By David Hayward
‘Poundland Tom Cruise’ is how a friend instantly described the look of this 291g head-mounted camera. It’s an unusual one for sure. Out of the box, it only comes with one mount (and no MicroSD card), which is a metal and plastic headband that goes behind your ears. The camera clicks solidly into the left side, hanging down beside your cheek. A lead then runs between it and an armband, which holds the somewhat bulky main unit. For more strenuous sports, it has an optional rubber forehead strap.
Fully assembled, it’s a kind of bizarre techno-tiara which, with riding glasses and a helmet added on top, mashes your ears into uncomfortable shapes. I wanted to rip it off my head at the bottom of every single descent. At first the camera is also a distracting blob in your peripheral vision and while that soon wears off, the position means pretty much everything you shoot is soundtracked by heavy breathing.
The main unit is one of the best bits. In terms of ability to work it out without reading the manual, it’s the most straightforward action camera I’ve used, with all settings accessible on the move and an interface that makes everything pretty obvious.
The HX-A500 can shoot at resolutions up to 4000p, but the head mount acts like a spring and gives you correspondingly bouncy footage as soon as you hit anything rough. The short lead makes sense for the default armband set but does limit other mounting options and without a pack on it flaps around near your head, making it a little nerve-wracking near trees.
In desperation for other mounts, I gaffer-taped the main unit to my top tube and the camera to my stem, from which it shot footage that was far from perfect but nowhere near as shaky as the headband. Panasonic does sell a separate helmet mount, but it’s only suited to full face helmets, skate lids and goggle straps; it’s not really intended for your cross-country helmet.
I’ve long been a fan of Panasonic cameras, but the A500 feels like it’s being pushed too early. It’s an interesting shape, and with a longer lead, some cable management, better mounts and a smaller camera unit, could make for a really flexible action camera. As it stands, it’s only really the flaws that set it apart. So long HX-A500, you’re a duffer when it comes to mountain biking, but I hope to see one of your descendants in the grim cyber-future of NeoCwmcarn.
|From:||Panasonic UK, panasonic.com/uk|
|Tested:||by David Hayward for|