VIO POV.1: The Holy Grail of Helmet Cams
Well, here it is, the holy grail of the helmet cam world (for now) -The POV.1 from VIO. We have been waiting for the POV.1 since the inception of wearable video. The POV.1 is a fully integrated, fully digital, DVD quality helmet cam system. We have a POV.1 in-house, and are so impressed with this system we have moved it to the top of our recommended helmet cam list, and to our inventory over at the The Shop @ Helmet Camera Central. Also, based on our hands-on review of the POV.1, it has met most of the specifications for our dream helmet cam system.
VIO has invested quite a bit of time and money into designing this product from the ground up, and it shows. A lot of thought must have went into the hundreds of design decisions behind this unit. So far there seems to be good reason behind each issue I have with the unit. Keep reading as I discuss usability, pricing, quality, the good and the bad. Fast forward to the end for a deal on the POV.1 as well!
Some highlights of the Viosport (VIO) POV.1:
- The whole system is waterproof to 1m (3ft)
- Built in LCD screen on recording unit to view live video and review video
- 98 Field of View Wide Angle Lens with Infinite Focus
- DivX MPEG4 AVI Compression, 1GB at 720x480@30fps = 40 Minutes
- 24P and 30P Progressive video ready, up to 720x480
- SDHC card storage up to 8GB (6 Hours), USB 2.0 connectivity, and Analog video/audio output
- No digital to analog conversion - digital from camera to compression
- Wireless remote - start/stop record and nice TAG feature
- 4 AA batteries powers the recording unit and camera
- 1 cable from recording unit to camera
- Waterproof in-line microphone integrated into camera cable
- Lightweight (About 1 lb (375 grams) with batteries and camera) and power efficient
- Includes POV Manager software to quickly edit and post to web
- Pre-Review Information
- Full POV.1 Review
- The PDF Manual for the POV.1
- The Manufacturer
- Branding and Packging
- What You Get
- The Recording Unit
- The Camera
- Video Quality
- MPEG4 Codec Settings
- Sample Video Clips, RAW and Unaltered
- Sample Video Frame Grabs
- Recording Modes
- Recording Capacity
- Battery Time
- The Cable
- The Connectors
- The Microphone
- The Wireless Remote Control
- Overall Usability
- Warranty and Support
- POV Manager Software
- Summary and Recommendation
- About HelmetCameraCentral.com
- Review Change Log
Digital vs Analog
First, a brief update on the current state of traditional camcorder based helmet cam systems. Traditional analog based helmet cam systems use an off the shelf camcorder with video input capabilities (aka A/V jack) to connect to the "helmet cam". What's scary about the analog systems is that Sony and others are completely phasing out camcorders with A/V inputs. In fact, none of Sony's current camcorder products have simple A/V inputs on them! This leaves analog based users scrounging around on eBay for older used & refurbished camcorders. All the helmet cam vendors know about this trend, and most of them are working diligently to find new solutions.
There are two core parts to a helmet cam system. The Recording Unit and the Camera. All of the systems on the market today can claim they use a "digital" recording unit because all camcorders ultimately record onto "digital" media. They can also claim the cameras are also "digital" because they use digital CCD (some are CMOS) imagers to capture the image.
The PROBLEM with traditional helmet cam systems (not the POV1) is the cable between the camera and recording unit is NOT DIGITAL. The digital ccd image must first be converted to an ANALOG, INTERLACED video signal and transmitted via the standard A/V cable to the camcorder where it is converted back into a digital signal, compressed, and stored onto tape or some other digital medium. The Digital-Analog-Digital process creates quality issues in many areas, I will briefly touch upon two core quality issues.
The first quality atrocity with traditional helmet cam systems (not the POV1) is interlacing a perfectly crisp digital video stream. Have you watched video footage on your computer that was captured directly from a camcorder and noticed those shaky lines in the footage (especially during motion)? If you have read anything about High Definition video, the big buzz is "Progressive Video". I will not say any more about this, except that Progressive Scan video is WAY nicer than Interlaced video. Check out the WIKI pages on Progressive Scan Video and Interlaced Video for more information and great visual examples.
