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Gear

    Digital or Analog Altimeter

    Altimaster Galaxy We all know there are some hot debates in our sport: RSL or no RSL, AAD dependency, and exit separation are well-known dead horses. Another topic certainly worthy of discussion is the choice between analog and digital altimeter displays. Asking that question will yield a variety of opinions (no surprise there) and will likely be inconclusive.
    First, a clarification: this discussion revolves around the altimeter display, not the underlying hardware. Altimeters with mechanical internal aneroid capsules have analog displays; those with electronic pressure sensors can have either a digital or analog display. Now that we have cleared that up...
    Analog dial faces of all types commonly have numerical graduations and colored segments to indicate the status of what is being measured. Alti-2’s Altimaster Galaxy, for example, is first graduated in thousand foot increments starting at the 12 o’clock position (zero). There are yellow and red caution zones placed at commonly used altitudes to provide a visual warning at a glance. Digital displays, like Alti-2’s N3, provide a numerical altitude reference. N3 provides a three-digit decimal altitude in free fall and four digits under canopy. So – which is better? It really boils down to three things: familiarity, specific application, and personal preference.
    Many skydivers stick to what they learned to use as students. Later in their skydiving career they may choose to “re-train” that familiarity and transition to a digital display. I did so myself when Neptune hit the market nearly ten years ago and have been a huge digital display fan since then.
    Application brings a different frame of reference entirely. Let’s take a look at two commonly used analog dials, starting with the temperature gauge in your automobile. My dear old Dad taught me to look at my gauges periodically like a pilot does cross-checks. A quick glance at the temperature gauge should show the pointer dwelling just slightly left of center, or about 40% of its travel. I have no earthly idea what specific numerical data that conveys – I glance at the gauge, my brain processes the placement of the needle based upon my training, and I know that I am good to go! Now consider the gauge on a fire extinguisher which contains a small green segment and a large red segment. A quick glance reveals the pointer dwelling in the green or the red – good or no good. In both of these cases, an analog display is preferable to the way I do business.


    Altimaster N3 What about skydiving? From day one we are asked to apply specific action to specific performance altitudes. As an AFF Student, we may be taught to recognize 5,500 feet on our altimeter to trigger a critical action: wave off and pull. It can be argued that the direct conveyance of that numerical data from a digital display eliminates the need for the brain to convert the pointer’s indication on an analog dial face into numbers for an action to be triggered. If an AFF Student recognizes 5,500 feet on his digital display, it directly sends him into action.
    Then there is personal preference. Electronic altimeters with a digital display often have other features like logbooks, timers, and the like that take more time to learn. Some skydivers just love the simplicity of turning a knob to zero the pointer and off they go.
    Mechanical/analog altimeters are usually more economical for skydivers on a budget. Electronic devices require power from replaceable or rechargeable batteries; mechanical devices do not. There are several other advantages and disadvantages regarding the mechanism which can also drive personal preference. Factor in accuracy, calibration requirements, form factor, mounting options, ability to read altitude in low-light or darkness, waterproofing, convertibility between visual and audible, and others – the decision becomes more complicated.
    So, if you are in the market for an altimeter, or are thinking about switching from analog to digital, I suggest you try them both. Put your trusty Altimaster II in your helmet bag and borrow an N3 from a friend or even your local gear store. Make a few jumps reading digitally conveyed numerical altitude and see what you think! In the meantime, I will be thinking about what advances in technology might be on the event horizon.
    Arrive safely,

    slotperfect
    John Hawke (slotperfect) is General Manager of Alti-2, Inc. in DeLand, Florida, USA

    By admin, in Gear,

    Fluid Wings Announce Prime Hybrid Canopy

    Fluid Wings is a new and innovative company based in DeLand, Florida - which is aiming to close the gap between the parachuting, speed flying and paragliding. The company was born through a love of human flight, and focus on an engineering-based approach. Fluid Wings draws from the expertise of Scott Roberts, a skydiver with over 15 years experience, who has been competing for more than a decade; Kevin Hintze, an active pilot, paraglider, speedflying instructor and test pilot; as well as Shane Shaffer, chief test pilot and production lead.
    From the first of June this year, Fluid Wings will begin production on their newest main - The Prime. The Prime will be a 9-cell hybrid main, available initially in sizes from 150-190 square foot in a combination of ZP and low porosity nylon. The canopy is aiming to provide pilots with a fun and predictable flight, with focus also being placed on how easy it is to pack. The Prime will look to cater to jumpers of all experience, being easy enough to handle for newer jumpers, while still being responsive enough to be fun for the more advanced skydivers. Stock colors are Royal Blue top skin and stabilizers, with a white bottom skin and ribs. Please note that bottom and rib colors are limited to white due to color section of low bulk fabric. The canopy ships with Vectran lines and soft-link connectors, with a low-bulk option packing up to a size smaller is also available.
    “The Prime is responsive and playful, while still easy to manage. It has a good glide for those long spots, with a nice strong flare for tip-toe landings,” said Scott Roberts of Fluid Wings. “We like her a lot and think jumpers will too!”
    The Prime will retail for $2090 with all options. You can contact Fluid Wings at [email protected] for more information, purchases or demo requests.

    By admin, in Gear,

    Best Action Camera 2014 - Ultimate POV Camera Shootout

    Action cameras aren’t merely changing the production world, they have become a staple of the production world. Getting the inside shot is simple with POV cameras and the number of choices in this niche world is broad and perhaps daunting. Action cameras are inexpensive and provide a simple means of additional camera angles to any production.
    In this review, I’m going to tackle all of the “name-brand” cameras available out there. This article will not provide the answer to “which camera should I buy?” The range of criteria is so broad that the question is beyond the scope of a single review. This review will provide information about which action-camera is best suited for specific criteria and provide information that may help you make informed purchasing decisions.
    I’ve gathered what I believe to be the most viable options for most “extreme” sport enthusiasts for shooting broadcast-quality video. During this review, each camera is set to 1920x1080, 30fps (except where otherwise noted).
    The criteria for inclusion:
    Price point (150.00-400.00 USD)
    Bit-rate (16Mbps or higher)
    Codec (must be non-proprietary) The selectees:
    GoPro 3+ ($399.00)
    GoPro 3 Black ($349.00)
    Sony AS100 ($299.00)
    Sony AS30 ($299.00) JVC Adixxion ($299.00)
    Midland XTC400 ($249.00)
    Polaroid XS100 ($169.00)
    ReplayXD Mini ($199.00) Liquid Ego ($179.00)
    Drift Ghost S ($399.00) Scoring Procedure
    With the criteria determined, particpants selected, I created a scoring sheet that could be used as a reference throughout the process. The goal is to be as objective as possible in a subjective conversation.
    A panel was selected, four people who would review images from the cameras and choose the best image when image quality was relevant. Other factors such as battery life, wireless functionality/reliability, audio features/quality are objective. Scores are based on how these functions are implemented and may be relied upon.

