Hoyttech MSR-200 Autosports Camera Review
Hoyttech – MSR-200 Product Review
I have been using point-of-view (POV) cameras for over five years, and this is the first one I have seen that was designed specifically for the Motorsport industry. It uses a unique vacuum cup mount that allows you to attach it to any smooth, non-porous surface including windshields, dashboards, hoods, etc. Hoyttech also sells a mount, which allows you to secure the camera to a roll bar or motorcycle frame. The camera includes a variety of video modes to select from including standard or high definition.
The camera is relatively small. It measures out at 100mm x 69mm x 25mm. It includes a 2X zoom, allowing you to adjust the focus for an ideally framed shot. This is a nice feature over most other POV’s that only have a fixed focal length. The lens provides a 110 degree wide angle field of view, allowing you to capture a lot of the action, without the distortion often seen with other POV’s with wider fields of view. The camera can shoot at 60 frames per second (fps), which is great for when you want to add a slow motion effect. Video shot at 60 fps will look a lot smoother in slow motion than video shot at 30 fps. The kit includes a 3 foot cabled remote so you can start and stop recording at the touch of a button. This is much more convenient and safer than having to lean over to a windshield mounted camera and operate it via its onboard controls. The camera ships with a suction mount that allows you to position the camera in a variety of locations and positions. If you do decide to mount the camera on the outside of a car using the vacuum mount, make sure you tether it just in case the vacuum loses its seal. The mounting bracket for the camera has several threaded mounting holes, so you can attach it to a tripod or variety of other camera mounts. The camera can accept up to a 32GB SD Card, providing you with up to 12 hours of HD footage, and over 24 hrs of standard definition footage.
The camera includes a 2.4” TFT LCD screen, which is a very nice size for framing a shot or watching video playback. The screen quality is sharp with good color resolution. The rubberized cover does a nice job in protecting the camera from everyday bumps and dings, and also protects the camera from the elements including rain, mud, and snow. Besides shooting video, you can take high quality JPEG pictures. The difference between this camera and other POV’s, is that the Hoyttech can shoot pictures at either 3MP, 5MP, or 8MP, where most other POV’s are limited to only 5MP. When you are ready to edit or upload your video (H.264 format), you can move it over to the computer via the built-in USB connector, or pop out the SD card and plug it into a computer port. The camera includes a feature where you can connect it to your TV to playback video or view pictures. The camera comes with a rechargeable lithium-ion battery that provides 1.25 hours of HD recording time, and two hours of WVGA recording time. The battery is located in the front compartment of the camera and can be swapped out very quickly. The camera comes with a variety of charging accessories including an AC Charger, Cigarette Lighter Adapter, and a USB connector for a computer. If the camera is mounted on the outside of a car, or on a motorcycle, there is a chance the lens could be hit by flying rocks, bugs, and other debris. With this camera, you can replace the external lens should it get damaged. This feature is typically not available on other types of POV’s. If for some reason the camera develops a mechanical problem, it is covered by a 12 month warranty by the manufacturer.
Camcorder Mode: In this mode, you can adjust the white balance to compensate for different lighting conditions; change the video resolution from standard to high definition; select from one of three shooting modes (color, black and white, and sepia – old movie); and if you are shooting in very low light conditions, the camera offers a “night mode”.
Setup Mode: In this mode, you can elect to have a histogram displayed on the LCD screen to help evaluate lighting and exposure; select auto power on/off (none, 1 minute, or 5 minute); select NTSC or Pal; select video format; reset the camera to original default settings, select a display language (English, French, German, Spanish, Italian); select either 50 or 60 Hz frequency, and set the time and date.
This camera provides a lot of cool menu driven features that most POV’s in its price range do not offer, allowing the user to tweak the performance parameters to help guarantee a great shot.
When mounting a camera inside a vehicle, behind the driver and facing out the front window, the view outside the car can get over exposed. This camera offers the ability to adjust the exposure to help eliminate the video from looking “washed-out”. This is another great feature typically not found on other POV’s.