The second atrocity with traditional helmet cam systems (not the POV1) is converting all that great digital color information into an analog signal. Once a signal is analog and travels along a length of wire information is lost. So, information is lost in the conversion and also lost in the transmission - once it's gone it is gone. When you couple this loss of information, along with the fact that many helmet cams on the market today are simply security cameras sold as helmet cams - the end result is poor color quality.
The SOLUTION is to not covert the pristine digital video stream into analog. Guess what? The POV1 has solved this, albeit somewhat expensively, by engineering a fully digital cable between the recording unit and the camera imaging sensor. VIO calls this cable the "LDVS Cable", rightly so, since it is based on the widely used LDVS Standard. Low-voltage differential signaling, or LVDS is used behind the scenes in many high-speed data transfer protocols such as FireWire, Serial ATA, SCSI, and more.
That being said, the digital connection between the camera and recording unit on POV.1 contributes greatly to the overall color and quality of the video produced from this unit. The Viosport POV1 is the first to market with an affordable 100% digital helmet cam system targeted at the consumer market. Kudos VIO - thanks for taking the first leap.
Fully Integrated vs Pieced Together
Again, a brief update on the current state of traditional camcorder based helmet cam systems. The typical helmet cam system on the market in 2007 is generally a hodgepodge of equipment pieced together into a "system". The hodgepodge generally consists of a recording unit, power system, external camera, microphone, and remote control.
The recording unit is generally a Camcorder with A/V inputs, or more recently, handheld DVR's such as the various Archos products. These recording units will have their own batteries to charge, power switches, video inputs, and remote control inputs. As noted earlier, many camcorder manufacturers are actually doing away with video inputs all together, which means the market will be forced into the DVR space. The core issue with using camcorders and DVRs in helmet cam systems is that they are not designed to be used in the many ways helmet cams are used. Here is a short list of issues we have encountered with traditional helmet cam systems:
- Tons of freak'n wires everywhere! A wire from the camera to the recording unit, a wire from the camera to the camera battery, a wire from the recording unit to the remote control, a wire from the recording unit to the microphone - ARGH!
- Broken A/V connectors and wire connections that fall out or disconnect - duct tape is a typical ingredient in traditional helmet cam systems, and so is LOST footage of amazing escapades
- Moving parts are bad - tape based camcorders do not like their recording heads to shake, and hard drive based DVR's do not like shock either
The actual Helmet Cam piece of the system is generally an off the shelf security cam with some simple cable adaptations to connect to various recording devices. Almost all of the cameras out there have extreme low light ratings - this is not because the helmet cam market likes to film in the dark! The external cameras connect into the recording device using standard A/V 1/4" connectors. These A/V connections on the camcorders where never designed to be "plugged into and stuffed in a backpack". Hence, the often frustrating loss of video due to broken A/V jacks or simply the connector popping out. Of course, this can be easily remedied with some duct tape. Doh! Lastly, where does the external helmet cam get it's power from? Not from the A/V jack on the camcorder - These cameras require an external battery to power them. This contributes to the crazy wire mess generally associated with helmet cams.
The standard Remote Control for helmet cameras today is based on the Sony LANC interface. This is a protocol that Sony developed years ago to allow people to control camcorders via a wire based remote. To use a Remote Control on a camcorder based system today requires the camcorder to have a LANC jack (which is another feature that is VERY hard to find on low end camcorders) - hence another wire and connector to duct tape and break. I will mention that there are a few DVR based helmet cam systems on the market today that have integrated the remote and power INLINE with the camera cable, but generally you do not want the remote tied to the camera cable since the cable is travelling towards the recording unit - which is stuffed in a pack somewhere. These DVR based systems also suffer from under engineered connectors that are prone to breaking as well.
Let's throw in the microphone too. The microphone needs power as well, and usually draws power from the battery powering the camera. This means the microphone wire has to tie into the camera power AND tie back into the recording device as well. Basically, more wires.
