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(Tested Jan 2009)

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"Self Contained" Sport Video Cams

Self contained cams are very intriguing. They are all trying to offer a simple, all in one solution. No wires, no tapes, just ease of use. What are the advantages and disadvantages to such systems? Each company has their own approach, and thus each will have it's strengths and weaknesses.

Below are some of the most popular "sport cams" in the industry today.

Hero GoPro, Oregon Scientific ATC5K, Tachyon XC and the VholdR

Let's start with a few spec's on these cams. This should help you at a glance:
Green is good,
Red is not as I'd like.


Hero GoPro (5mp)

Oregon Scientific ATC5K

Tachyon XC


sug. retail price





sensor size





video FPS





FOV - degrees**

54 or 170



90 - excellent


yes, but see test

yes, but see test

yes, but see test


still photo










different mounts?



yes - issues













yes - 100ft

yes - 10ft

yes - 28ft

no, but resistant

internal memory





add'l memory

SD up to 2GB

SD up to 4GB

SD & SDHC to 32GB

up to 2GB micro SD


2 x AAA

2 x AA

2 x AA

LiIon rechargeable

TV out port





USB port





approx. size L"xW"xH"





weight w/bat's





interesting notes:

photo interval timer,

preview/playback monitor,

shock proof,

Rotate-able lens,


good waterproofing,

lots of mounts included

robust housing

laser pointer for


 small size


alignment, slide


switch for record


Hero GoPro (5mp)

Oregon Scientific ATC5K

Tachyon XC


Image clarity




slightly soft

Color quality

very good

very good

very good

**under saturated


good (+)



**fair (-)

Lighting compensation

very good



very good

Sound quality


fair (-)


very good

Mounting system(s)


fair (+) includes many!

needs work


***Battery life

2hrs w/lithium


3.5/alk - 11.5 lithium



* With housings sealed the audio is poor, with housings open good to very good.


** Can be corrected in your video editing with satisfactory results.


*** As per Mfg 



Field of view (FOV). I have found that between 80 and a 100 degree field of view (FOV) is the best for all around use. more than 120 degrees is really wide and less than 70 is pretty narrow, depending on your particular application (mine is usually MT biking, sailing or Kayaking).

Note: All these cams are CMOS chipped. For an explanation of CMOS chips vs. CCD chips go HERE.

First impressions

Hero GoPro: This is a tiny camera with some interesting features. The actual camera looks a bit delicate and the battery door a bit flimsy, but probably a moot point since it fit's inside a very cool waterproof (to a claimed 100 feet!) casing. The base model is a wrist strap set-up and they have expansion kits for many mounting options. They also have a 170 degree WIDE lens option (a comparison of the two later) and pretty sturdy mount system. The camera itself is tiny! It's square shape may not be as cool on top of a helmet but other aspects look to make up for that... like it works very nicely as a rear facing cam on the back of my seat.

Oregon Scientific ATC5K: This is the newest version of the ATC_K lineup and now sports a cool preview/playback monitor. This is great for getting things set up and knowing what you really are going to be recording. All other cams in this testing are "point and pray"... although the VholdR does have some laser pointers to help. This kit also comes inclusive of many different mounts and a nice small remote.

Tachyon XC: This cam looks tough and that is what the website tout's. Interesting layout with a very secure and waterproof rear closure hatch. The initial testing of the mounting system revealed a lot of play, which may end up being it's Achilles' heal...  (I was notified shortly after posting this that they are working on a new helmet mount that will be supplied to all purchasing customers around Feb.) The AVI file format is nice drag-n-drop. It does have a remote, but I'm a bit puzzled as to why the remote is almost as big as the camera.

VholdR: This is new and interesting approach to a cam system. The most interesting are the rotating lens, slide on/off switch and rail mount system. It also has (in my opinion) the best field of view in this group (90 degrees), it is also light weight and fairly compact. The laser sighting system is a great ay to see where it's pointed - the more I use, the more I like. (This system can be seen strapped to the heads of sharks in the directors cut version of the first Austin Powers movie). I do foresee difficulties with said mounting system, not because of it's rail design, but the movement between the rail clip and Velcro mount base. (again, any movement is not good). Also, the overall physical quality seems a little "unfinished" and I'm not really fond of the slide on rear rubber hatch, but it works. Note: If you are using Windows Media Player you will need to download a codec to view your video, or install the VholdR software off their site. I used this codec HERE.