    For this shootout I mounted 17 action cameras on a single helmet, then took it skydiving, snorkeling, zip-lining, bob-sleighing and motorcycling to enable accurate side-by-side comparisons of each camera. For example in the battery life test, the Liquid Ego went for nearly 5 hours of record time, blowing through a few cards, while the Garmin VIRB and GoPro 3 Black barely reached 50 minutes of record time. The Liquid Ego nets a score of “5” while the Garmin VIRB and GoPro 3+Black earn a score of 2. The Sony AS series weighed in at just over 2.75 hours earning a score of “4”. Had it not been for the curve-altering record times of the Liquid Ego, the Midland and Polaroid cameras, Sony’s AS100 would have won this category. Regardless, with a linear scoring value of 0-5, the weighting may seem unbalanced from time to time. Please note that the score card contains two scores; one based exclusively on image quality, and the other score relevant to the overall product experience.
    Most of the cameras have tweaks and settings that allow them to be the best they can for specific situations. Rather than setting each camera to its best settings, all cameras were used exactly as they come out of the box. In other words, once the box was opened the battery was charged, a card inserted into the camera and formatted, it was put to the test.
    Sony, GoPro, and ReplayXD all have internal tweaks accessible via either proprietary software or .txt files. Each allow for an optimized image even though I’ve avoided using any of these optimizations.
    After all the results were in and the panel gave their feedback, here's what the final result looked like. I sorted the score sheet below by total score but you can click on any header to sort the table by that column and see how the different cameras compared in any specific test. I discuss each test area in detail below.
    Score Sheet
    Image Quality
    Winner in Image Quality - Sony AS100V
    The subject of image quality is subjective. The four panelists had to choose from a variety of videos (a few of which are linked in this article). Factors involved in the comparison are dynamic range (darkest to the brightest representation of image content), saturation, color accuracy, codec compression/banding/pixelation, motion management, and frame to frame blurring.

    Watch the Wingsuit Exit Video For example, in the image above, the center top allows for the lake in the background to be seen, while also allowing for the darker interior and tires of the aircraft to hold details. There are no blowouts of the highlights, and the reds, greys, whites, and orange colors are all accurate to original. Watch the YouTube-linked video at the 4K resolution on YouTube for the best experience and ability to determine which image you find best. Each camera is displayed at approximately 720p.
    You’ll likely want to turn off your audio as there is no usable audio content.
     

    Watch the Zipline Video  
    Watch the Bobsled Video In the above test, one of the cameras failed due to (I believe) card error. The high motion, high contrast, light and dark areas for exposure testing provides for a terrific challenge. Even in the still framegrabs, the torture is evident in blur, color, and compression artifacting.
     

    Watch Wingsuit Overhead Video The complexity of the ground coupled with the high motion makes for a good test of contrasts and detail management in moving platforms. Note that the majority of the cameas are set to an FOV of 120 degrees, as that’s how they come out of the box. A couple cameras are 170 degrees.
    All panelists unanimously chose this action camera over all others in all resolutions and framerates. The GoPro 3+ came in second. The Sony AS30 takes third prize, and an honorable mention goes to the Drift Ghost S. In well-lit situations, the Midland and Garmin VIRB cameras really surprised me too, but at 35Mbps (this camera also does 50Mbps in XAVC-S mode, not used in this shootout), the Sony AS100 sweeps the image quality score.
    Battery Life
    Winner in Battery Life - Liquid Ego
    This was a stunner. I left all the cameras running/recording and went to dinner. Battery life would be lessened by movement, but the bigger point was how long the cameras could record. In most cases, the camera battery died prior to the card being filled (I used 16 GB cards for this test). The Liquid Ego kept running and running, filling a 16 and then 8 GB card before finally dying at just under 5 hours in 1080 mode. Wifi was disabled (all wifi was disabled for most tests).
    This is one of the least expensive cameras in the shootout; it has some shortcomings, yet one major bonus is that this camera, removed from its own mounting clip, can be fitted to GoPro mounting systems. Brilliant move on the part of Liquid!
    What I didn’t like about this camera are the number of button presses to record in 720-30p or 60p without wireless enabled. However, shooting in 1080 mode is as simple as turning it on and hitting record.
    When in the waterproof case, it’s impossible to see the LCD display. For budget users, this is an easy camera to like.
    Profile
    Winner of the Action Camera Profile Category - ReplayXD Mini 1080
    At slightly larger diameter than a nickel this camera is rock-solid, doesn’t need stabilization, and blew my mind when I found I could drive a car over it. So small to present less of a snag hazard for skydivers, this tiny marvel is also perfect for UAV/Drones, hiding on cars (ReplayXD is the camera most used in professional auto-racing) and so small it can even be placed upright under a skateboard. It’s tiny and weighs virtually nothing. The camera also offers a threaded head so that lens adapters may be used for either lenses or filters for better image. This is tremendously valuable for outside photography, where an ND filter will immediately remove the heavy contrast and juddered playback, while reducing jello-cam (rolling shutter) issues. JVC, Polaroid, and Garmin all have the ability to come in fairly high in this conversation except their mounting systems are not only flimsy, they’re high profile and a snag hazard. Using these cameras without their manufacturer-issued mounts will provide a very low platform and a much more stable image.
    Testing Locations
    The waters of Ocho Rios Jamaica, Mystic Mountain for snorkeling, bobsled, and zipline testing
    Lake Elsinore California for skydive tests
    Virgin River Gorge for road/motorcycle testing
    Toronto, Ontario for slow motion and other comparisons Although durability wasn’t a measured factor in this shootout, ReplayXD would easily win the durability category (comparing cameras out of their waterproof box). There simply isn’t a tougher camera on the market. Other features I like; the camera offers up timecode for professionals, external audio inputs and user-controllable image quality (Saturation, Exposure, Audio Gain, Sharpness, etc).
    Wifi
    Winner of the Wifi Category - Sony AS100 and Liquid Ego
    This was a tougher call. Other than the Replay Mini, all of the POV cameras offer wifi control or connectivity to a mobile device. I tested the systems on a Samsung GalaxyIII cell and Samsung Galaxy Tab2 tablet. All devices connected successfully. All devices allow for some level of “streaming preview.” Some devices such as the JVC Adixxion allow for streaming directly to UStream if the user has an account and is fortunate enough to be very close to a WAP. Streaming for preview is a serious drain on battery life, rarely works in a moving environment, and is overall somewhat useless beyond setting up a camera angle or adjusting settings (in this writer’s view). Sony’s Play Memories application was difficult to use on their early AS15 models but on the AS100 they’ve gotten it right. It’s install and done. The same can be said for the Liquid Ego. JVC’s Adixxion was a bit of a struggle but it did work once all the paths were traveled properly.
    The same can be said for the Garmin VIRB, the Polaroid X, and the Midland XTC. GoPro was also reasonably easy to set up so saying that the Sony and Liquid win this category is essentially a small thing. In the end, these two were simply easier/faster to set up than the others by a small margin of time and/or frustration. It should be mentioned that the JVC Adixxion was the most difficult to set up. They use a broader-scope application called WiVideo, designed to work with a host of action cameras.
    Wet Use
    Winner of the Wet Use Category - Three Way Tie Between GoPro3+, Sony AS100 and Drift Ghost S
    What made the difference in this category is “how deep can they go and how easy are they to operate under water?” I did not take the action cameras to their rated depths and I am relying on the manufacturers for accurate information on how deep these POV cameras can go. With that said the Replay Mini, Garmin VIRB, Ghost S, Polaroid XS, do not require water housings.

