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.

Suction mounts are very common with elise owners as their rollbars are prohibitively thick and as well as the possibility to fix the camera to the exterior body for some funky positions, the inside windscreen is the safest bet. I have never used one but the most cited web link for suppliers seems to be:

Although they are generally considered cast iron, one owner did give this warning recently when using in very hot weather:


"Fitted mine to the 355 at Imola and all worked well. Weather was very hot and parked up after first run with windscreen facing the sun. I came back to the car after 30 mins or so and found the screen had cracked from the centre of the mount to the edge of screen. Reckon a combination of a bit of pressure on the glass and the heat concentrated by the black suction mount was the cause. I know we don't have hot days v. often but this happened at about 10am well before the hottest part of the day"


The Manfrotto Superclamp is also very popular and is available from Jessops and many other uk photographic stores for cheap money. You must buy it with an appropriate spigot, a bolt which goes into the camera one end then the clamp the other and tightened with the small clamp screw.

Alternatively, you can insert any number of available arms, ball/socket joints etc.. between the camera and clamp as shown in the picture below. The width of the clamp does have a limit of around 40mm so it will not accomodate thicker rollbars.


The large handle drives the upper jaw of the clamp towards the V-shaped lower notch (this is how it grasps round objects). A great deal of force can be applied with this, so be careful not to over tighten.

Point number one shows the adapter necessary to attach a standard 3/8 inch bolt for mounting most tripod heads. Point number two shows the socket where the flexible arms are fastened.

.One last word about the Manfrott, bear in mind this warning from a Caterham owner:

A word of warning on the brass spiggot thingy. If it has two different sized screw threads be careful. ALthough it looks like only the smaller one will fit, there is a clever retractable bit (on the head) that means the thicker one can be used. Just push ! The smaller one will not stand up to the seven punishment, and will shear as I found out last year. I got a steel one to be on the safe side.


The Cullman universal clamp is another well made solution and my personal favourite, mainly because I think that it is more versatile than the Manfrotto and its jaws can clamp to much wider objects.

Also, it has the potential to be setup tighter with less moving parts, especially as it does not use a spigot of any sort.The picture to the left shows the Cullman set that you can buy which is useful if you are into normal moviemaking as it contains a mini tripod and also a suction mount.

You have 2 "jaws" with rubber grips which slide along a central bar and tighten at their ends. The bar has a threaded spindle on one end that can be tightened up the other end. Onto this thread you can directly attach a universal quick release camera mount plate or instead, first the Cullman ball (see left) and socket joint to allow swivel and rotation.

To the left you can see the Cullman clamp attached to Jimbo's 340r and also his elise.

The Cullmans jaws can separate far enough to accomodate the wide and awkward shaped 340r roll hoop and jim is also using the universal ball & socket joint to attach the camera mounting plate.

I personally prefer less moving parts and because the caterham roll bar is horizontal, I can do away with the ball and socket joint and just attach the standard tripod mount plate straight onto the end of the main bar which runs through the two "jaws".

The best supplier (there aren't many) I have found in the UK is:

Kingsley Photographic Ltd
93 Tottenham Court Road, W1P 0HL
Tel: 2027 387 6500

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:

You could even consider an old Hi8 camera .. the quality will easily be good enough for compressed computer movies. and 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, and soon here at my site.

The Jackals Racetrack    Richard Morris