Video Modes and Performance:
- 1280x720 (HD) @ 30fps – 20 minutes recording time per Gigabyte of memory (SD Card)
- 854x480 (WVGA) @ 60fps – 48 minutes recording time per Gigabyte of memory (SD Card)
- 320x240 (QVGA) @ 30fps - 190 minutes recording time per Gigabyte of memory (SD Card)
The primary competition for the Hoyttech MSR-200, is the VholdR Contour HD 1080, and the GoPro HD Motorsport. All are within $30.00 of each other, and also record in HD. The Contour HD 1080 and GoPro HD Motorsport can be used either as a helmet camera or a Motorsport camera, where as the Hoyttech MSR-200 can be used as a Motorsport camera or a pocket camcorder.
|Feature||Hoyttech MSR-200||VoldR ContourHD 1080||GoPro HD Motorsport|
|Max Resolution||1280 x 720 (30 fps)||1920 x 1080 (30 fps)||1920 x 1080 (30 fps)|
|Max SD Card (GB)||32||16||32|
|Water Proof||No||Yes (with case)||Yes|
|Configurable||Better (on unit)||Best (via computer)||Some (on unit)|
|Alignment||LCD Monitor||On Board Lasers||Visual - Eyesight|
|Field of View (FOV @ Resolution)||110 @720p||135 @ 960p, 720p||170 @ 960p & 720p|
|110 @ 1080p||127 @ 1080p|
Comparative Camera Performance
- Test Condition #1: I mounted the camera to the windshield of my Hyundai Sonata, with the camera pointed back at me and pointed out the front windshield. I recorded video between 5:00 – 7:30 P.M. on overcast and sunny days.
- Test Condition #2: I attached the camera onto the hood of my car, pointing back at the front driver and passenger area. I made sure I tethered the camera incase the vacuum seal broke.
- Test Condition #3: Since there were no rainy days during this evaluation period, I tested the camera’s weather resistance by attaching it to the hood of my car and showering it with water from my garden hose.
- Video Resolution: The Hoyttech MSR-200 performed very well in this category, and has three different resolution settings. The Contour HD (4 resolution settings) and the GoPro HD (3 resolution settings) performed slightly better regarding resolution and image sharpness.
- Exposure: The ability to modify the exposure setting helps you avoid having video looked “washed out” in unique lighting situations. The Hoyttech allows you to manually tweak the exposure setting from +2 to –2, and Contour HD allows you to tweak the setting between +4 to –4. The GoPro HD does not provide this feature. The Hoyttech and Contour HD performed better than the GoPro HD in unusual lighting conditions. I would mention that all of these cameras use a CMOS imager, which are energy efficient, but do not perform well in low light conditions. To get the best results, all of these cameras should be used during the day in plenty of light.
- Zoom: The Hoyttech includes a 2X lens, which helps you frame a shot using the built-in LCD monitor. This is a very nice feature, which the other two cameras do not offer. The zoom and LCD also allows you to effectively use the Hoyttech like a pocket camcorder.
- Wide Angle/Distortion: The GoPro HD was a 170 degree field of view, which I consider an extreme wide angle. The camera captures a huge amount of area around the video subject, but there is also a noticeable amount if image distortion. The Contour HD and the Hoyttech MSR-200 both have wide fields of view between 110 and 135 degrees, which still capture a lot of the surrounding area, but with much less image distortion. Depending on the type of shot you want to capture, some people like extreme wide angles, while others do not.
- Configuration: The GoPro HD allows you to configure some of its camera settings, but it is very limited. The Hoyttech MSR-200 allows you to configure a variety of shooting parameters affecting lighting, video appearance (Color, B&W, Sepia), and very low light conditions. This can all be done on the camera via the built-in LCD screen and function keys, which is very convenient. The Contour HD allows you to configure a significant amount of camera settings, but your camera must be connected to a computer.
- Audio Performance: All of these cameras have muted audio performance because of their designs. They all have some type of cover to protect the microphone from water, or to reduce wind noise. These cameras are really designed to only pick up ambient sound, not dialog. No matter which camera you are using, if you want to pick up dialog, the subject must be within 2 feet of the camera. The Hoyttech MSR-200 records MONO audio, but on both the left and right channels. This is a nice feature, because most of the competing POV’s only record Mono on one channel, which means you have to use video editing software to duplicate a channel to get a “stereo” sound. When I played back the Hoyttech video segments on my computer, I heard a high-pitched noise in the background. It was faint, but noticeable. Hoyttech knows of the problem, and is investigating the situation. One type of audio test included mounting the cameras on a stationary tripod and without any type of waterproof case. This eliminated the affects of wind noise and the muting affect of a case. Based on this test, the GoPro HD had the best “raw” audio performance, followed by the Contour HD, with the Hoyttech coming in third.
