Friday, May 23

Gadget Review: Oregon Scientific Action Cam

Among the new toys acquired as a result of the new bike, one that I was hoping to love, I'm only liking a little. I picked up the Oregon Scientific "Waterproof Hands Free Action Cam(era)" The literature sounds straightforward, bright, direct and just what I wanted--not expensive but not too cheap. I liked that it has multiple ways of mounting the camera and that it appears well-made. It has received mixed-reviews but enough glowing reports that I was willing to fork over the $100+. It arrived. I'm not happy. The little window used for viewing your camera selections is small--really small and my eyes are getting old(er). I had a magnifying glass in one hand, the camera in the other while hovering near a bright light. Still, I could only guess that I'd selected the features I wanted. The "On/Off" button and "Menu" buttons often take major effort to turn on and off. (Not shown in that picture of goodies is a new Garmin Zumo that arrived today--yippee!).

Far more frustrating is the inability to use the multiple mounts to find the best fit. That they send multiple ways is a good, consumer-thoughtful thing. The wide rubber band, while long enough to wrap around a bicycle helmet, isn't of sufficient length to fit the average motorcycle helmet. Motorcycle helmets also lack the open vents that would allow for threading through the straps or can one use the flat mounting clip. Neither are the Velcro straps (also included) in the package useful for a motorcyclist. So, I was left to mount it on the handle bars with a clip that slips (not easily enough) around the handlebars. It took me nearly forty-five minutes to mount it and this was accomplished with a bunch of large rubber bands that I supplied. It looked tacky to say the least--although the rubber bands were blue and nicely matched the bike! That this arduous setup would have to be replicated with each camera use made me want to chuck it. Because there is no way to instantly view what the camera is capturing, (e.g., all sky, all ground, or just the instrument panel), you have to guess where to aim the lens. Thus, you will not know if your precious memories have been preserved until you get back to the computer and upload. My early video attempts inside the house were fine. On the bike, however, it was a failure--for the most part. However, on my first motorcycle try, capture a red car darting from behind a bus and coming extremely close to me. Extremely. I recall reading about a woman who routinely wear a tiny helmet cam and captured an accident she was involved in with a distracted driver. Not knowing that he was caught on tape, the driver stretched the truth to bystanders as the woman lay unconscious on the ground. Her evidence against the surprised driver held up in court.

My second attempt was better at capturing the environment and only occasionally the sky. However, this time, the camera shake was ultimately unacceptable. It shook like Jello because I had to mount sans the screw that is supposed to affix it "securely" in place. The clip that goes over the handle bar is way too big. Oregon Scientific nicely includes rubber padding that can be used to fill in the space inside the large clip to make a tighter fit on the bar. If you do build up the clip, however, the screw used to lock the clip to the handle bar isn't long enough! It leaves a large gap. So I left the screw out and the clip was on the bar as tight as it could be without a screw. The man at Home Depot, where I went to find a longer screw didn't have one long enough and suggested an Auto parts store where they have a better supply of "metric" items. Ugh!

Most frustrating of all are the places in the video where the image looks like a still imae, but the engine is revving. It sounds as if I'm "gunning" the engine like a mad woman! In one of my helmet cam attempts, the audio cuts out--just ends after about 18 minutes? In another section of the video, a black circle is present in one corner--even the tech support couldn't explain that. Fortunately, it's disappeared on its owe--at least the last time I checked.

Granted, these issues could be the result of me and not fully having figured out the camera features--I've read the manual. I just can't see the little window well. Still, this getting on my last nerve. I'll work with it more and report back. I will say, the downloads are easy, the camera appears well made and sturdy. I haven't tried playing back the videos via TV using the cables included in the box.

The packaging says "Ages 8 and up." It ought to say also that if your eyes are over age 45, find an 8 year old neighbor kid to read the on camera menu!

The video is pretty funky, but they are bound to improve--can't get much worse, that for sure!