The Decline Of The MD80

The Decline Of The MD80

MD80 Helmet Cam

I’ve been using an MD80 camera mounted inside my helmet to film all my motorcycling adventures for around five years.

I started out with the Veho Muvi camera that it copied – and although the Veho had better battery life and lasted overall for around 2 years, the cost difference meant I switched to the far cheaper MD80.

The MD80 had some drawbacks – some versions have a different focus point, that you can’t really adjust.  The battery life declines slowly but surely, so that effectively they only last up to about 6 months.  That wasn’t so much of a problem, as you can now buy them for £6-£10, so they’re pretty disposable.

The main problem I’ve found in the last couple of years is that, from brand new, the battery, which used to last for an hour of recording time (the same as the Veho Muvi), will now last for 30 minutes at best!

Picture quality has improved on them, but file size has also increased.  I have been using a wide-angle lens with mine for a while now (see pics) which also improves things a little.

The second biggest problem, however, is that where they used to record in 30 minute segments (again, like the Veho), the latest 3 or 4 that I’ve had have only recorded in 10 minute segments.  This is compounded by a 30-60 second gap as file is closed and a new one created to record.  So you miss anything that happens during that time.  It also makes it pretty useless to record alongside another camera, as when you join each file from the MD80 it’s out of sync after each 10 minute segment.

I could switch back to Veho Muvi, bite the bullet, and pay at least £60 for one, but to be honest things have moved on.  640p no longer cuts it, with so many other full HD cams on the market for the money.

So it may be time to retire the smallest, and only real covert camera that I use whilst riding.

I don’t particularly want one of these Telly-Tubby arrangements for a helmet camera, but it’s looking like I might have to.  I guess a side-mounted bullet-style camera is the next best option?

Shame, because the whole Veho/MD80 camera was perfect for my needs… and surely someone COULD now make a HD camera the same size??

MD80 wide angle lens

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Tank Mounting The Veho VCC-005-MUVI-HD10+

Tank Mounting The Veho VCC-005-MUVI-HD10+

One problem I’ve been having with my Veho HD10 camera is with the sound.  It seems that the microphone is very sensitive, and will even pick up sounds such as vibrations and movement through the casing if you tape it to anything, like I do.

The way to get around most of the sound issues is to either use the mounts supplied by Veho, or to make your own.  I decided to try using one of the ‘official’ Veho mounts.

This one has a strong sticky pad that I stuck onto the tank.  The glue is very strong and even just plonking it on there in the cold it stayed put confidently.  Ideally, you want to make sure it’s set by sticking it on and leaving it overnight to set properly.  There are several of these types supplied.

The camera and mount attaches to this with a velcro pad.  I chose this for easy removal, but as it turns out the extra ‘give’ of the velcro meant the camera has far too much free movement!  The actual mount itself has two connecting joints (you can add more or remove them as required) – make sure these are screwed in as tight as possible, as they do work loose so the camera position moves!

My petrol tank does move a little with engine vibrations, and this didn’t help matters.  Before I’d screwed the joints up REALLY hard, I found the camera started to lean backwards under acceleration so it was filming the sky, and went forwards under hard braking and over harsh bumps.  My advice is to use as few of the joints as you possibly can for maximum stability.

I have no interest whatsoever in filming my speedometer – I don’t use cameras to show off or prove anything, so I’m not a major fan of this set-up!  You may well love it, and it could be good on track.

To eliminate the excess movement you may also want to stick the camera mount directly to the tank, and not use the velcro pad like I did.  If you do this you can still remove the mount and camera quickly and easily, as they all slide and click in securely anyway.

Oh, and the camera itself screws into the mount nicely, with no need for tape, padding, or anything else.

Overall, the mounts are all very good and very easy to use, plus they’re quite adaptable.  They’re well thought out, but you need to have a think yourself about where best to put them and which to use.

So what’s next?  I didn’t like the tank mounted option because there’s just too much movement on my bike.  I think next I will stick one of the pads onto my top yoke and see how that goes.  I’m also tempted to get the suction mount and put that on the inside of the windscreen… I’m not sure on a bike there’ll be anywhere on the screen flat enough to get good purchase, though?

And I finally got around to putting the supplied CD-ROM into my laptop – there’s nothing special on it apart from an electronic copy of the user manual, so those who can’t get it to load aren’t missing anything here!