Again, the SOLUTION is to engineer a complete system that is "Fully Integrated". A fully integrated helmet cam system would have meet the following requirements:
- An easy and efficient user experience
- A recording unit designed around the uses associated with weareable video. Shock, temperature, water, long recording times.
- One power source for the whole system, preferrably inside the recording unit to protect it from the elements. This means the camera draws power from the recording unit.
- Strong and waterproof connectors designed to be beat up - aka duct tape not required.
- A remote control that interacts with the recording unit and camera.
That being said, the POV.1 has been engineered from the ground up to be "fully integrated." This is one of the most exciting aspects of this helmet cam system. All of the elements were designed around the same goals and objectives: filming events in extreme conditions. VIO is not the first to market on a fully integrated system, but they are the first to produce fully integrated system that is durable, waterproof out of the box, and has a wireless remote control.
The PDF Manual for the POV.1
First off, we recommend downloading and taking a peak at the actual POV1 manual. There's lots of good information and pictures in the PDF version of the POV.1 manual. It's a great companion to this review as well. Download the full manual here.
Keep in mind that VIO is a rebranding effort from Viosport and the brother company of Viotac. Viosport is a top notch helmet camera manufacturer with great products and excellent customer service. Viotac is targeted to Military/Police/Fire and in fact, many of the POV.1's specifications and design features were requirements derived from Viotac customers. VIO has a great customer service track record and we are confident that VIO will stand behind this relatively new product. If anyone can deliver on a solid DVR based helmet cam system, it's V.I.O. - aka Viosport, aka Viotac.
Branding and Packaging
The marketing around the POV.1 is new and somewhat refreshing. They have taken the core concepts of helmet cams and consolidated it into three verbs: Shoot, Tag, Share. The whole premise behind this system is ease of use and larger market appeal. It seems that they are trying to capitalize on the whole "video sharing" internet buzz as well.
The retail packaging for the POV.1 is the best to date for any commerical helmet cam system. The box it comes in is professionally designed and will look good in a glass case next to digital sporting equipment such as GPS units, rifle scopes, avalanche transceivers and hands-free radios. When you pick up the box the contents feel solid and there's no rattling or open space inside the package. Open the box, and slide out the streamlined carrying case which contains everything you need to start filming. There is no packing material, or plastic bags - just the carrying, recording unit, camera, wireless remote, SD card, batteries, quick start guide, software CD, and some basic camera mounting options.
What You Get
I was pleased when I opened the box - I did not even know the system came with an all-in-one carry case. It's about the size of a CD carrying case and has handle on it as well. Inside the zippered case is everything you need to get going: Camera, Recording Unit, Wireless Remote, Digital Camera Cable, 4 AA Batteries, 1GB SD Card, USB Cable, A/V output cable, Quick Start guide, CD containing Manual & POV Manager software, and a mini camera mounting kit.
The CD case doubles as the Quickstart Guide. It's not obvious to the spastic first time POV1 user (that would be me) that you should open the CD case for instructions on how to hook things up. I was a bit excited when opening the product (to say the least) and proceeded to hook up the camera wrong, and struggle with putting the batteries in. Here's a bit of advice - READ THE QUICK START GUIDE first! Even better - download the manual here and read it before you do anything! It would be nice of VIO to include a printed, yet compact version of the full manual in the packaging.
The Recording Unit
The POV1 has successfully replaced the aging Camcorder solution with a durable, attractive, waterproof, USA engineered, digital video recorder (DVR). This is not vaporware, it is here, and it's real, and yes - it's made in China. Also, keep in mind that several military requirements went into the design of this unit. Allright, let's get into the details.
The recording unit is 6.5" Long by 2.5" Wide by 1.5" High and weighs just under 1 LB. The shape is a welcome change from the traditoinal short and fat approach to recording units. The unit sits well in the hand, slides easily into stuffed backpacks, and integrates well with military vests and police belts.
The durability of this unit is apparent when you start using it. It feels very solid, especially compared to the many consumer bsed DVRs and camcorders out there. Dropping this should not be an issue and there are no internal moving parts such as hard drives, etc. It would be difficult to crack the casing, smash a button, or break the screen.
