2011 Tachyon XC HD Review
The Tachyon XC HD is available for purchase now over at The Shop.
Tachyon recently came out with an HD version of their popular camera to compete against the GoPro HD 960 and the Epic HD. Tachyon makes a nice product, which is very popular with the motor cross and paint ball crowds who are known to be rough and tough on equipment. The Tachyon HD gets people into an HD package at a very affordable price. Similar to the GoPro HD 960 and the Epic HD, the feature set on the Tachyon HD is not as extensive as the higher end cameras, but it provides enough customized settings to satisfy most camera enthusiasts. This new HD camera continues Tachyon’s tradition of offering a durable product that provides impressive video quality for a very reasonable price. One thing that sets this camera apart from the competition is the IR Remote that is included in the original package.
Table of Contents for Review of the 2011 Tachyon XC HD
- Dimensions: 105mm x 45mm x 55mm
- CMOS Sensor Size: Information Not Available
- Photo: 1M
- Shock Resistant
- Video Resolution & Recording Capacity
o 720p = 1280x720 pixels (16:9), 30 fps, __ Mbit/s data rate – Information not available
- File Format: H.264 Video Compression (MP4)
- Field of View (FOV): 120
- Weight: 5.5 oz (with Alkaline Batteries)
- Max Frame Rate: HD - 30fps
- Light Sensitivity: Information not Available
- Accepts up to a 32GB SD Card. Recording Capacity based on 32GB Card:
o 720p (30 fps): 8h 09m
- Photo Quality: 5 Megapixels
- Record NTSC or PAL
- Time Lapse Photo Mode (photo taken every two seconds)
- Water proof to 100 feet
The camera accepts a variety of sizes from 4GB to 32GB. Make sure you buy the higher quality class 6 or class 10 cards, which record at a faster rate to support HD recording requirements.
The camera is very easy to operate. It has three buttons on top that are marked Power, Start/Stop, and Menu. It also has a simple LCD screen on top that displays SD Card Status, Battery Status, Photo Mode, Video Mode, and a Timer. There is a red/green led on the front of the camera to indicate when the camera is in record mode and stand-by mode. The camera also uses audio cues to let you know when you are changing settings and functions. If the battery is not inserted properly, the LCD will display an error message. You will also see a flashing icon if the SD Card is full.
You can use Energizer Ultimate Lithium, Energizer Advanced Lithium, or alkaline AA batteries. The manufacturer recommends NEVER using rechargeable batteries. If you are shooting in cold weather, you will get better results using lithium batteries. Shooting in cold weather has a tendency to sap battery power, resulting in shorter camera operating times. You can expect about 2.5 hours of operation using alkaline batteries, and 6 hours of operation using lithium batteries.
This camera comes with an IR remote, which is a very nice feature. Neither the GoPro HD 960 nor the Epic HD offer a Remote. The camera manual states he IR Remote will operate up to a distance of 25 feet. In my tests, the Remote operated consistently up to 0 – 18/19 feet, and inconsistently from 20 – 25 feet. The Tachyon Remote’s performance was similar to other IR Remotes I have tested. The Remote runs on (2) AAA batteries, and allows you to start/stop recording once the camera is powered on. The Remote is neither waterproof nor water resistant, so be careful when using it in wet environments.
Frames Per Second (FPS)
The Tachyon HD shoots HD at 30 fps, and the smoothness of the video was as expected. It performed equally well compared to other cameras that record at this rate. More expensive cameras offer shooting HD at 60 fps, but unless you are doing slow motion effects in your movie production, 30 fps should be fine.
Regarding the Tachyon HD, Epic HD and GoPro 960, the user must align the camera visually and should shoot some test footage to ensure the camera is properly aligned. More expensive cameras ($200+) sometimes offer lasers or LCD screens to assist in camera alignment.
The camera is designed to be waterproof. The microphone is therefore located internal to the camera. This design, which is common for waterproof cameras, has a tendency to mute the audio performance. If you open up the back of the camera, the audio performance will improve significantly, but then you expose the internal components to the open environment. Also, when the back door is open, the door may have a tendency to rattle, which will be picked up by the microphone. During my audio tests with the back door closed, you could hear normal dialog up to two feet from the camera. With the back door closed, that camera is only good for picking up ambient sounds. When the back door was open, you could hear normal dialog up to eight feet.
The camera incorporates a patented shock resistant design, which helps ensure the batteries stay connected when the camera is exposed to heavy jarring or dynamic motion. This helps prevent against the loss of video footage during an active video shoot.
The camera is waterproof to 100 feet (up to 30 minutes), which means you can scuba dive with it, or use it in about every extreme condition you can imagine (snow, mud, dust, rain, surf).
The camera comes with two mounts, a general-mount and a side-mount. The side-mount is designed to attach the camera to the side of a helmet. The general-mount is designed to attach the camera to the top of a helmet. The mounts are designed to be used with the 3M adhesive strips (included), which are very strong and creates a very rigid camera mount. Tachyon sells a couple other mount designs, including a handlebar mount, rail mount, and a 360 swivel mount. Just as an extra safety measure….if there is a chance the camera could be jarred out of its mount (i.e. you crash), you can run a piece of fishing line through the latch on the back door and connect the other end to your person.
