ATC9K “All-terrain” Camera Review


Good camera, overall, many interesting features, that I hope will become more standard on other “action” cameras: snapshot ability, waterproof w/o any case, remote control, G-force sensor, and optional GPS unit. Not so good mounts (though, at least some of them), especially NOT motorsports-optimized, below average PC software UI. Above average video quality. Good controls. You will need to come up with some mounts yourself, but once you do, the camera performs great.


This past summer I played around with GoPro HD camera, and I liked it overall, but did not care for the controls, and having to switch backs back and forth. Controls of the camera are plain horrid! Do you really want me, the popcorn-chewing consumer, to have to memorize what those numbers mean? Anyways, back to store the camera went, and I thought to myself, “the ‘action’ cameras are still somewhat ‘raw'”. Fast forward 6 months, and I’m revisiting the camera question – I’d like to take some videos and pictures while riding, and I don’t want to mount Canon 7D onto the bike. After much research and thinking whether I should bite the bullet and go back to GoPro, I decided to give Oregon Scientific ATC9K camera a try. I got it from (20% off coupon and some dividends helped ๐Ÿ˜‰ ) with the optional GPS module and after few days of waiting, here it is, in my hands.

Packaging and Contents:

The packaging looks impressive and promises video/photo paradise on earth.ย  I like the black/yellow color scheme – very Monster Yamaha ๐Ÿ™‚

The package includes: camera itself, li-polymer battery, remote control, synthetic camera carry bag, helmet mount, handlebar mount, velcro and silicon straps, usb cable, front and rear protective caps, and hdmi cable. The required microSD Class 4 memory card is not included.

External Features and Controls:

The controls are fairly simple and intuitive (watch and learn, GoPro!) there are two large buttons on top of the cylindrical body – one for taking a snapshot, and another one to start/stop the video recording. You cannot take a snapshot while making the video. The rear of the camera has 1.5 inch LCD screen (refer to the earlier comment, GoPro, no need to pay extra to get a “backpack” to be able to play the video) which I found sufficiently bright to view video on a sunny day. The screen contains all the needed information: shooting mode, exposure compensation, quality, photo quality, white balance, battery status and timer. There is also an optional leveling aid with longitudinal (roll) and lateral (pitch) indicators.

There are 5 control buttons under the screen: Menu, Previous, Play/Pause/Ok, Next, Power. These buttons are just the right size – I can even work them wearing summer motorcycle gloves – and they require some force to be pushed, so accidental activation is not likely.

One of the reasons why I got the camera is the remote control. It’s a nicely sized remote with buttons matching control buttons on the camera, minus the power button. The remote is NOT waterproof – something that I think Oregon Scientific could address – why not keep the “all-terrain” style in all working parts? Meanwhile, I’ll have to improvise:

The remote seems to work at distances up to 10 ft., with one IR receiver only in the front of the camera.

Speaking of the front of the camera, here is the frontal view – the lens is set inside the plastic rim, so the camera can be put onto its front without damaging the lens. Right next to the lens, we have an LED indicator, laser pointer and IR receiver. The LED indicator shows charging status and recording status. The laser can be set to work for 5 or 10 seconds before the start of the video to align the shot.

Inside the waterproof door, we have the GPS module, the battery the microSD slot and HDMI and mini USB connectors (just when I hoped I could switch all my sync needs to microUSB, but Canon 7D uses mini as well, so I suppose i shouldn’t complain). The camera is waterproof to 60 ft./20 meters – not as diver-friendly as GoPro in its shell (down to 180 ft/60 meters), but the way I look at it, when you are at those depths, you have other things to worry about, such as pressure and light.

The only remaining external feature of the camera is the microphone which is located on the opposite side from the two main control buttons.

How It Works:

The camera powers up after the power button is pressed for more than 2 seconds and takes just about 2 seconds to power up. Luckily all the music can be disabled. Camera also has Privacy mode, where the camera will not make any sounds and will not indicate the recording status via the LED indicator.There are plenty of adjustments and modes to play with – on par with regular point’n’shoot cameras, which is pleasantly surprising, yet mostly useless, in my opinion.

GPS (optional):

One cool feature of the camera is the GPS module that is optionally available for the ATC9K camera. I am loving it – now I can record where I was without much thinking. The GPS module creates a .MAP file which is later read by Oregon Scientific software and plotted on Google Maps.


Another cool feature is the G-sensor which records the acceleration and velocity into the same .MAP file. The software that comes with the camera will display the information in parallel to the video as well as some statistics and charts, Acceleration plotted against time, for example.


The camera has 130 degree angle of view. Not as wide as GoPro’s 170 degrees, but good nevertheless.