One of the exciting features of this system is that it's rated "Waterproof" not "water resistant" - right out of the box. To test this, I connected the camera, turned it on, started recording, and dropped the whole system in the lake in about 2 feet of water. I was able to see the LCD screen laying on the bottom, recording, and existing happily along side the camera! When I pulled it out of the water I shook it off, and wiped the lense on the camera with my t-shirt and we were good to go. This bodes well for wakeboarders, windsurfers, kiteboarders, kayakers, fisherman, and more!
The waterproof specifications state that the camera head and the recording unit is submersible 1m (3ft). So, if you are going scuba diving and taking the recording unit deeper than 3ft, then you will still need a high-end pelican case for the recording unit. For the rest of us, we can slide the POV1 recording unit into a backpack/hippack and go whitewater kayaking! No silicone sealant, pelican cases, etc.
NOTE: VIO has a blurb on their site asking users to NOT remove the camera lense as it might compromise the waterproof integrity of the camera. At some point I will be changing the lense when their wide angle version comes out, so we'll see how they address that. There is not much documentation from VIO on the do's and don'ts of water use. I'm sure people will find ways to get water inside this unit - I'm thinking iPod in the washing machine. It will be interesting to see how VIO responds when that starts happening.
The LCD has great color and is very bright (adjustable). What a joy to have quick, easy access to what the external camera is seeing! Repeat, what a joy to have quick, easy access to review previously recorded clips. The POV1 comes with a clear adhesive protective covering for the LCD screen as well to reduce scratching. The LCD screen shows live video from the external camera, and also allows playback/delete of existing clips on the unit. Additional information on the LCD shows: Unit Status, Record Mode, Available Recording Time, Battery Status, and Keylock mode.
The user interface is very easy to use and informative. When holding the unit in your hand, your thumb is the tool of choice to interact with the simple buttons and user interface. The settings menu lets you configure the Remote, Speaker volume, MIC level, Time and Date, Framte Rate, Video Resolution, Video Quality (compression level), Record Mode, Loop Record Time, LCD Sleep Timeout, Power Off Timeout (includes Never), Display Brightness, and Analog Video Output Type (NTSC/PAL for hooking up to a TV). There is an LED in the upper left of the unit that shows status: Orange=Booting Up (2 seconds for boot up), Green=Standby, Flashing Red=Recording, Flashing Orange=Warning/Alert Condition.
Overall, the user interface is pretty v1.0 - it is easy, it works and gets the job done. The good news is the POV1 has updateable firmware. This is great since new user interface features can be delivered via firmware upgrades. Manufacturers such as Archos and Sony can update firmwares, but they don't care about Helmet Cam users (and never update their firmwares)! I would imagine that VIO will be listening to us for our enhancement requests. Read the Nice To Have's section for some of my thoughts on UI improvements and new features.
There are two "hatches" on the POV1. One is for battery access and the other for SD Card, USB, A/V Out, and a secondary MIC input. Both have a strong water proof seal setup with a unique interlocking rubber gasket system.
The battery hatch has a unique "wing level" system. At first glance the wings appear they would unlock and then "pop" the battery hatch off for you. This is NOT the case. Just lightly pop the wings out, which is easy (no prying nec. Then, you remove the battery hatch manually, which is not that easy. The interlocking rubber gasket system actually creates a locking seal, so it takes a bit of practice to remove the battery hatch. I have found the easiest way is to get a fingernail under the "red arrow" in the picture and pry up. My softy computer fingers struggled a bit -- a mountain man or a good military woman with some real hands will probably just fling the hatch without even thinking. The batteries go in quite firmly as well, which in turn requires additional finger nail force to remove. A nice to have here would be the trusty ribbon strip that folds underneath. They may have scrapped that idea for fear the ribbon would occasionally get pinched between the waterproof seal and make in susceptible to water intrusion. I've been using some Duracell rechargable AA's, and they are even tighter fitting than regular AA's. Tight is good so that the batteries don't jiggle around, but in cold weather it will be more of a challenge when hands are cold - but definitely doable.
