|06-23-2012, 05:49 PM||#1|
REVIEW: Swann Freestyle HD camera system
Hey gang, long time no type. Been tootling around in the trackless wastes of Texas (actually, it's DFW, but that's beside the point) and thought I'd write up a little something on my newest toy for the bike, the Swann Freestyle HD vidcam.
This is a similar system to the GoPro Hero2, but doesn't QUITE cost as much. It's a lightweight digital video/still camera with a detachable LCD screen, that stores images and vids to a microSD memory chip. It comes with several adhesive mounts (including a wide curved one for helmets), a USB connect cable, a coax output cable, a charger, a remote control with three glove-friendly and weather-proof buttons, and a plastic case that's waterproof to 20m deep. It doesn't come with the memory chip, but put a 32gb capacity microSD in, and it'll store up to 10 hours of video. Without it, you've... a few minutes worth on the internal memory. It'll record in 1080p high-def, or as still pictures (single, burst of three, or continuous). The other "not included" is a mini-HDMI cable, for sending video footage and stills to an HDMI-ready device such as a TV.
I picked mine up off the discount site woot.com for ~$150. I've seen them advertised from this price on up to $225 or so. The Hero2 system, by contrast, is in the $175-250 range.
I tested the Freestyle HD both around town and on a jaunt to Chicago and back.
Impressions: Like the Hero2, it has a fisheye lens that works well for action sports, but tends to make still pics distorted-looking. It also (both in the case and out) tends to suffer from vibration through the mounting system, which is a series of short armatures held together by large thumbscrews. The camera AND the case have standard threaded camera mounts, so one could use a RAM mount instead, if they so wish, or the SportbikeCam mount on appropriate bikes. This might solve some of the vibration issues.
The other downside is the remote - the included alligator clip, while heavy-duty, is too narrow to grab anything other than fabric, and the included velcro decided to unglue itself during a hot day, leaving my remote sitting on the ground next to the bike, instead of up inside my fairing where it was mounted. Also, while the remote's range is fairly good when the camera is out in the open, if you put it inside the case, the remote's range goes way down... less than a foot.
However, both inside the case and out, the camera takes excellent footage. I've included a couple stills here, one shot 'at speed' on the Oklahoma turnpike, and the other out a car window while sightseeing in Chicago. I've not cropped or reduced them at all, so as to show the resolution the camera puts out "raw".
The other plus is battery life - the literature says '2 hours' on a full charge, but that's most likely 2 hours of filming. In idle mode, it hardly uses any juice. There's also a VOX mode, for turning the camera on only when there's noise, and a laser sight for aiming when you've got the viewscreen detached (sadly, the plastic case distorts the laser, so it's useless to aim when you absolutely can't attach the viewer!)
I'm very much looking forward to seeing what I can capture on my upcoming road trip to the Colorado Rockies in 2 months.
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