It doesn't count if you don't look good. And no one will know how good you look unless you've got a photog or footage. I've never owned or used any high quality cameras on the paintball field for a number of reasons, the main one being I couldn’t bring myself to spend tons of money on a premium camera that may very well get destroyed during the first break out of a scrimmage day. Therefore, my experience with field cameras has been limited to the super cheap, or the super durable.
The first camera I picked up for the purpose of catching paintball footage was the Oregon Scientific ACT2K. This is a self contained 'helmet cam' that runs off of two AA batteries and saves images/footage onto an SD card. At the time of purchase (2007 or so) this camera cost around $100 US. This camera, though not terribly expensive, definitely falls into the 'durable' category. I once saw footage from one of these cams that had been attached to a rocket that soared about 1,500 feet in the air. The camera came detached at the apex of the launch and plummeted back to the ground. After it settled, you could see the blades of grass just in front of the lens. Needless to say this camera can take impact. Not only that, but this camera is waterproof as well. So as far as safety, you can pretty much put this camera anywhere on the field and it will be fine. There are some drawbacks, however. Firstly, there is no viewing screen or viewfinder. So you're essentially shooting blind. Through experience you can learn how to mount and adjust the camera to increase the chances of catching that fleeting dive into the snake. Additionally, the quality of the video isn't terribly impressive. It's largely dark, grainy, and often washed out by the horizon. (note the camera mounted on the gogs on the left)
I learned pretty early that it was better to shoot down to the ground and minimize the percentage of sky in the footage to prevent this washout. The other negative is the sound quality. Because of the waterproof nature of the cam the microphone pics up very little sound and it is often distant and 'tinny'. Put all these pros and cons together and I think this camera is an excellent addition to your 'DerDer Wannabe' arsenal. However, if this were the only camera you shoot with, you'll run home, hook it up to your computer only to be let down.
I spent a fair amount of time using my brother Spoon's camera to shoot some paintball footage. Spoon, who's always got a project working, created a sweet protective box made of wood and plexiglass. The genius design protected the camera 100% while providing access to the viewfinder as well as all the buttons necessary to catch the match. I can't say terribly much about this camera because he acquired it online and I have no idea of the make or model. I will say that the plexi box allowed me to get right into the streams of paint without fear. I even got shot a couple of times, square in the plexi, a shot that would have certainly destroyed the camera that, instead, yielded fantastic footage. After a few of these hits, however, the plexi began to scratch which notably took away from the quality of the footage. Additionally, the box hampered a great deal of sound, which is surprisingly important when it comes to paintball footage.
After my move to Australia, I found a good paintball scene and decided to look into picking up a camera to get back into making paintball vids. Again, I was looking for cheap and or durable, but had decided that I was willing to risk cheating against durability for the sake of better quality footage. That said, there was no way I was going to drop $1000 bucks for a nice camera. I'm sure that would only end in tears. After a while, I came across a small hand held camera called the Aiptek HD 1080P. What? You've never heard of Aiptek? Neither has anyone else, but it was a pretty good buy especially since it was the last one left... floor model discount even. I think I paid about $75 Aus. This camera definitely does not have the durability factor going for it. But I figured if I can get a few tournaments captured before it gets totalled it's surely worth it.