The SD Card hatch is easier since it has the small turn screw with a little loop handle. Unscrew it and pull firmly out. Inside you find a stanard SD card slot with the push & click lock mechanism. The SD card is easy to put in, but takes a little practice to get out. It's hard to say how often the SD card will be changed in the field - most likely will depend on your activity. Overall, the hatches are well designed and durable - no weak hinges or cheap plastic here.
Note: The downloadable manual has walk-throughs for all of the various features - recommended reading.
The POV.1 has a completely redesigned camera head that is new to VIOt. This is their first venture into the world CMOS imagers. I'm not going to get into the technical details behind CMOS vs CCD, but I will chat about what I do know. CMOS technology has been around for awhile, but only recently has it appeared in the video marketplace. Example, several Sony video cameras now use CMOS sensors, especially their High-Definition model and Twenty20 helmet cams have been CMOS since 2006. Initially, getting a killer image out of a CMOS sensor has been tricky. Two key benefits of CMOS are: Much lower power consumption (read longer run times) and it handles direct sunlight much better (no streaking).
The lense on the POV1 ships standard with a wide angle 98 degree horizontal field of view (110 degree diagonal). A few good links on FOV and Focal Length: Go here for more on Field of View and Go here for an interactive Focal Length demonstration over at Canon's website. The Lense is removeable, but do not take the lense off just for fun it. It's always good to keep the factory seal!
My experience with this camera is this: Great color, Low power consumption, great wide angle and excellent response to varied lighting conditions. One of the struggles we have always had with helmet cams is filming outdoors during sporting activities. Traditional CCD based helmet cams have a hard time dealing with lighting conditions that rapidly change from bright to dark. The POV1 handled these situations very well. Straight shots at the shot showed NO streaking or power banding. Swinging the camera from dark to light and back to dark was handled smoothly, instead of the classic jumpy white balance adjustments that come out of traditional helmet cams. My guess is that there is some programmed algorithmic logic to handle the white balance in such a smooth fashion. More kudos to VIO.
Here are the specs on the imaging sensor: Advanced CMOS sensor, Electronic Global Shutter, Dynamic Range of 75dB to 110dB, 5 lux color (Sub 0.1 lux monochrome sensor), and a 32 Bit MIPS processor with 12 bit imaging. I have not seen inside the camera housing, but the electronics inside must be doing some advanced image processing on the fly to deal with the general "jumping through hoops" nessecary to make CMOS images look good. I say this because the images coming out of the POV.1 look good! Overall, the images are sharp and the color is good. With a LUX rating of 5 this camera is not designed for nighttime stealth missions. Traditional helmet cameras have LUX ratings < 1. Lux ratings this low reflect the Security Camera roots of helmet cams. I'm actually pleased to see a helmet camera that has been designed with normal day light use in mind. The LUX rating on the POV1 again sends the clear message that this system has been engineered from the ground up to meet the requirements of the helmet cam community. VIO has not forgotten about the low light either - they have a night vision camera head in the works for their military customers.
I'm going to lay it right out there. DVD Frame Size? YES. DVD Quality? Pretty darn close. Better than the other DVR's on the market today? Definitely. The video quality of this unit is great, but when delving into the quality frame by frame there are more compression artifacts than you would find on a "dvd". Will the average video watcher complain about the quality - no way. Would a video phile pick it apart? Sure. It appears that engineers and manufacturers are still doing the delicate dance between cost, performance, storage, and energy consumption. There are links to downloadable RAW POV.1 Video clips just following this section - You decide.
Here is my experience: Filmed some footage, brought it home, dragged the clips into Sony DVD Architect, clicked Burn, brought into the home theatre, put it up on the big screen using my 800 x 600 LCD projector and... It looked great! Nice sharpness, great colors, and good motion. You will be very pleased with the overall quality of the video that comes out of this unit. Take a look at the raw mpeg4 sample video clips and the raw frame gallery below to see for yourself.
