Review Price free/subscription
One area where Oregon Scientific can't be criticised is the number of attachment options supplied in the package. There's a round clamp for handlebar attachment, a rubber strap for wrapping around a helmet, or anything else for that matter, a Velcro strap for doing the same and a mount for using the camcorder as a desk-mounted webcam (via USB).
There is also a remote control in the box which works by infra red and sports an extensive two buttons, one for toggling recording and another for taking still shots. Unlike the camera itself, which is waterproof up to a depth of 10ft, the remote is simply splash resistant - although its usefulness is pretty limited anyway so that's no real problem.
In our limited testing, all of these attachment methods worked as they should, although fixing the camcorder to the handlebar mount was definitely the best way to get cycling footage. The helmet mount, though it worked, resulted in really poor video footage due to a combination of the constant movement and relatively low frame rate. Attached to something solid, such as a dinghy's mast should give better results.
The ATC5K comes with 32MB of inbuilt memory, which is pretty much pointless as the camcorder records to uncompressed AVI affording about 50 seconds of recording at the highest resolution. Fortunately there is an SDHC card slot - so, a 4GB card will enable a more usable maximum of two hours of video to be stored.
Another reason that anyone using the ATC5K will want to use SD cards is that although USB file transfer is supported, the camcorder uses USB 1 which is mind-bogglingly slow with any decent length of video. Once on a computer these files are more easily managed, and a quick run through Windows Movie Maker is highly recommended unless you have a really fast upload speed, assuming you have any intention of sharing said files on the Internet.
The quality of video form the ATC5K isn't exactly great, but is comparable with similar cameras. That's an especially poignant point as YouTube and Vimeo will both butcher the quality of your video anyway, as evidenced by the footage above. For those not interested in Internet video, the ATC5K also has a combined S-Video and RCA audio output, for showing off your footage on a TV.
While the video recorded by the ATC5K is just about acceptable, the audio it saves frankly isn't. At the best of times it's poor, but as soon as the camcorder is used in the way it's meant to be - that is, attached to something moving - it quickly deteriorates into a mess of noise.
Overall though, for its intended purpose the ATC5K delivers what I'll call 'good enough' results for a pretty reasonable price. You'll have to really want the ruggedness to sacrifice video quality over similarly priced options and if that's the case there isn't really an alternative, so you know what to do.
Like many rugged products, you either need a camera like the ATC5K or you don't. And if you are looking to record your exploits while mountain biking, sailing, sky diving or hang gliding, it will do a reasonable, though not outstanding job. Proper bullet cameras will cost you way more than one of these, so in that respect the ATC5K is something of a bargain. But even so, if Oregon Scientific had just improved the image quality slightly, and integrated a decent microphone, this could have been a great bit of kit for hardcore, outdoor types.
Scores In Detail
- Image Quality