One of the things that I’ve been trying to do lately on our Cruises is take a bit of video rather than just still photographs and, while I have fairly good video capabilities with my camera, it’s difficult to combine video and still photography at the same time. I’ve been using my dash cam while on the move and it’s proven to be a reasonably good video camera, providing quality results, even though YouTube doesn’t quite show that quality. However, the dash cam is poorly designed for general use, even though I did do some experimenting earlier on. The major issues are the lack of standard mounting points and protective housing. To that end, I finally decided that a cheap action cam was what I really needed so that I’d have a bit more versatility than what I could get with the dash cam.
There are numerous action cams on the market nowadays, from the very expensive GoPro to the much cheaper SJCAM, and even cheaper clones. As I’ve mentioned previously, I’m not that much into video, so there was no way that I’d consider one of the expensive brands and so I decided to just go for one of the cheapest brands available on eBay that happened to be on special. This is just a 1080p model as I had no interest in 4K video given the storage space requirements, as well as the effort required to post-process such video. In fact, my computer wouldn’t be able to process 4K video without choking (I’ve tried), so a simple solution was the best solution. My dash cam produces slightly better video than this camera due to its wide dynamic range (WDR), but the results from this action cam are still quite reasonable.
What I wanted to be able to do was not only mount the action cam on a tripod for when I wanted to take photographs and video at the same time, but also to be able to mount it on the bullbar so that the camera only produced video of what was in front of the vehicle and not include bits and pieces of the vehicle’s interior and usually dirty windscreen. It took me some figuring out what to do, but then an idea struck me and eBay came to the rescue once again. All the traditional action cam mounts are designed for things like bicycle handlebars and similar, so all the attachments are for small things. I needed something that was able to wrap around the bull bar and be able to hold the action cam. The answer was quite simple in the end, a bullbar light holder, and it works perfectly.
The clamp is easy to attach and comes with a rubber sleeve to allow fitment to bullbars of varying diameters and they are also available in many sizes to suit most available bullbars. The clamping side is threaded so all you need to do is position the clamp, slide the two parts together and insert and tighten the screws. I decided to position the clamp in the way shown, as I didn’t want the flat part protruding from the front of the bullbar. The screw part still protrudes a small amount, but by no means as far out as the other part (I’m always cognisant of things that may cause injury).
As you can see from the photographs, I used one of the action cam attachment options that comes with the kit, making it easy to fit and remove the camera when not in use. With the clamp in place, attaching the action cam is a simple affair, just sliding it in and locking it into place. I also reversed the mount on the action cam, so that it’s always pushing itself into the lock position, rather than unlock. Whether or not this makes a big difference I don’t know, but when in the bush, you often get bushes and overhanging branches brushing against the bullbar. Mounted this way means that there’s less chance of the camera being dislodged (perhaps), though it created other problems which I’ll discuss shortly.
After a few tests on the road, the bullbar mount worked a treat, with no vibrations or other things to make videoing unacceptable. There’s no point in showing the earlier videos, as they’re just on-road stuff that’s far from interesting; however, in January this year we had a chance to run a Cruise and the camera setup worked a treat. I was somewhat concerned about the video quality of the camera, but after viewing it full sized, it’s not bad at all. YouTube compression significantly affects the quality of the video (if viewing full screen), so you can’t really judge the quality from that video. For a relatively inexpensive action cam, this will do the job for me, unless I get an urge to become some sort of creative video producer (which I strongly doubt).
Unfortunately, because of events after crossing the river, I had to access my winch control and when I opened my bonnet, the plastic mount that holds the camera was clipped by the edge of the bonnet and lost in the soft sands of the crossing. Thankfully the camera wasn’t. I’ve since discovered a mount attachment in the kit that is small and has a typical tripod mount screw on the bottom (I don’t know how I missed this attachment earlier), so this will be a much more reliable mounting system. Now I can also connect the security cable to the mount and camera, making things doubly safe. I hope to include more of this simple video in future Cruise stories.
The only thing that’s missing, for me, is there’s no app for my Windows phone that would allow me to connect to the action camera. As it is, only Android phones and iPhones have this ability, and I don’t really want to buy into either. But I guess that given this is really just a point and shoot camera, all that’s needed is to turn it on and let it record. The first attempt came out OK, so I don’t see a major need to view what’s going on via an external device, and there are enough potential distractions when driving in the bush as it is.
There’s one thing that I do dislike about this action cam, which is that it doesn’t have a separate battery charger and you have to charge the battery while in the camera. And no matter how long the camera is connected to the charger, the battery never shows full charge. I experienced exactly the same thing with another one, which basically couldn’t even record proper video and was refunded. After a lot of searching, I can’t even find a battery charger for these small batteries.
Update 1. But things have moved on with a better action cam.