    Watch Underwater Video After spending 3 hours in the water with the action cameras, water was no issue for any of the cameras. GoPro and Sony both include the waterproof housing in the purchase price. Garmin, Midland, Liquid, and even ReplayXD (for depths greater than 12’) all require the purchase of a waterproof housing for wet use. For underwater image quality, Sony AS100 and Drift Ghost S provide the most accurate image, yet the GoPro has a slightly smoother color saturation that is pleasing to the eye. For reasons I could not figure out, the Sony AS30 fogged in the lens. This didn’t happen with the AS100 and more curious, it didn’t happen with the hand-held AS15 I was using to document the event. The fogging didn’t affect the image much, but it was there. What I liked most about the AS100 is that the LCD panel is large and it was easy to see what was going on with the camera while under water.
    Audio
    Winner of the Audio Category - Sony AS100
    With external microphone-in that requires no adapters, AGC, and high-end audio converters, this camera offers wonderful compressed audio, equal to the audio recording capability of significantly more expensive cameras. The Sony AS30 also offers external audio inputs, but is a bit less flexible, as the audio input is hidden under the connection cover.
    ReplayXD also offers external microphone input as does the GoPro 3+ but both require larger, more bulky adapters that cost more dollars. ReplayXD offers a user-controlled gain function which is a real benefit to professionals needing nat audio from locations and in loud environments (such as auto races or helicopter skins). However, the Sony AS100 offers not only the external microphone input on the bottom of the action camera (obviously cannot be used in the water housing), but a higher grade of DAC (Digital Audio Converter) than its categorical counterparts.
    Ease of Use
    Winner of the Ease of Use Category - No Clear Winner
    Most of the cameras offer a one-button on/record feature. Out of the box the Sony series, Polaroid, Midland, Garmin, and ReplayXD cameras offer a one-button record feature. GoPro offers one button record as a menu feature, and the Drift can be programmed to loop and record when turned on for ease of use. However, out of the box there are several that are easy to use as point and press action camcorders and so there is no clear winner.
    If menus are the measure then the Drift Ghost S, the Garmin VIRB, and the JVC Adixxion win for graphic interface. Sony AS series win for clear instruction and ease of navigation. The GoPro wins for sheer depth of options. I’m not a fan of some of the GoPro surface options that make the menus long and kludgy to navigate. Curiously enough, ReplayXD has no menu; all controls are done in a .txt file set on a phone, tablet, or computer. However, their menu options go deeper and are more relevant to picture quality than any other POV camera available.
    Mounts
    Winner of the Mounts Category - Replay XD Mini
    Although the (likely obvious) winner for mounts would be GoPro, it actually isn’t. On sheer numbers of achievable angles and mounting systems, REPLAYXD Mini takes the prize with GoPro following a close second. There is a reason there are so many mounting kit options for some of the cameras out there; their factory mounts are terrible.
    Many of the parts and pieces available for various POV cameras are designed to compensate for the initial weaknesses of the mounting system. Mounting systems matter far more than most users of action cams realize. If the mount is not 100% solid then the image will be unstable and aside from needing stabilization in post (which affects image quality), the image will likely incur ‘jello-cam’ also known as “rolling shutter,” which cannot be repaired.
    In this video, both are out-of-the-box mounting systems. Note the difference in stability. A rock solid mount needs no stabilization work in post. Choosing the right mount system is important. A weak mount will be buffeted by the wind, bounced around by roads, surf, or the turbulence that affects a UAV camera platform.
    Internal stabilization is a tremendous benefit if it is done well. The Sony AS100 has a tremendous stabilization system (Sony has long been famous for their BOSS camera stabilization) matched by no other low-cost camera whether a POV/Action camera or a larger palm-corder category camera.
    This stabilization system makes the AS100 superior for use on a UAV platform, as it is not susceptible to jello cam, is very light weight, and allows for long battery life. Matched with a two or three-point gimbal flawless smooth video is possible for very little cost on a drone system.
    JVC and Garmin VIRB ELITE offer stabilization, but at a tremendous cost of resolution and color saturation.
    Slow-Motion/Overcrank
    Winner of the Slow-Motion/Overcrank Category - Sony AS100
    It’s no surprise that the newer Sony AS100 wins in this category. Only Sony and GoPro offer high framerates of 120 or 240 frames per second, so only the Sony AS100 and the GoPro 3+ were tested for these features. Most every action sport benefits from slow motion, so with the ability of the Sony AS100 to sync up to five cameras with one button push, it makes for a wonderful mix of slow motion and normal motion possibilities.
    GoPro 3+ shoots 240fps with a resolution of 720 x 480 pixels and Sony shoots at 800x480 pixels. The Sony has been cropped to match the GoPro3+. Both cameras would benefit in their “pro modes” where GoPro offers up to 35Mbps and Sony AS100 offers 50Mbps in the semi-professional XAVC-S mode. However, since these tests are entirely “out of the box,” it was not appropriate to compare the slow motion at anything but the stock settings.
    Low Light
    Winner of the Low Light Category - Tie Between Sony AS100V and GoPro3+
    This is a challenging category for most of these cameras. All of them have very small imagers and lenses that shoot at a very high resolution. Packing so many pixels onto very small surfaces means very little light can get into the individual pixel sensors and therefore, noise is usually part and parcel of for each of these POV cameras.
    GoPro offers the smoother color representation with slightly more noise. Sony is brighter with less noise, but a blue cast is apparent in both Sony cameras. The additional information in the 50Mbps file allows for a cleaner color correction, yet the smoother color in the GoPro 3+ means less need for color correction. Pushing the color in the GoPro3+ at 35Mbps brings up the noise pretty quickly, so if matching cameras is part of the workflow, beware that matching higher grade formats might be difficult. It’s a choice between removing blueish casting or a fair amount of noise reduction processing in the professional environment. On a personal note, I’d prefer to remove/reduce the blue cast.