It's too bad that the "standard" field of view chosen by the manufacturers seems to be between 50 and 55 degrees. With this FOV camera shake is increased and the sense of your surroundings, including the feel of speed, is reduced. GoPro offers a 170 degree view, but that is on the other extreme. (comparison of the two later).

So much for the pleasantries... on with the testing!

Handlebar testing: My first round of testing was with handlebar mounts supplied by all the manufacturers. My above observations above were fairly on the mark on the mounts that had play in them. I have many, MANY hours of bike mounted video and the best mount is a totally rigid, non moving or flexing mount. Any flex cause a kind of "whiplash" effect which dramatically decreases the stability of the video... a solid mount works great even on my hard tail MT bike.

Testing four cams at the same time to get the same view.

In general all the cams produce a pretty good image. The VholdR cam has the best FOV (90 degrees), but the image is on the light, unsaturated side. (can be corrected somewhat in the editing process). All the other cams have much richer colors, but have a much too narrow FOV (in my opinion).

There are definitely some handlebar mount issues on the Tachyon and the ATC5K. The Hero GoPro and VholdR did much better, but I think all the mounts could definitely benefit if they were more solid.

Handlebar mount side-by-side test
The handlebar mount side by side test video is HERE.

As you may end up viewing these clips multiple times PLEASE right click and "save as" to your own computer and help save my band width!!!

Note: There is some break-up in the VholdR video - Please note this was MY software issue, not their unit! (I went back to the raw footage and it was fine).

I will do individual helmet mount tests shortly to get a more stable video sample, but this will give you a good idea of the color, clarity, Field Of View etc.

Lighting compensation test
Lighting compensation test video is HERE.

As you will see the GoPro and VholdR handle a dramatic light change pretty well. There is some slight "exposure flutter", but that is probably the trade off of being able to rapidly change to various lighting conditions. The VholdR is, as mentioned before is on the under-saturated and underexposed side all together. The ATC5K and Tachyon act very similarly to each other in that they take much longer to compensate for lighting changes and thus the sky gets blown out. Note that they do compensate and will give you a properly exposed image, it just takes longer.

Overall: In this particular test I think the GoPro is on top (although I wish the FOV was more like 90 degrees). It has rich colors, good contrast and handles the lighting changes. The VholdR with it's 90 degree FOV, less flutter and ability to handle the changes is a very strong second followed by the ATC5K and Tachyon. I do really like the richness of color on both the ATC5K and the Tachyon and that should not be discounted.

Audio testing

A note about sound: I have found that in reality I use very little of the original sound if I'm editing a short action film. For instance in mountain biking I'll use some of the original sound of people talking before the action starts and maybe interject a little here or there. The biggest problem with action sports and audio is wind noise, even with top end units and stand alone microphones. It is very difficult if not impossible to overcome wind noise, especially in these self contained units. An example of my typical editing style and the use of sound is HERE.

About these units. Making a unit waterproof and yet able to pick up any reasonable sound is apparently a tough cookie in a self contained unit**. Basically the non-waterproof VholdR easily wins the audio testing, the ATC5K had some sound and the GoPro and Tachyon were little more than muffled noises. (listen VERY closely, there IS audio, but just barely audible).

Just for comparison I popped the backs on the GoPro and Tachyon and then they sounded pretty good, the Tachyon the better of the two. Just a note, in the instructions of the GoPro they say you can remove the rubber o-ring off the back - thus it is no longer waterproof - and get better audio. I wondered the same about the Tachyon and I have inquired but it's o-ring looks a bit more permanent.

To hear what I'm talking about on these units go to the Audio test. (right click, save as)

My Camclusions:

Hero GoPro        O.S. ATC5K      Tachyon XC      VholdR 

Some example video  (please right click and "save as")
Hero GoPro
- rear facing seat mounted HERE
VholdR - Helmet mounted  (Note the tweaking on the color and contrast in editing) HERE

ATC5K & Tachyon - helmet mounted comparison, short sample video HERE

I'm not going to "rate" these cameras per se and declare a "winner" (that is for YOU to decide) but will simply point out the pro's and con's of each unit as I've experience them thus far.

