All sports including operating a motorcycle requires all your senses to be engaged at the same time. The inner workings of your body turn into an Olympic athlete. With all systems go, there are no free working parts to enable you to capture a scene on the landscape as you see it. The helmet cam (or point of view cam – POV) is a great way to share what you see with those who weren’t able to take part in it. Over the course of the past year, I have tried three separate models and have now landed on my favourite.
The Drift HD170 camera is sleek in its design so that when you mount the camera on your helmet or goggles, it doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb. The camera comes in two colours, the two-tone orange and black or the solid black Stealth. It has a standard tri-pod or mono-pod mount that makes filming solo a breeze.
For motorcycling, the best mounts have turned out to be the goggle mount, the fixed clip on your helmet or the elastic band with the goggle mount that I frequently wear on my thigh to film the rider next to me for certain segments. I have nicknamed this mount the ‘garter-cam’ and will add lace to the elastic down the road (lol).
The handlebar mount that is included with the camera works great for mountain bikes and sometimes can be fixed them to signal light housing on a motorcycle but in general the handlebar mount has been too small for motorcycles. Drift is currently designing a larger handlebar mount specific to motorcycles.
In the meantime, the adhesive helmet holster is the best option and once you attach the holster to your helmet, there is no interference with your helmet by the addition of the holster or the camera.
To line up the right angle for the lens, you have two options to create the perfect picture. First you adjust the angle of the camera with a rotating dial on the mount. Find your angle, either level, or down, or up or even point it behind you then tighten the dial. When the camera is turned on, the LCD screen shows the picture. To straighten out the picture before you film, simply rotate the lens (it rotates a full 360 degrees) until the picture is where you want it.
The competition Contour HD and the GoPro Naked Hero cam do not have playback screens or built in mini-monitors so it is difficult to see what you are filming until its over. When I tried the Contour HD, the only footage I managed to capture was a high definition look up my nose and a whole lot of “Is it on?”, “I can’t tell if it’s on”. The GoPro cams can have an optional playback screen available by simply adding money.
For the multi-media that I do, there were a lot of factors that made me finally select the Drift cam. The internal microphone has incredible sound. You have three levels of intensity and I quickly realized that when the camera is filming the landscape from the side of my helmet or mounted on the bike as I ride, microphone level one or even off is preferred. When filming interviews after riding different models and speaking to people, microphone level three picks up high enough quality sound that I don’t need to adjust the levels after the fact.
It gets even better though. There is an external microphone accessory that plugs into the back of the camera. Here you can clip the microphone inside your helmet and narrate your ride (or whatever other sport you are doing), as you are doing it. We did learn the hard way however, that when the external microphone is in use, the internal microphone setting must be turned down to level one or the sound is distorted. The connection to the camera is specific so utilizing the microphone with any other type of video system requires adapters. The only downfall about the external microphone is that when it is plugged in, the back door to the HD170 camera is left open so Drift offers a silicon cover to address this issue. With the new half size Drift HD camera (coming out shortly), the adapter for the external microphone has been changed to a universal 3.5 mm connection and the back door of the camera has been modified to remain closed with a sealable slot for microphone plug in.
The Contour HD and the GoPro Naked Hero Cam both have great internal microphones but no option to add external sound.
With all models of helmet cams, you get roughly the same amount of shooting time out of each rechargeable battery with the exception of the Drift HD170. A normal lithium ion battery will provide approximately 2 hours of filming time but if you remove the standard battery and replace it with the extended life battery, you will be filming and taking photos much longer.
None of the lithium ion batteries charge up in a real hurry so plan to re-charge over night or pack some spare charged batteries.
Did I say taking photos? Yes! The Drift HD170 and the new Drift HD take 5 mega pixel photos. Not only can you film in 720p and 1080p, but you can set the camera up to take photos at intervals of 2, 3, 5, 10 and 30 seconds. The Contour HD does not have the capability to capture still photos while the GoPro Naked Hero captures the same quality images and has a 60 second option.
Helmet cams come with wide angle lenses and the Contour offers a fish-eye option. Filming in 1080p offers 127 degrees and in 720p it is 170 degrees.
What made me choose the Drift? The Drift camera comes with a remote control. It can be argued that the GoPro is easy enough to turn on by hitting the prominent button on the top of the camera and that is true but then the camera is mounted anywhere else but on your helmet or within arm’s reach, the remote control with the Drift takes over.
Not only can you use the remote control with one camera, but if you have more than one Drift, you can pair the two cameras to operate off the same remote control capturing different angles of the same footage.
While recently riding, I set one Drift camera to take photos at 30 second intervals while I filmed with the other.
The Drift 170 HD and the GoPro Naked Hero both utilize standard SD cards. While the Drift is larger than the GoPro in size, it seems to us to be more durable. The outer rubber coating on the camera protects the camera from damage if you drop it for instance (not that we did that or anything). There are no hard plastic parts that can be broken from impact.
The new model Drift is half the size of the original but delivers the same quality footage and stills and still comes with the outer rubber coating. With the new model, it is all black and is smaller than an intercom system on your helmet. It works with the same remote control system but the strap is now extended to fit over gloves. It operates with a mini-SD card, shoots 9 mega-pixel still photos, has a built in lens protector and you can replace the lens if it ever breaks.
As far as bang for your buck, the Drift cameras may cost a bit more than the Contour or the GoPro Naked Hero but the extra features are well worth it. Check out your local motorcycle or sporting goods retailer or visit the websites online. Contour.com; gopro.com or driftcameracanada.com .