More: wBW Motorcycle Video Camera Reviews
The new Delkin "WingmanHD" video camera has a few interesting features and, for the most part, it captures very good quality video.
The accurate color rendition and excellent exposure management are class-leading, but the camera has a few quirks that keep it from top billing.
But it's a good first try from Delkin, a company better known for its computer accessories.
The name Delkin conjures up images of memory cards, readers, CD-ROM drives and other computer accessories. And, don't forget the Delkin Fat Gecko (review) suction cup camera mounts, which are nearly required accessories for any motorcycle video camera.
Apparently, the company figured that as long as they were making the mounts, why not make an "action" video camera too? After all, you sell a camera, you (probably) sell a mount.
Thus, the Delkin WingmanHD was born. The product was released for sale only a few weeks ago and the launch was covered in this Delkin WingmanHD webBikeWorld news release.
The official name for the camera is spelled as "WingmanHD", although it's usually found as the "Wingman HD", which makes more sense to us but, as always, the cute spelling will probably cause some confusion in the marketplace.
One of the most notable features of the Wingman HD is its list price, which is currently $241.49. That's a bit of an odd figure for a list price, but that's what it is and that makes it about $58.00 cheaper than the GoPro HD, the benchmark for this type of square-form-factor action camera.
Even better news is that the Wingman HD can be found via this webBikeWorld affiliate link at the discount price of $229.00, which brings it down into relative bargain territory.
But if a camera doesn't perform, it doesn't matter how cheap it is, right? So let's take a closer look at the new Delkin Wingman HD and see how it stacks up to the many motorcycle video cameras we've reviewed (links in the right-hand column).
Motorcycle video cameras have evolved quite a bit over the last several years, quickly moving from standard definition to HD. SD cameras are so...20th Century, and we don't recommend buying one, even at the deep discounts listed for some of the old models.
Motorcycle video cameras have also evolved into a couple of distinct form factors, along with a few variations. Cameras like the GoPro HD (review) and now the Delkin WingmanHD use the "square" format and they include a clear waterproof housing.
There's also a "tube" format, like the Replay XD1080 (review) and the Contour HD (review). The Drift series of cameras, like the Drift HD170 (review), use a variation of this format in a larger, square tube shape with the lens at one end.
The WingmanHD looks very similar to the GoPro HD in its shape and appearance. The camera in its waterproof housing measures 72 mm wide by 52 mm thick to the outside of the housing lens. It is 62 mm tall at the tallest point, measured to the bottom of the hinge. With the housing, the camera weighs 172 grams (6.125 oz.).
Both cameras use the square form factor and both cameras include a clear waterproof housing...but the WingmanHD housing is missing a key component, as you will see.
Let's start with the good stuff. Besides its lower price which is a definite good thing, the WingmanHD has a color live view screen on the back and a very easy-to-use menu system. Anyone who has used a cell phone or digital camera probably won't need to bother with the thin owner's manual pamphlet (that curiously tells you to make sure to charge the battery but doesn't tell you how), because the menu system is that simple.
The camera body itself, like the GoPro HD, really isn't designed for use outside its clear waterproof housing. As we mention in the WingmanHD video review below, with the housing removed, these cameras are reminiscent of a turtle without its shell -- you'll want to be very careful about what you touch and how you handle them.
The WingmanHD used for our review was from an early production run (apparently), and it had a few quality problems right out of the box. The clear plastic lens on the waterproof housing was covered with hairline scratches and fingerprints, even though is was inside the clear plastic packaging. The scratches could only have come from the housing rubbing against something during assembly or perhaps during shipping.
And when we pulled off the clear film that protects the menu window in the back of the camera, we found that the window itself was loose and separated from the camera body. The window was carefully pushed back in and hopefully it won't be an issue.
We'll give it the benefit of the doubt and say that these quality faux pas can perhaps be overlooked for what must have been an early production example like ours, and fortunately the problems haven't affected the video quality or performance, but we thought it worth mentioning.
The WingmanHD comes with a nice array of accessories (photo above). These include:
Unfortunately, like most/all of the other motorcycle video cameras we've reviewed, Delkin did not design the packaging so that it could also work as a box to hold all the goodies. We're still waiting for a company to wise up and make the shipping box useful for holding all this stuff when it's unpacked which, by the way, is the "Green" thing to do.