Hero GoPro - Pro's:

  • I liked it's simplicity

  • It has a very waterproof housing

  • The interval photo timer is unique and functional

  • Has "invert video" feature (can mount it upside down)

  • Great price (base wrist unit)

  • It's got good color

  • Available in a wide angle model.

  • If you take it out and remove it from it's case the sound works great and it's tiny!

  • Pretty good mounting system(s)

  • Light weight

  • Drag-n-drop AVI files


  • Narrow FOV - only 54 degrees

  • It's a "brick" style camera, you'll love it or hate it. I've found I don't particularly like it on my helmet, but works great for a rear pointing view off my MT bike tucked under my seat.

  • You may have noticed in the videos that while panning the image jumps. Not sure what causes this but if you are using this as a camcorder it would be an issue, if as helmet cam or seat post cam I did not notice it.

  • Oh, you will need a buddy to tell you if the red record light is flashing, you can barely hear the record and stop "beeps" through the waterproof case.

  • Uses disposable batteries

  • Sound basically non existent in the waterproof case.

  • What I'd change: Make the FOV 80-100 degrees standard. Insert std 1/4 x 20 camera tripod thread in base and/or back and/or top of unit.


ATC5K - Pro's:

  • Has pre-view/play back screen

  • Somewhat usable audio

  • kit includes helmet mount and many others

  • color and clarity are very good

  • Can hear on/off beeps clearly

  • Quick mount/disconnect system

  • Cam can be rotated within it's mount

  • Drag-n-drop AVI files

  • Has remote and it's very small (not waterproof)


  • Narrow FOV - only 53 degrees

  • Weight - the penalty for the cool LCD view screen

  • Mounts are OK, but the weight makes them move more than it should to get steady video

  • Light compensation on the slow side

  • Uses disposable batteries

  • What I'd change: Make the FOV 80-100 degrees standard. Any way to reduce weight would help, an 8oz helmet mounted cam gets tiring after a while and makes it more unstable.


Tachyon XC - Pro's:

  • Great price

  • Very sturdy unit - "shock proof"

  • Good color/contrast

  • HUGE file storage capability (up to 32gb SDHC)

  • Nice audible record/stop beep

  • Waterproof to 28 feet

  • "Rail mount" system

  • Drag-n-drop AVI files

  • Has remote - but is huge


  • Very narrow FOV - only 50 degrees

  • The rail system works OK but mount system needs work. I did a quick mod to the helmet mount and it then worked great.

  • Handlebar mount is way too tall and does not grip the bar, basically unusable.

  • Record on/off button a little hard to feel (if helmet mounted)

  • On the heavy side. Even with my sturdy helmet mount I had significant video jarring on bumpy terrain.

  •  Uses disposable batteries

  • Poor sound, almost unusable

  • What I'd change: Increase FOV to 80-100 degrees. Work on mounting system. Insert std 1/4 x 20 camera tripod thread in base of unit.


VholdR - Pro's:

  • Excellent FOV - 90 degrees, about perfect in my book.

  • Excellent on/off slider record switch with audible beeps.

  • Very functional laser alignment system.

  • Rotatable lens (horizontal or vertical positioning)

  • Rechargeable LiIon battery - nice

  • Rail mount system - (see con also)

  • Good lighting compensation

  • Light weight


  • Image is unsaturated with low contrast and will need correction when you edit.

  • The actual mount (not the rails) are too loose (uses Velcro interface) I cured this by grafting it to my NiteRider helmet mount - worked awesome. Sturdy and low profile.

  • Must install VholdR software or download codec to view files.

  • Housing a little on the "unfinished" side

  • Not waterproof

  • Price

  • What I'd change: Increase the color saturation and contrast. Get rid of the Velcro interface on the mounting system. Insert std 1/4 x 20 camera tripod thread in base and/or sides of unit.

The Bottom Line:

All the cams have issues here or there. I hope I have shed light on your ability to pick the cam that is right for you. We do not sell cams on this site but if you think you might purchase a cam we've reviewed or want additional information, please help by clicking on a Google ad to the right.

Thank you!