Review: Visionaire Vehicle Tracker and Monitoring

Having put hours and hours of work, not to mention thousands of pounds, into my Land Rover Defender, I was dismayed and concerned to learn it is now the most stolen car in the UK!

It seems the very design and nature of a Defender, the thing that makes it so attractive to the enthusiast, is the exact same quality that now attracts some very well organised thieves. It’s like a great big Meccano set. It holds it’s value like no other vehicle and is soon going end of life. All that seems to have exacerbated the problem to a level where if you don’t take measures to protect your Land Rover, you might as well leave it in the street with the engine running.

If someone is coming to get your Defender it’s almost certain they will have visited once before and will have a good idea of what security you have fitted. They may even tamper with it in advance, to make subsequent theft easier. It’s simple to search the various UK forums for advice and security gear and magic ‘theft proof’ devices are numerous and varied with devotees claiming theirs is the one to have.

Here’s a little secret though: none of these precautions work. None of them make your car theft-proof. At best they delay the thief a few minutes; at worst they give you a level of confidence wholly unjustified by the device. With bolt cutters or an angle grinder or if your Defender is very posh, a low loader, none of the devices are going to help you for long. The simple and sad fact is, if they want it, they are having it. So where does that leave you?

I think the concept of a vehicle tracker is relatively old news. I’d guess that you would think them the domain of your supercar owners with expensive installation and yearly costs. As technology and communications have progressed however, that’s no longer the case.

It’s surprisingly simple and pretty damn cost effective and is largely based around mobile phone technology. I know there are many on the market but let me show you one that seems to tick all the boxes.

Land Rover TrackerI’ve installed the £299  Visionaire system from Carrotech – a tiny GPS device with a mobile sim. What first attracted me was the low cost of purchase and very low cost of ongoing use, especially when compared to the popular skytag. But it was only when I started to play with the very user-friendly Internet interface that I realised the true power and convenience of this system.

Tracker rulesOnce installed (buried very deeply somewhere in your Defender’s soul, with its own backup power) the device monitors and records details of every journey you make. Using simple drop down menu options you can then ask the device to advise you either by email or text if anything specific happens. The list is long but things like the battery being disconnected, the car leaving your home address or even predetermined speeds being exceeded can all be recorded and trigger an action. Email and GPS is the first avenue for this messaging but if that fails for any reason then the system will text you details. All this for just £72 a year! Yep just £72. Rather pleasantly I found that when I told my Insurance Company I had this tracker  installed my premium went down by £25 so in theory to have my Defender monitored 24 hours a day, 365 days a year whether I’m in the country or not, it’s costing me £47.

Tracker map for Land Rovers

For me the purpose is to recover my car if it were ever stolen but I can immediately see how you might want to install this in the car if you have kids who have just learnt to drive and want to ‘borrow daddy’s car’ for the evening! If that isn’t enough to have you ordering this brilliant little device already, wait until you see what else it does. It actively monitors where the car has been and overlays that on a combination of OS and/or satellite maps. The tracker software records it all and although I’m not sure how long the data is retained, I was able to check a route from a year ago quite easily – and see my average speed, how fast I drove at what time etc., etc. Okay, maybe that’s a little ‘big brother’ but still a feature I quite liked!

I’m sure I’ve only scratched the service of what the system can offer. Given the possible uses and at an initial purchase price that’s not much more than the cost of a good service, can you afford not to fit a tracker?

I know various insurance companies are offering a similar feature. In exchange for a cheaper insurance policy for young drivers, their driving style is monitored using a device like this. I’m not sure that I like the idea of some faceless corporation monitoring whether my darling daughters are tearing round the streets – but I’ll tell you what – Daddy sure would like to know!!

[easyreview title=”Dummy rating” icon=”dummy” cat1title=”Ease of use” cat1detail=”Once it’s installed it’s all drop menu stuff. Simplicity itself.” cat1rating=”4″ cat2title=”Features” cat2detail=”I honestly can’t think of anything else I’d like it to record.” cat2rating=”5″ cat3title=”Value for money” cat3detail=”This is one of the cheapest trackers on the market and it’s worked faultlessly for 18 months.” cat3rating=”5″ cat4title=”Build Quality” cat4detail=”Tiny and designed to be buried in your car body. Feels very light and dare I say cheap but I’m not sure it need be anything else” cat4rating=”4.0″ summary=”I’m incredibly impressed with this tracker. Keep an eye on the kids, protect your cherished car. It will do either or both, brilliantly.”]

iPhone 6. The Rumour Mill – Likely Models, Versions and new Features

So we wait with baited breath to see what the next iteration of the Apple iPhone will be. With the competition putting out ‘iPhone killers’ Apple Bitealmost daily and nibbling into Apples market share, it seems time for something dramatic from the innovative tech Company.

