Oregon Scientific ATC2K (ATC-2000) Helmet Camera
Warmer, warmer, warm enough? Version 2 for the ATC series. It's good to see that Oregon Scientific came right back with a new and improved ATC model, the ATC-2000. It seems they listened to ATC-1000 users and tried their best to get it right in round 2. So did they?
For starters, the ATC2K helmet cam is now capturing at 30 fps! This is huge. Resolution is still 640x480 (a 720x480 option would be nice.) Water-resistant to 10 feet. USB 2.0. Slight battery change (for the better). Overall an excellent 2.0 release!
The price is retail for $119.99, but can be found @ HCC for $79.95. This is a great price point. Read on for more!
Let's talk about video and compression quality for the ATC2K. What I know is from the manual and various bits on the web. The Manual also states that the output files are AVI, but no reference to the codec. Looking at the output files it appears the codec is Motion JPEG (not to be confused with MPEG) with a video bitrate of 4954 kbps (assuming best quality). Oh yeah, it captures mono audio as well at 8Khz @ 64 kbps. Not sure how it will handle wind noise, but they probably have that figured out. M-JPEG is create for capturing motion as each frame is compressed individually and stored. I'm assuming that by jumping to 30fps they found a new compression chipset with some more juice.
Monday, Nov 6th: Here is a link to a video on YouTube from a ATC2K attached to the back of a motorcycle. First, it's compressed for the web - so not a good litmus test of quality. There is an interesting wobble in the video though from the vibration. Trying to get my hands on the original footage.
Friday, Nov 17th: Here is a link to some raw footage.
Usability. The ATC-2000 has only 3 buttons, and a small LCD. The buttons include: Power On/Off, Menu, and Start/Stop Record. The Power and Menu buttons are smaller, but have unique tactile shapes that should be esay to identify with your finger tips. The Record is in the center and larger. The buttons also have audio feedback such as 1 beep, 2 beeps, etc. I'm very interested to see what it's like pushing the buttons with gloves/mittens on. It would suck if you had to take gloves on/off to use it. The LCD is pretty straightforward. Read the manual. The ATC2K comes with a couple of mounting options - both of which look pretty sturdy. The helmet mount is a strap based setup that puts the camera on the side of the helmet. HCC.com still believes that a top mounted camera provides better chase cam footage, with the downside of it looking a bit goofy. The bike mount looks legit.
The specs state it's waterproof to 10 feet, but the manual states on page 3: "This ATC-2K camera is water resistant, but it cannot be used underwater. Oregon
Scientific will not assume any responsibility for malfunction of the camera caused by
water getting inside as a result of misuse by the user." That's fine - basically a waiver of liablility. On the next page, the manual discusses ways to increase the water resistance by applying silicon grease and an extra o-ring (both included) to the housing. Way to go Oregon Scientific! It's good see a company suggesting common sense solutions to product issues! Just because they can't engineer a perfect solution does not mean that there are not simple solutions to issues.
The ATC2K now uses 2 double AA's, instead of 3 AAA's. As for the batteries still being exposed to the elements, such as cold weather? The ATC-2000 helmet camera product page notes at the bottom: "Note: for optimal performance in colder conditions (at or below 0 degrees Celsius/32 degrees Fahrenheit) Lithium batteries are recommended." The manual on page 4 discusses ways to remedy the cold weather issue! Sweet. There is now "Cold Weather Pouch" and "Heat Pad" accessories seperately available. Excellent. HelmetCamCentral has been using hand warmer pads and fleece for years to keep batteries warm - it works. This should effectively address the issue - as long as it's not too cold out. I'm so stoked to see they are actually doing something about this issue. Helmet Cam shops all over the place have not even figured this out! If you plan on skiing with this in cold weather, I would bring along extra charged Lithium batteries (and keep them warm).
Other improvements: USB 2.0 support, MAC support, RCA connection support.
Pros: Small, inexpensive, solid-state / crash proof, removeable media, 30 fps, product manual addresses helmet cam issues, NO WIRES!, good design, USB 2.0 support.
Cons: No word on overall video/compression quality (This con will stay or go when I get the low-down), CMOS censor instead of CCD (This con could go too when I see the actual output), Power source exposed to the elements (Trade off for no wires.), Non-standard frame size (640x480).
HelmetCamCentral.com Recommendation: From a videographer perspective, we recommend a "Wait and see". Though for the price, you could pick one up and try it out yourself. For a general sports enthusiast I'm sure the video quality is good enough for many applications - especially if your primary distribution channel is a YouTube or Google Video. I've had a good look at several raw clips from the ATC 2000, and all of them have a strange grainy effect coupled with a wave like ripppling effect when shaking/motion occurs. Have not heard on why this is the case. Lastly. Let us give thanks. To Oregon Scientific. For listening. For this verison 2. For 30 fps. And let us pray - for the coming of the ATC-3000!
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Some history on us, the blog, and The Shopâ€¦.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.
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