The camera ships with a USB cable (connect to PC), and A/V Cable (connect to standard TV), and an HDMI cable (connect to Plasma/LCD TV). Though the camera ships with a USB cable, I prefer to move the video files from the camera to my computer by popping out the SD Card from the camera and plugging it directly into the computer. By using the A/V or the HDMI cables, you can play back your photos and videos on your. I really like the fact this camera comes with an HDMI cable. Some cameras in this price category do not come with an HDMI cable, which means you have to drive to Best Buy and spend $20 for one.
The Tachyon HD comes with a 90 day warranty, which is not as good as the GoPro HD 960, but it is comparable with other camera manufacturers like Epic and Oregon Scientific.
|Features:||GoPro 960||GoPro HD||Drift HD170||Epic HD||ATC9K||ContourHD||Tachyon HD|
|Battery Life:||2.5 Hrs||2.5 Hrs||2.5 Hrs||3.5 Hrs||1.5 Hrs||3 Hrs||6 Hrs|
|Dimensions (mm):||42 x 60 x 30||42 x 60 x 30||133 x 50 x 33||101.6 x 41.3 x 31.8||40 x 110||95 x 53 x 34||105 x 45 x55|
|Waterproof:||With incl. case||With incl. case||Slightly||With sep. case||Yes||With sep. case||Yes|
|LCD (playback):||No||Future accessory||Yes||No||Yes||No||No|
|Field of View:||170||170/127||127/170||168/120||130||135/110||120|
|Warranty:||365 days||365 days||365 days||90 days||90 days||180 days||90 days|
Camera Test Parameters
- Tested 720 Resolution
- Neighborhood and highway driving on an overcast day in December
- Colorful outdoor and indoor holiday decorations to test color saturation
- Tested low light performance outdoors at dusk
Using the HDMI video cable that came with the camera, I played back the video on my 42” plasma HDTV. The 720 resolution quality was pretty good. I would say it was equivalent to the 720 resolution on the GoPro HD and the Epic HD. The image was well defined, clear and crisp. The GoPro HD 960 records at a higher resolution, but you cannot really see a difference between 720 and 960 on a 42” plasma TV.
The lens quality is very good, and the camera ships with transparent lens covers to protect it while in storage, or to use in the field where the lens may be subject to projectiles (i.e. paint balls) that could damage the lens.
I really like the 120 degree field of view (FOV). I prefer it to the 170 degree FOV of the GoPro HD 960, which seems more distorted around the edges of the frame. The Tachyon FOV is plenty wide-angle enough to catch a lot of the surrounding action. Depending on your preference or shooting technique, the 120 degree FOV may/may not be the right solution for your needs. It really comes down to personal preference.
Since I reviewed this camera during December in Ohio, it was challenging to find colorful areas outdoors to judge the performance of the camera. So I decided to do what I could outside during my driving tests to include more colorful holiday displays in the shot, and I also shot some test footage indoors. Based on my test results, though the color performance seemed good, it did seem slightly muted compared to the GoPro HD 960 in both my outdoor and inside shots. The Tachyon color performance was slightly better than the Epic HD.
POV cameras are designed to shoot during normal daylight hours and typically perform less than desirable in low light conditions. Most of my testing was done on overcast days in December. The camera did a good job compensating for various lighting conditions during my driving tests. The camera adjusted to changing lighting conditions in steps, which was noticeable when playing back the video. The step adjustment was similar to the Epic HD, which seemed a little more pronounced than the GoPro HD 960. The Tachyon HD performed equally well during dusk or “late evening” shots as the GoPro HD 960 and the EPIC HD. Like all the other cameras I have tested, I took the Tachyon HD down to my dark basement and shot some footage using a 500 lumen video light. Under these conditions, most POV cameras really struggle resulting in the video having a lot of pixilation. Regarding the Tachyon HD, its performance in extremely low light was typical of most CMOS based cameras.
The Tachyon HD has a very sturdy and durable construction, performed well in all of my video tests, and has a nice profile. It comes with a 90 day warranty, which is typical for many cameras. It also comes with an IR Remote, which none of the other cameras in the same price range offer. Even some of the premium cameras do not offer an IR Remote. It has a streamline design, and ships with protective lens covers and an HDMI cable. The audio performance was as expected for a waterproof camera, and the Tachyon HD is very easy to operate. As compared to the higher priced Epic HD, the Tachyon is a better camera for the buck. The GoPro HD 960, which is in the same price range, has a better camera feature set (customizable settings), and has better audio and color performance. The Tachyon HD is a good value for the money, and performed as well as some of the more expensive HD cameras. Tachyon sells other types of mounts to provide the user with additional options for staging the camera. If you are looking for a point-and-shoot camera that provides good video results, operates in extreme conditions and can take a beating, you should definitely consider the Tachyon HD.
Mike Stoll has been using helmet cameras for over seven 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.
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