Action Cam Questions From A Newbie

Discussion in 'General Action Camera Discussion' started by Cash Bailey, Aug 9, 2017.

  1. Cash Bailey

    Cash Bailey New Member

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    I just started researching HD mirror/dash/action cams a couple days ago, & I have to say I'm overwhelmed.
    My passion is tornado chasing. I was successful in June 2016, & July of this year, & while I got good video, it was on my trusty, but outdated, & not even close to HD, 2010 Panasonic SDR–H85.

    Here’s a couple screen caps of the beast I chased down last month.

    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    I can only imagine how much better the caps & video would look if I’d had an HD camera :(
    The tornado chasing season is probably over, & I made myself a promise that by the time it starts back up next April, I'll have some type of HD camera.
    So here I am.

    Before starting my research, I didn't even know there was a separate ‘action’ camera category.
    So please keep in mind that you're dealing with a complete newbie.

    In my research, I came across this video on YouTube.


    The one thing that attracts me to an ‘action’ cam is that I wouldn't have to do any wiring in my vehicle.

    Questions:
    001: How long does the battery in a camera like this one last ?
    002: Do they include automobile charging cables ?
    003: Can you buy extra batteries to pop in if you don't have time to charge ?
    004: Are dash mounts included/available, with/for camera’s like this ?
    005: Do units like this one have the capability to zoom, etc ?

    If any of you make suggestions on individual models, I'm willing to pay up to $400.00 if that's what it takes to get an ultra reliable & easy to use camera.

    Thanks In Advance
     
  2. Nigel

    Nigel Well-Known Member

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    1. Around 90 minutes is typical but some are better than others.
    2. Action cameras don't normally come with automobile charging cables, but they all come with USB cables so you just need a decent quality automobile USB adaptor, as used for charging mobile phones etc. You can also use a USB power bank to charge them.
    3. Yes, with most action cameras you can easily change the battery, you can also get battery chargers for some types. Do check before choosing though, there are a few that the battery has to be charged in the camera and that can be very annoying.
    4. Some come with dash mounts, most of the newer models have a standard tripod thread in the bottom and there are various windscreen mounts with tripod screws so even if it doesn't come with one it is easy to get hold of one.
    5. Some have a zoom capability, but in all action cameras it is a digital zoom and the result quickly becomes blurry so most people don't use zoom with action cameras.
    6. Note that most action cameras are very wide angle compared to larger video cameras, for some purposes this is really good, including mounting in a car, however don't expect to zoom in on a storm that is still miles away, they will give a view more like what you see in real life without using binoculars.

    The SJ6 is a decent camera, but it likes the sunshine and is not so good in the dark, as a dashcam in a dark rainstorm it will be a bit disappointing.

    The Gitup G3 (Git3) is a possibility, that is one that has a decent zoom, although it is still digital and beyond x2 you start to loose detail, but it is better than most. This is a stormy photo taken with my G3:

    Gitup G3 subforum: https://dashcamtalk.com/forum/forums/git3.212/

    [​IMG]
     
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  3. Cash Bailey

    Cash Bailey New Member

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    Thank you Nigel, I really appreciate it!
     
  4. kamkar1

    kamkar1 Well-Known Member

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    I sure as hell would have some dashcameras on my chasing car too, though with their wide angle lenses you will have to get pretty close to get something good.
    Then again those cameras would just be there just in case, my primary camera would be a proper camcorder or Dslr camera with a decent zoom option.

    No doubt if i got to do my American holiday of my dreams i would have to spend a little time in "the ally" which remind me maybe i am better off getting a rental for those 6 months :D

    All of my big drive video was shot on the SJ6 Legend using 1080p and narrow FOV
    https://dashcamtalk.com/forum/threads/big-drive-05-07-2017.29701/

    It is speed up cuz no one will sit and watch me drive 9 hours around the north of Jutland.

    you can off course put other lenses on any action or dash camera, they all use the same M12 fine thread lenses.
     
    Last edited: Aug 9, 2017
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  5. SawMaster

    SawMaster Well-Known Member

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    As a watcher of these kinds of vids,I'd suggest that once you find the cam you want you add one or two more like it to your 'stable' of cams. That way your 'dashcam' can remain to show driving conditions and give a constant perspective, while the other one(s) catch the rest. Having just one cam type lets you become intuitively good with it, allows battery interchangeability, and makes for quick replacement of a failed cam. Also you should get very conversant with a high-grade video editing program to weave the story together best.