I’ll get more pics and video of my next run…

Veho VCC-005-MUVI-HD10+ Full Review After Onboard Test

Veho VCC-005-MUVI-HD10+ Full Review After Onboard Test


See this blog for my initial review of what you get and some tech specs: INITIAL REVIEW

The Veho VCC-005-MUVI-HD10+ comes with millions of mountings and attachments.  By far the best option for a sportsbike is to stick it near the front of the tank where it will have an excellent view of the clocks and through the screen.  Mounting it on the tailpiece would be quick and simple, too.  In fact, for a track bike there are loads of options!

For the road, however, I soon realised my options were far more limited.  I don’t want to film my speedo.  That’s far too easy to incriminate yourself when you’re pulled over doing 75mph and the Police view the footage.

My other big consideration is for a bit of stealth – and the HD10 just doesn’t allow this anywhere near as well as the smaller cams such as the Veho Muvi Pro or MD80.  Plus there’s the 1.5″ video screen which draws attention at the traffic lights.

In the end, I went back to duct tape and sponge, mounting the HD10 on the front of the brake reservoir in the same place I favoured for smaller cams.

This still isn’t ideal for fast installment and removal – such as when you stop for petrol and don’t want some Scrote grabbing your camera off the bike whilst you’re inside paying.  This is something I will work on.

The velcro strips are very useful for mounting and as extra ‘security’ measures in case the cam does fly off at 190mph.

I used a simple piece of foam between the cam and the brake reservoir, and vibrations were minimal.  The footage doesn’t go wavy at high revs or over bumps.  There is some jolting, but footage is still continuous and it seems good.

More of a problem is the sound.  I think it’s more sensitive than the smaller cams, which means it does pick up more, but the crisper sound also picks up a lot of wind noise.  I think the hole on the front cover is for the mic, and I will try and dampen it next time by putting some tape across and see how that helps.  It has potential.

The time/date stamp is still there, although smaller on the HD10 it’s still a totally unnecessary pisser.  It is easier to set and can be altered through the menu options at any time – but I don’t want it there at all!  For one it’s unsightly, and secondly it goes back to incriminating yourself by showing the exact time and date the footage was filmed.  It could work in your favour or very much against it, so I randomise any stamps on my cams.  PLEASE GET RID OF IT, VEHO!!!

To be honest, I wasn’t  as impressed with the video quality as I was expecting to be.  It is better than a Veho Muvi Pro, but not by much… that is until you watch it on a full-size TV, where the difference really shows!  It’s still a bit grainy – especially in poor light conditions (see my test video) but the widescreen is good.

The 160 degree fisheye-type lens isn’t as terrible as I thought it might be, and doesn’t distort the footage in ways that make it look weird and unwatchable.  It’s just about right.

Playback on a TV directly from the DH10 is very impressive.  There is no broken footage or waiting around for it to play.  I’ve only tested this with the USB cable into my Xbox, but I should imagine the HDMI connection is just as flawless.

In my test the HD10 was recording at 1.28GB for every 30 minutes of footage – and again Veho needlessly split the footage every 30 minutes.  It does this quickly and does offer some protection if a file goes corrupt, but I doubt anyone likes it.  Sort it out, Veho.  And I got a shock editing my video in Windows Media Player, as this cam records as a .mov file and not a .avi.  This may not be an issue with other software, but WMP has to convert all the file before you can even snip a 30 second chunk out to edit.  Having said this, the .avi’s from the Muvi Pro and MD80 wouldn’t play from the cam through the Xbox or video player, whereas these files WILL.  And this is a Very Good Thing!

What is impressive is battery life.  All these cams make a claim that you can halve and then it’s getting closer to the truth.  Veho claim ‘4 hours recording time’ for the HD10 and for my test I left it recording for well over 3 hours before it switched itself off… and I later noticed that this was because the memory card was full!  Four hours of recording seems very realistic – and possibly more!

So overall the Veho Muvi HD10+ is damned good, but a bit of a let-down in parts, for me.  It’s just about perfect for filming trackdays – aside from it not being waterproof – or other more overt uses.

It IS a good camera, and for the price there isn’t much that compares.  The next one up is a £250 GoPro, and the next one down is probably a Veho Muvi Pro for around £60, so it does sit nicely in the gap.  Would I buy one again?  Well… unless my budget extended to the GoPro (which is even less covert and awkward to mount anywhere for everyday road use), then I would have to say that I would.

I was just hoping Veho would have sorted out things like the file-splitting and especially the time/date stamp.

You may disagree and think it’s amazing – I just think that they could have done better…

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Click here for my review and comparison of: Keychain Spycam, MD80 and Veho Muvi Pro

VEHO VCC-005-MUVI-HD10+ Mini CamCorder – Initial Review

VEHO VCC-005-MUVI-HD10+ Mini CamCorder – Initial Review

I have a new cam!  I don’t know if it’s because it’s so new, but there is no information online about this yet that I can find?!

