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The Tony Hawk HelmetCam from Digital Blue

Twenty20 VholdRTony Hawk HelmetCam

This little integrated, solid state helmetcam system has been out for about 6 months now. This is another example of a Round 1 Helmet Camera system. The price for the Tony Hawk HelmetCam from Digital Blue is definitely good for a Round 1 entry. The specs are geared towards the entry-level / teen market: 15 fps, 320x240 "untethered" resolution, and 32mb of storage. This is really an innovative approach - very tightly integrated. The HCC.com recommendation? Give this to your kid, and wait for a beefier version with NTSC resolution and 30fps. However, read on for more info about the system

Feature Overview for the Tony Hawk Helmet Cam:

  • 320x240 "real-world" resolution @ 15 frames per second
  • Records to SD media (1GB Max supported, 32MB included).
  • 15 minute max clip record time
  • Built-in microphone
  • USB connectivity
  • Uses 2 AAA batteries
  • Ultra-compact size: 89mm x 197mm x 51mm (3.5 in x 1.75 in x 2.0 in)
  • Lightweight: 78g (2.75 oz)
  • Built-in laser for alignment

Table of Contents for Review

What You Get

  • Helmet Camera
  • 32MB SD Card
  • Helmet Band Attachments
  • USB Cable
  • Software CD-ROM
  • User Guide

The System
Tony Hawk HelmetCam Front ViewTony Hawk revolutionized the skateboarding world with the 720 and 900 aerial, but unfortunately, the Tony Hawk HelmetCam won't revolutionize the helmet camera world. However, keep in mind that the target consumer appears to be the younger sporting enthusiast. The video quality is very grainy, despite marketing verbiage that claims a 640X480 resolution. In reality, users will get clips that are 320x240. This is because 640x480 is only available in "tethered" mode, which is when the camera is directly connected to a computer (via USB). Of course, in this mode it is really acting like a web cam. When you're out using it for typical helmet cam activities, in "untethered" mode, it only captures 320x240 video. Additionally, if the processor is low on computing horsepower, movement suffers and compression quality compromises the end product, as is the case with this system. Some other things to be aware of before setting too many expectations with your son or daughter are the limited video clip length of 15 minutes and the narrow/restricted field of view. The Tony Hawk Cam is basically a toy. However, this may be just what you're looking for.

With that said, there are some upsides to this very modestly priced camera. The manual is complete and easy to understand in its charming ten year old speak. It comes with parental advice... "do not attempt any of the advanced tricks shown in the enclosed software until you have mastered the basics" - very considerate. Also, the camera has a separate button that allows the user to delete the last clip. I can see it now... "Dude, like when you don't land the trick, you can delete it to make room for the next one." Funny as it may seem, this is actually a new feature to helmet cameras, and who knows, it might become common in the future. Interestingly, the laser that is designed to indicate where the camera is pointing stays on all the time. There are times this may be convenient, but I wonder how much battery life it is sucking up. Unfortunately, out in direct sunlight, the laser is pretty hard to see, but point it at a shadowed area and it becomes a little more visible. It might be better to play around with it indoors to get the camera pointed just right, before you take it out to do some filming. Tony Hawk HelmetCam Cover Open I also wonder if your ten year old won't find some mischief-making way to use the laser feature... you'll have to see! It's worth noting that the sound quality captured on the camera actually isn't too bad. The helmet strap mount is a pretty good design and is highly-adjustable. It is made of a gummy rubber that should keep it in place on your helmet, even when you're pulling off a McTwist. The gummy rubber plate behind camera gives this securing method a little extra grab, and the whole deal is easily transferable to another helmet so you can film and be filmed without having to put on your friends sweaty helmet. Also, the camera features a quick-disconnect, allowing it to come off of the mounting plate. Nice. To impress you even more, the camera can also swivel on its mounting plate, so that the laser can be micro adjusted to point right where you want it! Also nice. The tiny LCD screen lets you know the recording status of the unit and whether the SD card is full, amongst a few other things. The included software CD will get you (or most likely your kid) editing footage and sharing it with friends via email. Finally, they'll now use the computer for something other than video games!

Basically, the Tony Hawk camera lives up to its price tag and delivers the expected low-budget results as far as helmet camera systems go. You get what you pay for here, folks. Perfect for your rollerblading 8 year old. Ironically, the kids using this system could easily be filming some pretty athletic stuff compared to what their gaper (skate lingo for "unskilled") parents are filming with their $500+ systems. A nice thing about very entry-level systems like this is that they are bound to get more people into helmet camera filming, which is exciting for us and is good for videography in general. When users of the Tony Hawk HelmetCam are ready for a real system, Helmet Camera Central can help them find what they're looking for.

