“Which camera is best to use on track?” A common question asked by many track junkies looking for a flexible solution to capture their track experiences to watch, not only for entertainment purposes, but as an effective learning tool to improve the driver. Not many solutions are available that allow for easy mounting anywhere on the car, external microphone support, and the ability to plug into external data feeds (like hooking up to a AIM Sport Dash), until we found a company called ChaseCam.
Who is ChaseCam? ChaseCam has been around since 1981 serving as a product engineering company for military, telecom, and biomed technology companies. Using their extensive experience, they came up with a camera system that has been effective for many forms of racing (Baja 1000, Darkar Rally, Formula 1, IRL, Grand Am, and many more). With a resume like that there is no doubt that amateur racers like us shouldn’t be a problem to support.
Our basic need was this: Have the ability to mount 2 cameras on our car with the flexibility of choosing if we wanted to have individual full screen views or the ability to integrate two views together to create a split screen view of action. Next step, call a ChaseCam rep to recommend a package for us. After a pleasant one-hour conversation, here’s the break down of our package:
2 – PDR100 Recording Boxes with mounting plates
2 – Lipstick cameras
2 – 4 gig Flash Memory Cards
1 – Suction Cup Mount
1 – Roll Bar Mount
8 – Rechargeable Batteries With Charging Kit
Now we got the list, it’s time to explain how this all works. ChaseCam systems are not set up like your traditional handheld camcorder. First you have what they call a Recording Box (PDR100), a box that has a digital readout display that shows mic levels, recorder settings, flash memory card, and recording functions (basically the brains of the operation). The recording box has a built-in mic that works pretty well, but we suggest getting an external mic. The lipstick cameras are separate units that can be placed anywhere on the car where you can easily mount it (we do mean anywhere!) and it supports widescreen modes. 4 gigs of memory supports about an hour and a half worth of recording time under high quality video settings, which is plenty (if you want more recording time it’s as simple as getting a larger capacity flash memory card). It all sounds complicated, but we assure you, it’s not.
After a few days our packaged arrived. What stood out the most was the quality of the products. The recording boxes felt like it would be able to take a bullet (not literally) as well as the lipstick camera being able to get hit with almost anything. ChaseCam really has very well built equipment, which is something of a rarity with electronics these days. Any doubts as to whether or not this cam set-up will be able to hold up on track is basically diminished. With all the positives, there was bound to be one draw back. Fortunately it had nothing to do with the actual system itself, but with the camera mounting. The suction cup mount is a 3 suction cup mount that is held in place once the unit is pushed down. We prefer a push pump type suction system to make sure the unit will never move (a push pump is available at ChaseCam).
With the ChaseCam system we wanted to really take our time to test it out and put it through any condition we could. We mounted the cams on different cars, under different conditions (track and street). On track this system is awesome: Completely stable under all conditions thrown at it (hopping candy stripes, etc), superb video quality with various lighting conditions, and decent sound from the internal mic (could have been much better with a external mic). On the street the ChaseCam system performs the same as it did on track. One issue we did experience on both, a short battery life (special note: this may have been due to a bad batch of rechargeable batteries. Easy fix would be to contact ChaseCam to get it sorted out). Our recommendations to solve the issue are to bring back up batteries, plug the unit via the car adapter, or hardwire it. Overall a wonderful camera system that could handle anything we put it under and able to record very high quality video. What more could you ask for?
Make no mistake, this system isn’t cheap if compared to a standard handheld camcorder. The system is ideal for those serious about a camera set-up that works on track. For the money, this system offers a feature packed list that rivals anything like it. Flexibility, durability, and high quality are the best way to describe what this unit has to offer. See the difference for yourself:
Standard Camcorder: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yPb6Iu6oHPI