Get it on video
Cameras are everywhere these days, as
are cell phones with ever-improving photo and video capabilities. The
best camera is the one you have on hand, but some people want to go
beyond happenstance and record events to share with friends or post on
YouTube. A little ingenuity can make it work with a minimum of expense.
it if it's not broken?
If you're looking for broadcast
quality with all the bells and whistles, it's hard to beat the GoPro, Garmin's new Virb or specialty
cams like those from Sena
for special features and ready-made accessories. But, we're ignoring
these big, bulky and costly cams in favor of quality video from less
expensive cameras that can be modified without breaking the bank.
It helps to be familiar
with editing software and to settle on specs and requirements that suit
you before purchasing equipment. For example, file size (determined by
image size, resolution and frame rate) will dictate storage
requirements, and if you've shot any video at all you know these are
Be aware that some cheapo
cams found online advertise frame rates and specs that are absolutely
false. Cameras, components and sources discussed below have proven
reliable, if not outstanding. nCity is not affiliated
with any manufacturer, product or vendor mentioned here, BTW. For
information and links to these, see resources and references list at bottom
of this page.
Video cams come in all sorts of
configurations with various options and features; cams considered here
employ a minimum feature set (detailed below) crucial for mobile video
and primarily for use on a motorcycle. One of the very best sources for
camera and gear reviews is Techmoan.
and results are sure to vary.
PROCEED AT YOUR OWN RISK
See you on
down page to:
Action cams, security cams and lens options
The majority of both action and
security cameras share a common lens type known as M12. Action cams
typically use wide-angle lenses while security cams tend to have a more
focused or close-up field of view (FOV). Image distortion can be
considerable at 100º or more (most action cams), and a FOV below 30º might be too tight. Somewhere between 40º and 60º may
be considered "normal," 70º to 85º might be an acceptable wide-angle
compromise with less of a fisheye effect than typical action cams.
Why care about FOV and various lenses? If your goal is to cram maximum
information or FOV into the frame, a wide-angle lens is the only way to
go and this is why fisheye has become ubiquitous as the hallmark of
action-cam video. If
you're happy with your camera's lens (saving yourself much of what
follows), great! Maybe there are some mounting or power mods here
you'll find useful. On the other hand, a "normal" FOV with little
distortion and better focus on your target makes for better video,
which is what we're after.
Field of view (FOV) and focal length for 1/3" sensor, M12 lenses
important to note that sensor size, typically 1/4 or 1/3-inch, will
affect FOV. All specs here apply to 1/3-inch "megapixel" sensors.
1/4-inch sensors may have a slightly reduced FOV although these have
improved a great deal in recent years and may match their larger
The three (reduced) stills
above are from three Drift cams all mounted together to demonstrate FOV
difference between lenses. Distance from cameras to motorcycle was
about 20 yards (60 feet).
is from the Drift's OEM 2.5mm lens. Unwanted inclusion of objects
surrounding the camera becomes a problem when mounting a cam. Unless
placed at extreme front or rear of vehicle, a large portion of frame
will be consumed by nearby fenders, handlebars, helmet, or other things
that may detract from shot.
accurately shows target and frames clouds nicely while cropping out
peripheral nonsense and presenting more-or-less what the eye sees with
a 51º field of view. 6mm lens is good choice for general-purpose video.
3rd still from 8mm
lens just begins to enlarge target a tiny bit and might be best suited
for close-ups. Objects within about 20 feet or so will fill frame,
making it perfect for filming other riders or closeup targets. You may
notice a slightly different color balance in this shot, too, which is a
function of its IR-cut filter. The weaker the filter, the less color
saturation it produces as infrared begins to overwhelm other
frequencies, which is why using a high-quality IR-cut filter is very
The BFD about CCD
complicated can it be, right? Plenty. Read
all about it if you like, but here's the short version:
CCD was analog, sharp and smooth, from security cam and CCTV systems.
CMOS is digital, fast and easy, used in mobile devices and computers.
(CCD = charge coupled device, CMOS =
complimentary metal oxide silicon, pronounced 'sea-moss.')
Okay, let's be honest. Analog video doesn't stutter, it doesn't stall
or drop frames or make chunky exposure/color adjustments on the fly.
But we're dealing with _digital_ video output that can do all those
things, and the object is to avoid all of 'em in pursuit of the one
concern that certainly affects both types: Image quality (resolution,
color balance, exposure, playback).