There are few video modes available:

  • FullHD/30 – 1920×1080, 30 fps – approx. 9 minutes of video per 1Gb (source: manual)
  • HD/60 – 1280×720, 60 fps – approx. 10 minutes of video per 1Gb
  • HD/30 – 1280×720, 30 fps – approx 15 minutes of video per 1 Gb
  • WVGA – 848×480, 60 fps – approx 15 minutes of video per 1 Gb

These settings can be permuted with Fine, Good and Normal quality levels.

Adjustments can be made to Exposure, White Balance, Contrast and Sharpness.

Duration can also be set to 15, 30 seconds, 1, 2, 5, 10 minutes to stop the recording.


Picture quality can be adjusted:

Resolution: 3 or 5 Megapixel

Quality: Fine, Good, Normal

Adjustments match those for the video mode, and there is a night mode available, which boosts exposure.

There are some neat features for taking pictures periodically: you can set 3 or 5 continuous shots with interval of 10, 20, 30 seconds andย  1, 2, 5, and 10 minutes. There is also a timer for 5 or 3 seconds.


The microphone sensitivity can be adjusted between Maximum and Medium. No inputs for external microphones on this camera, but i’m guessing that’s the price of having a waterproof camera. Overall, the sound is good, however there is one problem I have noticed – when mounted on the handlebar of my Yamaha FZ6 using the included handlebar mount, there is an extremely loud high-pitch noise that appears during acceleration above 8-10 mph (warning: loud noise):

Originally, I suspected wind noise (some sort of a turbulence, given the location of the the mount vs location of the microphone, but I noticed an interesting thing – the noise goes away during the deceleration , even if the speeds are significantly higher than 8-10 mph threshold. I decided to see if the sound would be there if I mounted the camera elsewhere:

There is still strong wind noise, but the high-frequency sound is gone. Also, you can see how shaky the mount is.

After mounting the camera on my helmet, and NOT hearing the same noise, I can only conclude that the noise comes from the frame/mount combination. I sent a letter to Oregon Scientific Customer Service to see what they have to say. I am going to have to look into dampened camera mounts, I guess. Additionally, you can see that the narrow view angle does not work well with the handlebar mount.

As far as wind noise, I think it can be fixed with something along these lines:


The software that comes with the camera causes mixed feelings. On one hand it’s an interesting piece combining the video window with Google Maps, and acceleration,speed, distance charts and averages. Really good idea, but poorly implemented from the UI standpoint. The main window cannot be resized, nor can the components be adjusted. What if i don’t want to see my library all the time, but want to see a bigger video instead? I’m out of luck. Also, try to find the button that downloads the content form the camera! It took me few minutes of clicking and listening to “Exclamation” sound (see below). Response is somewhat slow, and highlighting of the buttons (available vs unavailable) is inconsistent. Every time you press a mouse button, Exclamation sound plays. Cute, but becomes annoying after about 1 minute, especially if you are trying to re-play something, or clicking around trying to find the needed function. Not very well thought through interface, Oregon Scientific, AND it doesn’t run on systems other than Windows. Another feature I don’t get is the “login” feature – why should I log in, even though, as far as i can tell the videos and pictures are readily available in the Documents folder.

The biggest flaw:

The mounts. I guess I got spoiled by GoPro “mount to anything” collection of mounting options. This camera is ok for a bicycle, perhaps, but the mounts are VERY flimsy.Here is how I mounted the camera onto the handlebar – this is the mount that caused the high-pitch noise.

(note the latest nano-technology modification to ensure that camera stays still)

I wouldn’t take this camera/mount combination to a DH worrying the plastic would just snap. I remember mounting GoPro on the swingarm of my bike, for interesting video angle, and I will need to work out some sort of my own mount to do that with ATC9K.

Now, given the issue with the sound, I will have to look into dampened mounts, which will cost extra $$$. And I’m certainly NOT entrusting this piece of electronics to this little piece of plastic to hold my camera on my motorcycle:


In my dilettante opinion, this is a good camera for recording action, with some very useful features, such as waterproofing, remote control, integrated LCD, G-force recording, optional GPS unit. The video quality may not be the best, but it is at least very good compared to others. The sound is decent. The weak spot of this camera is the mounts that come with it – not enough of them and the ones that are there are not strong enough for hardcore applications. This camera would be great helmet camera for motorsports, DH biking, sky-diving, but the mounts are not up to par. Software gets another negative comment – it is something that looks like a good idea, but has confusing and not intuitive interface. Overall, I am keeping this camera, but will have to invest money and time into making my own mounts.