Anyway, Neru on my blog drew my attention to the fact that Veho have a new cam out – everyone seems to list the VCC-005-MUVI-HD7 but when I looked I could see a HD10 – with higher 1080 resolution – so I decided to pay the extra and get that one.

Most of you will have heard my high praises for the Veho Muvi Pro which I have used for around a year now.  There are some failings of this cam, but overall it’s better than the cheap MD80 copy, and for the price has never let me down.  Having used it there are features I’ve found I’ve needed, though, such as: ability to take an external mic (for narration whilst vlogging or overall better sound), GET RID OF THE -ING TIME/DATE STAMP, preview screen for alignment/playback, longer battery life, and higher resolution.

Well Veho have addressed some of these with a proper HD camera with (claimed) 4 hour (1400mah) battery life and a 1.5″ colour screen included!  In addition this had a remote control unit, digital 4x zoom, ability to take 32GB micro SD cards, 8MP still photographs (weirdly EVERY spec I’ve found says 5MP as per the HD7) and loads more!

I found one on Ebay for £129.99, and the temptation was too much.

First impression is that it comes as standard with loads of accessories – I’ve got 4x velcro straps, 2x stretchy straps, 2x flat mounting plates, 1 concave mounting plate, 1 velcro mounting plate, more sticky-backed velcro, and 3x different holder thingies!  More than what it says I should get, actually!

It also STILL HAS THE -ING TIME/DATE STAMP!!!  ARGHHH!!!  COME ON VEHO!!!

I was also a bit gutted to see it’s around four times bigger dimensionally than the Muvi – but I suppose that’s to be expected…  It just means crafting new mounting if I don’t get on with what’s supplied.

It looks well made.  I’m prodding it now and can’t tell if it’s case is metal or plastic because it’s coated in that grippy matt stuff.  I think it could be metal.  The touchscreen-type buttons on the rear are a bit too sensitive and easy to touch whilst it’s on.

This has full HD support with an HDMI out socket and AV out (untested) and the usual USB port for charging/data transfer.

An initial test run in the car showed it recorded for over 1 hour and the new battery level gauge was only exhausted by one third – so it seems reasonable to expect at least 3 hours.  This took over 3GB of memory from the 4GB card supplied, so a memory upgraded is highly recommended.  Recharge time (it also now tells you when the battery is fully charged by a flashing light which turns constant) seems to be an hour or less to replace the hour or so used.

It has sliders again for on/off and voice activation which is great to stop false in-pocket activation, and seems to wake up and record in around a second from the remote control.  Shutter speed for still pics is pretty slow but quality is good at 8MP.

Oh, and the other thing putting me off buying this camera is that it has a 160 degree lens, and so a bit fish-eyed!  This seems to be less intrusive than I thought, but until I get it on the bike I won’t know for sure.

Performance in the dark seems a bit poor.  Probably the same as the Muvi Pro, I think.  Very grainy even under flourescent lights, but daytime seems like the promised improvement.  Vibration whilst taped to my cars rear view mirror wasn’t a factor, and I have to say it appeared to pick up ambient sounds much better than the Muvi Pro.  Where the Muvi Pro barely picked up in-car conversation and virtually none of the engine noise, this HD10 picked up both.  It remains to be seen how it copes with the 12,500rpm roar and vibrations of a Kawasaki ZX9R superbike…

Specifications as given on www.veho-uk.com

Resolution Full HD 1080p
Cmos lens 5 Mega pixel    (***Surely this is 8MP??***)
Memory included 4GB (Micro SD) Max 32GB
Frame rate 30fps
Battery 1400mah Lithion rechargable
Angle 160 degrees
Screen 1.5″ LCD – Bright colour
Record time up to 3 hours continous recording
Wireless remote range 5 metres
Weight 81g
Dimensions H 80mm x W 47mm x D 19mm

Cam Study – Keychain Spycam, MD80 and Veho Muvi Pro

Cam Study – Keychain Spycam, MD80 and Veho Muvi Pro

A lot of people have been asking me advice on the various micro DV cameras that I’ve been using on the bike for the last 6 months.  A lot more people will probably be bored to death reading this, so if you’re one you should stop about now.

First off I have to say, as someone who was employed as a Covert Surveillance Specialist around five years ago, these micro DV cams are just mindblowing!  OK, so there is far better kit out there, but the main point is in terms of bang for your buck, the professional kit is very expensive, and these cost around twenty times less and the rest.  For filming stuff to upload to YouTube you just can’t beat these cheap little unreliable buggers from Ebay!

