VholdR Helmet Camcorder: Fun, Flash, and Flair... All in One Package.
Summary: The VholdR helmet cam is sturdy and well built compact camera that takes good audio and video footage for action-packed outdoor activities.
They say that big things come in small packages, and the VholdR Helmet Camcorder is no exception. One of the smallest wearable camcorders available today, the VholdR Helmet Camcorder is a very compact, lightweight device that you can use to take part in the miniature mobile video revolution. Whether you put it on your sports helmet or on a stable mount on your bike, the VholdR Helmet Camcorder is the next big thing for wearable video in one small, ultra-compact, fully self-contained device.
Small and Simply Special
Compared to other similar models on the market today, the VholdR helmet cam is quite small. The whole unit is comparable in size to a mobile phone. Unlike other wearable camera models like the PI-SpyCam Stick and the ATC2K wearable camcorder by Oregon Scientific, the VholdR helmet camera can be mounted on anything. Besides, the VholdR helmet cam is designed for one thing and one thing only: to be a helmet camcorder. The self-contained unit does not have any wires that connect components together. Everything you need to shoot mobile videos on the fly is packed into a very sturdy aluminum body that can be conveniently mounted on helmets or other surfaces.
The box contains everything you need to start shooting high-quality, high-resolution digital videos immediately:
- Video camera
- Support and program CD
- Owner's manual
- Helmet mount
- USB cable
The VholdR helmet cam comes in an all-aluminum body that is water-resistant, but not waterproof. The difference between “water-resistant” and “water-proof” camera bodies is that a water-resistant camera can withstand light rain and a mild splash of water. Waterproof cameras can be submerged to a certain depth. While the VholdR helmet cam is not waterproof, it can withstand splashes and light drizzles. The aluminum body of the camera will not rust, although you may need to seal it with waterproof sealants to keep excess moisture away from the lens and the interior of the camera body.
Unlike other helmet cameras, the VholdR helmet cam is fully contained. There are no wires to link the camera unit with a digital video recorder. Everything from the camera to the microphone to the recording unit is encased in the camera body. With a 3.6 millimeter CMOS lens, you can't go wrong with this camera for basic outdoor shots.
The VholdR helmet cam records videos in digital Audio Video Interweave (AVI) format, which is a very common interface for recording and storing digital video. An Xvid codec is used by the camera to compress video, which is OK as long as you have the right codec installed on your media player program.
Memory and Storage
The VholdR saves and stores videos through a microSD memory card, which is very convenient, given the compact size of the camera. Unlike a traditional camcorder that uses tape, or some digital video camcorders that use a mechanical platter-based hard drive, the VholdR helmet cam uses solid-state memory to store files. There are many advantages to the microSD solid-state format:
No data lost due to mechanical shock. One major advantage of solid-state memory is that the device is virtually immune to mechanical shock. There are no moving parts in a solid-state flash drive, which makes it one of the best digital storage media available today.
Increased memory capacity. SD memory has a wide range of available memory capacities, from 64 MB up to 16 GB. A high-capacity microSD card can record a really long video, so you can document anything from a wall-climbing course to a motorcycle ride on the freeway.
Small, compact size. With a microSD card, you don't have to worry about bringing extra tape spools, cassettes, or hard drives. The size of the card does pose problems, though, because they're very easy to lose. When you store microSD cards, it's a good idea to buy full-size SD adapters for each card to prevent you from losing them. SD adapters also make it very convenient for you to transfer videos you took with the VholdR helmet cam to a compatible memory card reader.
VholdR recommends using a SanDisk 2GB microSD card to store your videos. Two gigabytes of flash memory is more than enough for you to take short but high-quality videos, and can take hours worth of video when you shoot in low-quality formats. The VholdR uses the standard slip-and-click slot found in almost all SD card-based devices. One problem is that you have to be really careful when removing the SD card, because the spring-loaded mechanism is rather sensitive and can send your card flying halfway across the room.
The VholdR helmet cam can rotate up to 180 degrees, and comes with two laser pointers that can be used to properly align and focus the camera lens. It takes a while to learn how to use the laser guides, but the online user guide and the owner's manual will guide you through the process.
While the mount for the VholdR is designed with helmets and motorcycle surfaces in mind, the use of the mount is rather limited. There aren't many motorcycle helmets that can accommodate the helmet mount. There are also very few completely flat surfaces on a motorcycle, so you would have problems using this unit as an on-board camera. It wouldn't be a problem if the base plates of the mounts were flexible, but they are rather rigid.
