FAQS - Buying a Video Camera for your Bicycle

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FAQS - Buying a Video Camera for your Bicycle

Postby GraemeL » Sun Dec 04, 2011 11:02 pm

Bicycle Camera FAQ’s


Part One


Bicycle Cameras - What to Look For

For those that are new to cameras, there are a few things you should know when trying to decide which camera is best for your needs. You may find the following information useful.

This is a rough guide only and you should do as much research as possible before you make your purchase.

A very good site with a lot of information is >>> RigidMount <<<


Related information about cameras and mounts, can be found here:

>>>Camera Listings<<<

>>>Mounting FAQ’s - DIY and Third Party Mounts>>>


Something to Think About

Most cameras that are used for cycling are easy to use and are not complicated. The hardest part is finding a decent mount for the camera and maybe editing the video footage. There are a lot of free editing programs out there and you can always have a go at making your own mounts, if you decide to buy a camera that does not include any decent ones.

The mounts that come with some cheap cameras are either, flimsy cheap plastic things, or they don’t come with any. It is important to have a good mount because of vibrations, if there is any play in the mount or the camera, this will make any small vibrations worse and the video will look awful.


HD (High Definition) or SD (Standard Definition)?

It’s important to look at the cameras specs. There are some EBay sellers out there that are selling cameras that are advertised as being HD but are only SD. So it pays to be careful when buying a camera off EBay. In the Camera Listings (link at the top of this page), I have included a link to the EBay seller that I used, their service is excellent, both in terms of delivery times and also support.

HD (High Definition) is much more preferable to SD (Standard Definition). When using a HD camera videos are clearer and sharper than SD and when you are trying to capture number plates, the more detailed the better.

Things to look for are video format. High Definition will typically have a movie format such as .MOV, H.264 compression. Resolution will be something like 1080p = 1920×1080 pixels (16:9), 30 fps, 960p = 1280×960 pixels (4:3), 30 fps, 720p = 1280×720 pixels (16:9), 60 fps, 720p = 1280×720 pixels (16:9), 30 fps.
Standard Definition will typically have a video format that is either AVI, or MJPEG. The Resolution is something like, 640 x 480 or 720 x 480 and some maybe up scaled from 640 x 480 to 1280x960.


Lens Viewing Angle

Some cheap cameras will have a viewing angle of approx 70º, this is pretty narrow. While others such as the GoPro have a viewing angle of 170º ultra wide angle in 720p and 127º wide angle in 1080p.
The advantage of wide angle is that it allows for a lot more action to be captured on camera. Depending on what you use the camera for, 70º maybe to narrow, while a viewing angle of 170º tends to give a “Fish Eye” affect and some people don’t like this, but it captures the most action. 127º is the probably the best all round viewing angle.

Another thing to keep in mind, is the narrower the field of view, the harder it is to line the camera up properly. The cheaper cameras do not have a built in screen, so it can take a few tries before you find the correct recording position. The mid to high end cameras usually come with either a screen or laser, this makes lining up a lot easier. If the camera has a viewing angle of 170º all you need to do is face the camera forward. After viewing the footage you may need to alter your mount to get it cantered properly.

Here is an animation I made showing different video resolutions and the field of view from each.



Recording Times

Battery life is a big deal. Preferably you want a battery that will last around 2 -3 hrs using HD.

The cheaper ones like the MD80 records SD in AVI format and will only last for approx 45minutes to 1hr, while the Jumbo 808 records HD 720P and will last for approx 1.5hrs. This can be extended by using an External Battery Pack, which will give you approx 4hrs recording time, depending on the external battery used.

Other cameras such as the GoPro, Contour and Extreme Cam, which record in various HD resolutions will give you approx 2 -3 hrs. These cameras generally have removable batteries, so you can always take a spare battery and swap them over when you out and about.


Low Light

Most cameras, even the expensive ones do not perform very well in low light. These cameras are designed mainly for sports and as such perform at their best in daylight. Although some of them are still usable at night, depending on the lighting, because it still allows you to see movements of cars, lane changes etc.
But you will have a hard time trying to get number plates because they will more than likely be over exposed from your bike lights, car headlights or there will be too much noise (artefacts) in the footage to get a clear picture.


Water Proofing

This is another thing you need to take into account when deciding on a camera. Will you be riding through winter or anywhere you may get it wet? If so then you want a camera that is waterproof or weather resistant.
The cheaper cameras tend not to be water proof. Some have the option of buying a water proof case. Most mid to high end cameras are either waterproof or weather resistant, or come with a case that is waterproof.
You could always make you own case if you are handy, See the DIY and Third Party Mounts Section for some tips. The links are at the top of this page.



Unfortunately, if you want water proofing then the audio will suffer in most cameras. The cheap cameras like the MD80 and Jumbo 808 have fairly decent audio. This is because they do not have a waterproof case, so the microphone is not enclosed. With the cheaper cameras, such as the Jumbo 808, I have found that using the DIY TicTac case or the Mint Tin case, not only help to keep the elements out, but they also allow the audio to be picked up reasonable well while fully closed.


