Cameras, Camera Clamps and Bullet cams.
Firstly, I'll start by issuing a severe warning. If you run a Caterham or a similar vehicle which vibrates and really shakes about a lot (hard suspension, hunting engine, high G forces etc..) and you plan to mount an expensive camera on it (esp. exposed high on the rollbar ) then think again. It may be just testament to my reckless driving but after 4 trackdays my Sony DV camera developed a number of faults. Firstly, it would fail to write areas of the picture on some frames. This meant that when capturing or viewing, you would sometimes see large pixels of noise or you would see through to the frame before giving an impression that parts of the image were being smudged. Also, the external audio connection became very dubious (probably because the lead coming out of it used to shake in the wind and loosen the socket) with audio dropping out on certain frames or not being present at all. And finally, the DV in/out socket completely malfunctioned presumably because of all the rattling around and the shaking that the camera suffered - it was impossible to capture footage. Luckily my PC9 was under warranty and was fixed in a matter of weeks.
So consider how much physical abuse the camera will get. My story does seem to be an isolated one and I have yet to hear of any other camera being wrecked on track but many cameras are fixed to car windscreens and are no subject to massive amounts of wind buffeting and not so hard wired to the harsh movements of the engine and chassis.
The 3 most popular methods I have come across are suction mounts, the Manfrotto clamp and also the Cullman clamp.
.One last word about the Manfrott, bear in mind this warning from a Caterham owner:
The best supplier (there aren't many) I have found in the UK is:
One final word to mention the all in one clamp solution that Demon Tweeks sell. Last count, it was on page 95 of their catalogue and cost a whopping 100 pounds but it looked pretty inclusive although quite large. I haven't used one but I have spoken to owner who recommended it.
I personally use a Sony PC9 (now been superceded by the PC101). At the time there were 2 pocket sized camera that were the best quality, best functionality that all had DV in and out and also analogue in: the PC9, the Canon MV4i. I went for the Sony mainly because of the brilliant useability given by the touchscreen controls. Because it has analogue in which means that you can attach a 3rd party bullet camera... (without analogue in you will not be able to do this). All these connections mean that you can effectively use the camera like a proper high quality tape deck (but you pay a premium for this) which suits other uses that I have for the camera but for trackday recording you really don't need DV out and you only need analogue in if you plan to use bullet cams.
If you like the Sony brand name (and the picture quality is very good) then the PC9 or the PC8 (also discontinued, doens't have memory card which is useless anyway) are the expensive choices. Scour through ebay or loot though and you may also find a PC6, a PC100 which both have analogue in but no DV in so whilst you'll be able to use extrenal bullet cams, you wont be able to record back onto the Camera from your PC. If you want reasonable stills capability then you really have to go for the PC101 or the PC110 or 120 (both these are slightly larger).
I am not up with the current Canon range but they are well worth checking out as is the Leica lensed Panasonic which I've heard great things about. One good thing about the MV4i was the fact that it had progressive scan. Also, if you don't need the small size then the worlds your oyster and you can pick up something very effective for less than 500 quid. See some owner reviews at the following useful website: http://www.pcphotoreview.com/
You could even consider an old Hi8 camera .. the quality will easily be good enough for compressed computer movies. Ebay.co.uk and Loot.com would be good places to source something of this type. Also, consider using a wide angle lens or converter.. this will make you footage much more interesting and give a far greater sense of speed although cars do tend to look a long way away even when you are right behind them and about to overtake. As for sound, you are going to need an external microphone unless you want just a barrage of wind noise. Many of the external mics are terribly expensive so perhaps consider buying a cheap pair of in-ear walkman headphones which will double as a mic... justmake sure that you site them somewhere in the car where you'll get a good slice of the engine action; footage with all the engine noises included is so much better and you really can tell a lot from it as well, like when the throttle is being feathered etc...
As for thebullet cameras, they
will be lower resolution but the picture is more than adequate.
If you need to protect your camera in a suitable soft case and preferably
out of the way, or you just want the ability to shoot the track
from almost anywhere in and on the car then this is the way to go.
See the following links:
The RF concepts range of "helmet cams" seem to be the most popular at the moment, in particular the high resolution 480 line, Sony colour 21CW (see picture). A range of focal length lenses are available and the unit is vacuum selaed to make it weatherproof. You can see some footage from a bullet cam of this type at www.speedyseven.com, and soon here at my site.