Gear Review: VholdR and V.I.O. Helmet Cameras

By RYAN DIONNE

In the world of athlete-driven, portable video cameras — a.k.a. “helmet cams” — the VholdR and the V.I.O. POV.1 are at different ends of the spectrum. Sure, both cameras can be mounted nearly anywhere on an athlete in motion. They are similarly durable and made to withstand rough treatment outdoors. Both shoot video good enough for YouTube.

But the similarities stop there.

The first major difference is price, and in this case you get what you pay for — with the POV (point of view) you get a more-expensive, better-quality, harder-to-edit video recorder that has its share of significant pros and cons.

VIO Camera.jpg

V.I.O. POV.1 camera and recording control device

The POV camera, which has been on the market since late 2007, is about as small as a shotgun shell, and it attaches to a recording device that’s the size of a large GPS unit via a nearly five-foot-long cable, which contains the camera’s microphone.

The recording device has a small LCD screen that allows you to see what you’re filming in real-time and play it back to make sure the video wasn’t tilted or shooting the sky instead of the trail. It also houses the batteries and the SD memory card.

While it’s great to see what I’m filming and be able to instantly watch my latest ski run or downhill charge on a mountain bike, the recording device, which also allows users to toggle through camera functions, is heavy and doesn’t easily stash into a jacket pocket — although it will fit into any backpack.

VholdR Video Camera.jpg

VholdR camera

The VholdR, which has been on the market since February 2008, on the other hand, is all contained in a video camera that fits in the palm of a hand. The lithium-polymer battery, the micro SD memory card, and the recorder are all enclosed in the device. It stashes easily in a jacket pocket.

But the VholdR feels heavy when attached to your head. Though technically only 4.8 ounces, when mounted on a helmet or strapped to a pair of goggles, it’s borderline uncomfortable. I got used to the weight after some time, but compared to the small and lightweight POV it can be distracting.

Without an LCD to see what you’re shooting, the VholdR instead has two lasers that give a pretty accurate idea of where the camera is pointing. The lasers turn on for a few seconds when you first power up the camera and can be turned on again by pressing the on/off button at any time.

The on/off button is one of two total buttons on the VholdR. The other is an easy-to-use sliding bar that acts as the record button. When it comes to recording quality though, the POV outperforms the less-expensive VholdR — which is probably why companies like Teton Gravity Research use the POV for ski videos.

VIO - Helmet Mount.jpg

V.I.O. POV.1 mounted on a helmet

In raw pixels captured, the units are similar, with the POV at 720 × 480 pixels in resolution and the VholdR at 640 × 480 pixels, both capturing 30 frames-per-second, an industry standard for video. But the POV gets superior footage. The POV picks up much less wind because of its microphone placement, the picture is clearer, and there’s a wide-angle lens option.

With added features — and a significantly higher price tag — the POV is more complicated to use. You can tweak everything from video resolution and quality to microphone sensitivity and frame-rate. You can toggle between shooting modes. Editing becomes much more complicated as well.

After a session filming, you need to download the clips to a computer and edit them for public consumption. While the POV’s included editing software is only PC-compatible, you can download a patch to make it work on a Mac. The VholdR has Mac- and PC-compatible software that’s available for download on the company’s web site. (The raw video files from both — which are AVI format for the POV and MPEG4 with the VholdR — can be downloaded and edited on any standard video-editing program.)

The VholdR’s footage was much easier to edit in my test. The software’s interface was more friendly, and I didn’t have to read the directions before I cut clips.

VholdR Flat Surface Mount.jpg

VholdR camera mount attachment

Despite being quite computer literate and having used professional video-editing software in the past, I still had to contact customer service a handful of times with questions about POV’s program. Even after the back-and-forth with customer service, the company still couldn’t figure out the issue. I was stuck editing the video with a different program, Final Cut Pro, but only after downloading another application to convert the file.

Perhaps the issue was my older PC, which was running Windows XP Pro Edition — yet it did meet the system requirements as stated on the company’s Web site.

In the end, the user-friendly award goes to the VholdR hands-down, while the professional-quality-video award goes to the POV.

VholdR video camera

  • Pros: Easy to stash in pocket when not using; Easy to operate record-slider button while wearing gloves; Unit beeps when turning on and off.

  • Cons: Laser guides hard to see in mid-day sun; Feels heavy when attached a helmet; No playback feature to replay your video on the shoot.

  • Bottom Line: The VholdR shoots good-quality video and is simple to use, making it more suited for the casual videographer who wants a versatile video camera without going broke.

  • MSRP: $299

  • Contact: http://www.vholdr.com

V.I.O. POV.1 video camera

  • Pros: Camera head very small and light; User can tweak many camera settings; Comes with a remote control that can be attached to a bike handlebar or your wrist.

  • Cons: Complicated to use; Recorder and cord awkward and bulky; Price.

  • Bottom Line: If you’re looking for a professional-grade video camera for any outdoor adventure and aren’t worried about paying for its features, the V.I.O. POV.1 will work wonders.

  • MSRP: $700

  • Contact: http://www.vio-pov.com

—Contributor Ryan Dionne is based in Boulder, Colo. He writes a blog on the outdoors and gear at http://explore-it.blog.com

Posted by Jon Gaffney - 03/30/2009 09:50 AM

Are either camera waterproof?

Posted by GJ - 04/02/2009 11:34 PM

Just water-resistant. Try the GoPro for waterproof.

Posted by Troy - 04/03/2009 09:09 AM

I’ve been researching helmet cams for a week or so and i think i like the GoPro Hero Wide the best. The main reason is that the footage is much more compelling due to the very wide angle (170 degree field-of-view) provided by the Hero Wide. If you compare video clips from that camera, to clips from the POV or Vholdr, I find that the GoPro footage is more immersive and conveys the feeling of actually doing it much more than the other two cameras. You can see the tips of the skis, or the front wheel of the bike. You can see the person who is right next to the filmer. By comparison, footage from the other cameras makes me feel like i have tunnel vision, or am wearing blinders.

I would love to see that camera included in your review. Maybe you can get a hold of one and update the review?

-Troy

Posted by Brian - 04/29/2009 08:52 AM

@Troy the POV1 has a 170 degree lens as an option, which is nice. super wide angle is nice for helmet placement but for bike, car, etc a narrower field is sometimes better.

Posted by John - 06/03/2009 11:05 AM

Troy, VholdR just put out the Contour HD which has a field of view of 135 plus its in HD. The HD quality is a lot better than the resolution of the Go Pro or any other pov camera.

Posted by Thomas - 06/07/2009 08:41 AM

They’re both nice cameras, but the ATC range are probably better for a budget conscience consumer! the atc5000 has a pretty good picture too

Posted by tony - 11/24/2009 12:02 AM

VholdR has the ultimate 1080p full hd helmet camera now available for less than $350

Add Comment

  1. Add link by using "LinkText":http://google.com