Cameras may use either CCD or CMOS
sensors with identical lenses and IR-cut
filters to produce digital video output, so
while it's helpful to know which sensor/lens/filter combo your camera
of choice uses, sensor type really doesn't matter much. Both types are
equally sensitive to infrared wavelengths, BTW.
Micro lens assembly (left), and a typical
Another type of camera capable of producing
high quality video is the "spy" cam. High-end spy cams use a micro lens
package like the one shown above - complete with sensor and IR filter -
and are quite sophisticated, capable of shooting 1080p/60fps in some
cases. Certain spy cams are even programmable, offering image rotation,
loop/length options, time stamp and exposure adjustment, along with
audio. If micro-miniature is important to you, there's only one type of
cam to use and that's the 808-series cameras popular in RC and drone
projects. (See 808 cam section and links below.)
cameras have IR filters built-in for daytime use, but bare lenses will
probably not include any filters. As it turns out, getting a good
IR-cut filter can be the most difficult part of changing a lens, and
mounting a filter can be tricky. IR-cut filters typically consist of a
delicate coating on a small piece of glass positioned between
sensor and lens, and the quality of this filter has everything to do
with color balance. Digital video shot without an IR-cut filter (or
with a poor one) will appear slightly fuzzy with little or no color.
There are red IR-cut filters that reflect
IR and blue ones that absorb it, but the important thing is to prevent
infrared wavelengths from reaching the sensor. Some IR-cut filters are
much more efficient than others. If you purchase a new M12 lens, be
sure to get a top-quality IR filter to go with it, or use the filter
that came with your camera - if you can. IR-cut filters may be attached
to back end of lens or beneath lens fastened to mount or fixed over
sensor. In many cases, you'll won't be able to remove lens from mount
without destroying one or both, so plan on replacing all three; mount,
filter and lens.
Two types of M12 lens mounts are shown above, one upside-down showing
its IR filter attached to end of lens. Critical dimensions for board
mounts are the distance between centers of mounting screws (X mm =
18mm, 20mm, 22mm, etc.), and the depth of "box" covering sensor and
filter. Left mount has a deep box; upside-down mount on right has a
very shallow box. Some mounts use a locking ring or spring tension to
fix lens to mount, some have a set screw, but many are simply glued
together. Recommend storing original mount/lens/filter assembly in a
sealed bag in case cam is to be restored to original specs, and
replacing all three components when lens is modified.
Focus is achieved by screwing lens in/out of mount (more on that
later), but any contact between lens and sensor will likely damage
both, so beware o'that and make sure there is room and means to install
File type and editing: Resolution,
playback, size and apps
H.264 codec is best choice for editing purposes and
playback, a standard supported by most computers, handheld devices, web
browsers (HTML5) and editing software for its video
quality/compression. H.264 should be considered a requirement for
camera output (tho it may go by a variety of other names). From there,
it's a matter of file formats supported by your computer platform and
editing app. Objective is to avoid additional steps required to convert
video from some obscure camera format - especially if camera produces
corrupt or non-standard output making it a real PITA to deal with.
Video codec also determines storage requirements, and H.264 can cut
file size by 50% or more over older types.
As for resolution and frame rate, 720p at 30fps is the preferred
standard we've settled on here, considered minimum
1080p is available on many cams, as is 60fps (4K is next), but these
improvements aren't necessarily worth the extra burdens of storage and
editing requirements for us (haven't seed Ridley since '01 ;-); you may
prefer to shoot at higher quality settings. We're talking about just
under 1GB/min. streaming and storage, depending on number of cams,
edited versions and software power - and that's only at 720p.
(720p = 1280 x 720 pixels, and 1080p = 1920
x 1080 pixels. Both are wide-format 16:9 aspect ratio.)
At the very bottom of video
quality/size scale is QVGA (320 x
240), followed by quite-acceptable-for-web VGA (640 x 480), both in 4:3
aspect ratio. Then a big step up to 16:9
aspect ratio and 720p and 1080p digital. If your goal is YouTube
or web video, there's nothing wrong with shooting in VGA. YouTube
will likely distill submitted videos anyway. Plus, many ISPs cap file
size transfers to as little as 10MB - all good reasons to use
lower-quality VGA. However, these things are bound to change, and once
recorded it's not possible to improve video quality later, so - again -
you may decide to shoot higher quality and submit reduced versions on
is a topic worthy of the many books and manuals written on the subject,
options are legion, running from free (and easy) to hundreds and even
thousands of dollars.
