Oregon Scientific ATC Mini Action Camera - Review / Opinion
It is a waterproof camera that takes movies and stills and essentially competes with the GoPro in the sport cam market. As soon as you take it out of the packaging you notice the essential differences between it and the GoPro HD Hero: it feels cheaper (but, hey, it is a lot cheaper), it doesn't have a digital screen, it's waterproof in itself and doesn't require a waterproof housing and it's essentially a 'tube' with a camera on the end rather than the GoPro's boxy design with lens on the front.
It was the shape of the camera that immediately appealed to me because the footage I've wanted to get is 'eye view' and to do this with a GoPro you have to strap it to your forehead which sticks out like a sore thumb. With the ATC Mini you could have it by your ear. If there was a mount that is - and there isn't. So I made my own (by sewing two pieces of elastic to a hood - one to loop round the front and one to loop through the rear clamp). It's a bit ramshackle and also got my right eye in the footage but it did the job. Note to Oregon: I think if you made a side of the head mount, or hood with integrated mount/pocket, it could make the camera preferable to people who don't want a camera stuck on their forehead or on top of a helmet. If it was integrated into a neoprene hood it could actually be pretty discrete and not distracting. When surfing with a camera it is the distraction that is the biggest issue - the more you can 'forget about' a camera while surfing, the better.
You can see where the GoPro HD Hero 2 wins out - resolution and having a digital readout so you can adjust the settings. However, the ATC Mini's simplicity: one click video record button, one click photo button or click and hold the photo button for a nine pic burst will be preferable to many users. I liked the fact that there wasn't too much to think about. With the cam on the side of my head I found I could operate it easily (even with 5mm neoprene gloves on) and having it by my ear meant I could hear the beeps which told me if I was starting recording or stopping etc. The only thing that drove me crazy when setting it up was the ridiculous way you're supposed to set the date and time: you have to put the date and time into a correctly formatted text file, copy it onto the memory card (not supplied by the way) then start up the camera and it should read the data and apply it. I tried repeatedly but all my files came in dated 1970. I work on computers all day and usually manage to work this sort of thing out but I couldn't do it. Good luck to everyone else! This was the only thing about the cam that I've found as a sincere let down/annoyance.
On the plus side, as well as the camera working well and enjoying the shape of its design I found the lens didn't fog up. Whenever I have used my GoPro the housing has fogged after an hour or so - but this didn't appear to be an issue with the ATC Mini. Ok - so onto the footage: I paddled out at Combesgate on a foggy afternoon and spent an hour or two getting dropped in on by Rob Adderley.
One thing you MUST bear in mind is that I have cropped the surf footage so that my right eye is not in the frame - this means that the resolution is not as high as the camera is capable of (which is 1280x720) so do not judge the quality of the ATC Mini based on the quality in my video. The first frames in the car show better resolution/quality - all the surf footage is lower. And the fog didn't help either! I found the quality of image to be good - and you see when I duckdive that the camera adjusts well/quickly to the lighting change whereas the GoPro seemed to go black then white and take longer. That said, I have used the camera in very different lighting and weather conditions so I don't think there is any evidence yet to really show whether one is better than the other in terms of light reaction. So please be clear: I am a surfer playing with a camera, not a video cameraman in the surf. My opinions are more about usablility for the average surfer, wanting to have fun getting a bit of footage, not about a professional wanting to use a waterproof camera to get some film for a professional HD movie project.
All in all if you want to save some cash and go for a simple, small and fun point and shoot waterproof camera the ATC Mini might be the better choice, however, if you want the highest possible resolution from a more expensive piece of kit, with more options/settings, the GoPro HD Hero 2 will probably be more your thing.
If you're interested in buying an Oregon Scientific ATC Mini Action Camera then follow this link: