The whole point of an action camera is to put the viewer in your seat. In our case, it’s to bring the viewer along for a ride with us and to see all the things we see in the moment. From close passes to stunning scenery, recording your ride allows you to relive those special moments over and over again. Not to mention it gives you proof when your friends say video or it didn’t happen.
Mounting a camera to the side of the helmet gets us pretty close, but it’s not quite the same angle or perspective. The chin mount is a popular alternative, too, and while this gets us pretty close to having the same views, it’s not quite the same. With the Cambox MkV4 Pro, the viewer gets to see things just as you do because of the genius mounting location – right above eyebrow level.
The beauty of the Cambox Meca series of cameras is its placement right above eye level.
What?! Tell Me More
Unlike basically all other action cameras on the market, the Cambox MkV4 Pro is not a small rectangular box with a lens attached. Instead, its thin plastic housing is shaped to match the curvature of your forehead, and the included velcro strips allow it to attach to the top of your helmet’s eyeport. The lens is in the middle, thus giving the viewer almost exactly the same view that you have.
If you’re not familiar with Cambox, the French company makes all kinds of similar cameras for equestrian and action sports. The early days involved mounting the cameras to the underside of the helmet visors horse jockeys would wear. Of course, seeing the footage of a live animal underneath the jockey bucking, turning, running, jumping, and otherwise doing all the elegant things horses do, the idea quickly grew legs, since it’s fairly obvious a camera like this would be popular for tons of helmet-wearing athletes.
The underside of the Cambox Meca MkV4 Pro. On the far left you’ll see the removable cap for the Micro SD memory card and USB-C charge port. The button to the right of it is the primary power/record button. Underneath it are the indicator lights, in the middle is the lens, and to the far right is the button (and indicator light) to activate the internal wifi to pair with the app. On the opposite side of the camera is a layer of velcro.
Fast-forward a few years and a few prior iterations and we come to this, Version 4. There are three iterations of the V4 – V4, MkV4+, and the MkV4 Pro. The highest in the Cambox Meca (the motorsports division) range is the one we have here, the MkV4 Pro. Able to shoot in 4K quality in 60 frames per second (as well as 1080p at 240 fps), it also features ultra-smooth electronic image stabilization, a 150º field of view, wifi compatibility, a dedicated Cambox app, and the ability to record up to 45 minutes in 4K quality. It records to a micro SD card up to 128gb.
The lens itself has the ability to rotate 20º up or down, meaning you’re able to get just the right angle no matter what kind of motorcycle you’re riding. And because you simply attach the velcro strips to the camera and to the top of your eye port in your helmet, installation couldn’t be easier. The result? Well, see for yourself:
Not bad, wouldn’t you agree?
Some Things I Like
The biggest thing the Cambox Meca has going for it is how easy it is to install and use, hence why it’s my go-to camera when I want to capture on-board footage. Not to mention the POV puts you, the viewer, right there with me when I’m riding.
Actually operating the camera takes some getting used to, as the only indicators you get are via LED lights and a certain sequence of vibrations. There are two buttons on the body, one big, one little. The main button (the big one) turns the camera on and starts recording. Turning it on requires a long button press until a white light appears beside the button. Then a simple tap turns the light green, a short series of buzzes follows, and you’re recording. Another tap stops recording and the light turns white again. It’s really quite simple. Alternatively, you can pair the camera to the smartphone app, frame your shot, and press record from the app. The other button activates the camera’s wifi, but more on that later.
With the cover open you can see the slots for the memory card and charge port. With a flexible cord, charging is possible without having to remove it from your helmet.
Microphones internally placed on each side of the Cambox record in stereo quality, and you can go into the app and decide one of four options – high, medium, low, or off – in regards to microphone sensitivity. For motorsports, I set it to low to minimize the amount of wind noise coming through.
As for video quality, well, you can judge for yourself from the video above. I’d say it’s quite good. Also consider the bumps and jolts you experience from the saddle. The Cambox’s electronic image stabilization dampens a lot of those vibes and gives a really smooth video, in my opinion.
What I Don’t Like
Before getting too deep into this section, it’s important to remember this has become my go-to camera when I’m trying to capture on-board footage. For as great as the heralded GoPro is, the Cambox Meca is on another level when it comes to convenience paired with video quality.
Look closely at the top of the eye port and you’ll see the curved velcro strip that aligns with the curvature of the helmet.