Why throw away all that packaging? The company could make a nice little package/carrying case with their logo on it and get some free advertising every time the owner takes the camera out. This is a no-brainer.
Besides, a secure storage container is crucial for a video camera with an exposed lens, especially considering that these are "action" cameras, meant to be taken on adventures on a motorcycle, boat, skis, dirt bike, ATV, hang gliding, surfing, etc. Just how are you supposed to carry all this stuff and also keep the lens from getting (even more) scratched?
Surprisingly, many of the details and specifications about this camera are missing form the Delkin website:
The WingmanHD lens has a 150-degree field of view, which is less than some of the other motorcycle video cameras but we think better off because of it. The videos and photos show almost none of the severe barrel distortion noted on some of the other motorcycle video cameras we've reviewed, yet the 150-degree field of view is still wide enough to capture all the action.
Video and Photo Resolution
The 8 megapixel CMOS sensor in the WingmanHD will capture 1080p "full HD" video at 30 FPS (Frames Per Second), but it will also take 720p video at 60 FPS. WVGA at 60 FPS and QVGA at 30 FPS video are also available. The video files are saved as .MOV files in H.264 format.
The camera will take still photos at 3, 5 or 8 megapixel resolution and the camera has both a self-timer mode, which allows interval shooting at 5 or 10 seconds. A continuous shooting mode is also available for still photos at 2, 3, 5, 10, 20, 30 or 60 second intervals.
Live View Screen
Having a live view is critical to ensuring that the video you want to capture is actually what you'll get. Besides giving the user the ability to accurately align the camera before pressing the "Start" button, a live view allows you to review the videos and photos you've just taken. And finally, it provides an easy way to change all of the camera settings.
The WingmanHD has a very nice color 1.5" TFT LCD screen, although the waterproof housing makes it a bit more difficult to clearly read the screen.
Video File Looping
A "loop" feature is also available and can be set through the menu system; it will take continuous video in 15-minute increments and the camera will close and save each file. Regular video recording is limited to 30-minute increments; when the limit is reached, the file is saved and a new file is started, up to the memory card capacity. Memory cards (microSD) up to 32GB can be used.
The WingmanHD is sold worldwide, so it can be set at either 50Hz or 60Hz in NTSC or PAL formats.
The WingmanHD comes with an 1100mAH rechargeable Li-Ion battery. Delkin claims about 2.5 hours battery life average and that seems about right, based on our experience with the camera. The temperature operating range is -10 C to 50 C with 15% to 85% relative humidity. [UPDATE: See Owner Comments below, the WingmanHD also can be powered with a 12 Volt connection for continuous shooting up to the capacity of the SD memory card.]
The camera body and the waterproof housing have a metal tripod mount in the standard 1/4"-20 format. You probably will not want to mount the camera outside of its waterproof housing, however. There's a problem with the location of the tripod mount on the waterproof housing, as we'll describe in the next section.
The camera has many other features, such as the ability to replay video with sound using the live view; a triple-shot mode to take 3 still photos in sequence; a flip and mirror mode to orient the image if the camera is held upside-down; and even a rewind, fast-forward and zoom capability for audio, video and image files using the live view and menu system.
Before we get to the good stuff, let's cover the problems. The WingmanHD has one big issue that may or may not be a fatal flaw, depending on your tolerance level.
First, let's point out that the waterproof housing has two buttons: one starts or stops the video and the other button is the shutter release to take a still photo. So far, so good.
The problem is that there is no button on the housing to turn the camera on or off, nor are there any buttons to make menu choices. The inability to operate the menu from outside the waterproof housing can be forgiven, but the inability to turn the camera on or off is a real issue.
The camera must be turned on, obviously, to take a video. But without an accessible on/off button, this means you must first take the camera out of the waterproof housing, slide the on/off switch to on (or off) and then put the camera back in the housing.
Why is this a problem? First of all, the camera body has a rubberized covering and it's a tight fit inside the housing and there's nothing to grab to pull out the camera, so you'll end up shaking and pulling and fussing to try and get the camera out just to turn it on. This is illustrated in our video below.
