A hands-free video camera for chronicling your sporting adventures.
Unless you’re talented enough to be sponsored by an extreme sports drink, you probably don’t have a camera crew recording your sporting lifestyle. Consequently, any self-starring videos you make are limited to stuff you can do with one hand. While it’s theoretically possible to strap a full-sized camcorder to your head while abseiling, skiing or kayaking, we wouldn’t really recommend it. This is where Elmo’s SUV-cam II comes in.
- Small and lightweight design, good size-to-performance ratio, waterproof camera head, 3.5mm microphone jack
- Price, light on bundled extras, onboard microphone is poorly implemented
The Elmo SUV-cam II is a solid hands-free video camera that easily matches anything else on the market. Small, durable and weatherproof, it is particularly suited to outdoor sporting fans. However, the steep price tag means that only ultra-hobbyists need apply.
Price$ 1,250.00 (AUD)
Weighing an agreeably portable 130g and measuring just 56x30x102mm, the Elmo SUV-cam II has been tailor-made for hands-free video. The kit consists of a lipstick-sized camera head that attaches via cable to a standard-definition recording unit, complete with a 2.2in LCD screen. In terms of design, it kind of looks like a miniaturised Proton Pack from Ghost Busters. Unlike the Proton Pack, you can use the SUV-cam to 'cross the streams' — along with rivers, oceans and any other H2O that crosses your path. That’s because the camera head is waterproof to a depth of up to 40 metres. (Do you see what we did there? Walkley Awards, here we come!)
Data is stored using the SD/SDHC removable flash memory format, which currently has a maximum capacity of 64GB. This should be enough to get through even the most gruelling activity, including those barmy 24-hour mountain bike events. Annoyingly, no SD card is included with the device, despite its exorbitant price tag (more on which later). The skimpiness doesn’t end there either: you also have to fork out for an attachment clip if you want to mount the camera to your helmet or bike, etc. Thankfully, we found that a bit of industrial-strength masking tape also did the trick.
For video capture, the SUV-cam II uses a 1/4in sensor with a gross pixel count of 440k. This puts it in line with most entry-level video cameras, many of which cost a fraction of the price. Of course, they’re also a lot larger and aren't waterproof or shock-proof. There are three picture quality levels to choose from, along with options for PAL or HTSC. Unlike some lipstick cams, the lens will automatically focus on the fly, which is a big plus given its hands-free status. When we assessed our test shots, we found the Elmo’s image quality to be more than adequate, especially considering its miniscule dimensions. While unable to match most full-sized camcorders, it will nevertheless produce crisp and useable footage. Provided you aren’t expecting broadcast quality video, its output won’t disappoint.
We were somewhat less enthused with the unit's sound quality. The inbuilt mic is located on the recording unit rather than the camera head, which means it’s usually far away from the action (i.e. - either strapped to your hip or stuffed inside your bag). Ninety per cent of the time, the muffled results will be next-to-worthless. On the plus side, a 3.5mm external microphone jack is included on the recorder. This will naturally ramp up the quality of your audio, provided you have the mic pointed in the right direction.
So there you have it. Despite sharing its name with Sesame Street’s cuddliest resident, there is nothing toy-like about the Elmo SUV-cam II. It’s a serious piece of kit designed for serious users (with a ‘serious’ price tag to match). At over $1000, this isn’t something you’d buy to chronicle occasional Sunday bike rides — but outdoor enthusiasts with a penchant for extreme sports [Extreme ironing? — Ed.] will be highly satisfied.
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