Sony Fdr X 3000 R Action Camera - Best Helmet Cam?


Aug 20, 2013
Best Biker Action Camera?

Riding a motorcycle requires your undivided attention with just a few inches of rubber keeping you on your bike. And tires are designed with safety in mind for grip and stopping power. Equally, manufacturers of motorcycle accessories from GPS to action cameras try to keep things as easy and straightforward as possible to keep your attention on the road. For adventure or insurance, which helmet cam can you rely on?

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A Cornered Market

Three manufacturers stand out from the rest for motorcycle use: GoPro, Drift and Sony.

GoPro, the market leader and the ‘dudes’ favourite have cornered just about every aspect of the action camera scene. Clever marketing and a very good product have caught the attention of surfers, adrenalin junkies and bikers alike. GoPro has since come a long way from the Woodman Labs era, and while not the first action camera to capture thefirst-person action, they certainly influenced the market we see today.

GoPro perfectly timed their explosion into the extreme sports world as the World Rally Championship (WRC) gave us onboard views that amazed TV viewers, the rush of downhill skiing and fear - certainly from a viewer’s point of view, with adrenalin sports such as base jumping. But like many other manufacturers in other industries, the timing was their key to success, and to use a ‘HERO’ now, is almost a religion.

But let’s forget surfing, skiing or scuba diving for a second, and let us focus on the all-important features required for a rider. And while we’ve covered action cams in the past, Sony’s new FDR X 3000 R has raised the question again, and perhaps the bar. But does it cut the mustard and fill in the blanks that GoPro and Drift left empty?

Sony FDR X 3000 R Action Camera

This write-up won’t go into the technical information of the Sony. Youtube reviewers such as Iphondo can do a much better job than me with that. This is to review the ease of use, press and go on a motorcycle.

Sony is well known for the action camera game, but like others, they’ve lagged behind GoPro not for being lesser in quality, but fashion has dictated what has been a GoPro domination. But the new Sony FDR X 3000 R has some very useful feature that should have GoPro and Drift quaking in their boots, but has it? And does it fair better than the Drift Ghost-S for motorcycle use?

Out of the waterproof case, the Sony FDR X 3000 R is pretty sleek and slim and water resistant. Its operation is easy with little faffery when powering up and cycling between settings. Most of the time I tend to use 1080 despite it having 4K for the motorbike, and use 4K for personal family trips etc. The link between the remote control screen is fast with a little delay which is equally easy to use. Despite having the remote control, as yet, I’ve given it very little use as I prefer to set the camera up using the mobile phone. Using something like ‘playmemories’ via my iPhone allows me to level the action camera and capture shots that I want. All straightforward and thus far, great for setting up on the bike.

The Sony FDR X 3000 R has a standard camera mount leaving the door open for many mounting options other than Sony’s. While the Sony version is adequate, It limits the ability to position the camera in various spots if you need sturdy. So for this test, I was using Ram Mounts with the optional ball join when fixing to the bike frame, and Sony’s optional helmet mount kit.

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Sony FDR X 3000 R requires 3 adjustment for setting up. Threaded nut to secure the camera. Tilting hinge to level it left to right and a rotating pad to lift and lower front image.

The Drift has a single, screwed clamp. Once the desired angle is selected, the rotating lens makes setup easy and complete withing seconds.

Below, Sony's push wedge still doesn't secure the camera firmly enough.
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Aug 20, 2013
Good Restraints Add to the Fun

People tend to forget the importance of a good mounting bracket, and while Sony’s is flexible for positioning, some Viagra is required to stop this thing flapping around! A bracket is as good as its weakest point which is usually the elbow joint. Sony’s helmet mount is equipped with 3 points to adjust. All good and well if you can stop the thing from moving around, which, unfortunately, it doesn’t. While it does come with a plastic wedge to tighten the mounting pad to the clip-on bracket, the Action camera still has plenty of movement.

In contrast, the Drift Ghost-S is miles ahead in this area with a simple screw-mounted bracket which clicks into the pad with a rotating lens for picture alignment. There are no pivot points or elbow joints in the helmet mounting system. Setup takes 15 seconds or less.
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Riding with Quality and Stamina

Picture quality is of course very important. 1080, 4K, 4K ultra and the next newness temptation around the corner. In reality, most vloggers in the car and motorcycle section will rarely use their material on a large screen TV. Most viewers will tend to use Youtube via a PC, and more likely, their phone. The newness factor tends to distract from the overall quality of a device.

