Helmet Mounting Video Cameras for Mountain Bikers

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Helmet Cameras are increasingly popular to record the joy of riding some of the great trails out there. Over the next few months we will try to debunk a lot of the science and myths out there as there are good and bad cameras as well as dealers some of whom vary across a wide spectrum.
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Other from strapping a video camera to the side of your head ..it is done and many prefer the results. The most popular solution is a Bullet Cam. These small pencil like cameras are small and easy to attach to a bike or helmet and have a chip that captures the image through a lense and records it onto an electronic CCD chip. The chip then delivers the image via a single cable which it is normal to plug into any video camera that has AV in. This is basically analogue signal and if your camera uses AV in it behaves like a VHS recorder rather than using its lense. The best cameras to buy now are the modern Mini DV digital format cameras, this is because if you have a computer it is likely that it will be easier to get the picture into the computer for editing. You can also get digital drives that record data however their disadvantage is the file they store although ca nbe edited on a computer does not move so easily into video editing software as video recorded on a mini DV tape does.

If you have no suitable camera or drive to take out with you, cheap mini DV cameras that are now 4 or 5 years old can be bought on eBay for £100 - £250. If you buy one ask the sellar to confirm that the tape drive is ok and not eating or damaging tapes before buying and what sort of life is left in the battery. If it is dead a manufacturers original will cost you about £50 whilst a copy could be bought for less than £10

The helmet bullet cameras vary in quality which knocks the price up as they get better. Basic standards are the number of lines. A basic camera has 380 lines then the quality increases up to 420 480 then 520 lines. The more lines the camera has the better quality the camera has. The 520 line cameras are as close as these cameras can get to broadcast quality images for now. It is important also to note the actual type of chip used to record the image. CCD or CMOS, the later is a lot cheaper but is fairly poor quality. the best CCD's are made by Sony and is a good guide. The Sony ExView is a CCD designed for low light or starlight surveillance and is very good in the dark but costs more and is often of little benefit in daylight or lit use. The cameras do not have any focus feature they rely on a fixed aperture with wide angle lense which ensures most things in sight are in focus although liek with any fish eye there will be slight peripheral distortion but nothing to ruin the show
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Whilst buying cameras I find that UK prices tend to be well overpriced compared to what the prices they are sold for at source in Korea or Taiwan. Also some dealers who have helpful starter kits with al lthe back up offer little back up or service. Whilst the dollar / pound exchange rate is favourable I recommend two US based suppliers, both of whom have given good service to me.
Viosport who specialise in sports camera kits with nicely finished cables and stuff.. with an associated high price bracket
Quality Video Components who specialise in Video Surveillence equipment. As they are selling considerable large quantities of equipment to professionals as well as cyclists their prices are very low and they also trade very cheaply through eBay. This is how I bought my latest Sony 520 off their eBay Store where a complete kit including a camera made by KT&C that might cost about £175 at one of the better dealers in the UK arrived on my doorstep with a total cost including tax and carraige of £117. They will sell the parts or whole kits depending on your budget or if you want to upgrade an existing camera, something UK suppliers do not do as they only sell full kits.

If you do buy from the US make sure before you buy make sure the vendor will supply you PAL format cameras, the american NTSC standard means you are unlikely to be able to see the picture on any European video equipment or tv's which are all PAL. Next episode will feature samples of video to show the quality and limitations of what these cameras can record

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