In the earliest days of skydiving, photographers were excited about the advent of the “lipstick camera” for its small form factor and ease of use. The camera(s) could be mounted on a wing, helmet, or other foundation, cabled to a recorder, and used for new angles in aerial production. They were also horribly expensive.
In modern times, we’ve seen the camera shrink in size, and dramatically improve in image quality. In many cases, this size-shrink inspires kludgy form factors, and this is where the Replay XD camera shines.
With a nod to the stylings of the unobtrusive lipstick camera, the Replay XD is very slim in size (same diameter as a quarter), and easy to use. All electronics are packed into this small cylinder, where several features are found that no other camera offers.
Replay XD shoots in one of three user-determined resolutions; 1080, 960, or 720. Framerates of p30 or p60 are user-selectable.
The camera is powered up via a button mounted at the front. Users know it’s recording by the red indicator light and the haptic (vibration) feedback that occurs when the camera is put into record mode. The camera may be set up as a one-button record, or other modes may be defined by the user.
MicroSD cards are used for storage, and the camera supports up to a 32GB card, allowing for ridiculously long record times (up to 10 hours, and Replay offers a battery pack to support long recording times).
These small cylinder cameras may be mounted at any angle, any pitch, on any surface with great ease. The Replay XD is much smaller in overall profile than any of the other cameras, which is why it’s long been a choice in the motorsports and aircraft industry.
Mounting the Replay XD is no different than mounting any of the other popular POV cameras; peel n’ stick the 3M tape, and put it where you want it to go. The camera can be rotated in its mount until it has been clicked in place. Once clicked, it’s locked and cannot be rotated.
The Replay XD uses a 135 degree FOV (Field Of View) so it’s a bit more narrow than some of the other popular brands. However, this also provides for a more natural view, something many sports enthusiasts prefer, as the narrower FOV does not have a distorted image.
I like that Replay XD offers lens replacement kits for 5.00; this means I’m not spending a lot of cash for scratched lenses, and lenses can be replaced in the field. Replay takes lenses fairly seriously; they’re the only POV manufacturer that offers lens adapters so that external lenses or more importantly, filters, might be added to the camera setup. This is a tremendous advantage for pro’s wanting the best image possible.
With a mini HDMI connector on the back of the camera, it is the only live output to be found on any POV camera offering. This means that not only can the camera be connected to a broadcast device for live streaming (without the degradation of using low bitrate video via wi-fi), but that the camera may be connected to the battery-operated ReView monitor for checking camera placement, angle, level, exposure on a production-grade monitor. Lastly, the live HDMI output also allows users to plug straight into any television monitor while setting the camera on a helmet and checking the aimpoint.
Another pro feature, is the ability to access the core functions of the camera and modify camera settings for specific purposes.
Opening the .txt file at the root of the camera, allows users to modify bitrate (very important), white balance, exposure/compensation, saturation, contrast, audio gain, and more. The menu selections also allow the camera to be set to a one-button record, or one-button power up, second button-record mode. The file settings may be saved off, making it ridiculously easy for a camera monkey to set up multiple cameras.
Replay XD is also the only POV camera that offers timecode in the stream, providing significant benefit for multicam operations or legal use.
The camera is capable of shooting interval stills, at full resolution from a 5Mp sensor.
Files may be custom-named in the .text file, or simply auto-named by the camera. The camera records mp4/AVC files and wraps them in a .mov package, readable by any NLE software or media player on any platform.
A micro usb connector is used to charge the camera, and to transfer data from the camera to a storage device. Memory cards may also be removed for external read/transfer.
The Replay XD isn’t waterproof, but I was able to dunk it to around 10’ of ocean, and in any sink or tub. It’s not designed for underwater use (they have a housing good to 100meters), but the camera is quite capable of going through rain, incidental water, and other “wet” situations with ease. The all-billet aluminum camera is ridiculously tough, as seen in this YouTube video where I drove a Dodge Challenger back and forth over a running camera, and even popped the clutch, spinning the camera out from under the car.
Image quality is what I’d expect out of a POV camera. It’s subjective to say it’s better or worse than other POV competitors. The image sits quite nicely alongside media from high end cameras, and in fact, this camera is used for many broadcast television shows, including live feeds from NHRA and other race competitions. It’s been used in major-motion picture production, and sits nicely in the mix with other high-end POV cameras. The things that set the Replay XD aside are its form factor, the durability, and the features usually found only on broadcast equipment.
The factory package comes ready to roll; battery is partially charged, memory card included, 2 mount systems, pads, charger, 12V charger, carry bag, USB cable, storage bag for camera, Cordura system storage bag./
Things I really like about this camera:
- External audio/pro audio capability
- Live external monitor (to any monitor, but the ReView is very cool)
- Lens/filter adapters
- One button operation
- Super low profile/inobtrusive in a wide shot.
- Aluminum billet mounts
- Body durability/toughness
- Image quality with user-defined tweaks
- Timecode for multicam use
- Field-changeable lens covers
- The awesomely wide variety of mounts ranging from lightweight plastic for general use, to billet aluminum for more permanent or high-risk mount locations.
What I don’t like:
- USB port. This is a Micro USB port, and the cables are nearly impossible to find in a crunch. If you’ve got the cable with you, great! But if you don’t, and your battery dies, you’ll wish you had a RePower charge kit with you.
- Rubber buttons. At first glance, these are great. But, it is possible to skin them off if they’re struck with great force at the inappropriate angle.
- Rubber water seal O-rings. These keep the camera watertight, but they also can fall off if the back is frequently removed.
- In a tight spot, it’s difficult to get to the release tabs on the low-boy mount. I did find that using a flat screwdriver or popsicle stick got me in there, yet one would think there is an easier way.
The camera kit sells for 299.00 with all accessories, and is available from most skydiving supply stores.