The POV1 is quite flexible when it comes to video settings. There are several frame sizes to choose from: 720x480, 720x400, 640x480 (default), 360x240, 360x200, or 320x240. Again, big Kudos to VIO for FINALLY providing us with a true 720 x 480 NTSC compatible frame size for video editing! Frame rates are also configurable: 30, 25, 24, or 15. There are 3 compression settings: High, medium, low. The manual states: "A high setting produces a sharper more accurate image, but takes more space on the memory card. A low setting saves space but sacrifices color accuracy and detail." Personally, I've been using the POV1 at 720x480 @ 30fps in High quality mode. One of the nicest video quality features of the POV1 is that everything is Progressive Frame video. I went into detail on this in the "Analog vs Digital" section above. This greatly contributes to the overall video quality.
MPEG4 Video Codec Specifications
To see the video compression codec details for the POV.1 configured in 720x480 @ 30fps in High Quality mode, click on the last image in the Frame Grab gallery below to see a screenshot from the GSpot Codec Appliance. The basic codec settings for the POV.1 when recording in 720x480 @ 30fps in High Quality mode are as follows:
- Video: MPEG4 @ 720x480 @ 30 fps @ 3113 kbps using the industry standard XviD Codec
- Video Codec Download for PC and Mac's: http://www.xvidmovies.com/codec/
- Audio: MPEG-1 Layer 2, 32000Hz, 64kb/s, Monophonic
- Water and Sun, RAW POV1 Video Clip / 17MB
- Snow and Sun, RAW POV1 Video Clip / 25MB
- Highspeed Motorcycle Racing at Track, RAW POV1 Video Clip / 22MB / Courtesy of CAL-SportBike & TrackXperience
Actual Video Clips from the POV.1 Compressed via YouTube
The POV1 has two different recording modes, both of which are configurable via the Settings menu. The first mode is the standard Start & Stop recording mode. In this mode you press REC and it starts recording, press STOP and it stops.
The second recording mode is new and quite interesting. It's called Loop Record mode. The Loop Record mode is definitely ground breaking in that it's ALWAYS recording, so you will never miss that crazy moment - unless of course you forget to TAG it! I'm not going to get into it in much more detail, but here is the description from the manual: "Loop mode allows you to save a video segment of a pre-defined duration by hitting the TAG soft key on the POV.1 Recorder or the REC/TAG button on the remote control. Loop mode makes it easy to leave the POV.1 in recording mode all day, and just save the best hour or two’s worth of video on the SD card. In Loop record mode the POV.1 records a continuous loop of video clips that are all of the same duration. For example, if the POV.1 is set to record 3 minute loops, it will record a series of 3 minute loops for as long as the unit is in Loop record mode. Then, when something happens that you want to save you simply press TAG or REC/TAG to save that loop."
The POV1 comes standard with a 1GB SD Card and is able to use up to a 2GB SD card. Here are some examples of recording times based on different frame sizes, rates, and quality settings just to give you an idea:
Most people are used to getting a maximum of 1 hour of video on a DV tape, so squeezing up to 6 hours of DVD quality video on a 8GB SD card is fantastic! As of fall of 2008, SD card prices for a 8GB SDHC card are around $50 each. Remember, you can use them in your digital still camera and a SD based handheld video camera too! The POV.1 is currently limited to 8GB SD cards - so don't go buying the 16GB+ cards just yet.
One of the major downsides of Camcorder DV tapes is that 1 hour of footage requires 1 full hour to transfer to a computer for editing (not to mention 12GB of disk space). With the POV1, 60 minutes of video footage requires about 4 minutes to transfer to a PC using a 50X speed SD card (7.8MB per second). Also, the overall storage savings on your hard drive is significant. DVD quality MPEG4 footage uses about 1.5GB per hour.
