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I would like to have continuous camera coverage while commuting on city streets, in order to have evidence in any collision. I have been experimenting with an ATC3K mounted on the pannier rack, facing backwards. At 15 fps on a 2Gb SD card, the maximum it can use, it provides about an hour to 90 minutes of footage. I manually stop and start it at the beginning and ending of each ride.

Pros

  • The picture quality is adequate at 640x480.
  • It cost about $100

Cons

  • The chain and freewheel clatter mask any other sounds. The control screen is hard to see and the buttons, which are under a water-resistant rubber cover, are hard to press. As a result, it takes about a minute of button mashing to erase the SD card.
  • Fairly narrow field of view.
  • Full coverage would need two cameras, and twice the amount of fussing, before and after each ride.

What cameras and mounting arrangements might be better?

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+1, great question! I remember seeing a lot of people posting about cameras in this gadgets forum. You might consider crossposting or posting a link there. –  Neil Fein Sep 19 '10 at 20:22
    
I was thinking the same thing earlier this week - great question! –  Brock Boland Sep 20 '10 at 12:50
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I'm thinking this is a lot of trouble to go through just because you might possibly get in a collision. Where are you biking that you are that worried about being in a collision? When I think about getting in a collision on my bike, the last thing I would worry about is having photo evidence. –  Kibbee Sep 26 '11 at 0:19
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@Kibbee: Actually, I've been thinking about getting one of those - my city is getting increasingly bike-hostile (despite its own propaganda) lately. Not every city is Delft, NL (or San Francisco, CA, for that matter); bikers are second-class road users here and we sometimes need every scrap of leverage we can get. –  Piskvor Sep 26 '11 at 12:52
    
@Kibbee is right. Moreover, unless you have wide angle, high resolution, low-light sensitivity coverage from front and back (two cameras), you'll likely miss the details you need. Photography is hard enough even under ideal deliberate set-ups. Capturing the right images under uncontrolled conditions is very hard. Also, you'd be surprised how little cooperation police may give even when presented with photographic "evidence". –  Angelo Sep 26 '11 at 14:02

6 Answers 6

up vote 13 down vote accepted

I've had good success with the Go Pro cameras for whitewater kayaking. We generally mount them on our helmets. They stand up to quite a beating and you can get more on a card than the camera you ask about above.

If you can mount it on your helmet then it will be pointing where you look and I think you'll have better success getting shots of any collision since you're often looking at it as it happens.

Here's a blog of someone doing the same thing on his daily commute. http://cranks-on-cam.com/ Looks like he's using a Drift Inovation (http://www.driftinnovation.com/x170-action-camera.php) and there is a video of his mount on the gear page.

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I tried the GoPro for a while and there were several things I didn't like about it, or where I felt it fell short.
I'm now looking at buying one of the "tough" cameras produced by almost all of the major camera manufacturers which have several advantages over something like the GoPro or the ATC3K.

Things I didn't like about the GoPro are...
- The weight on my head when used on the helmet (could cause my helmet to shift).
- No screen, so you can only review footage once transferred to the computer. Transferring also takes a long time. You can get an add-on screen now, but this will add bulk and weight.
- No zoom, so for instance the wide angle cannot even show red-light runners, as the lights on the far side of the intersection (perpendicular to my direction), are too far away to show up on the video.
- Menus are difficult to use and you have to remember the abbreviations they use.
- The square shape is bulky. I didn't try it strapped to my arm because it would be too uncomfortable whilst cycling.
- The handlebar mounts are kind of bulky and can be fiddly to fit.
- It interfered with my wireless speedo when mounted right next to it (the speedo numbers went haywire).
- Enclosure can fog up requiring the purchase of, and fiddling with, anti-fog inserts.

Olympus, Panasonic, Sony, Canon, Nikon, Fuji and Toshiba all produce "tough" cameras that are resistant to water, shock, dust and so on to varying degrees.
Of course the models vary but typically they have these advantages over the GoPro or ATC3K

  • HD video (either 720p or 1080p)
  • Screen! Particularly important for reviewing before transferring to a computer (which can take a long time), but also for framing the shot!
  • The screen also means you can use the camera for other things such as holidays, snorkelling etc. The GoPro is limited in that sense.
  • Optical zoom (not the Toshiba)
  • Optical image stabilisation (each model differs).
  • Far greater customisation of shooting settings (except for lower end like the Toshiba).
  • Usually slimmer form factor. Not so bulky. No need for external enclosure that can fog up.
  • Longer record times (than ATC3K). (check each model for differences).
  • Typically better lens, sensor and image processing quality from the larger photographic companies. (this is a bit of a blanket statement, so make your own judgements about quality, or check trusted reviews).
  • Quite a few have GPS now if you're interested in Geotagging or mapping.

