I’ve always been fascinated with the GoPro cameras. I had one of the early versions, and it was cool, but not very functional. It required AAA batteries, and could only handle a 2gb SD card. There was no preview to tell what the image frame looked like, and the on-camera buttons were the only way to control it.
Enter the later generation of cameras, as pictured here. I use the “white” edition to take all sorts of interesting pictures and videos. The version that I have is wide angle only, and having the option to go to a narrower angle would also be nice.
This little guy solves so many of the problems of the original. First, it uses a proprietary lithium battery. While I’m not usually keen on proprietary batteries, the lithium technology lasts so much longer than the aaa cells did, and it is fast to recharge. And now days with the folks in China not having any regard for intellectual property, it is easy to get a knock-off extra. I have ordered a three-pack and a two-bay USB-powered charger, though I haven’t had enough test time yet to be sure that they are worth recommending.
This new version uses better SD card technology that allows for much larger capacities. I use this one, but if you are shopping for one as of today I’d do a little bit of searching. The prices on these seem to fluctuate quite a bit from one packaging variant to another. I’ve never come close to filling up one of these. I suppose if I recorded a few hours of flying at one time then I might, but honestly the video would probably be pretty boring.
The real deal-sealer of features for me on the new generation of GoPro cameras is the wifi control. With a camera mounted on the exterior of the airplane, it’s nice to be able to start and stop the video (or take still shots) from the iPad or iPhone. Gone are the days of having to turn on the camera and record from start up to shut down (or more likely, battery death or card exhaustion).
The Bearhawk presents a mixed blessing of mounting options. On the wing, it’s very easy. I have a mount that is on the inspection panel where the front, outboard aileron pulley is. I applied the standard sticky mount to the inspection panel with the sticky adhesive, after making sure that I liked the angle and position. Then I removed the inspection plate and drilled two small holes through the black plastic and the inspection panel, and countersunk the holes in the plastic. I used two #6 stainless screws to double up the adhesive, since I’d rather not have the camera fall off in flight. Don’t get me wrong- the video would be spectacular, but I’d have to find the camera in order to get the video, and that seems unlikely to happen. As you can see in the picture below, this seems to be a very nice distance from the cabin, so that there is a little bit of background showing in front of and behind the airplane, but the fuselage mostly fills the frame. I point the camera fairly low so that the wing doesn’t dominate the top of the frame.
Another easy situation is mounting the camera inside of the cabin. This time it’s easy because the risk of having the camera fall off are low. There is a little bit of concern for making sure that the camera doesn’t get in the way of something important or pose a risk of injury. I found that I really liked having it just aft of the aft carry-through tube, which in our case is also just aft of where the skylight ends. Here is what the frame looks like there:
This is where it starts to get much more difficult. Mounting the camera on the aft end of a Bearhawk is complicated because there’s not a good way to mount to the fabric. I’ve tried mounting on the aft handle like this with a handlebar mount:
This has worked out fairly well, and here is what the pictures look like:
This view demonstrates how the wide angle view has its drawbacks. At first glance this may look like the horizontal stabilizer, but it’s actually the wing. With the wide angle view, the camera probably needs to be situated a little bit further away from the fuselage to make a meaningful image.
Here are some video links that I’ll add to as I get more edited and published.