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It isn’t always easy capturing the most dramatic moments of your life on video. If you’re jumping out of a plane, climbing a mountain, or even just riding a bike, you want both your hands free – and holding a camcorder at the same time could even endanger your wellbeing. But dedicated camcorder mounts are pricey, hard to find, and you may not want a device weighing half a kilo strapped to your head. On the other hand, dedicated camcorders aimed at sports usage, such as Oregon Scientific’s ATC5K Action Camera could set you back £150 or more. Chilli Technology has other ideas. With its Action Cam 1, the company is offering a head-mounted video camera for less than £25.
The Action Cam 1 is a cylindrical device the size of a small torch. On one edge is a bracket, and opposite that is a small monochrome LCD status screen. The main operation button is on the top, with a smaller button beneath the status screen and a USB 2.0 connection on the bottom. Power comes from a pair of AAA batteries, which aren't included in the box, and video is recorded to removable SD memory, which also isn't included.
However, the most significant omission is a TFT display, unlike the Oregon Scientific ATC5K, and pretty much every camcorder out there. So you can't be sure of precisely what the camera is picking up. Only trial and error can teach you which direction to point the Action Cam 1 in order to grab the subject matter you want. Without a TFT, you have to hook the camcorder up to a computer via USB or pop the memory card into a media reader. So you might end up back up home after a trip before you realise you were shooting in the wrong direction.
We found the lens points slightly below where you might expect. In contrast, when cycling, where your head actually tends to look down most of the time, you need to point the camera slightly upwards to record the road ahead during normal travel. Fortunately, the camcorder body rotates in relation to its bracket, with a ratchet to keep it in place, so minor directional adjustments are possible. Getting the position right will take a few aborted attempts, which can be frustrating. But once you know the correct setup for your activities you can use this each time.
Attaching the Action Cam 1 isn't always easy, though, as the rubber strap supplied to fasten the camcorder is somewhat rudimentary. It's intended for helmet usage, but we found the strap was actually too short for a lot of helmets. For example, the extended rear of the regular adult cycling helmet we tried made it exceptionally hard to fit. We did manage to attach the strap eventually, but it took a few attempts, and cycling helmets with extended fronts and rears might prove beyond the Action Cam 1. It's actually comfortable enough to attach directly on your head, should you be engaging in an activity which doesn't require a helmet, although it's hard not to feel self-conscious with a camera strapped to your temple.