The Sony FDR X3000R probably has the best picture quality out there at the moment. For family holidays, I prefer to use the Sony over my DJI Osmo+ simply because the Sony is quicker to set up in this scenario and does a fantastic job; both movie and still snapshots with its active stabilization.

As a biker, riding free is the buzz of it. Riding without worry of battery life, asking yourself, “Is it still recording?” is a must. Unfortunately, the Sony is a letdown here, similar to the GoPro regarding life.

On my first test-ride, I set the Sony to 4k using ‘Playmemories’ app via my iPhone. I intended to test the FDR X 3000 R on dirt to see how its ‘Active Stabilisation’ copes with vibration and uneven surfaces. Gear on, bike checked, press record, and off I go.

Approximately 15 mins later I arrived at the track, switched off torque control and ABS on my Africa Twin and blasted to the rev limiter hoping to catch a little excitement. Halfway down a straight, I noticed the phone connection between it and the camera was gone, and the battery life was also gone too. Feeling like I’d wasted a journey as I was hoping to get a little dirty, I’d realised I’d hooked up my Drift to the crash bars. With battery life still showing full, and not being one to miss out on a little fun, I blasted around the area for 30 mins and headed home. An hour’s ride and still two blobs of battery left on the Drift, the old reliable keeps on going!

Although the battery life in 4k was a letdown, the footage captured on the Sony was silky smooth. On tarmac, the distant image is free from shake to an extent or too much compensation. Colours are clean and vibrant and almost movie like in comparison to the Drift or GoPro. One cannot fault the detail and image quality when using Sony’s active stabilisation system. On a motorcycle, this is quite difficult to accomplish when brackets are inferior to the device. A better bracket I’m sure will improve things further.

Disappointed with the battery life, I recharged and used Sony’s wristwatch device.

All is Fair in Lithium-ion and Volts

The Sony FDR X3000R sells itself on the 4K feature and image stabilisation. To give it a fair shot, on my next run I set the image to 1080 60fps and ignored the iPhone in favour of the Sony’s wristwatch, live view device.
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One thing to point out from the above and the subject of the bracket. It has a slider which allows you to tuck it up a little more firmly to the soft pad. While it did help, there is still too much movement.

Using the wristwatch remote, I set the Sony up to 1080 60fps and ventured out for a ride. On this occasion, the journey was all road. Feeling a little uncertain toward the battery life, I pulled over to check the display on the little watch LCD for batter life. 25 minutes on and two blobs of juice were left to continue with my run. I ventured a little further before heading home not knowing if the battery still had juice. A quick glance revealed one blob of battery life left, so about an hour in 1080 60fps mode when using wifi to the wristwatch. Not bad, but half the life of the Drift Ghost-S in wifi mode and a meaty 3hr life without wifi enabled!

Is it the Best Out There, Damn it?

Yes and no. As far as picture quality goes, you’ll find it hard to beat when comparing it to a GoPro or any other action camera on the market. It is equal to GoPro regarding battery life, but inferior to Drift. Build quality is better than a GoPro, but I’d worry about dropping it out of its case. The Drift, on the other hand, has taken the full weight of a dropped bike, fallen from a tree and been ridden over by mistake, the screen as a battle scar to prove it and like Terminator, this thing is hard to destroy!

Has the Sony FDR X 3000 R filled in the gaps of both GoPro and Drift? And is it the new King of Helmet cameras?

I compare the Drift to a Linn LP12 turntable or similar. It sounds great and will serve you with many years of pleasure. The Sony is like a Sony CD player of the same era. Analytically, its better, but there’s still something missing that has you turning back to vinyl. And that’s why the Drift, is still King of helmet cameras, and the reason It’ll be stuck on the right-side of my helmet for some time yet!

Added Notes

The weight difference between the two is marginal as can be seen by my highly advanced scales. Add the overly sized mounting pad to the Sony, and they are more or less identical.
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To stiffen things up a little, Drift’s own mount will work with the Sony and its bar mount bracket or helmet pads if mounted to the top of a helmet.
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Drift's bar mount and helmet mount make a speedier and more sturdy option to Sony's own. If mounted to the helmet, the best position in this configuration and setup is to mount it on top. While the image can be flipped in Sony setup presenting a side-mounted option, this will create a vertical image and not widescreen.
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Three Year Old Drift Ghost-S
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Three-year-old Drfit is usually mounted to the crash bars and has survived many drops and scrapes over time, but it is still going strong. I've been so impressed with it despite the odd crash and restart, I bought another which is used constantly on the helmet!


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