Whilst still very much at the rumour mill stage, here is what the available evidence and info is strongly suggesting.

The next version of the iPhone is widely and will almost certainly be called the iPhone 6. It is scheduled for release in September of this year.

If the huge orders Apple has been placing in Japan with Sharp and in South Korea with LG, is anything to go by then the anticipated increase in screen size will become a reality. Initial reports and information leaked from those factories suggests we will be looking at two versions. The current models 4” screen will be scaled up into 2 new versions sporting either a 4.7” or a 5.5” screen. It goes without saying that this will be the high end resolution liquid crystal versions.

We can expect the iPhone 6 to be a far more powerful beast with an uprated processor and according to some sources; a major Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturer has started a production run of these next generation A series ‘Apple A8’ chips. First reports are emerging of a very fast 2.6GHz chip.Apple Chip

As well as the increase in screen size we expect the iPhone 6 to be far thinner than it is now. Here at G&D we have read more than one report suggesting it could be as little as 5.5 mm, which is quite a significant change to the current design.

So what about that screen? It seems Apple may well be moving to an Ultra-Retina display with a pixel density pushing 389ppi. Design features will also include a durable Sapphire screen at long last. All this coupled with the larger screen sizes adds up to a mouth-watering combination that some would say is long overdue.

Other rumoured features that have been floating around cyber space,

Significant improvements to the camera with major changes to the aperture size and possibly moving to as much as an 8-megapixel camera. Some sources are even suggesting Apple has decided at last that the camera is an ever important aspect of a smartphone and Powerful iphone 6 cameramay go all out with a 10 mega-pixel version with an f/1.8 aperture complete with interchangeable lenses.

There is also a lot of hype about Apple going with a bezel-less display or at least playing with the iconic design feature to make it less prominent.

Personally, I’m a little worried that Apple may be finding it necessary to do battle with competitors on screen size. Once a smartphone doesn’t fit into my trouser pocket, it’s no longer a phone in my eyes. However if they can squeeze every available mm of front facing space into being a screen, that would be the way to go!

The Apple App store is also set for some changes and improvements but details are sketchy so far.


Action Camera Comparison – GoPro 3 vs. Ghost Drift HD vs. Garmin Virb HD

I am an amateur film maker and my chosen subject is Land Rovers driving Green lanes on UK expeditions. I guess you could say I have quite specific requirements from an action camera but crucially I think, my filming is about as severe a test as you can get. Rough terrain, extreme weather conditions, impacts and even the occasional underwater dunking.

These are the conditions under which I need my action camera to operate. If I’m honest I don’t care what the manufacturer says the camera can do. I don’t care about the popular myths or if it’s the market leader. I want to know how they actually perform in the real world. To do this I am going to compare them in a number of critical areas with the only starting factor being that they must all be in a similar price bracket. In this case this is in the region of £250.

So the 3 cameras emerging as top dogs in that bracket are Garmins Virb HD, Drift’s Ghost HD and the market leading GoPro 3.

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I’m finding increasingly that action cameras in this price bracket are packing themselves with features that you just don’t need. Let’s just concentrate on what’s important shall we? First up the quality of footage. On paper the Virb HD has the lens capable of shooting the best still and video footage. In reality, if you crank these cameras up to their highest settings you eat battery life and memory cards and your action footage, if fast moving, just looks weird. They all boast apps and phone connectivity, which is essential to the feature poor GoPro 3 as it doesn’t have an integral screen?!? Feature-wise it’s quite Ghost Drift HD remotetough to separate the Virb and the Drift Ghost HD. Both are very similar but I’d probably give it to the Ghost because of its fantastic multi-purpose remote control unit. The fact I can conveniently flick it on and off also means my editing time is dramatically reduced.



