Less Weight, Feels Great
Tonfly is well known for their camera helmets. Designed in Italy, built in Slovakia, their carbon fiber helmet designs are a bit different than everyone else.
When Giovanni Suzzi, president of Tonfly, offered up an opportunity to review his newest helmets, I was expecting them in the mail in two separate boxes. When UPS dropped the package at my door, I was certain an error had been made due to the lightness of the single package. I was shocked to find two helmets inside. These helmets weigh almost nothing, but yet are incredibly strong, solid, and as protective as any skydiving helmet I’ve ever worn.
“The helmets are made from a tighter carbon fiber weave,” says “Sonic” Bayrasli, exclusive distributor for Tonfly in the USA. “This contributes to a marginally higher cost.”
The 2X and 3X helmets are definitely a unique grade of helmet. The exceptional lightweight means less fatigue at the end of a long day of skydiving. This also allows for a thicker padding inside, thus quieting the helmet more than any helmet of the same class.
Both helmets sport an audible pocket over the right ear, made specifically for the L&B Optima, Solo II, or Protrack devices. This unique pocket allows for external access without crowding the wearer’s head. There is also room for a second audible over the left ear, perfect in size for a Flysight (wingsuiter’s tool) or other standard size audible.
The ladder-strap chin cup provides for a secure mount. However, I discovered that if the chin cup isn’t reasonably centered in the ladder straps/on the chin, the release catches can easily be knocked loose. Equal tension on both sides of the chincup is fairly important for the most secure fit. As with earlier models of the Tonfly helmets, the 2X and 3X helmets use a carbon fiber chincup covered with a vanity cup emblazoned with the Tonfly logo. This vanity cup is available in many colors to match any custom color scheme a buyer might come up with.
Speaking of custom… Tonfly offers the 2X and 3X in all sorts of custom colors with logos put in place as designed by a buyer. I asked for some unique logos and color combinations and Tonfly was more than obliging.
Both helmets are designed for mounting a single camera on top. Neither helmet is designed as a helmet for both video and stills; these are made to be as light as possible. A Zkulls mounting ring is provided on both helmets (optional) along with a molded space for the GetHypoxic HypEye camera controller (optional). The 3X also provides a debrief port for the HypEye control/debriefing system (optional). This is very useful for team debriefs, viewing video immediately after a jump where a DV, HDV, or AVCHD camcorder is used and an HDMI cable isn’t available. This also means that the AV connector on the camera won’t need to be disconnected, thus saving wear and tear on the camera connector (a common point of failure).
Two very unique features set the 3X apart from it’s brother; the air pump system that allows the base of the helmet to conform to the wearer’s head, and a “crown” that allows the user to quickly shift the angle of the camera by as much as 15 degrees forward or back.
The air pump system is terrific for wearers with long hair; it makes the helmet ‘feel’ like a full face helmet in the way it contains hair. Those with short hair will appreciate the additional quiet that the custom conformation option provides. It takes 4-5 pumps to make the helmet tight against my head, and I have medium-length hair. The small air release nipple next to the pump provides an instant release of air, but in truth, it’s impossible to make the helmet uncomfortably tight, even with the air pumped as tight as the internal bladder allows.
The slotted mounting plate allows users to change the camera angle, albeit not instantly. This is very useful for wingsuit pilots or freeflyers. Wingsuiters will like the ability to shift a camera forward (angled more downward) which allows for easier capture of a formation in a vertical slot, and freeflyers will like the additional angles for flying close in small groups. Changing the angle of the platform requires a slotted screwdriver and a couple of minutes. It’s very easy. However, the screws are also extremely light weight, so use care when turning them so as to not strip their threads.
As mentioned before, the adjustable camera platform also provides access to the video debrief port found on the HypEye camera control system. On a personal note, I’ve found this feature invaluable not only because it reduces wear/tear on the camera AV port, but also because it allows for a very fast connection to both television and computer monitors (if equipped with a composite input).
Wingsuit students use Tonfly Helmets at Skydive Elsinore. Each is equipped with a custom-color L&B Optima, courtesy of L&B.
Both helmets share the same chincup and ladder characteristics.
- What I don’t like about these helmets:
- The screws that hold the camera platform to the 3X are thin metal and easy to strip. Tonfly could address this by including a couple of extra screws/receivers with each helmet (they’re very difficult to find here in the USA).
- The ladder straps on both the 3X and the 2X don’t hold as well as their older brothers in the CCM/CC1 realm.
- What I do like about these helmets:
- Super comfortable on the head. No pressure points anywhere.
- Extremely lightweight (hence the “X” in their name, perhaps?)
- Very strong. I’ve been knocked in the head by several students, one of them wearing boots sharp enough to chip the paint on the helmet, but I didn’t feel a thing. I was also hit by a newbie wingsuiter hard enough to cost me a battery, lens, and destroyed camera; one can only imagine how much of my skull was protected by this lightweight helmet.
- The fit. I don’t know what Tonfly does exactly, but I appreciate the way this helmet fits. Students often comment on how much they love the fit of the helmet too. Mine is a size 59; it seems to be an average size.
- The camera system on the 3X simply rocks. I love how it works, how it feels when I’m flying, and provides the angle I prefer with wingsuit students.
- Quiet. The 3X is the most quiet helmet I’ve ever jumped.
Read more of DSE's writing on his blog.
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