I haven't bought one of these yet (but I will be) so check the reviews and specifications and make your own decisions of course. I may post a table of comparison specs here if I do my own comparison table. The come for a variety of budgets from about $100 for the Toshiba, up to $400 or more for the Panasonic.

My interest is for problems with motorists but also recording interesting stuff while touring. It is not always possible to stop and take photos or video. Another application is for contributing to Open Cycle Map which is a whole other topic in itself, but is a brilliant project. Check it out!

Next is, how to mount it to the bike? I found http://www.rigidmount.com/ which have some mounts that allow you to mount a standard digital compact to your bike using the tripod mount found on almost all compact digital cameras. They also have some general information about what to look for in a camera, how to edit video and remove shake etc. See the "Information" menu on that site.

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Unless I'm missing something here, this doesn't seem to answer the question. Are you recommending the Olympus cameras? (The first half of this seems like more of a comment to curtismchale's answer.) –  Neil Fein Sep 26 '11 at 0:25
    
The question as far as I can find is, "What cameras / arrangements might be better" (than his current setup). I gave my personal experience with GoPro, and my plans on what I might do next which "might be better". I can remove the brands or links if you prefer. I was just giving an example of a compact weather proof camera. Having not tried them I am not recommending them. I also outline what I think are the advantages of that type of camera over the GoPro (since that was mentioned in a previous answer and I have tried that) –  Jason S Sep 26 '11 at 0:29
    
The original post and first answer, both mention particular products. I am just saying I've tried the GoPro, it doesn't suit me for the reasons mentioned, and I'm looking at the weather proof compacts, as a better option, for the reasons mentioned. –  Jason S Sep 26 '11 at 0:40
    
You do have a point that the mounting aspect is a part of this question. What about the camera mounts on rigidmount.com is particularly noteworthy? –  Neil Fein Sep 26 '11 at 1:04
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@Neil Yes because they offer bicycle mounts that fit a standard tripod mount on a digital compact camera. So if I was to go with the digital compact (which I will borrow a friend's soon), I will look at those mounts. I've clarified my answer on rigidmount now. I'm not connected with any of these sites / products btw. I'm just trying to suss out what is the best way of recording video on a bike. I covered many general advantages / disadvantages to look for as well, not just products. –  Jason S Sep 26 '11 at 1:12

There is a product designed specifically for this use, the Cerevellum: a bike computer with a crash recorder, which hooks up to a rear-facing camera. It's not cheap, but it is designed to do exactly what you want.

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I would try below handlebar (possibly attached to the stem) and seatpost just below saddle nut. Stem would allow to turn quickly the handlebars after any non-falling-over evento so as to capture better evidence.

Cushioning the clamp would certainly dicrease mechanical stress and improve sound quality.

FOOTNOTES:

I agree with some fellows that it might be too much trouble for possibly nothing, not to mention that leaving home with a conflicting mindset might make you nervous and more prone to accidents or discussions than to take proper care on the road ahead.

Also, worrying if the camera is working or not is a time-consuming and distracting activity during the ride.

But I totally agree with you that bike unfriendliness can be so extreme as to prompt this kind of attitude. I ride in Porto Alegre, Brazil, and we sometimes are exposed to so much unnecessary risk (neglect from speeding drivers, mostly), you become really frustrated.

Some groups I participate have already made some progress by doing constant and intense pressure over traffic authorities and our city's major. On the long run, this is the only action that really pays itself off.

Take care, and good luck!

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Perhaps try a ChaseCam? http://www.chasecam.com/ Used by a lot of auto racers. Might work for cycling too.

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Here's a recent example of why it may be pointless to go through the trouble of maintaining a camera for video evidence. Perfectly good video and even an independent witness who observed the driver intentionally swipe the cyclist: NO CHARGES FILED.

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Recent counterexample. Anyway, it's not like having a camera would be a bad idea. –  ladenedge Dec 3 '12 at 20:31

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