The best camera is the one you have with you, so by the transitive property, the best video camera is the one you have with you. I carry my cell phone almost every where I go. For better or worse, in times of low battery, and in areas of no reception, it is always close by. So it shouldn’t be any surprise that I also carry my phone almost every time I go riding, just in case.
The Optrix HD allows my safety blanket to double as an HD POV camera. By placing my device in the sturdy, well designed case, not only is it extremely well protected, but it shoots video that far exceeds the quality of my Go Pro HD.
If you’re already in the hole for an iPhone 4/4s (or itouch), and the corresponding four digit yearly contract, then this case will run you considerably less than the cheapest Go Pro. At an MSRP of $90, it’s also not much more than an ultra rugged case. Since I ride with my phone, this system keeps Siri safe if I go down, and allows me to carry less gear in my riding bag.
The case is incredibly rugged. Rugged enough to slam into a tree trunk at the end of a long hill climb aboard a two stroke dirt bike, stay mounted to the helmet, and continue to record video. I wouldn’t normally strap my expensive phone to a helmet and take it dirt biking, but after watching several Top Gear style durability tests on the Optrix HD website – I did. There are few things more painful than watching something you’ve paid good money for slam into a tree, but my phone survived unscathed.
The biggest drawback of the Optrix HD system is the high cost of additional bases and the lack of flexibility in mounting options. Out of the box, the case only comes with two sticky mounts. An additional set of four mounts runs $25. A chest mount and handlebar system are currently in the pipeline, but out in the real world, I’ve been shooting video from my helmet or mounting stickies to my bicycle. The current mounting system also limits you to horizontal mounting surfaces unless you want to shoot video in portrait mode.
Another problem, is the whole package mounted on your helmet feels rather heavy (not to mention geeky looking). The quick release alone, which attaches the case to the various mounts, weighs roughly 40g. Also, once the phone is nestled within the case, the screen ceases to be very responsive, which makes it very difficult to start and stop video using the default program. The instructions in the box don’t make it clear, but Optrix offers a free app called the VideoSport which is a must have.
Once downloaded the free app makes recording much simpler. The program features a big button in the center of the screen for starting/stopping recording, and enables users to lock the cameras focus. The program also allows the user to determine the quality of the video being recorded, because an hour of full 1080p video at 30 FPS requires roughly 7 GB of storage. Using your cellphone to record video also slays battery life. By dimming my screen to its fullest, which makes it difficult to see in sunlight, and turning on airplane mode my battery barely made it through a day of filming.
Overall, I highly recommend the Optrix HD, and look forward to collecting enough footage for a proper long term review. The crisp high quality HD video I’ve collected so far is superior to anything I’ve record with a GoPro. The only thing currently holding back this ultra rugged waterproof case from being my go-to sports camera is the lack of mounting options.