UPD1: Follow-Up #1

UPD2: Follow-Up #2

MTA Logic


Morning. Everything is covered with ice about a quarter inch thick. Platforms essentially became skating rinks. Metro-North workers heroically clean platform…ย  on New Haven-bound side, which will not be used for the next few hours while passengers on New York side are risking falls. Customer Service

Today I had another opportunity how great the guys at are.

In search for a better storage solution for my home, I decided to purchase a NAS appliance (QNAP TS-210) with 2 x 2Tb Western Digital Caviar Green WD20EARS SATA drives. True to my luck, after placing an order, and going to QNAP site, I find out that those particular models of WD drives are not recommended for use with TS-210 appliance. I call newegg, but as I am waiting for customer representative (maybe a minute or so), my order enters the warehouse which means it cannot be changed. Oh well, I’ll return them – i’ll have to pay for shipping, but it’s not the end of the world – afterall, I should have checked the model compatibility myself. In the meantime, I place another order with the drives that are recommended.

Yesterday, I received the first package ($0 shipping and it arrived the next day!!), and this morning I requested an RMA online. One thing that I did not like was the $30 restocking fee, so I called the customer service explaining the situation and asking to waive the restocking fee. After asking me if the drives were still sealed, not only did they waive the restocking fee, they even sent me a pre-paid UPS shipping label, so now I really don’t have to spend money.

I just wish more retailers were as good as these guys. Every time I order from them, the stuff gets to me faster than I expect, and if there are problems, they go out of their way to help. Good Job, Newegg!

Barnes & Noble Nook. First Impressions of Tenderfooted E-Reader User

Last Friday I was able to buy nook at Barnes & Noble on Upper East Side. Turns out, they are already available in that store and in the one at Union Square. I have never had an electronic book reader before, so the following are my impressions being a first time electronic reader user. The software version I have now is 1.1.1, so all my nagging below is pertains to that particular version, unless otherwise noted.

Exterior and Packaging:
I really like the way it was packaged – it’s not quite like unpacking some Apple product, but it’s definitely better than average electronic device. The packaging is minimalistic yet elegant.

The feel of the unit itself is very nice – good size, fits well in my hands. I like that buttons allowing you to move forward and  back are on both sides of the unit, but I keep wanting to use the forward button on the left side to go back, when I’m holding nook with both hands, but that’s a minor detail.

It seems that the interface was developed with simplicity in mind, which is great, but it looks like implementation is where the problems are (as is often the case). Navigation is not very smooth, has a lot of glitches (example: navigation going back out of a blue). But again, this is a new product on a new OS, so they can probably work it out later – Blackberry Storm wasn’t very smooth either at the beginning, but two serious firmware updates later, the look and feel has definitely improved. I’m just hoping B&N will do it for the current nook model, not for next one, so that we spend another $250 to upgrade

Well, the whole idea of the unit is to enable the user to read a book, and it does so relatively well. It’s not quite a paper, yet it’s definitely not a computer screen, so I enjoy reading on this unit. Once the book is loaded, you have simple controls: you can go forward and go back using the two pairs of buttons on each side and some additional functionality via the touch screen: search within the book, go to furthest reading point/cover/chapter, bookmark control (add, go to, remove all), control the font, add highlights and notes, look up definition of a word (neat!) or Open Audio Player (see below)
Interestingly enough Go To lacks ability to go to a certain page, only chapter. I think this would be a worthy addition.
I liked how quickly the reader loaded a 100Mb pdf monstrosity named Pilot’s Handbook Of Aeronautical Knowledge – even FAA on its site posts it broken up by chapters, so I downloaded it and combined.

Organization: I was particularly excited about being able to load my 1.2 Gb pdf library onto the reader to have all those books readily available. And here is where I found out that nook does not support folders on the memory card! Imagine over a 100 books all listed alphabetically. Yes, this is not a sight for the weak of heart. There is no search either! No tags, no “read”, no categories – no way to classify them. Well, in my opinion, that really decreases the value of the reader. Essentially, the reader simply becomes a “screen” for reading versus a device that helps you organize and keep track of books. Now, from what I learned about Amazon’s Kindle, it’s suffering from the same flaw, yet there is talk about having folders.

It’s odd that such feature was not thought of to begin with. If you are developing a unit with replaceable memory card and advertising thousands of books that can be stored on it – you should REALLY think about how you are going to organize them.

