Chilli Technologies' Action Cam 2 arrived in a lovely metal box and peering through the windowed lid of the metal box filled me with excitement. It looked shiny, small and most importantly, it looked waterproof (well, bar the metal body potentially rusting).
The initial rush of excitement soon dispersed as I emptied the contents on the table. The first disappointing thing about it was the handlebar attachment which had rubber straps and looked flimsy. As we all (should) know rubber is flexible, therefore logic dictates that no matter how tight you think you’ve got the camera on the handlebars, it’s going to give way to movement.
The second disappointing, and very irksome thing about the camera was the access to the on / off switch and USB connector. Both of these things are located behind a screw top. Yes, you read that right - a screw top. This means that as you are setting off on your journey on a cold winters morning with your Endura gloves on, you have to remove the gloves to remove the fiddly cap to turn on the switch and then screw the top back on. I found myself dropping the lid on a couple of occasions due to the unit being close to my Garmin Edge.
This is taken straight from the instruction manual:
"Push the switch to power-ON position – it will now enter initialization status and a blue light will turn on and then the yellow light – when the blue and yellow light are showing, this means that the unit is on Standby and ready to record. Press the pause button once to begin recording – as soon as the unit is recording, the green light will begin to flash."
So, from what I can work out from the instructions, if your unit is recording, the blue and yellow lights will be static, whilst the green light flashes. If the green light isn’t flashing – its in standby mode. If the blue light is on and the green light is flashing, you are in camera mode, but if the green light isn’t flashing and the red one is - you have a low battery. Give me Milton Bradleys Simon any day.
Back to the handlebar mount, as this was the prime position for testing the camera. Attaching it to the handlebars was easy, and the rubber stretched quite well, allowing me to fit it to the chunkier part of my mountain bike handlebars. The top strap is also made of rubber, and to securely fasten it into the mount you really do have cover up the pause / play button and all the flashing lights, otherwise you will find the Chilli firing out the front. Of course this renders the unit useless as you can’t see that its recording and makes the buttons difficult to reach. I also managed to pull off the top strap completely, and had to get a colleague with extremely thin fingers to reattach.
Due to the handlebar mount the unit becomes very shaky on use and makes the recordings on anything other than a smooth flat surface pretty useless. Even then the slightest of vibrations sends a shiver through to the camera. Capturing a number plate whilst in this state is a difficult thing to do.
Another snippet from the manual:
"The recorded file will not automatically save unless you set it in the pause status after recording."
So, if you forget to pause and switch it off – you lose everything that you’ve recorded and because the unit doesn’t do anything sensible like split the files every 30 minutes (a la Veho Muvi), you could potentially lose a whole 2 ½ hours worth of continuous footage.
It comes with a few other attachments in the box, allowing you to attach to a helmet or even inside your car, which is pretty good, and they also supply you with a sight to line up that ‘perfect’ shot if using the 3mp camera – interesting idea, but pretty pointless as most people would chose to use their mobile phone or camera to take pictures.
Finally although the unit may look waterproof it isn't, but as I can’t find a mention of waterproofing in the manual I resisted the temptation to use it in the rain, and when we checked with Chilli they confirmed that the reason there' no mention in the manual is because it isn't waterproof – they do have plans for a waterproof version in 2011 though.
Despite its very attractive price point, its priced that low for a reason. Though you can’t fault the cameras ability to film in darker conditions (it outperform the more expensive Oregon Scientific ATC5K on this score), it still only records in VGA (640 x 480). What’s more, the microphone doesn’t seem to pick up anything other than muffled noise.
Had the camera come with a more solid way of attaching it to the bike handlebars, I would probably have bought one - especially at such a low price.
road.cc test report
Make and model: Chilli Tech Action Cam 2
Size tested: Silver
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
No rules, the only limit is your imagination That’s what Chilli is all about Grabbing technology by the horns, giving it a shake and bringing it to the people All our products have three things in common – they’re designed to be fun, simple to use, and they won’t break the bank.
Plug and play - Recorded video taken can be viewed by standard Windows Media Player, Quicktime or Realplayer. No drivers required.
Record Audio and video at 640 x 480 (VGA). 3 megapixel camera. Store video onto Micro SD card upto 8GB. Download to PC/Mac with USB cable included. Date/time of recording function. Aluminium metal case. Built in lithium battery. Weighs only 80g.
Accessories include: Car window bracket, bike bracket, head strap and USB cable.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Rechargeable battery, 25 frames per second VGA recording with a 3mp sensor. Micro SD & TF card compatible.
It looks pretty in nice shiny silver and looks like a very solid unit.
Unfortunately, the handlebar mount completely lets the Action Cam down down as the clips I produced jumped up and down like there was an earthquake.
Battery lasted all the way home, as did the SD card. I didn't want to test the camera in water, though was tempted
Its light, which you would expect for the size.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
It does exactly what it says on the tin.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The packaging was good.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The handlebar mount.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? No - not with this mount anyway
Would you recommend the product to a friend? No, but if it had a better mount maybe
Anything further to say about the product in conclusion?
Change the handlebar mount and the Action Cam 2 gains a few more points, as the camera itself is pretty good, and works well in lower light conditions.
About the tester
I usually ride: Trek 2.3 My best bike is: Fuji Mt Fuji Pro 2010
I've been riding for: Under 5 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, sportives, mtb,