My big issue with action cameras has always been construction of the standard camera. Far too many claim to be impact-proof or waterproof but when you check, that’s only true if you put them in a case – usually a case that blocks sound, steams up and generally makes the camera harder to use.

pdp_image_HERO3Plus_black_cluster1Comparing all three cameras, the GoPro 3 immediately stands out as the poor relation again because of its traditional and I’d say, old fashioned design. It’s square and bulky and to be honest feels fragile. In comparison the bullet style, rubberised finish of both the Ghost HD and the Virb scream ‘ACTION! Go and film something dangerous!’


What’s the point in going to all this trouble to create an action camera if it doesn’t shoot quality footage? Obvious you would have thought, right?

All 3 cameras need some tweaking in the settings to get the best out of them. The GoPro 3 is the market leader and I find myself desperately trying to find something that sets it apart but again its picture quality proves to be a let down. If I’m honest all 3 are pretty damn good but if I were to grade them I’d say the Ghost Drift HD tops the chart, the Garmin Virb HD takes second place and the GoPro – well I can only assume it was designed for the brilliant sunshine of California because it doesn’t like dark British country lanes!


As I’ve mentioned previously, a simple fact of shooting HD footage is that it eats power; an action camera by definition is usually small and takes a small battery. You kind of have to accept this and move on. What becomes more interesting is the price and availability of spare batteries and how easy they are to swap out.

Tests indicate that, at what I consider the optimal filming rate for an action camera – 720 at 60fps, you get in the region of 3 hours of film time from all these cameras. In reality what I find is that because the Ghost HD is remote controlled, I’m more inclined to switch it on and off and subsequently I get a good 2 hours+ extra battery life. A quick scan of replacement battery costs and the GoPro 3 has the cheapest batteries at £6.77 (Yeah GoPro 3!) with the Ghost Drift HD replacement battery costing £6.89. The Virb is a relatively new product and the Virb HD replacement batteries are an eye watering £25 so you aren’t likely to pack 3 or 4 of them in your spare kit.Ghost Drift Open

All are a nightmare to swap the battery. If you have an image of balancing precariously on a ledge in driving rain while you flick open a compartment and slot in a fresh battery, think again because they are all fiddly to get to.


What I find consistently in the area of accessories is that almost without exception they are shocking. I won’t claim to have tested or researched every one that is available but the ones I have used or seen for all 3 cameras just doesn’t have the quality feel I want, when I’m attaching a couple of hundred quid to it and bouncing it through forests and rivers. This is a slight digression but I won’t use anything but these VacMounts for action cameras, which are bullet proof and beyond compare!

GHOST DRIFT – 4.5 out of 5

drift-hd-ghost-hero[easyreview title=”Dummy rating” icon=”dummy” cat1title=”Ease of use” cat1detail=”To get the best results, you need to spend 10 minutes with the manual. Menu isn’t the most intuitive.” cat1rating=”4″ cat2title=”Features” cat2detail=”It has everything you need but that remote is simply brilliant.” cat2rating=”5″ cat3title=”Value for money” cat3detail=”It is the most expensive of the 3 tested.” cat3rating=”4″ cat4title=”Build quality” cat4detail=”Tough rubberised coating and waterproof seals. Solid.” cat4rating=”4.5″ summary=”This is where the smart money is. A genuine GoPro killer”]

GOPRO 3 – 3 out of 5

GoProHero3[easyreview title=”Dummy rating” icon=”dummy” cat1title=”Ease of use” cat1detail=”Having to extract it from the case to access the features is annoying.” cat1rating=”3″ cat2title=”Features” cat2detail=”It’s got everything the others have, except a screen…” cat2rating=”3″ cat3title=”Value for money” cat3detail=”Newer models have meant dropping prices and bargains can be found.” cat3rating=”4″ cat4title=”Build quality” cat4detail=”I just don’t trust its build quality. Without its case I’d say it was fragile at best.” cat4rating=”3″ summary=”I genuinely have no idea how the GoPro is the market leader. It’s adequate but no more.”]

GARMIN VIRB – 4 out of 5

garmin-virb-hd-action-camera-27[easyreview title=”Dummy rating” icon=”dummy” cat1title=”Ease of use” cat1detail=”Nice clear menu structure. Buttons easily accessible.” cat1rating=”4″ cat2title=”Features” cat2detail=”Has all it needs to have. If only it had a remote.” cat2rating=”4″ cat3title=”Value for money” cat3detail=”It’s fresh on the market at a low price. Great as long as you don’t want a spare battery.” cat3rating=”4″ cat4title=”Build quality” cat4detail=”Identical to the Ghost HD” cat4rating=”5″ summary=”A very close second to the Drift Ghost just pipped due to the lack of a remote control.”]

