Pros: Unobtrusive; Sturdy and compact design; Pretty good VGA footage; Simple to use
Cons: Poor microphone placement; Occasional recording errors
Verdict: Shooting hands-free video just got easier.
While YouTube has penetrated nearly every aspect of our lives, video from the first-person angle remains somewhat elusive; relatively few options are out there for daredevils who want others to experience their derrings-do from the same perspective. Twenty20's VholdR camera aims to change this. (You can check out our hands-on video here.) . And while you're not going to film the next March of the Penguins with it, the VHoldR certainly can capture your outdoor escapades.
Small, Compact, Durable Design
The design of the VholdR is well thought out. The bulk of the device is housed in a black aluminum casing the size of an elongated pill bottle. A section extending below has rails on either side to accept different mounting brackets, and a removable plastic cap on the back covers the battery and microSD Card slot.
There are only two buttons on the exterior of the camera--a power button on the back and a slider to start and stop recording on the top--and they're both designed to be used by people wearing gloves. Two indicator lights on the back of the unit, one for the battery and one for the microSD Card, change from green to yellow to red, depending on how full or empty they are. The camera is built to take a bit of abuse--the occasional fall or water splash--but is not meant to go for a swim.
Where Do You Mount It?
At the time we reviewed the camera, the company had only a helmet attachment--basically a pad with double-sided foam that slid into the rail on the side of the camera. By modifying an old belt clip for an iPod mini, we were able to attach the camera to our ski goggles. Unfortunately, the elasticity of the goggles' head strap caused the camera to wobble violently every time we went over a mogul. While the company is planning to release a bona fide goggle clip, we'd recommend using a helmet for a more steady picture. Mounts for handlebars and roll bars will soon be available.
Since the VholdR is meant to be mounted to the side of a helmet, it's hard to tell which direction the lens is pointing. With that in mind, two lasers on either side of the lens are activated when the camera is turned on; by rotating the lens until the lasers form a line parallel to the ground, users can make sure their video won't be all sky or all ground. The lens can be rotated 90 degrees left or right from vertical. It's a clever addition, and when activated, the lasers are reminiscent of Predator. After testing the device, we'd recommend angling the camera a degree or two upward if you plan to use it while skiing and tend to look at the ground going down the hill.
Taking the VholdR for a Test Run
We decided the best way to test the VholdR was to take it skiing. We mounted it on our goggles' strap and took it out for about six hours. Sliding the top button forward, the camera beeps once as it starts recording; when you slide it back, the camera beeps twice, and the recording stops.
Video from the camera was pretty good. It records AVI files in 640 x 480-pixel resolution at 30 frames per second to a microSD Card (not included). The VHoldR accepts cards up to 2GB, which can hold about 100 minutes of footage. Unfortunately, audio was poor; the location of the microphone, on the underside of the camera, caused it to pick up nothing but wind noise once we started moving.
On several occasions, the camera would not stop recording, and we had to remove the battery, which was less than convenient. The company says that it's working on a solution to this problem. The battery, which can be recharged via the mini-USB port, is rated to last for 2 hours; after a day of intermittent filming, we still had plenty of juice left.
Software and Sharing
The camera also comes with software for downloading, tagging, and sharing videos, but it works with only PCs for now, and loading videos is easier and quicker via the included thumb drive, which accepts microSD Cards. However, you can also receive firmware updates through the software. Because we're in the YouTube era, the company's Web site also features a community section where users can upload and share their videos and leave comments. As of this review, nearly 400 clips have been posted on the site.
The $349 VholdR falls into the midrange of helmet cams; it isn't as cheap (or as cheap-looking) as the $169 GoPro Helmet Hero, or as expensive as the military-grade--and government priced--VIO POV.1 $679. Its sturdy and compact all-in-one package is sure to please those who don't want to look too geeky going down the mountain. Excessive wind noise is a definite issue--some users have put tape over the mic hole, with limited success--but aside from that, the VholdR Wearable Camcorder is a fun accessory for outdoor adventurers.
|Size||Size: 3.8 x 2.1 x 1.4 inches|
|Weight||Weight: 4.8 ounces|