The POV.1 uses 4 AA batteries to power both the recording unit and the camera.VIO chose AA batteries for a few reasons: they're inexpensive, and the military specifically requested AA batteries. I'm quite pleased with the choice of AA's. The POV.1 will free us from expensive & proprietary lead-acid, nimh, and lition-ion batteries that a variety of older helmet cam systems use. You will not have to mail order batteries for the POV.1 anytime soon, that's for sure.
As with most digital devices, the POV.1 is good at eating up batteries. First thing you should do is set the LCD timeout to 15 seconds as this will save a ton of battery juice right out of the gate. A fresh set of middle of the road akaline batteries will record for about 6-7 hours (with LCD timeout set). Keep in mind that is RECORD time, not just idling, which would last longer. We highly recommend rechargeable AA's for the POV.1. A 2500 maH set of rechareable Energizers will run the POV.1 for up to 10 hours! Note: The POV1 by default will not automatically shutoff, so if you leave it on it will run the batteries down for sure! Also, there is a configurable auto shutoff setting in the preferences menu.
Notice how I said, "The Cable" and not "The Cables". That's right, the POV.1 has only ONE cable! The cable is about 5 feet long and both ends have male connectors. The cable itself is a little on the stiff end, but the more I use it - the softer it is. In talking with VIO, the cable needed to be a little stiffer to protect the integrity of the LDVS based digital pathways contained within. This cable is unique in that it has been specifically engineered for the POV1. The cable provides a fully digital pathway between the recording unit and the camera imaging sensor. VIO calls this cable the "LDVS Cable", rightly so, since it is based on the widely used LDVS Standard. Low-voltage differential signaling, or LVDS, is used behind the scenes in many high-speed data transfer protocols such as FireWire, Serial ATA, SCSI, and more. This digital cable contributes significantly to the overall great image quality in the POV1. It is my understanding that engineering and manufacturing this cable has been costly. I would suggest to VIO that they open up their LDVS implementation to other vendors in hopes that wide scale adoption will drive down costs! One interesting thing to note is that this cable is UNI-directional. This means that one end specifically goes to the camera, and the other to the recording unit. The end that goes to the camera is determined by a small, raised VIO logo on the cable, as noted in the picture below by the red circle. If you hook it up backwards, the POV1 screen will present a "Imager not connected" message when powered up.
The connections on any helmet cam system are critical. They are connected and disconnected often, and generally take a beating. In the case of the POV1 they also need to be waterpoof. The connectors on the POV1 are stainless steel, threaded, durable, and waterproof. These are burly connectors for sure. The cable connections are "keyed" in a way that it makes it very difficult to misalign the pins. That being said - BE REALLY CAREFUL WHEN CONNECTING THE CABLE! The male pins inside both ends of the camera cable have 8 fragile pins. It is possible to hose the pins up royally, and the cable is expensive. Before connecting, take a good look at the male pins to ensure they are intact, and look at the keyed alignment system. You can't push the connector together until the keys are lined up. Once the cable is connected and seated, screw the threads down until tight. Once you do this, it's easy as cake. I would suggest being patient and not rushing this step.
A durable & waterproof microphone has been embedded approximately in the middle of the cable. A simple "blow on the mic" wind test has confirmed that this microphone will do what most mics do in the wind - it will static out. Adjusting the MIC level to its lowest setting reduced the wind noise significantly. If the microphone is in a backpack or hippack wind noise should be minimized, and in those situations I would suggest increasing MIC level to pickup ambient sound better.
The Wireless Remote Control
The Wireless Remote Control is a major step forward, and a few steps back as well. I really like the wireless approach since it eliminates cable clutter and allows the remote to be mounted in a variety of locations. The remote works within "close proximity" to the POV1. I found that if the POV.1 is out in the open you can get 6ft, but if you place the POV.1 in a backpack you might get 3ft. The remote can also be configured to operate on different channels. This will allow multiple POV1's to operate in close proximity to each other. If you wanted to, you could leave the POV1's all on the same channel and start/stop record multiple units with one remote.