And don't forget -- you have to do this every time you want to turn the camera on and every time you turn it off, and/or every time you want to run the playback to watch your video or check to see if you captured a still photo. And each time the camera is taken in and out of the housing, the chances of getting fingerprints or dirt or scratches on the lens or other parts increase.
Then there's another related problem: you can't open the housing when it's mounted on the Delkin Fat Gecko suction cup mount, due to interference in the friction collar on the Fat Gecko. Which means you have to unscrew the camera from the Fat Gecko, open the housing, fish out the camera, turn it on, then put everything back together and re-line up your camera on the Fat Gecko mount.
It is possible to open the housing when it's mounted on the included bicycle handlebar mount, but not the Fat Gecko mount, which Delkin lists as an accessory for this camera.
The lack of an external on/off switch is a major oversight and it's also a strange problem to have, when you think about it, considering that Delkin makes both the Fat Gecko and the Wingman HD camera. We're not sure why they didn't address this issue in the design stage, but let's hope it's resolved in "Version 2.0".
Frankly, none of the motorcycle video cameras we've reviewed are able to capture video that is equal in quality to even the cheapest HD-capable digital cameras, which has always been a disappointment. Why the manufacturers can't simply include the same type of video hardware available in a basic digicam is puzzling.
Fortunately, the video quality of the Wingman HD is pretty good. In fact, in a couple of respects, it could be called class-leading.
For example, we think the Wingman HD renders colors more accurately than probably any of the other "action" cameras we've reviewed.
The software also does an excellent job at exposure management, i.e., the changes in the transitions between light and dark, such as when travelling on the bike and riding in and out of shadows on the road.
The exposure range seems wider than any of the other cameras, with black blacks and white whites and without the blown-out sky and clouds seen in video from the other cameras.
Of course, this is all relative, because again, the video quality of these "action" cameras just isn't all that good and would probably be called unacceptable if included in a low-end to mid-range digital camera from Panasonic, Nikon, Sony, Canon, etc.
The colors in the videos taken by the Wingman HD are nicely saturated, but without the "comic book" look that can easily occur with over-saturation. And although you can still see some stepping as the camera adjusts from light to dark, the Wingman HD handles the transitions more smoothly than most.
The wide tonal and exposure range is illustrated in the second video below, showing the on-road examples, in the scene where the camera is hand-held and panning across the farm scene.
Here's a .zip file with a 10-second raw clip from the Delkin WingmanHD in .MOV format at 1080p/30 FPS.
Not all is golden in the world of Wingman HD video, however. The sharpness of the video taken with the camera at any of the settings is noticeably softer than other cameras we've reviewed. This is apparent in the still photos also, which are, quite frankly, pretty awful and not equal to even most of the cheapest digital cameras. But who buys a camera like this for still photos?
If the camera didn't have the good color accuracy and accurate exposure metering, the cons would probably overwhelm the pros for the Wingman HD.
The 1080p video taken at 30 FPS also seems a bit choppy; i.e., not as smooth as we'd like and not as smooth as the GoPro HD or the Replay XD1080. You can see this effect in the on-road video below. If you look closely at the very top edge of the video as the camera is in motion, you may notice the trees have a bit of stop-action motion from frame to frame.
The Wingman HD takes video at 60 FPS in 720p and, in theory, this should result in smoother video because you're doubling the number of frames per second. But for some reason, the 720p video looks more ragged, not as smooth and noisier than the video taken at 1080p.
Thus, we think the camera may be using an interpolated 60 FPS rather than a true recording of 60 frames ever second. You're probably better off using the 1080p setting.
The standard motorcycle video camera mounting issues apply here that we have discussed in many of the other reviews. So mounting the Wingman HD poses the same issues as mounting other motorcycle video cameras like the GoPro HD.
The square box form factor means the camera will present a large surface area if it's mounted on top of a helmet; larger, that is, than cameras like the Replay XD1080 (review) which, despite the absence of a live view, is our current favorite.
The Fat Gecko mount can be used to mount the Wingman HD on the bike, although vibrations from the motorcycle seem to cause the "jelly" effect on the CMOS sensor. This is illustrated in the on-the-bike segment in the "road" video below.