As the name implies the Aiptek HD 1080P is a high def camera, so the footage is high quality and never disappointing... if you were pointing the camera in the right direction that is. It runs off a rechargeable 3.7 V Lithium Ion battery and saves memory onto a standard SD card. The Aiptek has 3x optical zoom and then some digital zoom... but that's always trash in my opinion. The optical zoom is enough to get the footage you want on a speedball field. There is a flip out viewing screen which eliminates the guesswork that the Oregon Scientific helmet cam was plagued with. Flicking through your footage and toggling between pictures and various video qualities is simple through the user friendly menu. The small profile of the camera is also quite nice as it's easy to mauver, has a low profile (to hide from paintballs) and also doesn't give away your snake player too badly when you are catching footage. This camera also comes with a small remote control, which has some great potential to start and stop footage from afar, but I haven't trusted it enough to risk not getting cool footage of me getting shot off the break. All that said there are a few minor drawbacks of the Aiptek. My first stumbling block was that this camera saves footage in .MOV format. This meant I couldn't use Windows Movie Maker unless I dumbed down the footage using another program. In the long run, this was a good thing because it caused me to leave the clunky Windows program behind and pick up Adobe Premier Elements, very choice. Although this camera does have a low profile, it seems very vulnerable to damage from direct paint. One day this camera is going to get seriously destroyed. I'm pretty confident that it could withstand hits on most of the body, but a hit to the lens or flip out door will surely damage it significantly. Another odd drawback is the flip out door must be open to film. You can't open it, start filming and close it because it shuts the camera down again. The flip out door doubles the profile of the camera and exposes the viewing screen to paint. So far, with my experience with this camera, I am completely pleased with its performance and longevity. Any day now this camera might get destroyed, but at this point it has made itself worth while 5 times over.
The most recent camera I've acquired is the Kodak HD Zx1 Pocket Camera. Quick side note, when I was initially trying to solve the .MOV problem with the Aiptek camera (which would also apply to this Kodak) I went to a local camera shop to ask for help. I said, ''I need some advice, I've got probably the worst camera known to man." To which the camera guy responded, ''Okay, so you've got a Kodak, how can I help.'' When I said I had an Aiptek the whole shop looked confused. Anyway, apparently Kodak isn't the greatest camera, but it's not like we're shooting alongside David Attenborough. Again as the name implies this camera shoots HD footage, comes with two rechargeable AA batteries, and saves onto your standard SD card. I picked this camera up for a slight discount, but I believe brand new these might sell for a little over $100 Aus. Though this is by no means a durable 'helmet cam', I immediately recognized its potential in that role. It is very small, about the size of an iphone. The design of the interface on the back of the camera is such that the buttons are inside a thin plastic skin that allows you to control the menu (toggle pic/vid quality etc.) without leaving an gaps in between the buttons. In fact, on inspection the only gaps that seem to lead to the 'guts' of the camera are; the power button, the microphone, and the speaker. Everything else on the camera seems pretty sealed (not waterproof). The camera also comes with a neoprene shock cover, similar to that of a Wiimote that provides additional durability. Out of the box this feels quite sturdy and up to the challenge of a dirty snake cam. Though I'm confident the face of the cam could easily take hits with no worries, the lens on the face might not be so lucky. Additionally, the camera might be susceptible to damage on the interface/view screen on the back of the camera, though not nearly to the degree of the flip out screen on the Aiptek. So, to insure my investment paid off, I took a page out of Spoons book. Not only does the neoprene cover offer some shock protection to the camera, it could also serve to hold in place a clear cover to protect the lens as well as the interface. I simply used a Dremmel to fashion two pieces of plastic from a cd case; a small one to cover the lens, and a large one to cover the interface. I drilled a small hole in the interface cover to allow me to toggle record on and off. With this simple mod, I am very confident that this cam can withstand hits from any direction. I think, over time, paint and dirt (remember I live in a sunbaked land now) might eventually work their way into the speaker of the camera, but I don't think that will be a problem for years to come if at all.
(side note: the 'gorrila grip' tripod is pretty helpful)
I also noticed that the neoprene cover and lens protector I made have dampened the sound quality, but since the purpose of the camera is to catch the 'in your face moments' it's not too big a deal that the mic doesn't pick up what's going on elsewhere on the field. I've only used this camera to capture footage of one event. However, in that event it was kicked, stepped on, and covered in dirt. It still works well and, after a quick clean, looks good as new. There was one thing that I found frustrating that had absolutely nothing to do with the camera. The Reffs of the tournament gave me permission to put the camera on the field. So I would put the camera in a bunker that I knew would get action. But since I had to get off the field before the game started, the cam sat filming 'nothing' for periods of time. Then as the player moved from the bunker the camera would continue filming nothing until the game was over and I was able to collect the camera. In the end, this meant that I would use up 4 minutes of battery and SD card and there would only be someone in the footage for 20 seconds at best. But let me tell you, I got some pretty cool 20 second segments in my vids now.
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