I originally bought mine for filming my trackday sessions.  After testing them out during daily road riding, I’ve found very quick and easy mounting methods that mean I’d be stupid not to use a camera on every journey I make.

As a biker I get to experience some very weird stuff on the roads, and some very close calls.  So far I’ve captured quite a few on these cameras, and there will be more to come.  Something worth remembering if you’re doing this is that if Mr Policeman sees your footage he may well try to use it against you in a court of Law.  Once you get over the initial “I have a camera on so must show off!” phase, this can work to the opposite extreme of helping your case in the event of an accident.

You can watch all my videos made with all the cams on YouTube here.

Now down to the stuff you want to know:

Keychain Spycam

Price: Under £10 delivered (Micro SD card required for #2 and #3 cameras)
Battery life: approx. 1 hour
Memory: 8GB internal on the #1 cams.  15 mins footage took approx 300MB.
8GB removable Micro SD card on the #3 (not included).  15 mins footage took approx 800MB.

I bought four of these in all – two of the #1 and two of the #3 type.  For in-depth tech specs and how to tell the difference click this link.
My favourite was the first #1 cam which filmed with the buttons pointing to the side, meaning I could slide it between the cheek padding of my helmet and it was ready to go.

I used this all through Winter and it was great.  The sound I think is actually the best of all the cams I’ve tested here – it’s not as badly affected by wind noise, either.

This cam died after 4 months of daily use.  It crashes when you try to record and all the lights stay on until the battery runs out…  Shame.  The other #1 appears to still work but is rarely used.

The two #3 cams never really worked.  Used on bike the vibrations switched them off, and when it didn’t a full battery charge only gave around 20 mins of footage.  This could be down to the very cold Winter we had…

The #3 cameras were significantly better in terms of picture quality, but ultimately unreliable in my test, which is why I bought gave up on the keychain cameras.

Veho Muvi Pro

Price:  £65 (4GB micro SD card included, plus extra mounting clips)
Battery life: 1 hour.
Memory:  8GB removable Micro SD card (not included).  15 mins footage is approx. 800MB.

I received the Veho and the MD80 within a few days of each other, so had a good chance to use them back to back and at the same time.

You can instantly tell that the Veho has far better build quality than the MD80.  For a start the Veho has a metal case.  This makes it weigh a fair bit more, but so far hasn’t been an issue at all.  The Veho also has slides for the on/off function and voice activation, which means there’s much less chance of accidentally switching it on/off by pressing the button on the top.

The picture quality is much better than the keychain cams, and also better than the MD80.  Is it £50 better, though…?

To date there have been no problems whatsoever with the Veho.  Battery doesn’t seem to be deteriorating at all, and it seems as good as the day I got it.

MD80 on the left, Veho Muvi Pro on the right.


MD80

Price:  Under £15 (separate micro SD card required, extra mounting clips included)
Battery life:  1 hour.
Memory:  8GB removable Micro SD card (not included).  15 mins footage is approx. 800MB.

Is there an advantage over the Veho Muvi Pro?  Well it records in a wider screen resolution…

The MD80 seems more affected by vibrations than the Veho, but that’s using my very basic mounting (i.e. taping it to the bike with a bit of foam behind it), so I’m sure could be sorted out quite easily.  The vibrations affect the sound – it’s also worth saying that the MD80 records sound at a lower (quieter) level than the Veho, but in the right place picks up speech clearer.

I’ve had a few problems with the MD80.  Firstly, occasionally it randomly fills the card with fragmented hidden files, meaning everything looks fine except it won’t switch to Record.  Deleting these files makes it all work fine again.

Secondly I think the battery is deteriorating slightly.  Occasionally it will crash when transferring/deleting files, and the only way to do anything about it is to eject the micro SD card and switch it off.

For more info on operating the MD80 have a look here: http://md80instructions.co.uk

Extra things To Consider

The USB leads on the Chinese cameras are made of old shoelaces and Fail.  The best thing to do is to bin them straight away to save yourself the hassles.  Sometimes they will seem absolutely fine, but won’t charge the cam when plugged in, so it looks like the camera is broken and has stopped working.  They’ll cause all kinds of other problems, too, and no doubt many people have scrapped perfectly good cameras simply because they didn’t try using a different USB lead!

On all of these cameras, the Time/Date stamp is a permanent fixture that you can’t get rid of.  I don’t know why, because surely it’s harder NOT to have a time/date stamp than it is to have one?  Anyway, the link to all the techy stuff I posted way up there tells you all you need to know about trying to get around this, or indeed how to set them.  You’ll notice I don not set these, because why would I want to make it easier for anyone to track my antics in a legal dispute?