Final Cut X, Adobe Premier, Avid Composer are all high-end, top-notch
apps, but there are some low-cost and free gems out there, too,
starting with everybody's favorite iMovie.
iMovie has changed dramatically over the years in operation, interface
and features and is included with the MacOS. Windows users have a free
Movie Maker app with Windows 10 or later. Search "video editing
software" for countless choices, but you're certainly going to need
_something_ for video editing.
As with everything these days, you get what you pay for (mostly), and
free or light-weight video editing apps lack the pizazz of pro apps.
Major considerations include aspect ratio (4:3 versus 16:9), ability to handle high-rez or
HD video and file-type compatibility. Other things to consider include
multi-cam support, audio editing, transitions, special effects and many
other capabilities that will become apparent over time. Pro editing
apps like Apple's Final Cut and Adobe's Premier are sophisticated
enough to handle just about anything, but these come with a learning
curve and price tag that requires a serious commitment. Any editing
beyond the most basic will require dedicated hard drives and backup,
So there you have it. If shooting VGA video on the cheap is okay with
you, the starter setup below will get you going.
Quick, cheap and easy starter setup - oldie
If you're okay with a 640 x 480 movie, here's a two-camera
setup for far less than $100 using Vivitar's great little DVR 480
cameras (if still available) and an older version of iMovie HD (v6.0.3)
that came free from Apple back in the day. Or, use Vivitar's video
editing software that comes with this gem of a camera. (I see later
models eliminated the LCD screen on top, which was very useful. That's
too bad, but this cam is facing extinction today.)
This lil' guy measures 11/2" x 33/4"
x 1" thick and weighs less than 3oz. with batteries and card installed.
It has a standard 1/4x20 camera mount on its bottom and LCD readout on
top with a blue on/off LED.
Best of all, it has a great lens, records at 30fps, and will record all
day long on a pair of AAA alkaline batteries. LCD displays battery status
and recording time, about 4 hours in high resolution or 14 hours in low
rez QVGA on a 16GB card. It comes with a variety of helmet and adhesive
mounts, a USB cable, and a silicon cover to protect it in foul weather.
At $20-35 apiece, you'll have plenty of money left over for batteries
and SD cards.
(NOTE: The one and only minor glitch is that some of these cams have
doors that catch on batteries when closing, but slipping a piece of
paper past batteries while closing the door takes care o'that.)
Vivitar DVR 480 teardown and audio mod:
Like all video cameras, the DVR 480 also records audio. But, like most
of these small video cameras, it's audio quality suffers from having
its microphone inside its case. Once removed and made into an external
mic, audio quality from this camera is outstanding.
Remove batteries and memory card, then pry off side panels using a
spudger (shown, aka "black stick," a soft plastic tool perfect for jobs
like this), or use a plastic card to avoid damaging housing. (Just
don't use a credit card, you'll need that later.) Start at rubber lens
cover and work down each side toward camera rear to free clips.
side panels removed, free the rubber "ears" of lens cover from slots on
each side, then pop
rubber lens cover from housing at top and bottom. With unit
up-side-down, remove four phillips screws, two on each side. Remove two
more short screws from front lens cover. Carefully pry housing halves
apart and lift off unit's bottom case.
Microphone was removed
and replaced with a 2.5mm jack from Radio Shack soldered to mic leads
(red + to tip). Opening was cut in housing, a matching hole drilled
thru side cover and jack was then epoxied in place. Observing polarity,
mic was soldered to a short 3" cable with 2.5mm plug and placed in a
fuzzy wind muff. Resulting audio from this motorcycle-mounted camera
was much better than expected.
To see the Vivitar 480 at work, including audio after the mod above,
see the 21st Annual NCFTR video posted on our
Cams were mounted front, rear, both sides + one down low on bike. All
audio during the ride was from the 480 tailcam (mostly audible in last
1/3rd of video if you can suffer thru it).
Operation by remote or autopilot (loop)
with remote controls are becoming common for good reason. Think helmet
cam: A wireless remote eliminates having to grope for controls and
allows easy start/stop without risking change in camera focus or
direction by handling camera. Multiple mounted cams can all be
activated simultaneously by a single remote, too, provided they've all
been paired up and turned on. This function is important enough to be
considered critical in many situations, especially when riding, and can
be thought of as in-camera editing saving a lot of review and editing
time later. Cams with a standby mode - screen off - actually have
impressive battery life, at least the ones we've used do. Many will
last nearly all day. There's really only one alternative to remote
control, and that's pre-programmed automation. We call it autopilot.