    Watch the Low Light The table cloth in this image is purple, not black. The GoPro3+ (lower right) is smoother in its dynamic range but less accurate than the Sony AS100V (upper left). The GoPro Black at 16Mbps is quite noisy, while the Sony AS30 is clean, but also displaying a blueish cast.
    Extra Features
    Winner of the Extra Featured Category - Garmin Virb
    This category is easily earned by the GARMIN VIRB. With a cyclometer, heart rate monitor, GPS, ANT+™ wireless control (a wide range of remote and input possibilities), accelerometer, barometer, and a “skiing” mode that is a huge benefit to action sports enthusiasts, this camera is packed with features. In Skiiing mode, the camera knows when you’re engaged in your activity or not. It will stop recording when you’ve landed, stopped moving, etc. Unfortunately for skydivers, the camera senses aircraft movement as “sporting movement so in this mode, it will record the climb to altitude. For mountain-cyclists, this is a great feature. However, it’s also a battery-eater. Sony AS100 and GoPro 3+ also offer a plethora of features that advanced users will appreciate, such as higher framerates, controllable scenes, FOV adjustments, 24p, and other video-related features. Both Sony AS100 and ReplayXD Mini offer Timecode for multiple camera sync, logging, or reference video.
    Professional Codecs/Bitrates
    Winner of the Professional Codecs/Bitrates Category - Sony AS100V
    Both Sony AS100V and the GoPro 3+(Black) offer users higher bitrates and professional codecs for critical functions that will benefit the editing process during post production. Only these two cameras offer these features and although the unique features go beyond the scope of this review, I feel it’s worth of demonstrating what the differences look like. Not all video editing systems can manage these codecs. Professional video software has the necessary decoders yet even casual users can find free decoders on the GoPro and Sony websites. Apple FinalCut has issues with both the XAVC and Cineform codecs without downloading the decoder but again, every pro-level application can decode/read files generated by these cameras.
    Why would one want a higher bitrate, more robust codec? If color correction or compositing are to be employed to process the footage captured by these action cameras, it’s a good idea to have as much information in the file as possible. A higher bitrate provides more “bits” that the NLE can push around, and still retain quality.

    Watch the Codec Test Video This image is raw, no processes added. Keep in mind that when shooting high bitrates the camera is shooting flat, no internal color processing. In the upper right is a GoPro Black shooting standard bitrate. In the lower left, I’ve set the Sony AS 30 to “Neutral” so that there is no color processing. Pay attention to detail rather than color range. This is an overcast day, so there is no blue in the sky. In the next image, I’ll oversaturate and over luminate the image to better demonstrate how far the footage can be processed without falling apart.
    Here, an HSL filter has been applied. Note that the Sony AS100V in the upper left, and the GoPro 3+ in the lower right, best hold together. As subjective as this conversation is, most would agree that the AS100V at 50Mbps holds together better than its counterparts, although the GoPro 3+ at 35Mbps is very impressive. This is a very important consideration for professional users.
    To access high bitrates with the Sony AS100V action camera, a 64GB SDXC card is required. Smaller cards use the FAT format while the larger 64GB card uses EXFAT. EXFAT is necessary to access the PRO mode in the AS100V. The manual does not clearly state this, so beware. It actually took two calls to Sony technical support to realize this. Their own technical support team didn’t know the answer, probably due to the newness of the camera model.
    See the 4K video for more content and comparison.
    In Summary
    All in all, each of the action camera/POV camera products tested in this shootout did very, very, well and far exceeded the quality of cameras only one generation past. This shootout truly came down to a select few cameras though, and any one of the top five are excellent choices depending on requirements for form factor, image quality, post-production requirements, and high framerates.
    Not unexpectedly, the scoring fell very close to the price points of the cameras. Only the ReplayXD Mini was the surprise. Ultimately, it came down to a few things, all of them feature-related as opposed to picture quality related. Truly, there are so many offerings overall, it’s impossible to suggest that any one camera is significantly better than the others for overall use. My personal preferences come down to the Sony AS100V, it’s been called the “GoPro-killer” by many reviewers, but there is a reason everyone compares themselves to GoPro cameras; GoPro is a damn fine product. I don’t care for the GoPro manufacturer mounts, and mount stability is a very large factor in action sports, motor sports, and high-impact situations. The Garmin VIRB took me by surprise; the camera is the heaviest of the lot and has a terrible mount. It would be a terrific camera for most users if the mount was as stable as the camera itself. It truly feels like manufacturers pay almost no attention to the stability of the mounting system, and it’s for this reason that I didn’t use most of the manufacturer mounts (I was doing them a favor while also watching out for my own safety).
    Mounts aside, battery life aside, the VIRB is an exciting newcomer to the mix of cameras. Midland’s new XTC 400 really threw me for a loop, as the camera feels/looks cheap. Again, they have a horrid mount that is even more flimsy than GoPro’s mount. Yet the picture quality, price point, and ease of use make the Midland a wonderful choice for the budget-conscious sport shooter. Finally, Liquid’s EGO really is a delight. Yeah, it’s a pain in the ass to use when in the water housing, and it has a mount identical to GoPro, but it looks like a Minion. How can one just simply not LOVE a Minion? The record time makes this an all-day camera and given that it shares mount points with GoPro, a whole world of mounts are available for this fun little camera at the lowest price point in the mix (it barely made the review criteria).
    Final Standings:
    Sony AS100 74 GoPro Hero 3+ 60 ReplayXD Mini 1080 58 Sony AS30 53 Garmin VIRB 52.5 GoPro 3 Black 51 Drift Ghost S 49 JVC Adixxion 45 Midland XTC400 41 Liquid Ego 34 Polaroid XS100 34 All The Test Videos:
    Motocycle / Road
    Motocycle / Road
    Underwater Snorkel
    Underwater Snorkel II
    Underwater Snorkel III Wingsuit Overhead
    Wingsuit Exit
    Zipline
    Zipline II
    Bobsled Slow Motion
    Codec Test
    Low Light
    This Week in Photo    
    1st Runner Up
    GoPro Hero 3+
    $399.99