Otherwise, the camera can be mounted on a helmet, but since all helmets are different and the various appendages, vents, sun visor sliders and even the shape of the camera can make helmet mounting either easy or difficult.
The first video below quickly runs through the features of the Wingman HD and illustrates the difficult in taking the camera in and out of the waterproof housing.
The second video is a compilation of on-road videos taken at different resolutions. The resolutions are noted in text at the start of each segment.
NOTE: The quality of the video as displayed on YouTube is lower than the quality of the original "raw" .MOV files as viewed on the computer. The videos below were processed in Adobe Premiere Elements 10.0 from the raw .MOV H.264 state and saved as AVCHD H.264 files at 30 FPS. The files were then uploaded to YouTube, where they were compressed again. Each time the video is processed, the quality usually degrades slightly.
webBikeWorld Overall Opinionator: Delkin Wingman HD
The Delkin Wingman HD is a reasonably-priced, full HD motorcycle video camera that is easy to use and takes good quality video.
It has a few problems that may or may not be "deal killers", depending on your requirements and how you use the camera. If you need to frequently start and stop the camera, the chore of removing and replacing it from the waterproof housing can be an issue. Doubly so if you're also using a Fat Gecko-type suction cup mount.
Perhaps Delkin will address this problem in upcoming versions. Also, the initial quality of our camera was troubling, although we're giving it a bit of a break because ours was from an early production batch.
In the meantime, the combination of the low(ish) street price of the camera, the nice color rendition and wide exposure range are all positives.
It's difficult to rate the motorcycle video cameras we've reviewed, because each has a different form factor and any ranking is highly dependent upon how you plan to use them. We place the Delkin Wingman HD as a possible third place tie with the Drift HD170. The Replay XD1080 is currently at the top of our list of favorites, due to its combination of excellent build quality, ease of use, haptic feedback and good video quality, closely followed by the GoPro HD, a camera in the square form factor genre.
None of these cameras have what we'd call outstanding video quality, but since it's difficult to use a standard digital camera on a motorcycle (or ATV or hang glider or surfboard or...), it's all we have.
More: wBW Motorcycle Video Camera Reviews
wBW Review: Delkin Wingman HD Video Camera
|Manufacturer: Delkin Devices, Inc.||List Price: $241.49; €239.99; £199.99|
|Colors: Black.||Made In: Unknown|
|Review Date: December 2011|
From "L.B." (March 2012): "I read your review of the Wingman camera and saw that you were really down on the lack of an on/off switch. I have been evaluating the camera now for a few days and found that to not be an issue.
If you put the camera in the shut down /sleep mode and turn it on and set say 2 minutes it will go into standby after 2 minutes of non use. Put the camera in the housing and seal it up and put it on a mount. Now when you want to take a picture or video you just tap the mode that you want and it is ready to go. A period of non use then puts it off line again.
Putting the camera in standby extends the battery life, reduces heat build up which is a cause of internal fogging when used under water in the housing and also makes it very easy to see what mode you are in.
I have used all versions of the Go Pro camera for the last two years and it is often difficult to see what mode you have started up in and you have to look closely to ensure one button auto, time lapse, etc.
I use my cameras mostly for Scuba diving so some of the issues for the Bike applications may not apply. However the heat build up during a very long time lapse on a cold day will fog the Go Pro requiring moisture devices inside the housing. The standby mode of the Wingman seems to help prevent the fogging.
I just wanted to tell you that the lack of an on/off button is no big deal yet you really came down hard on the camera housing for that."
Editor's Note: Good tip, to be honest, we weren't aware that the WingmanHD even had a "sleep" mode. I'm not sure if this will work or not for motorcycling, for a couple of reasons.
First, the camera can get bounced around quite a bit due to wind buffeting. Also, a motorcyclist usually needs to know exactly when the video starts and stops and with the camera mounted on top of the helmet, it may not be possible to be sure that the video recording started.
Also, if it goes into "sleep" mode after a certain period of time, it's not clear how this would affect recording? We still have the WingmanHD here, so I'll have to give it another try on the motorcycle.
From "B" (March 2012): "We emailed before about the Wingman and I asked if it could be powered for continuous video shooting via 12 volt. I bought one and it can be powered on 12 volt and record as much video as the SD card allows."