    To me, there's nothing worse than seeing vids where an over-excited well-intentioned soul grabs his dash-mounted cam, takes some shaky outside vids, throws it back into he car where it is ill-positioned due to haste, then races away for a better perspective. Some of the storm-chasers I've seen would do well to consider a job in Hollywood as good as they are making vids, and some should throw their cameras away. Be one of the former, not the latter ;) And above all be safe for yourself and everyone else out there with you :D

    Phil
     
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  6. Cash Bailey

    Cash Bailey New Member

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    ATTN: kamkar1 & SawMaster

    Thanks for the input. I've gathered enough from this thread to start researching seriously.
     
  7. SawMaster

    SawMaster Well-Known Member

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    Wish I could help more but I'm more weighted towards dashcams than action cams. I do have extensive training in severe weather spotting, forecasting, weather map reading, and deciphering METAR data and a bit less in RADAR interpretation. I've had a few very close calls with weak tornados and that's close enough and plenty enough for me :p You get out there and I'll watch from here thank you :cool:

    Just be safe- no hobby is worth dying for ;)
    Phil
     
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  8. kamkar1

    kamkar1 Well-Known Member

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    Thats why most of the times i was stunting my quad bike was not wearing a helmet, then again i rarely exceeded my own running speed on that thing. :D

    But a F5 that's a whole other game than falling on your ass from a motorized toy.

    Just be advised if you put cameras on the side windows, you will probably have to give the glass some kind of nano treatment so rainwater run off faster.
    I still haven't gotten around to do that for my 2 side cameras, and every time it rain i am kicking myself as it to a large degree render my side cameras mute as water bead on the windows in the 2 rear doors where my side cameras are.

    You could also use action cameras on the outside in their waterproof housings, but then you are limited by their modest battery times, and if you run into hard hitting precipitation ( hail ) you might have to kiss the cameras goodbye
     
  9. jackalopephoto

    jackalopephoto Member

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    I'm amazed that you chase tornados but don't already have good cameras-- What do you chase them for? Are you doing research? I always thought people did that specifically to get footage, seems very strange to get low res footage
     
  10. kamkar1

    kamkar1 Well-Known Member

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    well i would chase them for the personal experience, capturing footage would just be to rub it in the fave of the "video or it dident happen" people i dont care so much for.
    When it come to tornado ally in the season i think the most people there will be there for the spectacle itself and not for actual science.

    But i am told that if you get the right footage you can sell it to media for a hansom wad of dollar bills :) and that's worth thinking about if you are there anyway.
     
  11. SawMaster

    SawMaster Well-Known Member

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    People chase for various reasons, and indeed really good footage sells for lots of money. But to get footage like that requires more than a good cam and the skill to work it- you have to know the storms, understand what radar shows, know where to be at, when to be there, what roads you can take, and most important when to leave and where to go as that kind of footage always comes from dangerous areas to be in. Even then you'll need a ton of good luck- half of that to get decent footage and the other half to survive another day. Before you start study the 2013 Ek Reno tornado and see what can happen to even the best chasers and armored chasing vehicles.

    Tornadoes are fascinating like nothing else I can imagine, but being in one unprepared is like watching an artillery gun fire from a mile away with binoculars and seeing the shell heading straight toward you knowing that it's too late to do anything about it- only your luck and your chosen deity can save you from the certain death that will be there for you in just a moment. And the best possible outcome you'll see lies in the hope that you will die instantly for you know there is no escape. I fear almost nothing for if left to my own fate either lung or colon cancer will be my end. I've seen what those do to a human and anything else is a far better death. But after my close calls I fear tornadoes for I know what they are like too. No more for me, thank you ;)




    Phil
     
  12. Cash Bailey

    Cash Bailey New Member

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    Phil,
    other than my own online research, I have no training in severe weather spotting forecasting, map reading, etc.
    I'm now thinking that I'll get both a dash cam, & another handheld camera like my trusty Panasonic, only HD.

    I try to be as safe as possible. I have two friends in my hometown who have similar interests.
    Whenever it's possible, I like to have one of them come along. On July 9th, one of them was working, & I didn't get in touch with the other one because I didn't think it would turn out to be anything.
    She's upset with me now because of that :(

    Anyway, thanks for the reply. Here's a recap of what happened that day, & how I decide whether it's worth going out or not.
    (I realize you're well trained in the following area's, but I'm adding them in case someone who has no understanding of this, might be interested.