    More Information
    Winner
    Sony AS100
    $299.99

    More Information 2nd Runner Up
    Replay XD Mini
    $199.99

    More Information    
    New Action Camera Releases
    - Sony HDR-AZ1VR (Release Date: October 2014)

    - GoPro Hero 4 (Release Date: October 2014)
     
    About The Author

    Douglas Spotted Eagle (D29060) is a videographer/producer living between the world of professional production and skydiving. With more than 5000 skydives and 300 film/television productions, he loves playing with cameras and things that go fast. He is the managing producer and instructional designer at VASST, who will be releasing “ActionCam ClipFix,” an NLE plugin product designed for POV camera shooters. Thanks to Max at Mystic Mountain, John/Karl/Steve/Kenn/Ziggy at Skydive Elsinore, Pepper at Jamaica Snorkel, the Arizona Highway Patrol, Dropzone.com, Adam, Roger, and Nashie who helped make this review happen as smoothly has herding lenses can be. No animals alive or simulated were harmed in the production of this shootout/review.

    By admin, in Gear,

    Z1 SL-14 Helmet Released by Parasport Italy

    Parasport Italy recently released the latest addition to their gear products with the announcement of the Z1 SL-14 helmet. The Z1 SL-14 is the first of the company's products to use the much anticipated Skylight visor. One of the new features with the Skylight visor is the ability to rotate the flip-up visor to a point whereby it will go unseen, ensuring that it does not disturb your peripheral vision under canopy. The visor is made of injection molded polycarbonate and is both anti-scratch and anti-fog treated. Parasport Italy also put focus on the ease of use, and the Skylight visor has been made to operate easily with one hand, even while wearing gloves. The positive response to the previous Z1 helmet regarding the visor locking system has meant that while enhanced upon, the same concept is used for the Z1 SL-14.
    A wider face opening allows for enhanced peripheral vision, a clear field of view whereby the helmet does not distract, and makes for easier sight of the handles, as well as a better awareness of the environment.
    There have been numerous improvements made to the shell of the Z1, ensuring a stronger, more durable helmet, while at the same time focusing on comfort. The manufacturing process involved injection molding with high impact ABS, like that used in the building of motorcycle helmets. The method by which this injection molding takes place, ensures that the products are consistent and well built. The helmet also comes with an adjustable airtight collar which is made from soft anallergic polyester. A removable variable density liner ensures that the Z1 gives a comfortable fit, while also allowing one to easily set the size just by changing the liner. The collar system has been redesigned for a more comfortable fit than previous models, with more padding around the back of the neck. Similar enhancements have been made on the liner which has been redesigned to ensure even better comfort. There has also been an improvement with the airflow management, which the liner's new design helps aid in.
    A lot of focus was placed on consumer and industry feedback with the production of the Z1 SL-14. Such feedback is what brought the design of the Z1 away from the rear placed ratchet collar system that was found on the previous model. The new latching system makes it possible to close the collar around your neck and secure the helmet with the chinstrap buckle in a single movement. The chinstrap is adjustable to adapt the collar to the different shapes and sizes. Adjustment is needed just once (as shown on the drawing), after that securing the Z1 SL-14 is easy as pulling the chinstrap and closing the clip: no further adjustment needed.
    The helmet is designed to be light and aerodynamic, while still ensuring that it is of the highest quality and strength.
    Technical Specifications
    Integrated polycarbonate flip-up visor
    Unique practical and affordable visor mechanism
    Anti-fog, anti-scratch, sturdy replaceable visor
    Airtight collar, combined with safety chinstrap
    Interchangeable liner (can be washed in the washing machine!)
    Pouches on both ears to accommodate audibles
    Size is set by the liner. Available sizes are S, M, L, XL and XXL
    Available with IAS option to install the Skytronic GFX, the NeoXs or compatible audibles
    Available separately the beautiful protecting helmet bag

    By admin, in Gear,

    Petra Project Episode II: Looking for Leia

    Concept
    Leia is born from a simple idea: bringing the Petra technology to the open market!
    After bringing Petra to the CP competition scene three years ago, we have had many more orders than we could reasonably deal with. Everyone wanted one! But as I was going through the infamous ‘list’, I realized that about half were not the original target market of Petra. People were asking for bigger lines, insisted on a ZP version¹... They wanted the fun of it but were not planning to compete.
    It became quite obvious we would have to go back to the (computer aided) drawing board to infuse some of the Petra DNA into a more accessible canopy and create Petra’s little sister.
    She would have to fit in a small Freefly container and be jumpable every day and so we could see her first curves appearing:
    ZP
    No hassle
    Good openings She also needed to keep Petra’s epic flight characteristics such as a high roll rate, a very long dive, high harness sensitivity and the widest speed range ever covered by a parachute (Petra can fly with a tandem or a wingsuit without trims). The picture was getting clearer:
    High ellipticity
    Powerband²
    Steep trim
    Compact aspect ratio


    Development

    1. Bridget
    We first decided on a 7 cell format and we couldn’t wait to learn more so we cut two cells out of a big Petra. Bridget was born. This was a fun experiment but it wasn’t quite right. The aspect ratio was too small, the toggle range was weird and the flare wasn’t powerful enough.
    Why Bridget?
    In a nutshell, this prototype was a little frumpy looking, but still kinda hot! Her low aspect ratio gave her some luscious curves. And while we love curves, we reckon a sleeker wing might suit our purpose better for this project!