The problem can be partially solved with duct tape. As soon as you have mounted and aligned the camera in the position you want, you can secure the unit with a lot of duct tape. If you plan to use the VholdR as a permanent on-board camera, you can secure the mount with fiberglass and snap on the helmet cam on the permanently bonded mount. Unless you use a lot of duct tape, the camera gets unwieldy especially at high speeds, high winds, and rainy days, when the edges of the tape start to unravel.
Video and Audio Quality
Compared to other similarly-priced wearable video camcorders (list price at $349.99), the video quality of the VholdR helmet cam is reasonably good. Compared to other conventional digital camcorders and even still-photo digital cameras that have a video playback function, the video quality of the VholdR helmet cam leaves quite a bit to be desired. The video is not as sharp as you would expect from a camera this expensive, although you can add sharpness and contrast to the video with a suitable video editing program like Adobe Premiere, or even a low-end user-friendly program like Windows Movie Maker.
While the camera is very decent at mid-range values in the middle of the color spectrum (green, brown, or gray tones), low-range and high-range values like reds and whites are a bit on the fuzzy and hazy side. You'll need to do a lot of color correction with these problems, which means a lot of added work.
You can also compress the AVI videos into DivX or other compressed video formats to save on space, especially if you want to upload the videos to the Internet, such as to streaming video hosting sites like YouTube. The problem with compression is that smaller file sizes have a trade-off on video quality. With the quality problems posed by the VholdR helmet cam, you need to record the videos first with the highest quality possible, and then edit and compress the videos after you upload them to your computer.
Sound is recorded by the VholdR helmet cam through a built-in microphone. The microphone picks up good sound, but the quality is not as good as a dedicated microphone, or microphones from other wearable video systems. Unlike video editing, editing sound picked up by the VholdR helmet cam is very complicated and requires specialized high-end programs. If you really intend to capture sound with the video, it's better for you to use a separate microphone and overlay and synchronize the sound with the video.
Even with these problems and limitations for video and audio recording, the VholdR helmet cam is still a very good camera for action-packed videos that take place outdoors. With some video and sound editing skills, you can edit the videos taken by the VholdR into high-quality video samples.
Battery and Connectivity
The battery for the VholdR helmet cam is a rechargeable lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery and a small USB port similar to many modern digital cameras. One gripe about the product is that it doesn't come with a jack or a socket for an electrical cable. Like an MP3 player, you have to charge this device through the USB cable. The high capacity of the rechargeable battery, which varies depending on the quality of the video and how long you turn the camera on, makes it quite a fuss and a chore to charge through a USB port.
VholdR will release a conventional socket-charger for this device, although there's still no word on when this add-on will be released. For now, a third-party socket-charger with a USB adapter and voltage regulator can be used to charge the VholdR helmet cam.
The USB cable and ports make the VholdR helmet cam a very convenient card reader, although it’s still best to remove the microSD card from the VholdR's card socket, and place it inside an adapter to be read through an SD card reader or a multi-card reader.
The software that comes bundled with the VholdR helmet cam has optional software that you can use to edit and upload videos on the Internet, but there's nothing there (except for online support) that you probably don’t already have installed on your computer. The video codecs are a bit on the choosy side, so you need to update and experiment with available video editing software to get the effect you need.
The Final Word
There are many advantages to the VholdR helmet cam, but there are quite a number of disadvantages that makes this camera fall short of being a top-of-the-line model. Some of the advantages of the VholdR helmet cam include the following:
Compact size. Compared to many helmet cameras, the fully-integrated compact design of the VholdR helmet cam makes it an excellent choice for action-packed outdoor recordings. The water-resistant aluminum camera body is also good enough to keep the camera working in rainy, snowy, or muddy conditions.
Solid state memory. The VholdR helmet cam uses solid-state memory in the form of a microSD card, which makes it a very robust camera compared to other models available on the market today. MicroSD chips are also relatively inexpensive compared to compact discs and recording tape.
Good for entry-level video and audio recording. The VholdR helmet cam may not be for hardcore video enthusiasts, but it's a good way to introduce someone to wearable video. The video quality may be lacking, but it's generally good enough for people who want to start taking action-packed footage with helmet cams.
Even with these advantages, the VholdR helmet cam is hampered by quite a few drawbacks:
If wearable video is your thing, then the VholdR helmet cam is just right for you. For all its shortcomings compared to other similarly priced and designed helmet camera models, the VholdR helmet camcorder is a good balance between fun, flash, and flair.