Oregon Scientific ATC Mini Action Camera - Review / Opinion

Well would ya look at that! The nice people at Oregon sent me an ATC Mini Action Camera to try out. It's worth making a tart of yourself blogging away after all!

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:


  1. Setting the time & date on this camera isn't explained very well in the included Chinese/cryptic directions, but it's actually easy to do.

    The secret is placing the SETTINGS.txt file into the card’s root, which MUST be done before you insert the SD card into the camera, because once you put the SD card into the camera and connect it to your PC the camera will automatically create the folders it uses, and at that point it would be impossible to place the SETTINGS.txt file into root ABOVE those folders.

    If your SD card already has folders on it, then you need to reformat the SD card and start over, which is easy to do on a Mac (I haven't done it on a windoze PC).

    I put the SD card directly into my Mac-mini's card slot (using an adapter), and then after reformatting the SD card using my Mac's Disk Utility (1 partition & choose Fat) to erase the camera's folders on the card, using TextEdit you then create a file called SETTINGS.txt (caps sensitive) and fill in the date/time/Hz as directed by the instructions:

    60Hz (American power is 60 Hz)

    The time is in 24 hour time, and you need to give yourself a few minutes to save the SETTINGS.txt file to the SD card and remove the card, then wait (for example) to put the card into the camera, and then plug the camera into your Mac precisely at 7:34 pm to match the time in the SETTINGS.txt file you've created.

    If your PC or Mac doesn’t have a built-in card reader you’ll need to buy one (or buy a fresh SD card), because the SETTINGS.txt file on the SD card must be done BEFORE the camera can automatically create the folders it uses. After the camera creates its folders over the SETTINGS.txt file you’ll no longer see it, but the time & date will now work correctly.


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