On the road with HP’s Car Camcorder f210

Yes, there are a lot of ways that you can record video these days. Your digital camera, a phone….tiny action cameras…but when I started goofing around with the Car Camcorder f210 ($149) it quickly became something that I need to keep in the glove compartment at all times. This tiny little guy records 1080p video with a wide-angle lens, is made to mount on your windshield, has a built in accelerometer for collision detection and GPS tracking built in that you can stamp into video if you wanted.

 

First, though, I wanted to show you a quick video of how it works….not for the quality of my driving.

 

 

OK, so that’s one of the things you can do with this: Shoot video of your next road trip and enjoy the view after the fact. I’m talking a 130 degree wide-angle lens with wide-dynamic range technology to capture the scene in great detail. (You watch the video – you tell me.) Here’s a couple other neat things that you can do with the Car Camcorder f210:

 

Be an eyewitness at an accident! Set the motion sensitivity on the accelerometer and the camera will automatically come on during a collision or if you brake too hard. Instead of stoplight fender benders becoming a game of he said – she said, you’ve got video backup of what happened. And it’s stashed in a backup folder that you can’t accidentally record over.

 

Keeps you honest on the road! The GPS allows you to track your speed…and give yourself speed limits. A notification can go off when you go above a certain speed. And, well, I’ve been digging through the *ahem* undeclared bonus feature that lets you tag speed gun locations and it’ll ping you next time you’re getting close.

 

hp f210 car camcorder-closeup.pngA couple other “Need-to-Know” items about the Car Camcorder f210:

  • The default setting is that the second you power up the f210, it’ll start recording. Personally, I’d prefer to be in control of when it stops and starts. So dig into the features and change that.
  • It supports Micro SDHC cards class 6 or above – meaning that you can only get up to 32GB of capacity. Personally, I’d have loved to get more storage. Still, 32GB will last you a good, long while. 
  • The longest video you can record is 5 minutes long. That is the maximum duration for looping video. Not that you’re going to record a remake of Smokey and the Bandit with this, but if you’re good with film edits, I’d certainly encourage it!  I’d actually asked HP’s Kerwyn Ballinger why go with short, looped video and he explain it’s that way for two reasons:
  1. It limits files size so that they can be easily shared without editing or endlessly searching a huge file for the specific moment you want to review.
  2. Once the memory card is full, the oldest video file is deleted and replaced with the newest file to have continuous recording. (It’s important to note, though, that if an accident is detected, or the user selects the manual emergency mode, the camera will exit loop recording mode and begin emergency file recording mode.  Emergency file recording mode will store a single video file in the protected folder I mentioned above.)
  • There is a four-button interface lining the bottom of the camera. The two main ones you’ll be using often – the second from the right and the far right buttons. The far right button starts recordings (and during recordings, is the emergency marker. If you hit that while a video is recording, it saves the file into a protected folder that you can’t accidentally delete.) The second from the right stops video.
  • Whether you want to embed time and GPS code in video is up to you. Personally, I wanted to enjoy the view.

So I showed this neat little bit of kit over the past weekend to some family and their completely unsolicited, honest thoughts:

 

“That mounting works way better than some action cameras I’ve tried in cars. Next time I’m at the track, I’m gonna need to borrow this and test it out!” – one family member that works on cars at Sonoma Raceway.

 

Another guy – who volunteers with the local fire department – is telling me how he could really use one of these for not just testing video and recording from the trucks, but marking hotspots with the GPS-tagging feature.

Needless to say, I might have a couple people for my holiday shopping list already sorted out.

 

Anyhow, that’s my quick two-cents on it. The HP Car Camcorder f210 should be available for order on the HP Shopping store this week for $149. Hit me with any additional questions and I’ll help where I can.

Comments
by tempestv8
on ‎11-28-2014 11:55 PM

I bought a HP F210 and am disappointed with the playback of the video recording.  As noted firsthand by users from other cam corder forums and also from a user review on Youtube, I also experienced an unacceptable level of shake in the recorded video.  It's as if the camera is jiggling on its windscreen mount.  Yet all the adjustments on the mount are firmly done up and there is no obvious movement.

 

I had another cam corder mounted on the same vehicle's windshield and recording simultaneously - the video playback of the recording from the iTronics ITB-100HD SP was rock solid without any shake whatsoever.

 

As feedback to HP for continual product improvement, the windshield mount needs to be redesigned to eliminate this jiggling.  I believe the excessive length of the mount causes the jiggle in the video recording.  The long drop of the mount also means that the unit is suspended at about the same height as the drivers straight ahead line-of-sight.  This is undesirable because the camcorder cannot be mounted discretely and may actually impede the vision of the driver to the road.

 

Side-by-side, the Full HD 1080p video quality of the F210 does not compare favourably to the iTronics unit, I would say only the picture quality is only acceptable.  Night time recording is grainy, but the camera does a reasonable job of controlling the reflective glare of headlights on registration plates, so still legible compared to the iTronics where the same plates are no longer readable.  In this regard, the HP trumps the iTronics for usefulness in night time recording.

 

In summary the jiggling video recording is HP's biggest bugbear with this product.  Would I recommend the HP F210?  If HP does not redesign the mount, which is where I believe causes the video issue, then the answer would be a "no".  But if HP does take heed and even offers a swap out service to existing customers for a redesigned mount, then definitely a "yes".

by tempestv8
on ‎11-29-2014 05:55 AM
 
Follow up comments to above:  I found a very very simple fix for the video shake on this camera.  It turns out that the camera has a very slight flex, where the camera body has a socket on the top, where it slides onto the windscreen mount and click in place.  I found that the camera was wobbling at this mount point.
 
The fix is quite simple - to eliminate any movement of the joint requires some "packing" material.
 
I stuck a very thin sliver of compressable foam (the stuff that is bought from hardware stores and comes in rolls - you stick it on the edges of doors and windows to stop air leaks).  The compressable foam easily squishes into the tiny gap and provided sufficient pressure to completely eliminate the wobble.  Took the camcorder out for another test drive and absolutely no shake at all in the video playback. 
 
Such a simple fix!  Much happier, now that I have found such an effective and cheap fix.
 
Would I still recommend the camera?  Now my response is only "maybe" - I've found that the field of vision is quite narrow from the lens.  I believe the specification for the lens is for 130 degrees, which is not really wide enough.
 
In comparing the footage with the iTronics which has a 144 degree field of vision, the HP camera is missing a lot of "side" information which may be crucial to capture footage from the side, and not just straight ahead.  But the benefit of a narrower field of vision is far less "fish eye" effect so the video capture is more natural looking.
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