The POV.HD features a rather different design than other cameras like the GoPro HD Hero
and the Contour GPS
. It offers an impressively small (glass) lens and sensor assembly that connects via cable back to an unfortunately sizable recording unit. This is where the magic happens, raw footage transcoded and stored into an SD card that slots in.
It's powered by four whole AA batteries that fit in there too, hiding behind a somewhat clumsy to remove door on the back. The memory card is tucked away beneath another door at the base, which is difficult to dislodge without a screwdriver or a coin or something equally capable of prying. If that's not enough, there's a screw you can thread in to make sure that little door isn't going anywhere.
The whole assembly is impressively durable feeling and waterproof, but it's also rather bulky. For that bulk you get a postage stamp sized LCD which is just big enough to see where the camera is pointed and to do a quick review of the footage you've gathered. You won't be able to tell if the exposure settings are correct, sadly, but you can probably tell if you've mounted things upside down.
Exposure settings are just one of the many options you can tweak through the menu, including recording resolution, recording quality, volume levels, and even what file format to encode the footage in. Sure, you only have two choices, MP4 or Quicktime, but that's better than being stuck with whatever the manufacturer liked best.
The POV.HD comes in a big, zippered case with room for lots of different mounts and zip-ties and double-sided tape, a big mess of stuff that should cover you in just about any situation. But, in most cases, will do so in rather less graceful way than the mounting solutions for the more consumer-friendly GoPro or Contour offerings.
This is a more professional-oriented camera, and so most of the mounts here require some sort of tools. A Phillips screwdriver, mostly, which sadly V.I.O. didn't see fit to include in that giant case. There are lots of fiddly screws and nuts that you'll probably lose on your first trip to the park, so you'd best spend a few minutes at home setting up whatever mounts you need.
The most common is the helmet mount, which attaches using either double-sided tape or, interestingly, some curiously strong magnets -- which themselves must mount to the helmet using a bracket and some double-sided tape. There's also a standard threaded receiver that lets you use a variety of standard mounts, including the conveniently protracted an bendy RAM suction mount we used to capture the footage you see here.
Though the mounts are a bit clumsy the camera itself is easy to use. It takes about two seconds to turn on and, after that, just hit the record button and tuck away the big recording device. Finding somewhere to tuck it can be a problem, though, as it's a bit too long to fit in many inside jacket pockets. It's a little hefty, too, weighing about three quarters of a pound with four batteries, so it has a tendency to work its way out of un-zipped pockets should you be getting jostled about a lot -- like when you're strapped into a body-crushing motion simulator
But, if you can find a place to stuff it, it sure captures some great footage. The lens is super wide, 142 degrees approaching fisheye territory here, gobbling up your surroundings and doing so with impressive clarity. We did notice a little excessive dithering in high-contrast areas, and there's a bit of jelly-vision to contend with if the lens will be vibrating from left-to-right a lot, but ultimately the POV.HD video quality easily out-paces the more consumer-friendly competition. Battery life, just short of three and a half hours at maximum resolution and quality on a fresh set of Eneloops, is solid, too.
Is the POV.HD for you? Well, do you have deep pockets, both in a literal and figurative way? You're going to need them, because it can be a little hard to find a good place to stuff that recording unit. And, of course, it can be a little hard to find an excuse to spend $600 when the Contour and GoPro options capture footage at the same resolution for half the price, and offer simple and tool-free mounts.
But, though though the footage they capture may contain the same number of pixels, it won't look this good, won't be this wide, and won't be this clear, especially in lower light. They won't manage three and a half hours to a charge, either. If you have a suitable cushion in your shooting budget and can live with the bulk the POV.HD is a good choice -- just make sure you pack a screwdriver.