Thursday, May 25

Akaso Action Camera EK7000 (helmet mount)

I've acquired another action camera.

The Akaso EK7000. It's a tiny little GoPro clone for $84. I'm never going to be one who uses these cameras all the time or expect perfection from them. Thus, I'm willing to make some sacrifices. After reading about the camera and watching many YouTube reviews of it, I decided to take the plunge. So far I'm liking many things about the camera--and I don't feel I've had to make any major sacrifices thus far.

Many years ago, I owned a GoPro. I don't remember the model; I just remember that I detested it--and that it wasn't cheap.  Undoubtedly, it took great videos but I couldn't stand the tiny screen that I had to scroll through to use its features. Eventually I traded it for a Drift HD Stealth 170, which liked far better and now plan to unearth soon for comparison to the Sena and Akaso.

First, what I like about the Akaso. It’s small, fits easily in the palm of my hand; yet, it has a large, bright 2-inch LCD screen that makes scrolling through the functions a breeze.
The images and video are clear--far beyond acceptable. I've yet to test it at night, however. The body is covered in a textured rubbery material that makes it easy to grip.

I like too that the camera comes with a bunch of mounting options, for wearing the camera, mounting it on the ‘cycle, the helmet, positioning it on a car’s dashboard. Moreover, if one has GoPro mounts, the Akaso camera is a perfect fit. Two 1050mAh batteries are included, which is a plus if you're on a longish trip and can’t easily recharge the battery.

Here are some specs: The Akaso takes a micro SD card (not included) up to 32GB (Class 10 recommended). In addition to video, one can capture photos, burst photos, and time lapse photos. I prefer my other cameras for photos and will probably never use the Akaso for stills. It's Wi-Fi, which has grown on me. I downloaded the iSmart DV app and used it to get a more precise perspective from the helmet mounting. Initially, it was tricky to set up but once done, it was all good. Included in the box of goodies is a wrist watch-like control that allows for glove friendly access for turning on and off the video and photo functions. 

What I don't like about the camera. To insert the battery requires removing a little door in the bottom of the camera. This should not be complicated. I fiddled with it longer than I should have, trying to be gentle with the rectangular lid. It should be on a hinge to prevent it from becoming airborne when you finally get it off. Getting that door open has been consistently knotty. Eventually, a tiny sliver along the lid snapped, which hasn't diminished my view of the camera but I must now be vigilant about close it so that it seals properly. I also don't like the helmet mount. I opted for that because it was the easiest way to execute the camera test. Personally, the camera atop the helmet made me feel as if I were signaling alien beings. Just too conspicuous for my liking. So, yes. I think this one is a keeper.

A short test ride:

UPDATE: The biggest disadvantage, perhaps understandable reason to avoid the Akaso, is the internal microphone quality is awful. I've watched far too many DIY mic hacks for this camera type and I have neither the time nor desire to do that level of work to improve the audio. Off to Best Buy (BB) in search of a better option. Fortunately, I took with me all the miscellaneous action cameras, cables and plugs from my previous years of trying to improve audio quality of action cameras--the audio set up with the Drift and Sena are exceptions. I think those setups are fine but their plugs are not universal. They don’t fit the other action cams. Is it so unreasonable to want the same mic setup to work on four different action cams?

At BB, a smart young techie assessed the cameras and cables and told me that I simply needed to purchase a Micro USB Jack to 3.5mm headphone Earphone Adapter Socket Audio Cable, and the audio problem of three of the cameras would be resolved. Fingers crossed. The fix? Six dollars.   
Coming soon: A revisit with the Drift Stealth HD.

Saturday, April 22

The Sena Prism Tube Action Cam at NIGHT--and YouTube

Note to self: Research some Blogger alternatives.