There are lots of Micro SD cards around.  Apparently, for the best use in a video camera you should get a Class 6 card.  I bought two from China for around £12 for 8GB labelled as Class 6 and they work fine.  However, it is worth noting that the Veho Muvi Pro came with a 4GB Class 4 card.  There is absolutely no difference between them, as far as I can tell.

Something that scuppered my earlier comparisons was that I uploaded some videos at home on a Windows 7 system, and some at work on Windows XP.  Personally, I use Windows Movie Maker to edit my footage, and here lies the problem:  Earlier versions of WMM DO NOT produce HD videos!  This basically means that unless you’re using WMM on Windows 7 you’re producing crap quality videos, and YouTube will make them even worse for you!  I also have Corel VideoStudio 12, which seems good but isn’t as intuitive as WMM.  In short – make sure you get video software capable of producing HD videos or you’ll have crap upload footage.

Whilst some of the Keychain Spycams work fine in a helmet, if you ride a sportsbike you don’t realise how much you look up with your eyes until you film 40 minutes footage of the ground, missing the dump truck that pulled out on you, all your knee-downs, and the owl that splattered on your visor.  To get around this I found in my AGV Stealth helmet I had to mount the Veho and MD80 upside down.  This isn’t a problem as most video editing software have a ‘Rotate film 90 degrees’ type function much like for pictures, so you just flip it the right way up when you edit it.


Conclusion

They are ALL great for the money!  I think there most likely will be a similar progression through the cameras like I made, with the Keychain cams being an entrance point.

More importantly, I have to ask myself which I would buy if I needed a second camera?  And my answer without hesitation would be to shell out the extra money for a Veho.  They have a much better external build quality that you can’t help but think will be to the same standard on the inside, and if they’re not then you have some come-back if you buy directly from them or one of the many reputable merchants who stock them.

Whichever you choose, you’re stepping into a future that’s put a lot of Private Investigators out of business, and though sometimes frustrating at times, all of these cameras are awesome bits of kit!

The Great Cam Experiment | ZX9R in the snow - covert helmet cam Jan 2010 | Nasty Evil Ninja

The Great Cam Experiment | Knee-down on clutch cam! | Nasty Evil Ninja

Spring, Tunnels and Tracks

Spring, Tunnels and Tracks

It’s actually a bit sunny today.  No snow at all!  Could it be the start of Spring??

To say I’m getting the itch to do a track day again would imply that the itch had ever actually gone away since I last thraped a bike around Oulton Park – but on days like today I start to cast my beady eye over real dates.

I even went for a ride around at lunch in the sun!

Of course, the World Superbike season kicked off yesterday – being a Pauper and only having Freeview TV channels I haven’t seen it yet.  I’ve downloaded one race and will hopefully watch the other on the website tonight.  Either way, after the long boredom of Winter, motor racing is finally back!

I’ve been itching to try out the new covert cameras that I intend to mount to my bike (you’ve all seen my helmet cam videos now, right?), and got around to it this weekend.

I have a slight dilemma of where and how to mount them, but looking for the easy option as usual I noticed that the brake fluid reservoir has a flat, upright surface behind the screen.  I got some foam to try and cut vibrations down and taped the sucker to it for a trial run!

I was a bit worried about how much of the view I’ll lose to counter-steering.  For those who don’t know (and it should be most of you because I had no idea until after I’d had a bike for a while), when you ride a bike at anything other than falling off speed, you actually turn the handlebars in the opposite direction to the one that you want to turn in.  Most of you will have doen the same thing on a bicycle without knowing it…  The problem with this is that if the camera is mounted on the brake reservoir (which in turn is mounted on the handlebar), will it leave the camera pointing at the sky when I’m banked over in the turns?

I headed out on the wet roads to Birmingham City Centre.

There are a series of tunnels on the ring road, where of course sporty machinery sounds bloody marvellous!  To my extreme pleasure, a Porsche, Audi RS4 and a Z350 all went flying by into the tunnels, and so it would have been rude not to catch up and have a play!

It sounded awesome!

Unfortunately, both the new cam and the helmet cam both failed to get any footage of this at all.  Bastard!

On the test footage I did get the sound goes really weird above about 5mph.  Maybe it’s vibrations so it might be fixable…

I’ll try a few more ideas and then switch to a new mounting point…

Ahh well – at least it looks like we’re on our way towards warm sunshine and hot, grippy roads again at last!