This remote took a few steps backwards in terms of usability. For starters, you cannot power the POV1 on and off using the remote. The power on/off feature has been standard in the LANC protocol for years. If you are really concerned about conserving battery time, then you need to be powering the unit off when you are in between filming sessions. The second step back, is that the communication between the remote and POV.1 is one-way. The remote can talk to the POV1, but not vice-versa. So, the only way to know if the POV.1 is recording when you press REC is to listen for the BEEP that comes out of the POV1. Granted, the beep on the POV1 can be turned up pretty loud - I'm used to looking down at my LANC remote and seeing a flashing Red light when recording. If you place the POV1 in a backpack where the unit is not visible you will have to listen for the BEEP when starting and stopping recording. Also, the LED on the remote does light up, but only when you press the buttons. To provide myself with some comfort, I quickly got in the habit of pressing and holding the REC/TAG button for multiple seconds just to make sure that the signal got through.
VIO acknowledged the usability issues with the remote and they are aware of what the ideal remote feature set is. In the end it came down to cost and engineering. The wireless remote requirement was apparently more critical to the overall usability design, than have it tethered to a cable. I'm assuming the POV.2 (??) will most likely have a bi-directional wireless remote.
On a scale of 1 to 10, the POV1 gets a 7. For the most part usability on this systems rocks: Cable clutter has been reduced to one wire, live camera video can be viewed on the unit with ease, easy playback & review of recorded clips, simple user interface, good ergonomic design, easy & fast transfer of video to computers, and slides in & out of packs easily. The POV.1 lost 3 points in the following areas: Battery hatch is tricky to open & the batteries are hard to pry out (- 0.5 point), Lack of Power On/Off from Wireless Remote (- 1 point), and Lack of visual feedback & unit status on Wireless Remote (- 1.5 points).
Warranty & Support
VIO provides a 1 year manufacturers warranty on the whole system, plus a 30 day money back guarantee. They are doing a great job backing this product up. Their tech support and overall customer service have been great. Warranty issues start with contacting your dealer and/or VIO to get a Return Merchandise Authorization. The customer is responsible for shipping the unit back for warranty work, and VIO will pay return shipping the same way it was sent. So, if you send it back next day air, they will repair and return via next day air. If you crash and smash the unit - you are out of luck.
POV Manager Software and Video Sharing
Something completely new in the helmet cam space is the included POV Manager software. The software is a rudimentary video editor specifically designed to interact with the POV1 via USB, save & edit clips, and click a button to upload & share them on the internet with friends. It's a good idea and plays off of the whole viral video marketing approach. The product is pretty version 1.0, but functional. Perhaps more detail in another review at another time.
The video quality of this unit is great, and when coupled with the overall usability, good recording capacity, out of the box waterproof status, major reduction in cable clutter, built-in LCD, and durability - it makes for a superb wearable video system. This is truly the first helmet cam / wearable video product to get it all right for the consumer market. The packaging, the marketing, the quality, and the usability. It's just like a camcorder, you buy a box at the store, take it home, and it works! If this product succeeds it means cheaper and better helmet cam systems for everyone. Helmet Camera Central highly recommends the POV.1 from VIO / Viosport.
Helmet Cam Central Price:
$549.95 + Free 4GB SDHC Card + Free Universal mount + Free Shipping.
Visit The Shop @ HelmetCameraCentral.com to order one up today.
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.
11.14.2008 / Chadical / Version 1.5
** Updated for new 8GB support, free 4GB card and lower pricing.
05.01.2008 / Chadical / Version 1.4
** Updated for new standard Wide Angle.
02.01.2008 / Chadical / Version 1.3
** Price drop from $749.99 to $679.95
01.09.2008 / Chadical / Version 1.3
** Price drop from $799.99 to $749.99
10.29.2007 / Chadical / Version 1.3
** Added new RAW POV1 video clips
10.20.2007 / Chadical / Version 1.2
** Added Warranty and Support section
09.27.2007 / Chadical / Version 1.1
** Added table of contents, typos, a few rewords and clarifications. Free Shipping.
09.26.2007 / Chadical / Version 1.0
** First major draft posted. I'm expecting corrections and additions. View this change log in the future to determine what has been fixed/added/or changed.