5 Minute Review: Dash Board Non Slip Vehicle Mat Mount for Car Sat Nav Tomtom GPS

I love these cheap little odds and ends that transform how you use a piece of tech.

The problem? I’ve never been very happy with the way my car’s satnav mounts. Inevitably it ends up on my windscreen leaving a tell-tale circle on the window for thieves to see and generally making the screen dirty.

GPS Vehicle mount matEnter the very simple and very cheap non-stick car mount mat. I’m sure you’ve seen them advertised and I have looked at them and scoffed about how unsuitable they must be, especially given the textured dashes in most vehicles or the configuration of air vents resulting in a lack of flat surfaces. With the recent purchase of a TomTom Start 25M, I tagged on one of these fairly generic mats. (I did find a Car Sat Nav TomTom GPS version of the mat – perhaps there are some specific properties unique to TomTom?)

Very simply, the mat is completely fit for purpose. Even with my textured Audi dash and central vents, which the corner of the mat has to wrap around, it remains firmly on the dash. I say “firmly” – the centre piece that the GPS unit mounts on seems to lift from the dash surface slightly. As a result you can detect slight vibration in the attached device. That said, with some very tight and fast cornering and even an emergency stop, the mat and sat nav stayed resolutely in place.

Geek and Dummy TomTom GPS car dash mountMy TomTom Start 25M weighs in at 216 grams. If I’m honest I think that’s about the maximum weight I’d want to mount on the mat but that’s enough for most modern sat nav devices. I am very happy with the upright mounting of the sat nav and the fact I no longer have a sign on my windscreen announcing ‘there is a sat nav in this car somewhere; break in and steal me’.

I highly recommend you give one of these a try. Cheap as chips and simply brilliant!

Review: Ghost Drift HD Action Camera – The Best Action Camera for Vehicles & 4×4’s


When I was first handed the Ghost Drift HD back in November it would be fair to say it had a lot to live up to – and not in comparison to the action cameras you might expect. The market leading Go-Pro I have always found to be all show and in fact not very much GO. My cheap and cheerful Kodak ZX range cameras are the real challengers, with their almost unparalleled lens quality, integral waterproof housing and cheap, easily changeable batteries. The Kodak ZX is a real hidden gem. So when I picked up the very sexy looking Drift HD with sky-high expectationsh, I was a bit disappointed with the results.

If you read my original review you will no doubt detect the ‘luke warm’ reception I gave it. Just keep in mind that I really did review it like the proverbial Dummy. I unpacked it, stuck in a memory card, mounted it on my bonnet and took it out.Ghost Drift Kit

Well what a difference a few months makes!!

Just before revisiting the Drift HD, let me qualify my review by saying I dislike the GoPro Hero 3 (direct competitor to the Drift HD). To start with, the internet is littered with stories of faulty units. My main beef though is that, since the manufacturer knows it’s considered to be the market leader, it cashes in on the hype with silly prices and expensive optional extras. Anyway, as far as I’m concerned if you need a separate waterproof case to make your action camera fit for purpose it’s just not an action camera!

Back to the Drift Ghost HD. The big selling point for me was the remote control unit and that’s proved to be a fantastic feature – not only because I can switch my cameras on and off from the comfort of the driver’s seat but because the colour coded LED indicators on the remote flash very clearly to tell me the cameras’ current modes. Don’t get me wrong, I keep it simple when I’m filming my green lane adventures but just occasionally I like to select the burst picture mode and take some still images – and the transition is effortless.

In my first review of this camera, I wasn’t a huge fan. So what’s changed to make me such a convert?

It’s amazing what a bit of experimentation can do. First off: mounting the camera. The 1/4″ standard camera thread is on the side of the camera. Brilliant I guess for a helmet cam. Not so much for a vehicle mounted camera. Nonetheless, get the right mounting solution and that little wrinkle is soon smoothed out.1/4 thread on Ghost Drift HD

Next, low light filming. The camera comes with default exposure setting of +0. Initially that gave me disappointing results. It only took tweaking that setting up to +1.0 and oh my word, the camera is transformed! I never thought I’d say this, but the images from this camera in all conditions are now superior to my beloved Kodak lensed ZX range of cameras. They are at least comparable to the very latest GoPro but without the silly price tag and it doesn’t need an extra case. Have I mentioned yet that the GoPro needs a waterproof case…?