Decided to test the little Sena Prism Tube at night. I'm still enjoying it and the night jaunt only made my fondness grow. Its simplicity trumps  er...let me change that word...its simplicity has won me over. The camera's shortcomings are too few to worry me (e.g., making sure it's aligned, which requires some guesswork; the annoying wind noise; and, my protruding helmet in the camera view).
Really, though, those are user issues--nothing to do with the camera. The snap-and-go is what makes it work for me. I'm still fiddling, still trying out some of the microphones I've amassed over the years, still looking for one of the little wind curtain that comes with purchasing a Nolan helmet. Still needing to get on the rode for a nice spring trip.

Here's a slice of a night ride. To me, the Sena Prism Tube passes the test.

Saturday, April 15

Review of the Sena Prism Tube Action Camera for Motorcycle Helmets

It is that time of year again when the call of the road is loud and relentless. Jesse Owens II is home from winter camp and itching to take me far and wide. So far, however, all we've done is ride back and forth to school. But that brief ride is enough to start the day with a heart full of joy.

This season I will ride with a new toy after finally acquiring a Sena Prism Tube. As the owner of four previous helmet action cameras, I'm liking this one the best. Yes, even better than the renowned, popular GoPro that I once owned; I like it better than the Drift Stealth that I traded the GoPro for and still own; and, even better than two other helmet cams whose names I've forgotten and never even used on the ‘cycle. That makes a total of five helmet cams I've owned. Only the Sena and Drift have inspired me to try my hand at moto-vlogging.  

So, for those looking for a simple, snap on helmet mounted action camera, I offer this review of the Sena Prism Tube. 

What I like: It's no nonsense; simple to set up; no tiny window to scroll through to access features; no pairing with a phone; unburdened by multiple mounts; and, did I say, "easy to set up." Of the helmet cams I've owned, this one is intuitive and seems the best design for snapping on a helmet and going! Mounting on a helmet is quick and simple. A sturdy clip can be screwed to helmet and the camera inserted in the mount. This works well if the helmet is devoid of a lip or flap that goes underneath the helmet. This method did not work securely on my Nolan modular helmet but worked fine on my full-face Scorpion. However, even on the Scorpion I was never able to adhere it so securely that the screw-on mount didn't move a little when adjusting the camera or turning it on and off. However, the stick-on mount works great on the Nolan, which is my preferred helmet. Moreover, I like the camera's 125-degree wide angle lens and its ability to adjust to light variations quickly. It records in full HD 1080p at 30FPS—so some the 30FPS is unacceptable. To me, it is not.  I have yet to try the camera at night, but when driving into a dark garage the camera's eye adapts quickly. 

What I like most is that everything you need to get going is included in the box. No need to buy a microphone because a wired mic is included as is a USB cable for the speaker and microphone. You will need to supply a micro SD card up to 32GB. In addition to a microphone, the Sena Prism Tube comes with a speaker, which is a bonus because it removes the guesswork from wondering if the camera is recording. When turned on, a voice prompt will announce: "Camera on, recording." When the camera is turned off the voice announces, "Camera off." Sweet! I can recall many times I rode thinking a camera was recording only to learn later that it wasn't. Not with the Sena Prism Tube. I read that there is also a warning of low battery but I can't confirm that as I've not gotten that far yet. 

What I don't like: Actually, not much. I'm not looking for professional quality video. I'll be okay with good enough. If I venture into moto vlogging, I'll up grade if necessary. The Sena did take some fiddling to get the camera angle straight on the helmet. For the first few test rides the camera was a bit cock-eyed. With the help of YouTube, I learned from other users how to solve the lop-sided perspective. My preferred method is putting the helmet on and looking into the mirror and straightening the camera. I can then test the angles out and play back on my computer to check. Easy-peasy.  I read also that using a bubble level with the helmet and camera mounted and placed on a flat surface also works. Once mounted on the helmet, the Sena can be moved back and forth as well as inward and outward from the helmet, giving the rider considerable range in camera angle.

The wind has been an unpleasant challenge. I don’t blame the camera. It’s more a mic issue I’m guessing. The Nolan has a wind curtain that fits under the chin of the helmet. I need to find that to see if it will cut down on the wind noise. One some YouTube videos the wind is awful, on others, using the same camera, the wind is almost nonexistent. Weather conditions surely matter and we’ve had some truly windy days. Helmet style and quality surely matters too. Still, I’d like to get the wind interference under better control. Otherwise, I have no complaints.

