Mobius HD Action Camera Review/Mounting

Mobius HD Action Camera Review/Mounting

I’ve used cameras on my bike for around 6 years, now, eschewing the ‘popular’ (i.e. expensive) cameras in favour of the cheaper options.  I’ve also found that the cheaper cameras are smaller, and so more covert to use.

Whilst looking for a new helmet camera, someone on a bike forum mentioned the new Mobius HD Action Camera.

It’s designed by the same people as the very first Keychain Spycam I used all those years ago.

It’s far smaller than the rest (although bigger than the Keychain Spycam), and a more sensible shape for most fitments than Go Pro’s and the like.  It was also boasting some extremely impressive HD 1080p quality.

The more I read, the more I liked: 80 min battery life – but you are also able to record whilst using external power, great low light resolution, super-wide lens available as standard, and a promise that this is a camera FOR THE PEOPLE.  As such, there is a user designed software set up package and the whole shebang is still being actively developed.  And a good price of £50-£90 depending on where you buy from.

The only thing stopping me buying it was the lack of waterproofing or any cases for it.  This makes it pretty useless most of the time for what I want it for.

Then, after keeping my eye on things for a few months, I saw mention on a forum that JooVuu have created a custom waterproof case for the Mobius – and so I ordered a camera and case.

The Mobius has been developed primarily for use on radio controlled planes and helicopters, because of its small size and light weight.

My ultimate plan was for something to use on the Formula Vee race car this season – and being able to use it on the bike would be a bonus.

Mounting it on the car won’t be an issue (I’m thinking on top of the roll hoop so it give a view ahead and down into the cockpit), but for the bike it posed more problems.

As an initial test I used the supplied Velcro mount stuck on top of my helmet.  This works fine, but wind noise is a major problem – and there is no external mic.  In the waterproof case the wind noise is massively improved, but the overall sound is also far quieter, so you can’t hear much of the bike engine, for example.

The problem was trusting the extra weight when the camera was in the waterproof case…

I ordered a few new mounts, deciding I’d use a permanent stick-on mount screwed into the camera.

As you can see, this took me back to the whole Go Pro situation of looking like a damned Telly Tubby with the camera sticking out the top of my head!

I couldn’t live with this, so found some sturdier Velcro, unscrewed the bolt mount from the waterproof case, and went back to the tried and tested Velcro method.

This is still far less covert than an MD80 hidden behind my tinted visor, but it’s just about acceptable.

All seems pretty stable using just the Velcro up to speeds that wouldn’t be legal off a race track, but I’m sure there would be an upper limit where things might depart company, but it would take a lot.  How fast to RC planes go, anyway?  120mph plus?

So the Mobius Action Camera itself is well impressive.  File size is quite large (about 1.4GB per 15 minutes), but not too bad in comparison to other action cameras.  You would be wise to choose a 32GB card for it, though.  Incidentally, the software program will allow you to set recording to chunks of 10, 15 or 20 minutes.  There is no gap between the files.  There is also an ‘max’ option which will record up to 4GB to each file, but I found reviewing footage could freeze – probably down to my system limitations than anything with the camera, and all footage was useable.

The only fault I can really find is the picture is a bit blurry/pixelated in the bottom right hand side. It just looks like there’s something on the lens, but is such a small area it’s not a worry.  Also, the spare lens covers supplied with the JooVuu case are pretty scratched up (See comment below – I now know there is a protective sticker you’re supposed to remove- doh!).  You can’t see any difference in picture quality when using the case, and I’m sure dropping a quick email to JooVuu’s excellent customer support would mean a few replacements being sent out – I haven’t done this as it really isn’t an issue.

I’d definitely recommend the Mobius Action Camera to anyone, and the fact that it is still being developed for the end user by Mobius and third parties like JooVuu is extremely impressive, and bodes well for the future of this fantastic camera.

 

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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

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