class 6 - 4G SD cards (x2) arrived. The XC can be purchased with a 32G SD card which is good for 16 hours of 640x480 @ 26fps with compression (H setting) video (up to 64 hours at the lowest quality 320x240 @15fps) but that card costs as much as as the camera itself. The camera is a nice small camera about the size of one of the double-A battery 2-4 Watt head lamps that are shown in the magazines. It's light but solid and comes with 3 different mounts. I've been playing with the side mount and it fits on the right side. I've been able to attach it to a belt, it has a slot for that, which fits around my hips. I'll need to work out how to attach it to my helmet and then my bike. For my helmet I would prefer it on my left side. I'll have to try it out on the top of my helmet, on the side, on the handle bars and on the frame. I don't have the handle bar mount but I think I have something that will work as well.

So far I like what I've seen, basically I've simply attached the camera to me and walked around with it. I set it to the best quality (640x480 - 30 fps with best compression), I'll give medium (320x240) a try later and see how that looks. My first test was a simple test, in my well lit computer room I held it against my chest and slowly spin around. I then plugged the camera into my server (running Linux) and copied the avi file over to the machine. Once on the server the avi played fine. So I expect that it will work with just about any modern OS. In fact I was surprised at how smooth the avi displayed. This camera works better than some of the other small hand held digital cameras I have. I didn't test the sound because while riding I doubt the sound would be very good (expect a lot of wind). Oh, in case your wondering, my other cameras wouldn't attach to anything very nicely and they eat batteries in a few short minutes. The XC is rated for several hours with the appropriate batteries (2 AA batteries). Next I tried the XC outside, during the day. In sun it works well but when I went inside my house the lack of direct sun light (and any inside lighting) caused the picture to be too dark to really see (still not a problem but good to know). I later tried it at night but it doesn't pick up much (I expected that). Oddly enough some of the lights the camera did pick up at night had an odd blue tint to them. As soon as I get some clear roads I'll do a night time test run. I have some wonderful roads that appear pitch black. I'd like to see how well it picks up the road with my MiNewt X2 lights.