"Autopilot" means a camera may be programmed to record nonstop,
re-recording over previous unsaved video in a continuous loop. Cameras
with loop functions in their programming are commonly sold as dash-cams
or "black-box" cameras and operate much like a so-called black-box in
an aircraft (or car). Any physical shock to the camera automatically
saves a pre-defined length of video and locks it to prevent it from
being overwritten as camera continues to record. Most such cams also
have a button that serves the same purpose, saving blocks of video
manually (without a shock). Autosave options are entirely a function of
camera's programming, and options vary between brands. Otherwise, a
non-stop loop may be used to capture everything, but be prepared for
reviewing and editing hours of video.
Most cameras will also have program (firmware) updates from
time-to-time, so be ready for that, too. Some cams, notably spy cams,
use a computer file that may be modified and customized before loading
into camera where that file becomes camera's firmware program (see
Mobius cams, below).
modus operandi here is the action cam approach, and these are usually
battery-powered in the 3-5vdc range and may be charged via USB. Record what you like, when you like, in short clips, with
manual control and multiple mounting options
(incl. helmet cams). Or, if hard wiring to
vehicle 12vdc is the plan, a USB adapter is the
obvious choice for cams with USB ports (5v). Cigarette lighter adapters
are common in the U.S. and Euro-style "powerlet" ports are provided on
many import vehicles. Hard-wire or battery power, both have specific
advantages and corresponding drawbacks.
Needing a battery tender for winter, I found a nice one with
this bullet connector and cap on it. Used
wiring from powerlet port (instead of going to battery lugs), and ran
this connector out to motorcycle's side cover where connecting battery
tender would be convenient. Happened to be right next to saddlebags, so
I built a proper 12v adapter for use as USB camera or battery charger
while on the road.
Pictured here is a dual-port USB adapter, about the size of a cassette
tape, which also has two 12v-out if necessary. Each USB port is rated
at 2000mA (2 amp) @ 5vdc, plenty of power for charging phones, cameras
and most any other USB gizmo. Adapter uses a pair of N117 12v to USB
modules (shown below unit), with a pair of 12v jacks and a standard
bullet connector/cable to mate with battery tender lead stored behind
side cover (above). Adapter is mounted inside saddlebag where it is out
of the way and easily accessible; plug-in bullet connector, hook up
camera/battery/iPhone and charge while riding.
This Wasabi charger (left) came with a pair of batteries for my hand-held video
camera. These are available for just about any
type of camera. (From Amazon vendor Blue Nook,
link below). Both the Wasabi batteries and chargers are top-notch and
well made. Chargers have retractable 120vac
plugs _plus_ a 12vdc port (arrow) for mobile use. All this is great for
battery-powered action cams - but "black box" dash cams are typically
hard-wired thru vehicle ignition and designed to run non-stop.
A full-time powered camera that continuously loops over previous
recordings on a 32GB+ card will catch everything that happens from the
moment they receive power until ignition is turned off. Do the math and
you should find 32GB gives you plenty of recording time at 720p/30fps.
Some cameras are event, shock and/or motion-activated, some have
time-lapse options as well, but all will generate loads of video if
you're willing to wade thru it to pull out those few seconds of drama.
Handy for insurance claims, the dash cam
approach certainly has its place and purpose, guaranteed to catch the
unexpected at all times.
Hard-wired dash cam or battery-powered and portable action cam? Tough
choice. How 'bout both? 8^)
Mobius programmable HD cameras
video cameras are nothing short of spectacular. They have evolved and improved over the years, from the first Mobius model
(M1) to the much improved second model (M2) and it's cousin the
MobiusMini. (They've just released the new Mini-sized, high-rez,
wide-angle Maxi, too (not shown here).
Three M1s have served in a variety of motorcycle roles for two years
now - as hard-wired DashCam, external-battery TailCam and as a BodyCam.
They're survived multiple trips across the Mojave without so much as a
dropped frame. While they can record 1080p @ 60fps, I've decided to
stick to 720p @ 30fps to keep file size/storage to a minimum while
still maintaining adequate broadcast quality perfectly suited to
YouTube and internet use. (You may prefer the higher quality option.)
