The point-of-view sports camera marketplace is really hotting up. Until recently it was exclusively the domain of GoPro and Contour, that is if you wanted quality. There are now more usable new entrants arriving each month, all looking to capitalise on this boom; the iDV MiniHD is one of the better ones.
The iDV MiniHD ticks all of the boxes on the “must have” feature list: waterproof casing, 1080p and 720p video capture, accepts up to 32GB flash cards, compact form factor, and competitive weight. The last two items are not weight-weenie nice-to-haves; having a camera on your helmet, for hours on end, on a long bike ride does add to the load on your neck. The smaller and lighter the unit can be, the better. The iDV MiniHD is comparable in weight to the GoPro Hero2, and is only slightly bigger.
In some areas the MiniHD surpasses both the GoPro and the Contour. The unit comes standard with a backlit LCD display screen that enables you to play back footage on the unit and view in real time what the camera is seeing as it shoots. There is also a wrist-mountable remote that can be used to start and stop the camera and take still pictures. I had no issues using this with full-finger mountain bike gloves. This playback and remote control functionality has just recently become available for the GoPro as an extra-cost option.
The iDV MiniHD’s menu system is simple and very easy to navigate on the colour screen, to the point where I really didn’t need to read the manual to be able to get around and understand what each function did. Battery life was good and it easily captured my 90+ minute morning commute-come-training ride at 1080p.
The water housing and camera body both have a standard tripod screw mount. There are ports for HDMI, USB, and an external microphone, although the unit needs to be outside the water housing to get access. A screw-in adaptor is compatible with the GoPro tongue-and-bolt mount fitting, although it is a very tight fit. This allows you to tilt the camera up and down to adjust for helmet angle. Matching this there is a bayonet clip removable base plate which looks like it should be compatible with GoPro stick-on base mounts. Unfortunately, the centre rib is a slightly different size, so disappointingly it doesn’t fit into GoPro base mounts.
The same issue occurs with the bayonet adapter and baseplate as with the GoPro, with a small amount of slop compromising video and sound quality. This should be resolvable exactly the same way, with the application of a layer or two of electricians tape to the base to pack out and damp the free play. I didn’t encounter this issue on test, since I used the Kali Amara helmet with the inbuilt camera mount, which is quite tight on the slide-on rail mount.
Mounting options are a bit limited. The unit comes with the bayonet clip removable baseplate, and two self-adhesive baseplate mounts. Handlebar and stick-on side helmet mounts are optional extras.
So what does the video footage look like? In poor light it marginally exceeded the capability of the GoPro and for normal adventure use the quality was more than adequate. The field of view at 150 degrees is narrower than the 170 degree wide GoPro Hero2 and Contour Roam, but not excessively so. The detail it captured however was not quite to the same standard, so if you are looking to use it as a safety or evidence camera to capture vehicle number plates, this is not the unit for you. Whether this was due to lens or processor I am unsure.
Other compromises were:
• the use of the slightly more lossy MOV file format, which is unsupported by Windows Live Movie Maker
• the power switch is not accessible once you close the casing; it needs to be turned on prior to insertion and the casing clasp is not accessible once the unit is screwed onto the mount (although that may not be a bad thing if you skydive).
• no audible beep to let you know whether pressing the remote or casing buttons has done anything.
• if the unit’s battery charge expires while you are filming, the currently open file is not closed properly and becomes corrupted.
Most of these “niggles” can be worked around with a little planning, however, and purchase of one of the excellent value low-cost video editing packages that are available will yield a better result, regardless of camera used.
If you just want something to capture the experience of weekend rides, ski trips, or surf sessions with mates, this is more than enough camera.
Performance for the price is good – less than half the price of the nearest equivalent Contour and GoPro models.
Viewscreen and wrist remote come as part of the standard package
Easy to understand and use menu system
Registration plate capture not so good
Power down file save process needs work
Some aspects of operation with water housing need more thought
Beep to indicate button activation non-existent or inaudible
The iDV MiniHD retails for $250 and at the time of publishing is on discount and selling for $199. iDV cameras are available from some sports outlets as well as directly from iDV: www.idv.net.au