    2. Candy
    We gave it more thought (and more computer simulations) and used our secret recipe… a mix of science, beer, experience, overheating computers, head scratching, experiments, overheating sewing machines and beer. And finally went back to the dropzone with a much better design. We gave it a more reasonable aspect ratio and ditched the Mini Ribs³ that appeared useless on this type of design. She was awesome and the test jumpers were looking for excuses to keep jumping her. When they couldn’t find any more, they started fighting to get her in their personal rigs. And so she started to go around... a lot! We thought that was a good sign.

    She was truly flying like Petra so we thought about calling her Petra Lite but she deserved better than being her little sister forever. She needed a personality of her own to grow big in this world. We called her Candy, for her acid drop colors and sweeeeet openings.
    3. Leia
    We knew we were onto something so we kept looking for things to improve. We changed the lineset, refined the panel designs, put more beers into it and made sure every detail was worth her surname...
    Here is Leia...


    We invited TJ Landgren, Katie Hansen and Nick Batsch to try it while they were visiting NZ this summer and they all loved it. Nick did an impressive 175m swoop on it on his first jump (nil wind and at sea level) confirming the awesome potential of the canopy! He didn’t say much straight away but his smile left us confident that she is better than any other ZP competition wing on the market.
    Target
    We said everyday, not everyone...
    Leia is a very high-end design targeted to the most experienced jumpers out there. The way we see it, Leia will NOT be the best choice for:
    First Crossbraced canopy
    Distance world record
    Wingsuiting But will be an awesome wing for:
    Awesome swoopers who want to fun jump, work and play with their canopy, and swoop the shit out of it too – competitively or not!
    Zone accuracy (currently tested by some of the very best pilots)
    Everyday canopy that flies similar to Petra to stay current while working
    Competition wing
    Mountain flying
    XRW
    Something you guys will come up with.
    Specs

    Cells: 7
    Chambers: 21
    Structure: Crossbraced
    Tip chord to Center chord ratio: 0.4 (!)
    Aspect ratio: 2.65
    Wing loading: 2.2 to ?
    Features: No stabilizers, Integrated slider stops, Powerband², No Mini-Ribs³
    Deployment system: Normal slider, RDS available on demand
    Materials: ZP (maybe a hybrid version later on)
    Lines: Black HMA 400 (maybe HMA 600 later on)
    Sizes: Any
    Price: The price hasn’t been decided yet but it will be around 3100USD.
    Availability: Leia is our current project and we are proud to share it with you but this is not an available product at the moment. We hope it will become available sometime in 2014 or 2015.
    1. Petra is only made out of Sail fabric. This is a generic and misleading name for a range of Polyurethane coated nylons developed for paragliders. It gives more rigidity and a better controlled shape to the competition canopies thanks to its low stretch characteristics. Unfortunately, it also packs bigger and doesn’t last as long as our good old ZP (Silicone coated nylon) so it needs to be treated with much more precaution. To learn more about how to increase its life span, contact [email protected]
    2. We call the Powerband the black part on the top leading edge. It is visible on Petra and makes it easily recognizable. It helps defining and controlling the shape better in this critical area where lift is created making a real difference in performance.
    3. The Mini-Ribs are partial ribs covering about 20% of the chord starting from the tail. They allow better shape control on the tail and a sharper trailing edge decreasing the wake turbulence and form drag. This is a design feature commonly found on paragliders and on some wingsuits but Petra is the first parachute using it.
    Keep checking this space or our Facebook page to check the new stuff we are working on!

    By admin, in Gear,

    S-Fly Introduce 'The Hawk' Wingsuit

    With the Hawk, the S-Fly team were looking to design a suit that maximizes manoeuvrability and agility in the skydiving and BASE environments.
    By maximising the pilot’s abilities to perform rolls, flips and precision carving from both back and belly with smooth transitions, the Hawk allows the pilot to creatively express their flying style.
    While extremely maneuverable, the Hawk still provides the lift and power while flying on your back or belly, to allow dynamic acrobatics without dropping out or sacrificing excess altitude. The result is a really fun, very fast and powerful freestyle acrobatic wingsuit designed for intermediate to expert level pilots.





    The Design
    The high performance and maneuverability of the Hawk was achieved by building upon the already successful Verso platform. S-Fly increased the surface area of the arms, extended the leg wing, adjusted the profile and sweep of the arm wing to maximise speed.
    Additionally, in classic S-Fly style, there are no grippers allowing free wrist and hand movement.
    The inflation and pressurization of the Hawk is where the guys at S-Fly feel the suit really stands apart in the modern wingsuit market. The suit remains inflated while transitioning through all maneuvers and positions, but with a smooth unhindered feel. This smooth and consistent inflation of the Hawk is powered by the specific design and placement of the inlets and the four independently fed elements of the wing.





    The Airfoil
    The Hawk’s arm and leg wings are fully pressurized in flight. The two arm wings are fed by wide mesh valves located along its leading edge. The leg wing is fed by three pronounced and reinforced inlets located on the front and three on the back. This system ensures optimum distribution and pressurization while minimizing drag in all positions.
    The “body” is comprised of a single cell that runs from the chest, down the circumference of the legs and to the ankles. The “body" is an evolution of the original mono-wing design from S-Fly. Through the extensive testing phase, it was found that this design allows unique and total freedom to move the pelvis, giving the pilot unencumbered and precise lateral movement without compromising performance. Through the mesh valves located on the arms, and two inlets placed high on the back, the “body” is effectively inflated while flying on the back and belly.