The M2 models have an improved lens and chipset, while the Mini has its
own set of specs: 1920x1440 or 1080p @ 30/60fps, 720p up to 120fps, and
VGA up to 240fps. (Later specs are useful for slow motion applications.)
All cams may be ordered with standard (A) or wide-angle lenses and a
variety of other options designed for use on drones and RC vehicles, as
dash cams, security cams, spy cams or most any other use you can think
Manufacturer has included many features designed for those of us who
like to modify these things, with the understanding that their product
will most likely suffer such a fate (as all of mine have). For $70-80,
audio/video quality is every bit as good as $200-300 cameras - if not
better. Links posted at bottom of this page
provide a detailed history of these cameras along with answers to any
and all questions.
Two tiny screws allow case to be opened, lens is attached by a ZIF
ribbon connector (M1, M2) or a snap-in cable like the one shown below
(Mini). Internal battery unplugs, lens lifts out, a few more screws and
board comes free.
Mobius Mini BodyCam Mods
Lens holder is a standard M-12 mount with a set screw in the M1 and M2
models; I've changed out lens in favor of longer 6mm, 8mm and 12mm
lenses with no difficulty, using FaceTime or Photo Booth on a Mac to
Format and file types:
All these cameras are capable of formatting their SD cards, MS-DOS up
to 32GB (class 10 recommended on newer models). Videos are MOV, MP4 or
AVI. Image may be flipped, some models also have 90-degree-rotated
lenses (camera mounts on its side), and all have a slew of programmable
Simple: A few cuts with an X-acto blade to remove guides
under lens and cut a circle out of top cover,
and lens can be angled up to 115-degrees from body. (Yellow plastic
protects thermal pad during mods, right.)
Once case mods are complete, lens sits
nicely in remaining guides. Ribbon cable needs some delicate reshaping
to eliminate any stress. With battery in place, top cover secures lens
in its new position, aided by fitting a lens hood.
This arrangement would serve well as a
BodyCam with mount on back of camera
attached to a metal clip which would double as a heat sink. In this case, mod was designed for use as a
TailCam on the bike, tucked in behind top of
packer bar/pillion back rest. Lens was placed
at a very specific 75-degrees for this application and lens hood reduces glare from chrome
and reflected sunlight. Ribbon connector is
just long enough to allow a maximum lens angle of 115-degrees, if
Photo at left is another specialty mod of a Mobius Mini.
This one actually _is_ a body cam of sorts, but it is specifically
designed for motorsport use.
Mobius Mini was mounted to the aluminum housing of a cell phone battery
- which acts as a heat sink - while providing 5,000mAh of power. More
Glove-friendly rocker switch starts and stops recording (by providing
external power ala´ DashCam), lens angle is precisely fixed to keep
video centered and level, and another hood protects the lens.
Calculations from real-time tests on this camera indicate a full
8-hours of recording time per 32GB (class 10) SD card with video set to
1080p @ 30fps (20 min. = 4GB). Battery should last a few days between
Mobius provides a Windows-friendly
programming utility created in conjunction with state-side Mobius fans,
but it;s hardly necessary. Camera's script can be copied to SD card and
edited with any text editor app. On a Mac, TextEdit works just fine.
Script is a straight-forward list of options selected by putting a 1 or
0 in the brackets next to each function.
Multiple choice options are numbered 0 (usually off) thru 5 or 6; some
settings, like exposure and color balance, require an actual numeric
Mobius recommends formatting SD cards within the camera, which is
probably best, but Disk Utility may also be used with the following
Still experimenting with format options, as all SD cards are not
created equal. Always use quality name-brand SD cards purchased from a
known vendor. Many - if not most - video recording issues can be
tracked down to media failure or corrupt/improper format.
Drift HD 720 Camera
teardown & mods
Drift cams have changed considerably since this teardown was posted;
whether any of this applies to the newer Ghost cams is unknown.
here was to replace cam's wide-angle 130º lens with a "normal" lens, in
this case a 6mm/50º lens with new mount and IR-cut filter. (Changing lenses means replacing lens, mount and filter
because original assembly cannot be taken apart or modified. If you
try, you're likely to destroy all three.)
Disassembly begins with removing back cover, battery and SD card.