I like to read books while listening to music, especially classical music. So, one of the first things I did was load music files onto the memory card (as to not to fill up the scarce space on the unit itself). After I went to audioplayer, I could not see the files. The Nook Guide says:

“Your nook looks for audio files in these places:

  • In the folders my music and my audiobooks in the internal memory. Optionally, you can place audio files in subfolders of my music and my audiobooks if you want to organize files hierarchically
  • Anywhere on a supplemental microSD or microSDHC card, if present

Audio files placed anywhere else in the internal memory are not discovered by the audio player”

Strange, I’ve even placed few files onto the unit itself, but it still would not see the After restarting the unit and waiting for a while, I come to conclusion that it simply takes the player a long time to load the list of files. At the same time, when I went to audio player after a long period of inactivity it showed me an empty list! Better yet, when I kept on reading a book periodically checking whether or not audio player had a chance to look up the mp3 files, after 2 or 3 “checks”, the unit simply froze on me. So, when you wake up your nook, let it do it’s stuff. Don’t rush, or it will go into stupor.

GSM: I got to play a little with the Shop section of the interface. Very simple and very effective – run a search for the book, and get a choice of purchasing or downloading a free sample. The ability to do this is of course subject to AT&T coverage.
Wi-Fi: The initial attempt of connecting the nook to my home Wi-Fi failed miserably – nook cowardly refused to connect to my WPA network. I will have to work on this a little more.
B&N Hotspots: I have yet to test that capability.

Random Stuff:
When connected to a computer via USB cable (btw, it uses micro-USB on unit’s end, which is great – when I travel, I will not have to haul a separate cable for it – i can use sync cable from my Storm and Tour), nook displays a message that says that if i want to use nook and continue charging i should unmount (eject) the drive(s) associated with it. Lies!!! I’ve done it. The message stays, and no reaction from the unit.

Despite all the rant, I still like my nook. Call it idealism, hopeful rationalization, or whatever you want. I like the fact that it’s made by my favorite bookstore and ties into its library. As far as glitches and bugs are concerned, I realize that this is a new product for Barnes & Noble, and they need to iron out wrinkles. If I had to guess, in the past few months they were primarily concerned not with how the units perform, but if they have enough of them. So, now that they are rolling them out into the stores in the next few weeks, I hope the company will have an opportunity to take a deep breath and address the issues. I will leave out the discussion on whether a company should iron out glitches before rolling out the product, or deliver the product to the market asap, creating interest, demand and dealing with issues later.
To summarize, these are the issues i’d like to see addressed, and preferably in the current model via firmware upgrade:

  • Interface bugs – smooth ’em out – the touch screen is a good idea, don’t let it down now.
  • Book Organization and Classification – folders are must would be great if it also had tags, categories, etc.
  • Audio Player – definitely needs improvement. If it’s searching for files on the memory card a message saying that it’s searching would probably be nice.

Barnes & Noble, you have a good potential product, you have a shot at capturing market – don’t let it slip away!

Review of Manfrotto 496 RC2 photographic ball head

Bogen Imaging introduced a new line of ball heads in November. They are to replace the old models as follows:

Model 492 replaces the 482
Model 494
replaces the 484
Model 496 replaces the 486
Model 498 replaces … you guessed it… 488

Today I received my 496RC2 (the 494, 496, and 498 come with RC2 quick-release plates, and 498 also comes with RC4 quick-release plate) in the mail from Adorama and got a chance to play with it. I once bought a 484 ball head when i needed something small to put on my tripod, but I returned it soon thereafter, as I found it too small and got myslef an 804RC2 3-way head.

There are few features that improve on what already is a great device. In particular, all of the heads, except for the smallest have friction adjustment, which is great – really puts this head on par with the 222 Joystick (Grip) Head.
Lock knob (as well as the friction knob) is now a little more ergonomic – fingers are less likely to slip off the surface (486 had flat edges).
All models have 360 degree panoramic rotation. The 498 model has a separate pan lock.

It seems engineers at Manfrotto put additional thought into making the head lighter without sacrificing the strength – the 496RC2 weighs in at 0.93 lbs. – lighter than 1.01 lbs of its predecessor – may not seem like much, but I am sure it will make a difference on a hike or in carry-on. The way it was achieved is cutouts on the sides

… as well as on the release plate assembly

I know I’ll be taking this head on the trips, rather than the 1.72 lbs 222 joystick.

The only one problem i may have with this head is the quick release safety – it does not stay in unlocked position (as it does on 222, for example). I would really prefer it to stay unlocked so it’s easier to operate the release with one finger.

Overall, this is a great head, and I am thinking of selling my 222 in the near future. The construction is solid (as is always the case with Manfrotto), supports decent amount of weight (496 RC2 supports 13.23 lbs). I probably would not ditch a 486RC2 head if I had one to buy 496RC2, but as a new purchase of this type of head – this is definitely a “go”.
Here are few shots of the head on its own and mounted on my 190 CXPRO4.

I buy my gear from Adorama and B&H Photo Video.