    The atmosphere where I live (South Central Minnesota) was capped on Sunday. [​IMG]

    There's lots of sites that identify area's where severe weather is most likely. I use this one, https://www.wunderground.com/severeconvective.asp?outlook=today
    & on that Sunday, there was a large area highlighted in dark orange (enhanced risk) to the NW of me.

    I left around 4:45 PM, zigzagged on a bunch of different roads until I was approximately 75 miles NW. I pulled into a field approach & watched.
    Lots of little cells were trying to start up to the east & south of me, but as mentioned earlier, the atmosphere there was capped.

    About 1/2 hour later, I saw two separate storms to the NW break through. I followed the one furthest west. It's amazing how fast a supercell can form when all the conditions are just right. I am guessing that the time between when I saw this little cell go up, & when I started recording, (pic 1 in original post) was around 30 minutes!

    One other thing that I've never seen before that day, or in this case heard, was the sound of the thunder when the mothership/wall cloud/mesocyclone got so close to me I had to get out. I can only describe it as the sound of giant boulders rolling downhill.

    There's many different conditions that have to come together for super-cells to form, the most popular definition of these is S.L.I.M

    Shear
    Lift
    Instability
    Moisture

    For anyone interested in learning more, here's a link.
    https://vimeo.com/album/3441346/video/125824769

    Oh, I almost forgot, here's a link to the July 9, 2017 storm,


    & also the June 14, 2016 chase.


    As I said earlier, I try to play it safe, this one was the exception. From 1:23 - 2:00 I was almost directly beneath the wall cloud. I wouldn't even want to know what my blood pressure was at that point.
    I got lucky
     
  13. Cash Bailey

    Cash Bailey New Member

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    Why don't I already have good cameras ? One word: Procrastination

    Why do I chase them ?
    First off, let it be known that I'm not a professional storm chaser. Read Timmer has nothing to worry about!
    But I've always been fascinated by weather, & the idea that I can witness one of the most powerful forces on earth, is the draw for me.
    Even though I don't understand it completely, I'm also intrigued by the atmospheric conditions that are necessary for formation of a tornado, and how rare it is for all of those conditions to come together.

    To me, there's nothing sweeter than stepping outside on a sunny hot afternoon, & seeing something like this [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Aug 16, 2017 at 1:40 PM
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  14. SawMaster

    SawMaster Well-Known Member

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    Your local National Weather Service offers free Skywarn classes- give'em a call,email. or tweet if it's not on their website. You'll probably meet some Ham radio folks there- hook up and get your Ham license. First, the Skywarn classes help you understand how these storms operate and what to look for. If you're lucky there may even be a Radar class offered but those are infrequent. The most fun is that you'll get a 'grand tour' of their office and see all their nice toys, er I mean equipment :p When severe weather is imminent anywhere in the US, the local Hams will open a Skywarn net giving real-time on-the-ground observations which go straight to the NWS. Knowing that stuff takes a lot of the guesswork out of your positioning. And almost all the Pro Stormchasers use Ham Radio to intercommunicate between team members as well as other teams. Once you're in the game you'll learn where to find those other folks. Getting licensed is easy these days. In the worst of times you can lose all other communications but Ham radio will still be there and working. We pride ourselves on that :D And the best local information is there too for anything you might need out on the road.

    Skip Talbot's YT channel is a good one to learn from. Pecos Hank does great videos and he gets some of the best pics and vids. That's the level to strive for in pics and vids; that kind of quality sells :cool: Study everything you can about the 2013 El Reno tornado, especially regards real size versus what you think you're seeing, and know that any tornado can emulate that one's freakish behavior. Study the associated winds- there can be 100MPH winds well away from even a small weak tornado in the right circumstances and places, and those are just as dangerous. But always remember this- bravery and stupidity aren't much different; your knowledge is what draws the line between them ;)

    Be safe and have fun!
    Phil
     
  15. kamkar1

    kamkar1 Well-Known Member

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    The Danish weather radar ( tax funded public meteorologists ) only get updated every 15 minutes, you can get real time updates but then you have to cough up a lot of money ( aside for what you pay in your taxes )

    December 3 1999 the forecast was for a little windy tonight, turned over to be the storm of the century here with mean winds of 38,1 m/s ( 85 MPH) and gusts of 51,4 m/s ( 114 MPH ) 7 people was killed and 800 was injured.
    Driving around that night you really had to have a good grip on the steering wheel of the car, and getting out and leaning into the wind you could get a pretty low angle