Loving the Sena Prism Tube--and being back on two wheels...

Wednesday, June 15

Being grounded. Dealing with priorities. And itching to get on the road…

This has been a tough spring season. Hardly any LSD riding to date. I don’t count riding to school, which takes anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour plus depending on my starting point. I’m talking about doing 500 or 600 miles on a warm Saturday and perhaps another 500 plus on Sunday. Long weekend rides have taken a back seat to priorities.
A friend of more than 30 years died a few weeks ago. For the past year I’ve visited her several times a week. It has not been easy on multiple levels. But it’s the least one can do for a friend. It’s also been a challenging teaching quarter because my two classes were filled over the brim. It made returning submitted work in a timely fashion pretty dang taxing. But at 11:59 June 14th the quarter officially ended. I shall miss my students but not the struggle to keep my head above water.

(Annual b-day ride with Dave)

Add iffy weather as another reason I’ve not done any LSD rides. Ordinarily the weather does not phase me much. The chancy weather helped me rationalize being grounded more often than not. But when such weather finally turns consistently sweet, it makes longing for two wheels that much more pressing on the spirit. Priorities. I don’t regret spending time with my friend. It made me realize again how I now have fewer years ahead of me than I have behind me. And, she was about 12 years younger than I am! Sometimes, I just sat there while she slept. I gave a tribute at her funeral. Those moments spent with her over the past year prepared me for saying goodbye. We make time for that which is important to us.

While there is some truth to the idea that how old we are has less to do with the number than how we feel, let’s be real. I will not be swinging my leg over a sport turning bike at 83. At that age, I might have to consider a low seat cruiser.

Now, that school is effectively over, my head is filled with ideas for glorious solo adventures with Jesse Owens II (my motorcycle). I yearn for being in a position to take to the road come every mid-June and not returning home until mid-September. It is a dream and a goal that must wait until next year. This summer is taken over—or so it feels—with some necessary writing projects that must be completed before September draws to a close. I’ve come up with hundreds of reasons to avoid the task but avoidance only prolongs the inevitable; besides, I’ve run out of excuses. I have friends who have volunteered to provide quiet space with zero distractions. How can I refuse? Thus, my rides will occur mainly on weekends. One can cover a lot of ground on weekends so, I’ll not complain. I am reminded of my early morning rides, years ago, to Indy for lunch at Shapiro’s Deli and then turning around to return home before dark. Or my visits to St. Louis and always getting home too late for comfort. I can remember a few weekends that totaled 2,000 to nearly 3,000 miles of two day riding. So, I should be able to puts some miles end even if I lack a big destination. I have factored in an Iron Butt ride before the season closes—and it will be official. I’ve done two iron butt rides, both were meant to be official. However, I never turned in the paper work. I wonder if there’s a statute of limitation on that. Hmmm….(Note to self: check IBA rules). While there won’t be any cross country trips, I enjoy the many mini trips. Alas, my winter dreams of a summer solo ride to Nova Scotia must remain a dream for the future.

In addition to modest riding goals this summer, I am re-committing myself to actually publishing the blogs that I pen. I have a backlog that can only be explained as negligence. I was going to say “being busy” could explain it but really, that’s not completely honest. Yes, I’ve been crazy busy. But so what. Lots of folks are busy. I do a bunch of stuff I detest doing but I have to do it. Why am I not doing what I want to do and enjoy doing? Riding and blogging about it is fun, freeing, and the biggest, most natural stress buster that I’ve ever experienced?

(Farewell, F800ST)

The itch to get on the road, beyond normal riding, is severe. I’m loving the GT more and more. I have let go of the ST. I heard it has a great home. The GT is all that the ST was missing for me. When I stroll by the GT, I can hear its engine seductively rumble, calling me…and my leg involuntarily twitches a little, hoping for a good swing over the saddle.