Remove four 1.5mm hex screws and lens cover. Flip camera upside-down
and remove six long phillips screws from bottom-half of
Lift bottom case straight up, pull speaker loose
from case (if necessary), set bottom case aside.
Note spring-loaded battery eject mechanism and
location of antenna wire. Remove eject spring and arm (to avoid losing
'em). Loosen rubber seal from rear of case and peel it forward toward
lens, popping mic out of its rubber mount (see below). Holding seal
toward lens, free antenna wire, then move battery box aside exposing
circuit boards and lens assembly.
Next step is the delicate process of releasing ZIF connector and
removing internals from top case. (If you're only replacing lens, you
might be able to skip this step and work with only bottom case
removed.) ZIF release is a brown tab that _slides_ about 1/16" away
from connector toward case wall. Remove screws
from circuit board, then free circuit board assembly from top case by
lifting lens end first. Ribbon cable should slide out of ZIF connector.
Set top case aside.
Mark sensor board and corresponding side of
lens mount for reference on reassembly; bear in mind that lens is
upright when camera's display is on RH side and lens housing is aligned
In a dust-free environment, remove four screws between sensor board and
lens mount while holding all firmly in place to avoid damaging sensor.
Two of these fasten board to mount, the other two are longer and pass
thru to lens housing.
Remove lens+mount from housing/seal by pressing lens rearward (press
fit). Store original lens/mount assembly in a sealed bag in case you
might want to return cam to its original configuration - resist
temptation of removing lens from mount.
Replacement mount with a proper IR-cut
filter may be
obtained from B&H Photo in New York (SKU = MAVLH4IR, security lens holder w/FBG28 filter,
link below). New M12 mount will need to be filed down slightly on all
four sides, but will then fit into Drift's rotating housing perfectly.
And the IR-cut filter from B&H is excellent.
Lens must be a SHORT one to accommodate the Drift's lens
cover. The two 6mm lenses shown here are both megapixel models with
nearly identical optical specs, but the long
one (22.5mm in length) will not fit behind lens cover when focused. The
shorter model fits, but there's another problem: Drift's convex lens
cover prevents sharp focus with normal lenses. So, we added a gasket
cut from 1/8"-thick neoprene rubber and used a flat glass crystal. We
also added a thinner O-ring to replace the Drift's seal.
Focus and fine
tune before reassembly
NOTE: If you haven't removed
the battery eject spring and arm, now is a good time. Once eject has
been removed, insert a battery and SD card, power up and install lens.
Focusing this cam is a bit more
difficult than those with HDMI output than can be focused on a large
screen. We used an Air Force test target with the Drift's display as a
starting point, then shot test video using index marks to fine-tune
The M12 mount specified above has a pilot
hole for a short set screw to secure lens; there was also room for a
lock ring, so we used both. Lock ring is tight to lens with index mark,
a piece of white tape wrapped around mount has a series of clockwise
and counterclockwise marks in tiny increments. Starting with best focus
from cam's display at center mark, aim at a good target - we used a
building across the street with a chain link fence in front - and start
recording while saying, "clockwise one, clockwise two," giving each
mark a few seconds to record. Then review video on a big monitor.
Repeat as necessary to achieve a sharp image. Once satisfied with
focus, secure lens with set screw, lock ring, a dab of paint or glue.
Remove battery, replace eject mechanism and reassemble camera.
Moving the mic outside the lil' Vivitar (above) and into a muff was
such an enormous improvement in audio quality, I just had to do the
same for the Drift cam. Using the 8mm tailcam, I removed the Drift's
mic, soldered it to a short stereo cable with a 2.5mm plug (ignoring
center connector) and reinforced connection with some stiff shrinkwrap.
Mic was placed into a very soft,
hollow silicone grommet - just like Vivitar mic above - to further
deaden any vibration and give the mic a little more mass.
Muff is made
from a circle of sheepskin about the size of a silver dollar with a tiny hole punched thru hide at mic, then drawn tight with a stitch around perimeter. Foam
muffs are available from Radio Shack, or foam tips from earphones might
The original Drift microphone mount has a hard plastic
T-shaped spacer within its rubber socket; inside diameter is perfect
for 2.5mm jack, using the smallest, round, panel-mount jack available.
Jack's switch contact was carefully cut off - snug fit inside rubber
mic socket - and that T-shaped spacer had to be shortened a bit to
allow plug to seat properly. Naturally, the thin rubber mic cover had
to be pierced, which may compromise the Drift's weatherproof seal but
useful audio sans wind noise is absolutely worth it. (The little Vivitar 480 has slightly
better audio tho, sorry to say, even with same mic.)
