Although I wish they had a vented helmet mount system, you can usually find spots on your helmet to install the stick-on SnapTrays. The connection between the mounts and the SnapTrays works great, and forms a solid and almost one-piece unit, and I couldn’t detect any slop in the system. It was easy to slide the mounts into the SnapTray, but occasionally I had issues pushing down the lock tab to remove the tray. I only used the HeimLock mount myself, which offers an adequate amount of swivel and tilt if the SnapTray was placed in an optimal location. It was easy to pop the camera into the HeimLock, and once installed it offered a stable, secure and vibration-free environment, yet it still allowed you to rotate the camera in place for proper alignment. Although setting up the camera alignment should be problematic, since it’s a guesstimate, I found that the actual footage usually came out fine, and was well within any tolerances for viewing. With the small size of the camera and the moderately low height of the mount, it meant it didn’t stick up or protrude too much on the helmet, so I rarely whacked trees and bushes with it.
The video footage that the camera produced was great, and reminded me of the Contour+, although the footage wasn’t as good in comparison to GoPro HERO 2, mostly because of the HERO2′s killer 11MP sensor compared to the others 5MP. Photos looked fantastic, and were on par with all the competitors.
Sidewinder Trail – Replay XD 1080 at 960p Variable Light Test (no edits and default bit rate/sharpness):
I thought the colors were pretty realistic, though in some bright light conditions they got washed out and oversaturated. It performed decently when going in and out of shadows, although the automatic exposure did lag behind sometimes. Quite a few global settings can be altered, including the bit rate quality, white balance, sharpness, metering weighting, exposure, contrast, saturation, and audio gain, allowing a slew of customization. You can’t set those parameters in the field, and they must be preset on the microSD beforehand, but it does at least allow alteration of things for fine tuning, albeit it’s not a very eloquent method.
One benefit of this camera is that the fish eye lens isn’t that wide at 135° (1080 is 110°) compared to the industry norm of 170°, and although it doesn’t capture the extreme side area’s being recorded, it gives a more coherent and normal looking viewpoint. The camera is pretty rugged, durable, and weather resistant, and I have used it in lots of heavy rain storms without any ill effects.
The audio picked up things with decent clarity, but it also had a lot of extraneous noise, especially when you cranked the speed up, or it was really windy out, though for my more formal videos, I mute the sound during editing, and add music, so it’s not really a high-priority issue.
The full camera kit is pretty sweet, and comes with a lot of items that are optional from other vendors, including a USB car and wall chargers, nylon case, 4GB microSD card, micro USB card reader and micro SD to SD card reader.
The battery life was slightly less than I would have liked, and comes in at less than 2 hours of usage before it dies. They do sell battery packs that can do a recharge in the field (maybe when you’re not recording) or just extend the recording time, but the latter would add bulk and create a poorer form factor. Obliviously, I would have liked a replaceable battery to make usage easier, but the camera’s design doesn’t make that feasible.
POV Camera Shootout
I am going to do a full-blown and detailed POV camera comparison sometime in the near future, but I thought I would give a mini shootout of four cameras, the Replay XD 1080, GoPro HERO2, Contour+ and Drift HD. I picked some features and functions I think are important, and gave a general viewpoint on their respective qualities. High marks go to the GoPro HERO2 11MP sensor and mounts, but the competition still has other things they do better. When it comes down to it, it’s a matter of personal choice, as they all take great footage, and have different features and functions that set them apart.
* Changes can be made in Advanced Settings on the SD card