Sadly, our 2015 Roadtrek E-trek is still at Mercedes-Benz awaiting parts from Roadtrek’s supplier to repair the secondary alternator. Since there are no trips in our immediate future, we thought we would share our latest gadget, a Sony Action Camera, which we hope will be a fun addition to our tech for the E-trek.

Karl credits himself as the inventor of the original action camera, having used an old Sunpak camcorder purchased on QVC to film our roller coaster ride at Hersheypark twenty-five years ago. We had heard of the GoPro Camera, so last weekend, to distract us from our MIA Roadtrek, we went to Best Buy to check out the action cameras. We decided quickly on the latest GoPro Black model which was 4k. (Just before the Superbowl, we had purchased a 4k TV, and since there is actually very little 4k content available, we thought we should create some ourselves!)

First of all, action cameras are very different from traditional camcorders. They are meant to be secured to something-a helmet, a dashboard, a bicycle handlebar, even a buoy to float in the pool. In addition, there is no viewfinder on the camera itself: you must operate via a SmartPhone app or a separately purchased ($80!) viewfinder. This was very hard to get used to. We finally managed to take some videos of the dogs playing outside; however, when we watched them on the iMac computer we were underwhelmed. The videos we took inside our house were even worse; everything was distorted.

We did a little research into other manufacturers and saw that Sony had a positive review, and was considerably less expensive. It was not 4k, but we weren’t sure that was worth an additional $200 anyway. We have had many Sony cameras in the past, and they always seemed to work well. We returned the GoPro (the Best Buy greeter knows us by name), and looked at the Sony action camera offerings. We decided on the AVI101 because it actually came bundled with a view finder to strap on your wrist, so you did not have to control the camera with a SmartPhone, as well as a nice waterproof case.

It took a bit of time (in other words, we actually read the instructions and watched a few YouTube how-to videos) to connect the camera to the viewfinder watch, but we felt it was much more user-friendly than the GoPro. We did another test with the dogs playing, and even took it for a ride in one of our cars. I got the pleasure of being the dashboard mount! When we watched the videos, we were very pleased. It also takes nice still photos, thanks to the Zeiss lens. After verifying that we were going to keep the camera, we ordered a very nice accessory set (including dashboard mount, helmet mount, tripod, etc.)

Karl strapped the camera to his helmet and tested it on two bicycle rides. He had the following feedback:

The first trick is to securely mount the camera to the helmet with the provided straps and protective case.  Place a small piece of rubber–I cut off a 2″ x 2″ piece of carpet non-stick pad from underneath our living room area rug–between the top of the helmet and the camera mount.  The second trick is to get the helmet mount/camera angled correctly so the subsequent video is easy on the eyes.  If not angled properly, the video may be either too low (you only see the road a few feet ahead) or too high (you are recording birds and airplanes overhead).  On my first ride, I did not have the piece of carpet non-stick pad between the helmet and camera mount. Although I had the straps as tight as I could make them, there was an audible and constant clicking sound throughout the video.  (The sound was the plastic-on-plastic top of helmet against bottom of mount.) For the second ride, I had secured the 2″ x 2″ piece of carpet non-stick pad and the clicking sound was gone.  The only bad news was that the camera’s battery only seemed to last about 75 minutes, so pedal as fast as you can!

One final note for you road bicycle riders:  even if you do not want to film your bicycle rides, purchase the camera mounting rig with the protective camera case (~$25) and strap it to your helmet. One thing that really stood out to me was how suddenly conscientious the car and truck drivers were when they were being recorded.  Usually cars barely try to avoid hitting me when passing even  though I ride as far to the right as practicable.  So far in fact, that when I get home, I need to remove cans and branches from my wheels! However, with the very visible camera mounted to my helmet, they pass slowly and carefully, leaving plenty of room between us.

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