    The Hawk is constructed with Parapack light which is much lighter, has the same aerodynamic properties and is equally durable to normal parapack. The suit is surprisingly light and strong the fabric feels and how much faster it feels in comparison to other fabrics used during the prototype phase.
    Options

    *Quick Zip Cut arm wing release system

    Textured BASE soles

    Chest zipper port for camera access

    Fast leg zipper opening strap

    By admin, in Gear,

    Squirrel Releases SUMO Tracking Suit

    Squirrel Wingsuits have just released the latest addition to their inventory. The SUMO is a tracking suit, the first to be manufactured by the company. The suit is aimed towards both BASE jumpers and skydivers, and catered towards all levels of experience, from beginners through to advanced trackers.
    It was the decision of Squirrel to opt for a 2-piece tracking suit system as opposed to a single piece suit, aiming to bring the comfort and ease of use found in 2-piece systems while providing the performance of a 1-piece suit. The driving concept behind the SUMO was for a tracking suit that balances both volume and stability, while making internal pressure and quick inflation vital points in its design.
    The SUMO has an included “No-Wobble System” which secures the pants to the knee area. This feature, which can be toggled to be active or inactive, helps prevent movement while tracking, giving you better performance and is recommended for proximity BASE jumps, multiways and flights that demand only the best performance. It is attached to the area using Velcro, which can then be easily left unfastened, should one not wish to fly with the No-Wobble system.
    The suit is tapered slightly from waist to ankle, to increase the ease of handling. It is also quick to inflate after exit and is said to provide excellent forward speed with simple and intuitive control.
    Squirrel have built the SUMO tracking suit with the same high standards that have made their wingsuits such a success.
    It is highly advised that BASE jumpers first practice jumping with the SUMO from by skydiving it until they have become comfortable with the way it flies.







    SUMO Tracking Suit Features

    Force Feed
    The majority of power in a tracking suit comes from the pants, and the SUMO benefits from an array of mylar-fed inlets which rapidly inflate and maintain pressure inside the suit.
    Quick Starts
    The SUMO's oversized arm inlets provide immediate control after exit. Upper arm inlets allow early inflow after exit, and the shoulder inlets maintain pressure in flight, through all angles of attack.
    No-Wobble
    Inside the pants at the knee, Squirrel have added a Velcro enclosure which anchors the pants to your leg, reducing pant-leg wobble and increasing control and performance. This is one of the most crucial features of the SUMO, giving the pants a more precise and solid feel when maneuvering in high speed tracks.
    Air-Tight
    A high collar, cinched wrist, and extra-long torso help in reducing leakage and maintaining jacket pressure.
    Plenty-Pockets
    There are four zipped chest pockets which provide plenty of space for phones / emergency electronics / gear storage, and the jacket is lined with airmesh and lycra/fleece for comfort and structure.
    Reinforced
    The knees of the SUMO are heavily reinforced with Cordura, with 5mm of closed cell foam padding for protection and structure.
    Toe-Tension
    There are three toe-tension settings available , which use a lightweight and simple buckle/strap adjustment to maximize fit performance.
    Zips
    Highly durable and custom colored 10C YKK zips run up both legs.

    By admin, in Gear,

    BlackVue SC500 POV Camera Review

    POV cameras are popping out of the ether these days, and a small company in Korea, previously specializing in dashboard cameras, has entered the POV fray with their small box Blackvue camera. The Blackvue closely resembles the frame of the GoPro, and that’ll be the first comparison most folks will make when looking at this camera.
    Size and weight-wise, the BlackVue is identical to the GoPro, JVC Adixxion, Swan, and the majority of other POV cameras, and the profile isn’t terribly different from its main competitor.
    Why would one look at the Blackvue SC500 (or any other competitive camera)? Price, form factor, simplicity/ease of use/setup all fall into a consideration. The Blackvue is ridiculously simple with few buttons, no menus to scroll through, and the simple modes assure perfect recordings every time.
    The camera features Wifi output for monitoring, an included/detachable LCD display, and is capable of shooting 60p footage for smooth slow motion. The housing is a rubberized, non-water/weatherproof housing that mounts on a stickypad/thumbscrew system (compatible with GoPro mounting accessories).
    The camera is essentially choice-free, in that it offers three shooting modes.
    30p (standard/default 1920x1080/30p)
    Still Photo (also capable of timelapse)
    High Speed (1280 x720/120p)
    IMAGE QUALITY
    Let’s start with the most important aspect of image quality.
    Image quality from this camera is about what I expected it to be. It’s not “drop your jaw this is incredible” good, and it’s not really poor, either. It’s better than some of its competitors, lesser than others so I’d refer to it as “average.” The camera features a Sony Exmor imager, similar to the imager used in the Sony AS-15 cameras, and I’m a bit surprised that Pittasoft didn’t take greater advantage of the features this sensor offers. They’ve tuned the sensor to be quite dynamic, as this screengrab demonstrates.
    The lens is a fixed 170 degree lens, similar to most of the competitor POV cameras. The glass is exposed, as there is no cover/protection for the lens in the housing. The lens does come with a small rubber cover that is easily lost and falls off if the camera is tipped over. It is possible to sit the camera farther back in the housing, if the LCD display is removed, thus providing some lens protection via the housing.

    The BUTTONS
    There are only three buttons on the camera (unless one counts the LCD power button on the LCD pack). One button powers the camera and selects the mode (Video/Still/High-Speed). One button for Wifi on/off, and the record start/stop button.
    The removeable LCD pack also has its own power button.
    Buttons are large, so operating the camera while wearing gloves won’t be any kind of an issue. The built in speaker provides audio for playback, and also provides status indicators when buttons are depressed. However, this speaker/audio indicator is hard to hear in a noisy airplane.
    INDICATORS
    All indicators are found on the front of the camera. This is where the first weakness in the camera is found. The indicator lights are small, and difficult to read in daylight. The record light is also dim and although the streamlined look of the record indicator is sexy, it’s also difficult to see in a well-lit aircraft cabin. In the 120p test footage, you can see the camera operator squinting and covering the camera to shade it from the sun, as it was challenging to see whether the camera was recording or not.
    BlackVue would do well to take a page from their competitors playbook and put a larger indicator light in their next version.

    The HOUSING:
    The housing is unique; a rubber “O” ring design surrounds the entire camera. The intent is to dampen vibration and provide protection against scuffs and scrapes common in the action sport environment. The housing is capable of holding only the camera, or the camera/LCD combination. The housing offers a pair of holed mounting tabs, identical to the GoPro camera mount system, and in fact, the two are compatible. This is a huge benefit to camera owners, as they have access to the full complement of GoPro mounting accessories. Smart move on the part of Pittisoft to jump on this before any of their competition has realized that when it comes to camera mounts, standardization is a good thing.
    This system is not waterproof, nor even weather resistant. While I’d have no problem using it around mist, clouds, etc, I’d also be very uncomfortable in any environment where water might cover any significant portion of the camera. Pittasoft does have a waterproof housing in the works at an undisclosed price.





