Online Community of Zenith Builders and Flyers
Several people have asked about the video cameras that I've been using. I've posted a few videos that include views from inside the cockpit (with audio), and views from outside the cockpit.
I have an NFlightCam GPS+ (about 1 year old), and a GoPro Hero2 (about 5 months old), generally using both cameras at the same time on my test flights.
These small video cameras have been a big help in my Phase 1 testing. It's helpful to be able to "go back and review what happened". One of the cameras plugs into my headset jacks and picks up voice, so instead of writing down notes I can just fly the airplane, talk to myself, and review later. It's a lot of fun, and you never know what exciting events you may capture... ;-)
Here is a basic review of the cameras that I own and use on my airplane. I'd encourage you to do your own research into whatever is on the market at the time you are looking, as the technology is rapidly evolving, and I can promise you that there are better cameras out there than the ones I use (both are already obsolete).
NFlightCam GPS+: I mount this one on the steel rollover tube behind the passenger seat, pointing forward (although it could point any direction).
Advantages: it plugs into the headsets to capture audio, and it can record through the prop disk without distortion. Picture quality is better than the GoPro due to less "fish eye" effect. The lens can be rotated to "level" in cases where the mount is at an angle. I has 2 small lasers built in to help find where "level" is.
Disadvantages: very limited battery life (max of 2 hours 14 minutes in my experience), no ability to recharge the battery in flight, no ability to see what you're recording until you download to a computer, and frankly it's just plain cheap chinese quality (I actually had to make a shim out of plastic just to get the battery that came with it to contact). Total cost (about $600). GPS doesn't work. Sometimes it shuts itself off.
GoPro Hero2: I mount this camera under the wings via a plastic bracket that is held on with double sided foam tape (which has thus far survived 100+ mph winds at 10 degrees Fahrenheit). I also have a suction-cup type mount that attaches to the the canopy.
Advantages: ability to add an extra battery 'backpack' for longer battery life, lots of mounting options and accessories, total cost (about $400).
Disadvantages: can't capture rapid motion without distortion (look at the propeller distortion on any GoPro video), fish eye distortion, it has to be "re-programmed" every time you power it on if you use anything other than the default settings (which is fine for kids on skateboards, but not so good for guys who mount cameras upside down under their wings). There is a separate remote control, but it doesn't always work with the Hero2 (there's a new "Hero3" available now that has that built in). Only sound capability is via the built-in mic. You also need a newer computer to run their proprietary software (which is something I hadn't seen in any of the product reviews). None of my personal computers (nor my computer at work) was able to run GoPro's software, and if you can't run their software then you can't upgrade the camera firmware (yeah, I know how to hack around that, but the issues I have are present with the current firmware version). Also it shuts itself off sometimes and you don't know it.
Camera technology is rapidly evolving, and as time passes we are seeing the prices dropping while quality is improving. With the increasing availability of small, inexpensive video cameras, it's going to be interesting to see what people do with them.
I'm interested in hearing about other peoples experiences with cameras on their airplanes.