I had the opportunity to have a brief play with the new Delkin “WingmanHD” camera the other day. Being used to my SLR cameras, pro lenses and only occasionally using compact cameras, or the iPhone for record pictures, I wasn’t expecting too much from this little camera.
However, when you consider what this camera is intended for, it’s pretty amazing. If you want decent quality images, get something like a Canon IXUS or even use the iPhone 4S, but – if you want to stick a camera to the front of your car, skateboard, windsurfer, on your crash helmet and leap out of a plane – or even when snorkelling, then this is for you.
The camera is supplied with a waterproof housing, rated to 30 metres. This sort of add-on to a ‘normal’ compact camera would cost over £100 in addition to the camera itself, but this little camera comes complete with that, various mounts and straps for £199. Another nice touch is that Delkin – who are in the memory business after all, include a decent sized 8GB micro SD card so you can get going with the camera straight away.
The included battery will last for 2.5 hours according to Delkin, but I don’t know if that’s continuous video (doubt that would fit on the card anyway), or normal still mode. The package strangely had a US adaptor and an EU one in the package, maybe future UK supplies will include a UK adaptor. The camera will charge from the mains adaptors, but as it charges via a USB lead, also from your computer (as I did), or an included car power adaptor. Not something I can do with my Canon cameras without spending lots of money!
As for image quality, I wouldn’t say that this would ever be your only camera – in the time I had the camera, I didn’t get to find any zoom controls – I assumed it was a fixed lens – so the images I had were very wide and showed some barrel distortion, even fish-eye effects. But, if you were to use this as an action camera, you probably won’t be using it in a viewfinder mode, so a wide angle will be very forgiving. I could correct the distortion to some extent quite easily in Lightroom anyway. The gallery below shows an original image and a corrected version.
One very nice feature for the extreme camera enthusiast is the camera’s ‘Continuous Shooting’ mode. When I first saw this, I thought it was like my cameras – hold down the shutter button, and the camera keeps shooting while the button is depressed. This one operates differently, in the menus you set the interval with a minimum of 2 seconds and (I think) maximum of 60, press the shutter button, and the camera will keep shooting at that interval until you stop it. So, start the camera running, attach it to your cycle helmet with the included brackets and off you go! Low light performance seems OK, but I only took a couple of shots under a desk, not very scientific!
Then, there’s the video mode. This camera records full HD video. A very nice touch is that there is a separate button on the top of the camera for activating video recording. So, when you have gloves on, you don’t have to fiddle with menu settings or rotating knobs to choose between video or stills. Just press the appropriate button, and away you go. In fact, these are the only two controls on the waterproof housing, that could be taken as a pro or a con, I suppose.
Delkin irritatingly don’t include a manual on their web site (a printed one IS included in the box), so now I don’t have the camera to hand, I can’t refer back, but I did use the camera without the manual. I like to keep PDF copies of my manuals in my iPhone, so I always have them to hand for obscure settings. Relying on carrying a paper manual is not very handy!
I’m hoping to get another loan of the camera for an extended period, I’d like to try some parallel shooting when shooting rugby games (using a secondary bracket on my monopod) – and, as the camera is pretty light (about 90 grammes), I’ll tie wrap it to a kite and see what I get. I can also then do some better optical performance experiments, but as I said, this is a camera for a different purpose, not to compare with optical products from Canon, Nikon and the like. I’m sure there’s also lots of features I’ve missed above – like zoom, ISO settings etc. I’ll also then be able to let you have some decent test images and videos to look at.
Delkin’s own web page is at http://delkin.com/i-7579051-wingmanhd-3oz-waterproof-action-camera.html .
It would find a place in my camera collection for sure.