    But the forecast was "just a little windy" :rolleyes:
    Meteorologists are some of the people i loathe the most of civil servants. :mad:

    Love extreme weather, but here that's just high winds or if really good thunderstorms. But we do get a waterspout or 2 every summer, even this year where we barely had anything that qualify as summer by our measurements ( 25 degrees C / 77 Degrees F or higher )
     
  16. c4rc4m

    c4rc4m Active Member

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    My personal suggestion would be if you're after an action camera, consider getting a Backbone Ribcaged Version of either a Y2 4K or a GoPro Hero 5:

    https://www.back-bone.ca/product-category/ribcage_cameras/

    The biggest issue you're likely to have with a standard action camera is most are designed for up close captures of the person involved in sport eg surfer, sky diver etc. As such they generally have very wide fisheye lens and are focused to be sharp from a few centimetres away using depth of field to render the illusion of total sharpness. Whilst the sharpness might not be an issue, the field of view might as presumably you don't want the tornado to be a spec in the distance but equally don't want to get that close. The limitation is it's difficult to change the lens and the standard lenses are in my opinion, usually not the best available.

    The advantages of a ribcaged camera are:

    1. They're designed to allow the fitment of a whole range of accessory lenses of different focal lengths or even small zooms (some versions can even take DSLR lenses, although unless you have pro lenses, personally I think you'll probably see better images from some of their own small fixed lens range. If you have Pro DSLR lenses such as Canon L series then the choice is probably a no brainer. Note again here, not all ribcaged versions take all types of lenses).

    2. The Ribcage lenses available appear very high quality - for best quality look for very low distortion aplanatic lenses and very high resolution. On the latter point personally I'd ignore the HD / 4K guidance beyond treating it as a minimum spec indicator, and look at the resolving power choosing something in the 16-18mp range (your lens can never been too sharp or detailed in my opinion but you can't add what isn't there).

    Examples from a ribcaged gopro with a ribcaged lens are all over youtube and appear to show significant picture quality gains over the standard cameras in my opinion. Backbone's own channel is here:
    https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCXAy4uKB9uSbeHDwmDsIZJw/videos

    Should you decide to go down the ribcage route, I'd advise watching the installation videos BEFORE buying a kit as the installation process is involved and long, and requires major modification to the cameras, so you may be better off paying extra and buying the complete camera with the ribcage pre-fitted rather than risk damaging an expensive action camera.

    BTW on the storm chasing side, have you considered getting a SiriusXM Weather receiver? This is what pilots use to receive weather data from the NEXRAD ground station network. There is some delay so the reports are usually a between 3-20 minutes old, however, it should give you the big picture of where the storm cells are and what direction they're heading in, it also reports lightening strikes, cloud heights and wind speeds at various heights. It's broadcast over XM Radio via satellite and whereas you used to need an expensive avionics suite to receive it, you can now get a portable receiver from Sirius that plugs into an iPad.
    http://ipadpilotnews.com/2014/07/new-siriusxm-wireless-weather-receiver-ipad/

    http://www.sportys.com/pilotshop/siriusxm-aviation-receiver-sxar1.html

    The bad news is the initial investment plus a subscription of $34.99 per month, although there's a $200 rebate atm on the receiver making it effectively $499. (An ipad isn't included!). Can't say if it's a good choice for storm chasing, but I'm sure there will be some chasing community websites that would know.
     
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  17. Nigel

    Nigel Well-Known Member

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    I think you missed his budget :D

    Standard action cameras are fixed focus with a huge depth of field and should be in focus from under 1 meter to infinity, perfect for catching storms since there is never any need to focus them and the auto-focus can't get it wrong since there is no auto-focus. If they are focused closer than infinity then that is poor manufacture, even though it is a fairly common issue on GoPros!

    Having 1 very wide angle camera is good for storm chasing, they show much more sky than you can get with a normal camera and if you get close then it is what you need. However you will sometimes want to zoom in on something in the distance and an action camera will not do that, but he does already have the trusty Panasonic so an action camera is a sensible next camera. A dashcam is also sensible but if you are going to choose between an action camera and a dashcam then I would go for the action camera since most decent action cameras can also be used as dashcams but can also be taken off their mounts and used handheld.
     
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