Recording Capacity
The Tony Hawk HelmetCam uses SD media and is limited to 1 GB recording capacity. You can expect recording times somewhere near 200 minutes on a 1GB card. Individual clips are limited to 15 minutes in length; recording will automatically stop when this limit is reached.

Warranty and Support
The Tony Hawk HelmetCam has a one year warranty through Prime Entertainment/Digital Blue Corporation.

Software
The Tony Hawk HelmetCam includes a CD-ROM containing basic software for audio/video editing and video playback.

Summary and Recommendation
The Tony Hawk HelmetCam has introduced some new concepts to the industry. It is a cool design and is offered at an ultra-low price. However, because of its basic camera-phone equivalent video quality, it is really only well suited as a toy. For those interested in a similar type of system, but with better quality (at a higher price), look at the new Oregon Scientific device, the ATC 3000, or even the VholdR.

Pricing
MSRP: $49.99

We Review AND Sell Helmet Cam Systems. Wha-Wha-What!?!
Some history on us, the blog, and The Shop.In the Fall of 2005, Helmet Camera Central was born as a result of our helmet cam experiences from our video consulting business Two Brothers Video. Helmet Camera Central is a simple resource designed to help people find objective and pertinent information about helmet camera systems. Over the past few years we have tried to review helmet camera systems with an unbiased and objective point of view. Generally, we focus on the functional and usability aspects of helmet camera systems. We have run the gamut of helmet cam systems and know what works and what does not. The type of reviews we produce are a by-product of our day to day experiences with helmet cam systems. Ease of use, reliability, and quality are at the top of our priority list. The helmet camera systems that we chose to Recommend and Sell at The Shop were chosen for a very good reason: They rock! If a review seems biased, it is only because we strongly feel that particular product is worthy of our bias! There are quite a few systems out there, and the ones we recommend generally provide the most elegant solution and the best return for your investment.

We are always here to answer your questions and help you purchase a helmet camera system that meets your needs. If one of our recommended systems is a fit for you, we hope you will find that The Shop is a trusted storefront to supply your helmet cam equipment. If our recommended systems do not fit your needs we will not hesitate to put you in contact with the right vendor to find a solution.

Change Log
04.15.2008 / David / Version 2.0
** Detailed specs/review posted.
02.04.2006 / Chadical / Version 1.0
** Initial summary.

8 Responses to “The Tony Hawk HelmetCam from Digital Blue”

  1. crunchyk9 Says:

    Not useful.

    My girl got me one of these for XMAS, and I can tell you that it’s really not useful for anything except maybe stationary shots with little movement (video of your cats?). I tried to take it for a bike ride and it just choked on any sort of real video bandwidth. The resulting video was terrible (1, maybe 2 fps) and the sound quickly went out of sync with the video. The software it came with is less-than-useful, to put it kindly.

    I didn’t even pay for this thing and I felt screwed… It wasn’t even worth the time it took to mount it to my helmet, which was actually quite a pain. I really can’t imagine what their target market was (Girlfriends that know little of electronics with boyfriends that mountain bike?).

    Run away.
    Run far away.

  2. daewootech Says:

    I bought two of these at the KBtoys at the state line mall coming back from a roadtrip to vegas and i was stoked at first, i got both of them on clearance for something like 15 or 20 buck a piece.

    unfortunately they fell way short of any expectations, i figured at the price that i got for them that they would be fine to trash as we took out atvs out to pismo beach for our annual thanksgiving weekend trip. unfortunately i only ended up with about 3 clips that are pretty horrible. i had two going, one with a 4gb SD card which crapped out almost immediately, it not longer works?!? and the second one i had on my helmet as i rode and i got 3 clips in and it also crapped out. the little red laser is almost impossible to see during the day when i held my gloves up to try to see if it was on or not(because it automatically turns off almost instantly, so i never knew whether it was turned on or not) so i would press it once to turn it on and press it again to record and ride then after a while i would press it again figuring it would record again(15 minute record limit so you have to keep pressing the button) and i think it just kept turning off. sometimes i would press the button twice thinking it had turned off but there was no real confirmation to know anything, i definitely couldn’t hear any of the audio cues over my bikes rumble.

    as far as quality i figured well my cell phone sucks but in the bright light its not too bad since high noon style lighting is supposed to be key. however when the video is allready horrible it doesn’t really get much better when your in ideal conditions.

    i also tried to use these on the water both in and out of ziplock bags when we went jetsking, they didn’t work very well either.

    in short order, don’t buy these, don’t waste your money, i feel sorry for the people who paid $99 for these when they were new.

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