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On The Pedals

The Daily Grind

Over The Bars

Gear Review: Viosport Action Cam 3
By Rob Manning

DVD Quality on Your Helmet

Vio's AC3 system is compact but powerful.

In the quest for perfect DVD quality video on the trail, you need to sort through heaps of products before you find something that will work well. “Lipstick” cameras, as they are called, have become items that are no longer reserved for professional videographers and film makers. We’ve been seeing a trend of more cameras with cheaper prices and varying degrees of quality. On the bottom end of the spectrum we have self contained flash based helmet cameras that will product YouTube quality video. While this is great for the casual rider looking to share their experiences with the world, the quality is definitely lacking when it comes to producing DVD quality video. For something of that caliber, an external camera and dedicated recording device is a necessity.

Enter Vio
At the top of the heap of DVD quality external cameras, Viosport is leading the pack with their Action Cam 3 model. With features like removable lenses, a coiled tail cable, waterproof quick disconnects and built in (in line) microphone, the AC3 is a compact and powerful unit. The real reason this lipstick camera outshines others is the fantastic Sony Ex-View 1/3” CCD chip. This fantastic chip provides 520 TV lines of resolution (that’s DVD quality for sure) and has excellent adaptive qualities when light changes are involved. The CCD chip receives its image through an interchangeable lens system, allowing for a myriad of different viewpoints. Vio also offers five differing levels of sun filters to eliminate artifacts while filming in overly bright conditions. The lens and CCD chip are installed in a durable aluminum case that is impact resistant and water resistant. All in all, it’s a wonderfully compact and durable system.

In The Case
When our AC3 was delivered, it came in a sturdy latching plastic case lined with padded foam. Inside the case was the AC3 unit itself, a myriad of different mounts ranging from adhesive mounts to Velcro mounts, a Sony specific A/V cable to match our camcorder, and Vio’s rechargeable battery pack and charger unit. When we plugged the camera into our camcorder the first time to test the operation, we discovered that the battery pack that came with the camera seemed to be dead. No amount of charging would bring it back, but Vio quickly had a replacement battery pack in our hands. We were assured that occasionally rechargeable batteries have some issues, but Vio stands behind their product 100%, so you should expect no problems. It’s worth mentioning that the battery pack is a nice compact unit with a charge meter, on/off switch and mounting screw to attach to the tripod mount of any camera you may use.

Ex-View Goodness
Once we got the AC3 plugged into the battery pack and into the camcorder, to say that we were impressed by the image quality would be an understatement. We were blown away by the excellent quality of such a camera. While it’s not quite the same quality as using a handheld digital camcorder, it’s as close as you can get without strapping the entire camcorder to your helmet. Video was very clear and crisp with great definition and excellent color saturation. Transitioning from bright sunlight to deep shadows was surprisingly quick with the AC3. It does take a moment for the chip to react to the drastic difference in light, but the transition is still relatively quick and smooth. Vio made a perfect choice with the Ex-View chip in the AC3. Coupled with the stock 3.6mm, 72.5 degree field of view the stock lens offered, we were able to consistently get DVD quality video out of the AC3.

The rechargeable battery pack is a worthwhile upgrade.

Beastly Battery
The rechargeable battery pack included with our test unit is a 12V rechargeable lithium ion unit featuring charge/discharge LED indicators, an on/off switch and ¼” threaded mounting bolt for attaching the battery to our camera’s tripod mount. Impressively, the rechargeable pack provided at least 8 hours of camera operation without a recharge. To be honest, we never hit the limit of the battery pack; we got nervous about going dead on the trail and recharged the pack after 8 hours of use. This nicely executed power unit is a worthwhile upgrade to the base AC3 package.

Cables and Cases
With the AC3 unit comes the ability to change lenses to achieve different fields of view. Unscrewing the water resistant lens cover gives access to the incredibly small grub screws holding the lens in place. Once they are removed, it’s a simple task to swap out the lens for something different. The case is a durable aluminum unit which survived shocks, falls and hits from tree branches throughout testing without complaint. Instead of a straight cable from the camera to the camcorder, the AC3 comes with a coiled cable that prevents neck strain and allows a wide, free range of motion. The high gain microphone is integrated into the (Sony specific in this case) harness that plugs into the camcorder and battery pack. With this integration comes our only real complaint with the AC3; the mic is very close to the recording device and is in the back of the camera. The proximity of the mic to the recording unit caused some feedback at times with our setup, and we didn’t get as much audio as we would have liked from the unit. Audio we did manage to capture was often too soft to be of useable quality without extensive editing in Audacity or some other program. In the grand scheme of things, this really isn’t a big problem, but it is the only real problem we found with the system.

After the Camera Stopped Rolling…
Overall, the AC3 is as close to perfection as we can ask from a helmet camera. We were highly impressed by the image quality, durability and overall capability of the AC3 package. There are a plethora of mounting options available, an excellent battery pack option and a myriad of accessories (LANC remotes, lens packs, filters, etc) to support an already outstanding product. At the end of the day, the AC3 is one of the rare cases in which we’ve never had a second thought about how good it really is.

Action Cam 3 – $274.95
Li-Ion Battery Pack – $54.95
Viosport USA - Website

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