By Joan T. Sherwood, Senior Editor
The POV.HD from V.I.O captures HD video from a camera head about the size of a half-roll of quarters, which is tethered to a TV-remote-sized controller by a 1.5-meter cable. The controller itself has a small wireless remote control, and the head has several mounting options, including helmet and goggle mounts, a magnetic system and strap options. The camera head and controller are also durable (IP67 certified) and water proof (to 1 meter), so it can take the punishment of most sports to get an exciting POV video.
There is some very exciting potential for a POV video camera like this in conjunction with kids sports or senior portrait fusion (still and video) slideshows. Video clips captured with the POV.HD are saved in mp4 format to an SD card in the controller (4GB card included). The unit is not SDXC compatible. You can choose either 1920x1080 or 1280x720-pixel resolution and various progressive scan rates (1080p30, 1080p25, 1080p24, 720p60, 720p30).
It does include a small built-in microphone attached to the cable, but its capability is limited. If you can secure it to your subject in a way that keeps it stationary and not brushing against anything, you could feasibly get functional ambient audio to overlay on a soundtrack.
The best features of the POV.HD are the versatile camera head that does a decent job even in some difficult lighting situations, the video resolution, the durable construction, the LCD screen on the controller that lets you monitor what the camera head sees, and the tiny wireless remote control that works up to 15 feet away from the main controller. The drawbacks are the need for a tether; the 328 gram (11.56 ounces, with 4 AA batteries) weight of the controller, plus 186 additional grams (6.56 ounces) of camera head and cable; and the barrel distortion of the wide f/2 lens, particularly in full HD. It can also chew through some AA batteries, so have spares on hand.
With a controller that has to stay tethered to the camera head, you'll have to find a spot to secure it to the person or thing that the camera is mounted to. Does anyone still have a fanny pack? Cargo shorts pockets would work as well. Luckily, you can lock the buttons, so you can stow it inside anything without the recording settings getting inadvertantly changed. Still, some sort of sports holster would come in handy. The system does come with a nice carrying case, but it's larger than what you would want to attach to a skateboarder.
The camera body has a 6-element glass lens and, according to V.I.O., offers the widest field of view on the market at 142° in 1080p30 format. The camera body is 1.5 inches in diameter on the lens face, and approximately .875 inches wide on the smaller end. The CMOS sensor is native 1080p, and the controller offers quite a bit of flexibility over exposure and processing, including exposure compensation and metering, as well as sharpening, noise control, in-field editing and other features.
The unit is easy to use, but be sure to read directions and watch the setup videos provided on the V.I.O. site for the product. The cable connector needs to be attached at a specific orientation and you must not try to force it. The buttons on the controller have been kept to a minimum, so there is a minimum of labeling, too. The button functions are displayed on the LCD as you go through the menus. For basic recording, it's extremely easy, though. Click once to put the unit in standby, with a live feed on the LCD; click again to record; click again to stop.
You'll see some unattractive auto-exposure variance in the video gallery on the V.I.O. website, but you can lock exposure to avoid that. Just use the +/- exposure compensation settings. You can also choose spot or full-frame metering for auto exposure.
Most important, this sort of video capture could really make your product package stand out. You add an action sequence to a senior's portrait package, inventively incorporate wedding footage in your digital album, or ramp up the presentation mix for sports and fun events. The system price is $599.95.
We tested out the waterproof claims at the 2011 Beach Bum Parade, a massive water fight waged between parade participants and spectators on Tybee Island, Ga. (May 20, after 6 p.m.). It worked great, and it certainly got blasted by a lot of water. The POV.HD clips were assembled and set to a soundtrack using Animoto Pro.
There are several POV and helmet cameras on the market, so look around to find out what design would work best for what you have in mind. This new Drift HD camera, available at the end of August, has solutions to some of the issues I had with the POV.HD camera and has a lower price point. I have not personally tested it out, though.