Oregon Scientific ATC-3K
Oregon Scientific Camera Review
Oregon Scientific ATC-3K Action / Helmet Cam

I originally purchased this camera to take on-board video from my speedway car, but it's recently found it's way onto my dirt bike.

The camera kit comes with a variety of different mounts, to suit almost anything, but I had to make a custom mount to attach it to the rollcage in my racecar. For dirt biking, the handlebar mount or helmet mount should get you by.

The ATC-3K is a fully self contained unit, with no extrnal recording unit or anything, it records directly onto an SD card. The manual says it can use up to a 4Gb SDHC card, but I couldn't get a 4Gb card to work properly, although that may
have been an issue with the card rather than the camera. On it's best quality setting, a 2Gb card still gives about an hour of recording time, which was plenty for me.

The camera runs on 2 AA batteries, and using a quality brand, you can expect at least 2 hours of recording per set of batteries. Although it looks a bit bulky, it's relatively light and you easily forget it's there when it's mounted securely to your helmet.

The ATC-3K provides a decent quality picture, though it's unlikely to win you any Oscars. It does tend to struggle with low light situations, and especially when you are changing from very dark to bright rapidly (think street lights at night).

As the camera is waterproof down to 10 feet, the audio is somewhat garbled by the waterproofing. The manual is quite specific about this. What this means in practice is that the audio is completely unusable. Anytime there is any noise much louder than talking, the audio dissolves into a squeally noise. See the test video below for a couple of examples.
As you can tell from the video, the engine noise from the bike just completely overwhelms the camera. If you are going to use the footage, you'd have to replace the audio with music, which is fine for most people, most of the time. However, I like to have the engine noise of the bike / car / whatever (when it's recorded properly anyway), even if it's just at a low level with a music track over the top of it. To me it just makes the video a bit more life-like than a silent film set to music. Then there's always the occasions where the audio is critical - something someone said, a reaction to something, an important event off camera. For these times, the ATC-3K lets the user down.

In the second part of the video, you may have noticed a bit of video 'warble' (this is where the video seems to have ripples through it). When this footage was taken the camera was mounted to the handlebars of the bike, and the 'warble' results from excessive vibration of the camera. The mount I was using at the time was not using the rubber vibration damping patch under it (I couldn't use it where I had to mount it) and that is probably what caused the warbling at such low speeds. You can expect to have warbling at high vibration levels, but normally when you have high vibration you also have high vehicle speeds, and the warbling is barely noticable anyway. Certainly not a deal-breaking problem.

There is no viewing screen or view finder at all on the ATC-3K, which means you either have to point it and hope, or plug it in to a computer or TV to check it's alignment. This can be a pain in the middle of the day when you need to adjust it or change mounting points.

To record, you simply turn the camera on (push a button) and then push the record button. Unfortunately, with clumsy gloved fingers and your helmet on, it can be difficult to know if you've succeeded in starting a recording - if you don't hear the beep, you've got to decide whether you just didn't hear it, or if it didn't work and you push it again. As there is no difference in the beeps for turning it on or off, this can be a problem. You can start it going before you put your helmet on, but in practice you often need to operate the camera while wearing your helmet.

Overall, for it's features and it's price (when I bought it), it was a good little camera. I was disappointed with the sound quality, even though I'd been told it was distorted with the waterproofing, I thought I'd get better sound than just a squeal. It seems robust, I'm yet to break it anyway, and it comes with a good selection of mounts. The resolution is about what I was expecting and, in general, the camera performed well.

Certainly not a bad camera, but there are many better cameras available now, and I'd select one with better sound qualities.
Reasonable video quality
Lots of mounts
Very poor sound quality
No view finder
Low light performance not great
Can be difficult to operate unseen
Many better cameras available
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UPDATE - Our camera developed an issue, and we had to contact customer support - everyone's worst nightmare, I know. Even though the camera is well out of warranty, and there are newer models to support and promote, the customer service team did an excellent job of helping us. I wish more companies had such a commitment to sutomer service. Thanks Oregon Scientific!
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