By Steve Bullman

4stars

Drift Innovation X170 Helmet Camera

single_review

X170 Helmet Camera by Drift Innovation

Technical specifications

• Sensor type: CMOS
• Lens angle: 170°
• Built-in Microphone
• Video format: MP4 or MJPEG AVI (user selectable)
• Frames per second: 30 fps
• Video format: 4:3 or 16:9 (user selectable)
• Batteries: 2x 1.5V AA batteries
• It is highly recommended to use Lithium-ion batteries
• Power-Save option saves batteries by powering down the screen
• Built-in memory: 32 MB
• SD memory capacity: Supports memory cards up to 16 GB
• Video resolution: 720 x 480
• Photo resolution: 5 Megapixel
• Exposure: Auto
• LCD screen: 1.5” colour TFT
• Lens focal range: 0.5m to infinity
• Dimensions: Camera – 133 (L) x 50 (D) x 33 (W) mm / Remote Control – 52 (L) x 40 (W) x 13 (D) mm
• Power: Camera – DC 3V, 2x AA batteries (included) / Remote control: DC 3C, 1x CR2032 battery (included)
• RF: Receiver (Camera): 433.92MHz ISM band / Transmitter (Remote): 433.92MHz ISM band
• Weight: Camera – 128g / Remote control – 19g

I’ve been watching the helmet camera market on and off for the past couple of years, never quite feeling I could justify the expense of some of the higher end cameras, but at the same time not wanting to settle for a cheaper product that wouldn’t deliver the quality I was after. When I saw the latest offering from Drift Innovation it seemed to tick all the boxes and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on one.

On receiving and opening the new X170, my first thoughts were the size of the unit. Although very small for what it is, it still seemed like it was going to be a fairly bulky addition to the top of my climbing helmet.
In practise however, other than getting it caught on the odd twig here and there, it really isn’t noticeable that you’re even wearing it due to the low weight of the unit. Most of the jobs I personally intend to use this with will be on open crowned trees, so again, having it snag on twigs isn’t going to be a huge problem, and considering the X170 is a self contained recorder and camera there has to be some sacrifices…..size being the main one here!

So, the first job was securing the camera to my hardhat. The camera comes supplied with a whole range of fittings giving you the option to mount the camera to pretty much anything you could want to!
The option I chose was obviously the included helmet mount, attached to my climbing helmet with the industrial strength Velcro pads supplied. I did query these prior to receiving the camera but was assured they were more than adequate to keep the mount secure. I was sceptical but after applying the Velcro and fixing the camera, it was pretty clear it wasn’t going anywhere. I have personally chosen to leave the helmet mount permanently on the helmet between uses though to avoid getting sawdust in the Velcro and reducing its effectiveness.
With the helmet mount in place the camera itself simply slots in place. This is an area that I wasn’t as happy with. I was advised prior to ordering that its an idea to tether the camera to something, should the mount fail. The quickest and easiest(and crudest) way for me was to wrap a bit of electrical tape around the fittings as shown in the photo below. This works a treat and is only a minor inconvenience.

The camera itself boasts a handy little 1.5” screen which makes lining up the picture a lot easier as well as giving the added advantage of being able to watch your videos back on site. You can view the entire menu in the screen which I found pretty straight forward to pick up, even without instructions.
Operating the camera during your activity is done by means of the of a radio frequency remote control which is strapped to your wrist. It has just 2 buttons, start and stop and they are large enough that they can be easily used when wearing gloves.

The 170 degree field of view that this camera offers is what makes it ideal for our application. I have used cheaper cameras in the past with lesser lenses that don’t afford the viewer any perspective of our work other than just about being able to catch the odd glimpse of the tip of the saw here and there. The X170 with its wide angle lens really lets the viewer see everything that’s going on. Some of it is slightly distorted due to the “fish eye” effect of the lens….but a small price to pay in my opinion.

Overall, I’m very happy with the recording quality of the X170 when comparing it to some of the other offerings. The only real complaint with the recording quality is the switching between exposure levels, which again, I have seen on some more expensive set ups. Unless you are looking for professional quality footage then this really is only a minor irritation when considering the price of the X170.

The camera records directly to SD cards. The camera accepts up to an 8GB card, on which you can expect to get around 1 hours footage per gigabyte. These are inserted in the rear hatch of the device along with the double AA batteries which power the camera. Lithium ion batteries are highly recommended and will provide approximately 4 hours recording time, alternatively, rechargeable batteries will provide 2-3 hours of recording. Bearing in mind you will likely be stopping and starting the recorder, this should stretch out to cover a reasonably long climb.

To summarize, The X170 is a great solution for anyone looking for a camera with good image quality and rugged enough that it can stand up to the abuse that us arborists are renowned for.

A big thumbs up from me!

 

 

 

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