Tachyon XC Micro Helmet Camera Review
Tachyon XC Micro Product Review
The Tachyon XC Micro is an entry level helmet camera that is well constructed and waterproof to over 30’. It is built for extreme conditions, and could be used in a variety of sports where rain, snow, water, and mud are a factor. The manual for the XC Micro is only available on-line, so you’ll need to download it to learn how to operate the camera. Its primary competitors in its price range are the Oregon Scientific ACT3K, and the Epic Action Cam. The XC Micro records video in AVI format, and can accept up to a 32GB Micro SD Card. It is relatively compact and runs on (2) AAA batteries. It comes with a universal mount that allows you to secure the camera to the top or side of your helmet. Its CMOS chip boasts low light performance, though it is configured to shoot best during a sunny day. As you will read, I think you will realize that the XC Micro is the best in its class.
As mentioned, the camera is relatively small measuring 3.7”L x 1.4”D x 1.5”H. It has a 90 degree field of view, which is far superior to its competition. The XC Micro is a “point and shoot” type of camera, and is very easy to operate. It has one button on top of the camera to start and stop recording, and incorporates audio cues to convey different modes of operation. It can accept up to a 32GB memory card, where its competition can only accepts up to 4GB. This allows you to record up to 8 hrs of video if you max out the card (1hr/4GB). The XC Micro shoots in standard definition at 30 frames per second, and has an on-board microphone. It is very sturdy and shock resistant, and the camera can operate deeper underwater than its competitors. You can connect the camera to your computer using the USB cable to download video, or you can pop out the flash card and plug it directly into your computer using an adapter (not included). The camera also comes with a TV interface cable so you can watch your video on the big screen. If you are interested in being creative, the XC Micro comes with the ability to shoot time lapse photography. For those of you who live across the pond and use PAL versus NTSC, the camera supports both formats. When you buy the camera, make sure you pick up a Micro SD Card and AAA batteries, which are not included.
- There is a small LED just above your start/stop button. When you push the button to record, the unit with give you an audio cue, and the LED light will turn red.
- When you are in Time-Lapse Photo mode, this light will flash red - green - red - green.
- When your Micro SD Card is full, it will flash green (short pulses).
- If there is no Micro SD Card in your camera, or if there is an error with the card, it will flash green (long pulses).
- After you have been recording for 30 minutes, your camera will pause for five seconds to auto save your video footageto your memory card
- Hand pans with the camera on different types of flowers - color performance test – sunny day
- Driving around the neighborhood in my car – general performance test - sunny day
- Riding my bike around the neighborhood – general performance test - sunny day
- Hand pan at dusk around the neighborhood– low light test
- Shooting footage in my basement with supplemental lighting – low light test
- Spraying camera with a garden hose – waterproof test
The Tachyon shoots in standard resolution. The video looked pretty good, and better than some of the higher end competitors priced at $200. Picture clarity was pretty good too, which means the camera has a good lens. There may be some people who may not consider this camera because it is not HD, but I would mention HD cameras cost around $300, and you need a state-of-the-art computer to edit HD video files due to their size. I personally like standard definition, and I think the video shot with this camera looks pretty good on your computer or uploaded on YouTube.
Field of View (FOV):
The FOV for this camera is 90 degrees, which is close to what the human eye sees. It is much better than its competitors, which I feel are too narrow. With the XC Micro, you capture a reasonable amount of the surrounding action in a shot. There may be some instances where it would be nice to have a FOV around 120 degrees, but I think 90 degrees will fit most helmet camera shooting events.
Fortunately, I reviewed this camera around spring, and had a chance to evaluate the camera’s color performance by shooting flowers. The camera did a great job in this area, with all the colors being well saturated, bright, and vivid.
Like every other CMOS helmet camera, the XC Micro is specifically tuned for shooting in sunlight. The camera did pretty well in transitioning between light and dark shooting conditions. CMOS cameras typically struggle in low light settings, and I was anxious to see how well the XC Micro would perform. I shot some test video in my neighborhood around dusk, and the camera still performed quite well. I also tested the camera in my basement using supplemental lighting. The manufacturer boasts the camera’s low light performance, and I have to agree with them. The XC Micro performs well in low light, and actually outperformed the higher end Contour HD that I tested a few months ago.
