Sunday, July 5, 2009

Bike Camera Project - Update

Here's a quick recap of the initial post from April 26: I found the Pedco UltraClamp Camera Mount ($24, ) a good choice and a test ride with a small camera showed that vibration did not create a significant image quality problem even on a rough road.

For the 2009 Bicycle Tour of Colorado I decided on the Pentax W60 camera because of its size, picture quality, capacity, and the very important factor of being waterproof. A test prior to the trip showed the camera to have a few flaws. The first is the battery vibrates inside the camera body on rough roads and the second is a loud auto-focus motor. Both these flaws contribute to considerable noise on the audio tracks of videos during pre-trip tests.

Fortunately, I was able to work around these two flaws by placing cardboard strips around the battery to give a tighter fit inside the camera and by disabling the auto focus then taking videos. However, I still found the W60 much more susceptible to wind noise than the low-cost Casio Exilim 7.2 megapixel camera used in my initial tests. I was not able to workaround this problem in time for the BTC. I also gave up on the solar cell battery charging solution because of concerns of the cost, possible fragility and size of the panels, and number of daylight hours needed to obtain a fully charged battery.

From an ease of use and picture quality standpoint I found the camera met my needs, especially when taking photos. Also the camera is definitely waterproof since I used it in the rain, fog, and early morning damp.

Because I didn't have a good battery recharging strategy, I didn't do much video, but I did manage to capture some of the decent from Independence Pass on the last day of the ride. The raw video is HD quality, but with a useless audio track for reasons mentioned above.

Vibration from rough stretches of road, the camera tried to unscrew itself from the mount and you will notice in the video that I reached down and straighten the camera on its mount several times. I haven't address this problem yet, but I suspect it could be fixed by making the mounting surface rough by attaching a few strips of fine sandpaper to its surface to grab the camera better.

Unfortunately upload process considerably reduces the quality of video due to compression. Bike speed was in the 20-40 mph range for most of the video.

Additional thoughts:

If I had it to do over, I would probably go with a generator hub so I could charge my phone, netbook, camera on the road. Reduction of wind noise is a must to create quality video. This might be achieved with some foam over opening for the camera's microphone and/or some type of wind-block around it. There is also the possibility of switching to a noise reduction microphone/headset to reduce wind noise, but at the cost of acquiring a waterproof camera that supports this option.