However, we’re all familiar with GoPro and the video quality it can record in. It’s incredible. The Cambox Meca MkV4, while able to shoot in 4K, never quite looks as sharp as what comes out of the GoPro. There’s an important caveat to keep in mind with the Cambox, though – because it’s placed inside the helmet, it’s recording through your visor. If you wear a tinted shield like I do most of the time, the video is automatically a shade darker (kids these days call that a filter, but we know better). Keep in mind that, over the course of a ride, your shield will naturally get dirty. All of the dirt, grime, and bug guts that show up on your visor will also show up on your video and could lower the quality of your video. So shield cleanliness is ultra important with the Cambox.
Nonetheless, even with the shield open and the camera able to record natural light, colors don’t appear to pop as brightly as with the GoPro and images aren’t quite as crisp. It’s a fair tradeoff to make in my opinion, but others may feel differently.
Also, while you’re able to tune the microphone sensitivity, even in its lowest setting, you saw – or rather heard for yourself in the video above – how distracting the wind noise can be at high speed. Once you get into the triple digits then it really becomes bad. Depending on the bike and the amount of wind protection you have, exhaust notes are still audible, but there’s a lot of wind mixed in. Take wind noise out of the equation and you have cool clips like the one below, courtesy of former F1 driver turned Indycar star Romain Grosjean:
While we’re on the topic of microphones, unlike the ubiquitous GoPro, the CamBox doesn’t have an external microphone jack to plug in, meaning trying to record a running commentary while riding is virtually impossible. For those of you who’d rather not hear our voices while riding, this may not be a negative after all…
With a battery life of about 45 minutes when shooting in 4K (if you’re lucky), you can burn through that very fast on a street ride. Since the battery is internal and non-removable, you can’t replace it quickly like with a GoPro. For track riding, I’ve gotten into the habit of keeping a spare USB-C cord with me and plugging it in to recharge between sessions. However, if the camera overheats – which occasionally happens when continually recording on hot days – it can freeze. The only way to reset it is to let the battery drain, plug it in, and turn it on again.
Here the lens is at its top-most position. Scroll down to see it in its lowest position.
A minor inconvenience, but the eyebrow vents on Arai helmets means there’s less of a flat surface at the top of the eyeport to secure the velcro to. This means there are less contact points to attach the Cambox. So far this hasn’t been a problem, but psychologically it could weigh on the back of some people’s minds.
And finally, the app. If you’re an Android user like I am, it’s really only good for framing your shot and pressing record. Granted, the app is under constant development and the Cambox team is a fraction of the army GoPro has employed, but viewing the gallery from the app on my Android phone is not possible. Which means sharing anything onto social media directly from the app isn’t possible, either. Instead I have to download a clip to my computer, edit it to my liking, then do with it what I want. Frankly, I just don’t have the time or enthusiasm for those extra steps.
This is the lens in its lowest position. It’s a subtle difference, but depending on the type of bike and the rider’s head position, it could make the difference between seeing the action or just seeing the tops of trees. And yes, you do get used to the camera being there very quickly.
Overall, the Cambox Meca MkV4 Pro does most of the work I would normally use a GoPro for, and is much more convenient. Because it’s inside my helmet, riding photos don’t show a bulbous camera sticking off the side or front of my helmet (an annoyance only petty motojournos have to deal with, I know…).
Speaking of photos, the MkV4 can also be placed in photo mode much like the GoPro, though this is a feature I’ve never really found the need for in either camera, opting instead to grab a freeze frame from the video. As of this writing, slow motion and time lapse video are new features available within the app, but as mentioned above, Android users are still hosed in that regard.
Starting at $475, the Cambox Meca MkV4 Pro is roughly on par with GoPro pricing. As an owner of both, I find myself reaching for the GoPro primarily if I’m looking for shots at different angles the Cambox simply can’t get. Otherwise, when it comes to onboard riding footage, the quality and convenience of the MkV4 Pro can’t be beat.
Shop for the Cambox Meca MkV4 Pro here
What is the best action camera?
This is a loaded question, but the answer depends on what you’re trying to do (somewhat). When it comes to the infrastructure built around it, GoPro has a stranglehold on the market similar to the way Apple does with phones. However other companies, like Cambox, offer something unique. In this case, the Cambox cameras mount inside your helmet to give as close to the same view as you’re seeing, all while exposing nothing to the outside of the helmet.
How to mount a camera on a helmet?
You don’t have to mount anything on the helmet if you opt for one of the Cambox cameras. However, for the majority who use a GoPro, mounting is as simple as taking a mounting plate, peeling away cover to expose the adhesive, sticking it to your desired location, and using assorted accessories to mount the camera to the plate.
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Source: All Bikes news one