Action cameras are typically fixed focus, rugged, 'bullet' style cameras that allow hands-free shooting of sporting activities. Some require an AV-in capable camcorder while others are standalone units - like the Oregon Scientific AT2K. Typically, this family of standalone units, to which the VIO POV.1 belongs, record to memory cards and the POV.1 (Point Of View) is no different.
However, what sets the POV.1 apart from other standalone units is an LCD screen, enabling instant playback of footage in the field. But this functionality comes at a price. At just under £600, the POV.1 is a serious investment.
Design and layout
The comparative expense of the POV.1 is almost immediately justified when you open up the box. For starters, the camera ships with its own semi-rigid carry case. Every conceivable necessity is included: LCD screen protector; four AA batteries; CD-based manual and software; multiple mounts; cable ties; and a 1GB SD card.
The hardware itself is equally well considered. The bullet camera is a sleek unit that carries audio and video to the recording device in a single cable. This cable is a tough, screw-fit design both ends, all but eliminating the danger of disconnecting camera from recorder during shooting. The cable is also marked either end for idiot-proof connection, and the camera is marked for orientation.
The camera can be mounted using the included 'Picatinny' rail system (popular on firearms) and mounts (wide flange or tubular rail) or you can opt to improvise, as we often did, by using the included zip ties.
The recorder itself is a chunky unit. Below the screen are three contextual 'soft keys' whose function depends upon the current screen (à la mobile phones). Below them are a further three keys for 'play', 'record' and 'settings'. Beneath those is the power button. All the keys have a wonderful positive click when operated. Even with cold digits there is no mistaking their activation.
Although loaded with practical flourishes, the POV.1's major selling point is the wireless remote. This unobtrusive device is worn like a watch, allowing remote 'tagging' of footage.
The POV.1 records in any one of three quality settings (high, medium or low) at resolutions from 720 x 480 down to 320 x 240. It also offers a variety of frame rates: 15, 24, 25 or 30 frames per second and varying aspect ratios. Besides conventional recording, it's possible to specify a 'loop' duration.
The camera then records continuously in these loops, overwriting previous loops unless the user tags a loop (effectively saving it) with the wrist remote. It's an empowering way to capture footage, as it's no longer necessary to keep fingers poised over 'record' all day long.
In operational terms, the POV.1 is largely difficult to criticise, but we do have one niggle to mention. Although the recorder provides obvious feedback through the power LED (orange = booting up; green = standby; flashing red = recording; and so on), there is no feedback on the wrist remote. Therefore, with the recorder stowed away, if the wrist remote has been pressed, you may have doubts as to whether the camera is actually recording.
The POV.1 records footage to an SD card. The resultant files are MPEG4-based AVI files. Generally, the quality of these files is very good, far superior to other SD card based action cameras like the Oregon Scientific AT2K. However, the nature of MPEG based compression becomes woefully apparent for any application that doesn't provide a stable base for the camera. Action footage such as running or mountain biking, for example, is noticeably poorer than equivalent footage recorded straight to DV.
At present, the POV.1 is amongst the finest SD-based action cams on the market. But, consider the application itself: for smooth and stable platforms, the slight lack of visual clarity imposed by MPEG-based recording is a fair trade off for the footage the POV.1 affords. Users looking to capture more erratic activities will be better served with DV-based offerings for now.