- Road/Wind Noise: External Mounting - If you expose any of these cameras to speeds over 20 miles per hour, the wind noise makes the audio unusable in my opinion. Internal Mounting - Once you reach highway speeds, the road and traffic noise also makes the audio from any of the cameras unusable. All of the cameras performed the same under these test conditions.
- Water Resistant/Proof: The Contour HD and the Hoyttech MSR-200 are both splash, rain, and snow resistant. Hoyttech does not offer a waterproof case for their camera, but you can purchase a $40 waterproof case for the Contour HD if you want to shoot underwater. The GoPro HD is not water resistant, but a waterproof case is included with the camera kit, which is very nice. The Hoyttech did very well when I tested it using my garden hose to simulate rain.
- Alignment: The Hoyttech includes an LCD screen, which is great for aligning a shot, and for playing back video. Neither the Contour HD, nor the GoPro HD have this feature. The Contour HD uses onboard lasers to help with alignment, and GoPro HD relies on your eyeball and its very wide 170 degree field of view to ensure your subject is in the shot. Needless to say, I preferred the Hoyttech’s LCD screen for aligning my shots versus the methods offered by the other two cameras.
- Suction Mount: Suction mounts only work on smooth surfaces like windshields, or body panels. I could not get them to stick on my “textured” dashboard. The Contour HD suction mount seems a little light. It works fine for mounting the camera to the inside windshield of the car, but I would be apprehensive about mounting it to the outside of the car. The suction mounts for the Hoyttech MSR-200 and GoPro HD are much more robust, and performed well in all applications. I really liked the Hoyttech’s mount flexibility and adhesion strength. It also did a great job isolating the car vibration from the camera resulting in the video looking very stable. You could position the camera to point out through the windshield, or back into the driving cabin. Hoyttech says their mount has been used at speeds in excess of 150 mph (Wow!).
Opportunities for Improvement – Hoyttech MSR-200
- In a shooting condition where you have the camera mounted on the windshield pointing back at you, it would be nice if the camera had an LED on the front to visually indicate when the camera was in standby mode or when it was recording.
- Since the camera has an LCD to view video playback, it would be nice if the camera also had a speaker so you could hear the audio.
Regarding the three, the Contour HD 1080 wins on raw video and audio performance, and the Hoyttech wins on features, such as the LCD monitor, suction mount, weather resistance, and the ability to configure various camera settings. The Hoyttech MSR-200 was easy to operate and change various camera settings. The video segments had good color and looked “smooth” at both 30 and 60 fps. When using it in a car, I really liked using remote control cable to stop and start the recording function. Neither the Contour HD nor the GoPro HD offer a remote control feature for recording. The on-board microphone did a reasonable job picking up the dialog inside the car, and the suction mount firmly held the camera in place whether it was mounted on the windshield or the hood. I liked the weatherproof rubberized casing, though the rubber is a little tacky and has a tendency to attract fuzz and dust. The replaceable front lens is a great feature considering the camera’s primary application in the motorsport industry. The camera comes with software that helps transfer the video to your computer and then upload it to YouTube. Based on my evaluation of this product, and how it compares to other POV’s with similar features, the MSR-200 is a very good value for the price and very well designed for Motorsport.
Mike Stoll has been using helmet cameras for over six years in a variety of outdoor sports including caving, whitewater rafting, and downhill racing to mention a few. He has also written articles relating to helmet cameras for VideoMaker, Canoe & Kayak, and Paddling Life.
Helmet Camera Central was born as a result of our helmet cam experiences from our video consulting business. Helmet Camera Central is a resource designed to help people find objective and pertinent information about helmet camera systems. Since 2005, we have reviewed numerous helmet camera systems with an unbiased and objective point of view. Our reviews focus on the functional and usability aspects of helmet camera systems. Since we use helmet camera systems in addition to selling them, our reviews result from actual day-to-day experiences with the products. Ease of use, reliability, and quality are our top priority. Rest assured, the helmet camera systems that we recommend and sell at HelmetCameraCentral.com were chosen for good reason: they rock! There are many systems out there, but the ones we recommend provide exceptional quality and services for the best return on your investment.
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