The 808 family of
not least is a wide variety of tiny HD cameras loosely known as 808
cams from Hetai in China. The camera that started it all was a tiny
keychain model that shot such remarkable video it quickly became
popular with hobbyists of all kinds. It has since gone thru dozens of
revisions and improvements, and morph'd into pen cams, lapel cams,
helmet cams. Point is, these folks are serious, and their cameras come
in about any configuration you can think of. They shoot such excellent
video and are so cheap they're still extremely popular (The 808 is not
quite fast enough for nighttime tho.) This is an early 808 cam:
the original 808 keychain cam (shown actual size) you can see micro SD
card slot with card installed, USB port, microphone in upper-left above
lens, and its rechargeable battery on right.
808 cameras are still available via select vendors on eBay (links
below), and some are also sold thru retailers like B&H. Beware of
fakes and only deal with recommended vendors. See links below.
The smaller and lighter the cam, the
cameras come with a variety of plastic mounts, typically handlebar and
helmet mounts. Specialized mounts are available in countless
configurations, too. At top-left is an anodized aluminum clamp designed
for versatility with a ball-mount at camera and a set of jaws that will
grab onto just about anything. Next is a rather awkward handlebar
mount, then a typical suction-cup windshield
mount, and in the middle is a two-part scheme where center piece
threads into camera then clips into either of the concave helmet mounts
on either side of it (left one takes a strap and right one has
adhesive). My fav is the stainless clamp at bottom-left; found at a
marine store on eBay and modified, it's as short and stout as possible.
The one on bottom-right has a swivel head added from a $5 tripod.
Between them is a modified "P"
clamp for 1.25" bars from Formotion.
Since our primary focus here is mounting cams on
motorcycles, we have problems to deal with that might not apply to
other vehicles, starting with vibration and a phenomenon known as "CMOS
wobble" which is all but unavoidable. Camera size/weight and length of mount become critical;
bikes generally vibrate most at low speeds and idle, but some shake so
much that a helmet cam or body cam may be the only usable options.
CMOS wobble occurs when motor rpm hits a harmonic
frequency causing camera sensor to react with wavy video, and it's
completely unpredictable. Even the smoothest engine is likely to
trigger it briefly when going thru the gears. Using the short stainless
mount, Vivitar's tiny 3 oz. CMOS cam seems to avoid it, tho I haven't
really tested the Vivitar at high rpm. The much larger 5 oz. Drift cam
recorded CMOS wobble right around 3700 rpm on a recent trip, but that
is sure to change with different mount or location. Forward cam was
mounted on handlebars near left grip; moving cam closer to center of
bars is bound to change things, as would a different mount, possibly
one with some cushion might help. Just know that defeating vibration is
one thing, but chasing CMOS wobble will probably be an ongoing battle.
|Techmoan - Extensive reviews
covering a wide variety of inexpensive video cams
Techmoan's YouTube Channel
- Video cam reviews posted on YouTube
Frank's 808 cam pages - RC aircraft site with extensive 808 cam info
Frank's Mobius1 cam pages - Start here - Site protocols, Mobius1 cam
Frank's Mobius2 cam pages - This model (M2) has been discontinued
Frank's MobiusMini cam pages - Specs, pics, internals of the Mobius
Frank's MobiusMaxi cam pages - Specs, pics, internals of the Mobius
MobiusMaxi - Site dedicated to Dash Cams, reviews and use
School - How-to shorts about all things video on Vimeo
|B&H Photo and Video -
Outstanding source for all cameras and accessories
batteries and Chargers - from Blue Nook on Amazon
M12 lens mount w/IR-cut filter - SKU = MAVLH4IR w/FBG28 filter
Camcorders - (Panasonic HX-DC10 in use here has gone extinct)
Drift cameras, UK - Cams,
vendors, accessories, somewhat overpriced
cameras - Virb - action cam, dash cam, well-made, high-end
M12 Lenses - M12 lenses and
mounts (NOTE: Their IR-cut filters are worthless)
808 and DR32 cams on eBay
- Beetleonline eBay store
808 and Mobius cams on
eBay - Eletoponline365 eBay store
Electronic on eBay - Hard-to-find ribbon cables by spec (China)