Usually, extreme-sports camcorders are ruggedly simple affairs that forgo complications such as LCD viewfinders in favour of compact and durable designs. The £150 Oregon Scientific ATC5K Waterproof Action Camera, however, squeezes a small, full-colour LCD screen into its smallish body, while still preserving its waterproof and shockproof design.
Unfortunately, the ATC5K makes compromises in the one place that such a device never should: the photo sensor. While the ATC5K can take photos and video in extreme conditions, its VGA resolution and poor low-light performance keep it from producing great results.
The ATC5K is a tapering tube-style device. Measuring 114mm long and 76mm at its thickest end, it's quite portable. With rubberised bumpers on both ends and a solid construction, it's also fairly rugged.
At the business end, the ATC5K sports a small recessed lens tucked behind a raised rubber ridge and a plastic shield. Just above the lens is an activity indicator light that shifts from green while recording to red when the device is busy writing, and an infrared receiver.
Along the top edge are two rubberised buttons: one for video and one for still photography. To prevent accidental presses, the buttons must be held for 2 seconds to start or stop video recording or snap a still shot.
The rear end of the device is occupied mainly by a 38mm (1.5-inch), colour LCD screen that works as a digital viewfinder, as well as depicting menus and playing back recently captured media. The screen is held in place by a hinge with a locking closure along its top edge. Unlocking and swinging down the screen reveals the battery door for the two AA batteries that power the device, as well as the SD card slot, video-out port and mini-USB port.
The unit is designed to be handled roughly and is shock-resistant and waterproof. You can submerge it in depths of up to 3m.
Included with the ATC5K is a plastic mounting ring and base grip. Using these you can connect the device to any of the included mounting options. The ATC5K kit includes a handlebar grip, a webcam stand, and a helmet grip that can be used with one of the two Velcro straps or the silicon rubber head strap that the unit ships with.
Also included is a CD with Windows drivers, an infrared remote control that replicates the video and photo buttons, a carry bag, an AV cable with RCA connections for video and mono audio, a USB cable and a pair of AA batteries.
Video and photo capability
At the top of the ATC5K's feature set is its capability to record video at resolutions of up to 640x480 pixels and 30 frames per second. Video recording can be triggered using the video button on the top of the unit or the included remote. Users are given the choice of VGA (640x480-pixel) or QVGA (320x240-pixel) resolutions in the menu.
The ATC5K is also able to capture still photographs at a 640x480-pixel resolution using the still capture button. The ATC5K doesn't have a time-lapse feature that snaps photos at regular intervals, so you'll have to manually trigger the shutter for each photo. Still photos cannot be captured while video is being recorded.