All the cameras in this price range use the same camera alignment technique. You have to use your eyeball to line up the camera mounting and shoot some test footage to verify its position. Once you get it set, you are good to go. This technique is a bit more cumbersome that some of the higher end cameras that use lasers or an LCD screen for alignment, but then again, they cost $200 more.
The XC Micro records mono audio on one channel. If you want a stereo affect, you will need to use editing software to duplicate the channel. The microphone is internal to the unit, and as with all waterproof cameras, its performance is muted. The only way to improve the audio performance is to open up the camera’s back door, but that will expose the camera’s internal components to the environment. I tested the audio performance with the back door closed and with it open, with me speaking toward the camera at distances of 1, 2, and 3 feet. With the back door closed, the audio performance was really poor. It picked up some ambient sound, but you could not hear any speech. With the back door open, the audio performance drastically improved. Besides ambient sound, you could hear my speech with reasonable clarity at all three test distances.
The XC Micro incorporates an auto-save feature. In a situation where the camera senses batteries are running low, it will stop the recording, save the current video footage, and then shut off. You can use alkaline or lithium AAA batteries, but the manufacturer recommends lithium because they are lighter, and can provide up to four hours of operation. Alkaline batteries only provide one hour of operation in a warm environment (5 minutes in a cold environment). The manufacturer advises not to use rechargeable batteries because they will not fit into the battery tray, their voltage ratings are irregular and can “fry” the camera, and they do not work properly with the auto-save feature risking the potential loss of video footage.
The camera comes with a universal mount that allows you to mount it to the top or side of your helmet. As long as your helmet has a smooth surface, it works fine. If your helmet has irregular surfaces, you may find it challenging to mount the camera properly. There are no other mounts available for this camera, unlike the Oregon Scientific ACT3K, which includes a variety of mounts with its camera. The other gripe I have with most helmet cam manufacturers is that they do not offer a mount that includes a ¼-20 thread. If they did, you could use the camera with a multitude of camera mounts (bar, vacuum, tripod, etc).
The camera is rated for 30’, and based on its design and construction, I can believe it. My waterproof test included turning my garden hose on the camera while it was recording. Needless to say, it performed flawlessly.
The camera comes with a standard 90 day limited warranty from date of purchase, which is typical for all cameras in this price range.
- The universal mount that comes with the camera is adequate. It would be nice if Tachyon offered a mount with a ¼-20 thread to expand the camera’s mounting capabilities.
- Some of the competitors include a simple LCD display to show recording time. This might be a nice feature to add in the future. Adding this feature, though, may impact its waterproof performance. None of the competitors can match the XC Micro’s performance in this area. Also, if you know the capacity of your memory card and have a watch, you can track the recording time yourself.
- It would like to see the LED indicator light moved from the top of the camera to the front. This would allow an observer to advise the videographer if the camera is in record mode.
- I would like to see the camera come with a lens cap. This is another gripe I have with most manufacturers. Protecting the lens from damage is very important, and I have yet to see a helmet camera manufacturer provide a lens cap.
- Camera mounted to Remote Control Plane
- Time Lapse Photography Example
- Motorcycle Run - Low Light
- Jet Ski
The XC Micro is slightly heavier than its competitors, but it has a more robust design and construction. The camera is built to operate in extreme conditions and is shock resistant. It can accept up to a 32GB flash card, which its competition cannot touch. The video performance was pretty good regarding resolution, clarity, smoothness, and color. The field of view is far superior to the ACT3K and the Epic, along with its waterproof rating. The camera is very easy to operate, and provides audio cues regarding its operation. For $130, you get a great little camera for the money. I watched video shot with the ACT3K and the Epic on YouTube, and the XC Micro video quality is much better. Based on video performance, I think the XC Micro is the best helmet camera in its class. If you search YouTube for XC Micro footage, there are pages and pages of video footage, which says a lot about the camera’s popularity and acceptance.
Manufacturer’s Comments about the camera:
- If you are not going to use the camera for long period of time, always remove the batteries from the camera. Also, store the camera in a cool, dry place with the back door open
- When selecting a Micro SD Card, only purchase a Class 6 or better to ensure a fast encoder rate (smoother video)
- After using the camera in a salt water environment, always rinse it off since salt water is corrosive
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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** First Draft.
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