Timelapse and Still Photos

Are these important to you? Do you want to be able to take snapshots of the kids, family and friends while at picnics or BBQ's etc?

Some cameras allow you to take either still photos and Timelapse photos. They also allow you to record while powering the camera from a wall socket, PC or external battery pack or car cigarette lighter, for such things as Timelapse photography and recording video for extended periods.


Changing Settings

While the cheap cameras such as the MD80 and Jumbo only have one resolution. Other mid to high end cameras, allow you to change various settings within the camera. Something to take into consideration, is how easy will it be to change these settings while you are out using the camera.

Some cameras will allow you to change the settings on the fly, while out and about recording video or taking photos. Either by using the built in screen, like the Extreme Cam, or through the use of an LED screen, such as the GoPro. Other cameras, like the Contour’s, need to be connected to a PC before you can change the settings, this can be a pain if your are out and need to change a setting. Don't quote me, but I think some Contours have Bluetooth and allow you to connect to a phone etc to change settings.



The cheaper cameras come with USB cables and some of these can be dodgy, the connections may not be soldered properly. Most will charge via a normal USB cable and also transfer data to the pc. Other higher priced cameras may come with all sorts of cables, USB, HDMI, and Composite etc, so you can plug the camera into a TV to watch your movies or photo's.
There are some cameras that have Bluetooth capabilities, so this may be something that might interest you.



Mounts are a crucial part of the system, because they can introduce vibrations if they are not secured properly or if the camera is allowed to move while connected to the mount, this can ruin a video.
Cheaper cameras tend to have cheaper mounts. These are usually just cheap plastic things that can flex. They may not allow the camera to be secured tight enough or may break after some use.
RigidMount make mounts for some cameras that work extremely well. >>> RigidMount <<<
You can also have a look in the >>> Mounting FAQ’s - DIY and Third Party Mounts <<< to get an idea of how to mount the camera.

Most mid to high end cameras will have a good selection of mounts, either included or for purchase. There are also other third party companies that produce some very good mounts for the more expensive cameras.



You should decide what you intend to use the camera for and whether or not it will be taking a lot of bumps and knocks.
If you are doing mountain biking, you would probably need something that can take the knocks. If you simply want one for commuting or road riding, then you don’t need to worry too much about how tough the camera body is.

If you plan on using it as a family video recorder, you might want something that can handle a little bit of rough handling.
If you intend to use it for other sports and they involve water, then obviously you would need a camera that is waterproof.


Other Uses

There are also other uses for some of these cameras. Such as mounting in your car and using it in the same way as you do when riding. It may come in handy. I have my GoPro mounted to the underside of the rear view mirror.
Some video cameras have the ability to take still photos, this can be handy if you don't have another camera and want to take some photos or video of family and friends at a BBQ or picnic.
Some of these cameras can be used in just about any type of sport, surfing, skiing, golf, diving, skateboarding, parasailing, motor sports etc.


What’s the Best Camera

As for what camera is best. It depends on your budget and what you want or expect from a camera. But typically you get what you pay for. More money will generally get you a very good camera that will give you ease of use, the least amount of problems and last you many years.
If you are looking for something that will give you hassle free recording and money was not a problem. I would use something like a GoPro, Contour or Extreme Cam (Crocolis HD Extreme Cam). Because they have been proven to work extremely well, the build and video quality is excellent, the battery life is good, they are water proof, usually with a case and generally have a very good selection of mounts.
Some of these will also charge and record at the same time, connected to the mains, PC, TV or car cigarette lighter, until the memory card fills up. They also allow you to take photo's, timelapse, or use other resolutions and frame rates and they tend to have a wider field of view.


What's the Best Value Camera

The best bang for the buck IMHO is the Jumbo 808 #11 price approx $47. It records in 720P, battery life is decent at 1.5hrs or 4hrs using the external battery pack, it’s small and only weighs 64g. You will have to come up with your own mounts though, so have a look at the DIY and Third Party Mounts (link at the top) to get an idea on how to make your own.

Here is some footage to compare the Jumbo 808 against the GoPro HD, this will give you an idea of the quality between the two. Both are 720P @30fps. If you don't need a camera that has all the bells and whistles, then the Jumbo does the job nicely.



What about those $10 Cameras like the MD80?

It is only 640 x 480 AVI, if this is all you can afford or need then it does the job and is better than nothing. It will read number plates, as long as the car is close and directly behind or in front of you.

But there are some issues.
From my experience, the one I have does not always save the file when the battery dies, so you risk losing the lot, I have to remember to stop and start the recording at regular intervals. It records for 1hr to 1hr 10mins, sometimes and 45 - 50 minutes other times.
It also seems to leave a lot of fragmented files on the memory card and you need to format of the card on a regular basis.


Part Two


Camera FAQ's

This is information I have come across on various web sites on the Internet. As well as some of my own solutions to problems I have had
***Looking For Information About Bicycle Cameras ***

* Bicycle Camera FAQ's *** Mounting FAQ’s & DIY Mounts *

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