    Best viewed in 720p
    CONNECTING POINTS
    The camera provides a mini HDMI port for instant viewing on a monitor. This is critical for debriefs, as when one is working between loads, it is time-consuming to remove a microSD card and read from a computer or other playback system.
    The camera also offers a USB port, suitable for charging or playback over a computer. Both ports are covered by a removable plastic plug. Like other small format cameras using this “feature,” I find it annoying, as it’s a small plastic part easily fumbled while wearing any kind of glove, and may easily be lost.
    BATTERY LIFE
    There is no easy way to say it; battery life is unimpressive. Out of six jumps, the battery failed on three of them, even though I disabled the LCD screen. The unit had been charged prior to each jump, and turned on to check on the ground prior to boarding the aircraft. It’s possible my unit wasn’t entirely up to speed, yet even after charging overnight, the unit couldn’t manage two jumps in a row with the LCD preview enabled. There is no indicator for battery level if the LCD display is disabled, yet the LCD preview eats most of the battery. Wifi is also a battery-killer, but fortunately, the WiFi indicator is very obvious, and unless cell/wifi preview is absolutely necessary, users would be wise to leave it off (this issue is similar with all the POV cameras, but the Blackvue seems to be a bit more wifi power-hungry than some of the others).
    In speaking with the folks at Pittisoft, they indicated that they’re now shipping a firmware offering better battery life.
    SUMMARY
    All in all, this is a very simple camera, easier to operate than most of the POV offerings out there due to its limited functionality. Some people are looking for easy-to-use and this camera absolutely offers “easy.” Picture quality is on par with cameras costing more, and offers a better image than some of its same-price counterparts. It’s super-fast to set up and as there are no menus to cycle through, there is virtually no chance of not knowing which mode the camera is in.
    Its light weight makes it perfect for many other applications; I particularly appreciated how well it flies on a UAV drone.
    The price is competitive, the camera is very easy to operate, and the build is robust. I for one, am looking forward to seeing how Pittasoft’s new camera does in the rapidly broadening POV market.
    Price: 300.00 USD
    Available online and at some retailers now.
    About The Author

    DOUGLAS SPOTTED EAGLE is an audio and video pro. He is a Grammy recipient with DuPont, Peabody, and Telly awards lining his studio; he is also a participant/producer in multiple Emmy winning productions. Douglas is the Managing Producer for Sundance Media Group, Inc. and VASST, authoring several books and DVDs and serving as a trainer and consultant for videographers, software manufacturers and broadcasters. He is the author or co-author of several digital media titles including Digital Video Basics (VASST), The FullHD (VASST), and Vegas Editing Workshop (Focal Press) among many others. - See more at: http://www.dropzone.com/about/Contributors_895.html#sthash.oSWvVDbz.dpuf

    By admin, in Gear,

    Shimano Enters the POV Camera Market With the CM-1000

    Action cameras are popping up all over the place, from all sorts of companies. Garmin shocked a few with their release of the Garmin Virb in the third quarter of last year. Now it's the Japanese manufacturer Shimano that has joined the party. Unlike some of the other action camera competitors, Shimano is a long standing company founded in 1921, but is typically known for their cycling, snowboarding and fishing equipment.
    Shimano will be releasing their first POV action camera in May this year, which will look to compete with brands like GoPro, Contour and Sony. The new 'CM-1000' as it's called, certainly has some interesting features that could allow it to challenge the competitors. Unlike most other POV cameras the CM-1000 is waterproofed to 30 feet without the requirement of any additional housing. The weight is also very impressive, weighing in at just 86 grams; more than half that of the GoPro Hero 3 Black Edition when waterproof housing is attached.
    The most impressive feature for us is the aperture of the camera lens which sits at F2.0, as opposed to most competitors' F2.8. This full-stop increase in light will allow for better low-light performance from the camera, a topic that is often focused on and often falls short in some manufacturers. The sensor is also very impressive, boasting a 16 megapixel backlit CMOS sensor, likely able to produce high quality still images as well as full HD video.
    The CM-1000 will come with multiple lens modes, a standard 135 degree view as well as an ultra wide angle 180 degree view. Another pretty cool feature is the auto image rotation, which will automatically rotate the picture to the correct orientation, regardless of how you hold the camera. Bells and whistles come in the form of ANT+ capabilities, allowing users to connect the device to training devices and heart-rate monitor. Especially useful for those who like to keep track of their data.
    While one would imagine that coming from a company who is renowned for their cycling gear, that their camera would be focused towards cyclists. The CM-1000 seems to target all POV users, with the company's focus put on things like waterproofing.
    In summary, the CM-1000 looks impressive on paper, it has what appears to be a high quality sensor, a large aperture and is light weight. It is however important to remember that these are only a fraction of variables that will affect the overall video and image quality. And it will be interesting to see how the camera handles transition in lighting, as that's always an important factor with POV cameras. Though if it performs as one would expect from a company with a history of quality products and a large development budget, this camera is definitely worth keeping an eye on.
    Shimano's CM-1000 will come with a lens cover and two mounts (one adhesive and the other helmet mount) and USB cable.
    The CM-1000 will set you back $299 on release.

    By admin, in Gear,

    Norwegian Military Upgrades Gear - Surplus for Sale

    The Norwegian Defence Force recently replaced all their parachute systems and in turn sold their surplus gear to a company (Alfa Nordic AS) which is now looking to sell the large collection of Performance Designs and Parachutes de France items. There were originally 120 main canopies and 120 reserves for sale, with the current inventory selling quickly.
    The canopies are said to be in good condition with the majority having around 100 jumps on them with only a few with more than 200 jumps, and many of the reserves are still in their original plastic bag. The DOM for the mains and reserves are between September and October 2001. Any damaged canopies that were found in the original batch have been removed from the sales pool and as of yet there have been no returns on any of the sold items.
    The canopies have reportedly been and are currently being stored in boxes on pallets, covered with thick transparent plastic in a dry and warm storage area in Norway. Alfa Nordic’s main building is located in Hokksund, Norway with the rigger being located in Voss.
    The items originally listed as for sale include:
    Performance Designs:
    Navigator 220
    Navigator 240
    Navigator 260
    Navigator 280 For 4000NOK (about $635)
    Parachutes de France:
    Electra
    Techno For 1000NOK (about $159)
    The current item availability can be viewed via Google Doc
    Should you wish to make a purchase or enquiry you can contact Ron Holan at

    [email protected]

    By admin, in Gear,

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