It really is just the complete package for an action camera and as with all my kit this has been tested in wind, snow, constant driving rain and even the occasional dunking during a river crossing. I’ve also gained a few handy hints from this experience of using the camera in the field. These should really help you get the best from your Ghost Drift HD.

There is an app for the Drift Ghost HD. It’s quite a fun thing to play with and allows you to see what your camera sees, on your smart phone’s screen. Good fun to play with although I usually just use it to make sure my cameras are positioned correctly.

Spare batteries. Now although I found these batteries lasted approximately 5 hours of intermittent use via the remote control, I sometimes go on whole weekend trips; I wanted the flexibility of swapping out batteries. Spare batteries for the Ghost HD are very very cheap – about £11 for 2. Ghost Drift BatteryThat’s a lot cheaper than any of the other action camera contenders, for sure. The only thing I would say is that it’s a little bit fiddly to swap a battery. It gets easier with practice but not something you can do with cold gloved hands!

I run a Pure Sine inverter in my Land Rover so I can power larger devices. I’ve also picked up a great Patona external battery charger for these replacement batteries making the whole process of keeping my cameras running a lot easier and smoother.

Now as for memory cards, as you can imagine, shooting the amount of footage I do, I use about one 16GB card each day in each camera so it can be an expensive thing to kit myself out with enough of them. Well that’s where your friendly neighbourhood Geek comes in because he did a review of SD cards recently and it turns out that one of the cheapest SD cards is the best anyway, so the Samsung SD card is an easy and cost effective choice.

[easyreview title=”Dummy rating” icon=”dummy” cat1title=”Ease of use” cat1detail=”To get the best you need to spend 10 minutes with the manual.” cat1rating=”4″ cat2title=”Features” cat2detail=”What else could you possibly need.” cat2rating=”5″ cat3title=”Value for money” cat3detail=”It’s still a bit on the pricey side for me but a lot better value than the market leader.” cat3rating=”4″ cat4title=”Build quality” cat4detail=”Tough rubberised coating and waterproof seals. Solid” cat4rating=”5″ summary=”This is where the smart money is. A genuine GoPro killer”]

So you have my advice and you have my opinion now I’ve had the benefit of having used this camera in all conditions. It only remains fr me to show you the latest film I made with this set-up, which should be featured in Land Rover Monthly’s May Edition.

Review: Dummy’s top 5 Christmas tech gifts for 2013

Here at Geek & Dummy we have reviewed varied products this year and if you’ve been following our blog, you’ll have noticed that Geek and I have differing tastes and requirements from our tech. Here are my top 5 products of the year, largely based around their impact on me. As you know, I’m a bit of a… well a dummy, so to appear on my list a gadget needs to be one of those tech products that basically works out of the box.

Synology DS213J 2 Bay Desktop NAS Enclosure

Synology DS213J

I’ve been using NAS type devices for many years now but this truly IS the daddy. NAS or Network Attached Storage is a system of 1 or more hard drives, a network connection and an operating system. It connects to your network, allowing other devices on the network to access and share files from a central location. Traditionally, quite a dumb device, these have now evolved considerably. The Synology comes with a veritable “app store” of free products to help you backup, stream media and download torrents. All this and RAID too, to ensure your valuable data is as safe as it can be.

The stand-out feature for me is DNLA. Put simply, with my Samsung Smart 3D TV on my home network, if I drop a a picture, some music or a film on the Synology box, my Samsung TV immediately sees it and I can access and watch it. Pure genius. The only thing to remember is that the purchase price doesn’t include the hard drives you will need. When I bought my Synology NAS it worked out a lot cheaper to go and source (high quality) hard drives rather than take a pre-configured bundle. I opted for these WD 3TB SATA III Caviar hard drives: fast and quiet and at the right price!

PowerDirector 10 Video Editing Software

PowerDirector 10

I’m an amateur film maker and this year I discovered PowerDirector 10. Having played with iMovie and Windows Movie Maker I was looking for some software to take me to the next level but with that all-important Dummy proviso: it must work out of the box without requiring a degree to understand it.

I have to say it’s revolutionised my film editing. With some interesting sound editing capabilities built in, this year PowerDirector has helped both my Geek & Dummy and my 4×4 film viewing figures to soar. I particularly like the way it lets you create and edit mini slide shows within your film. The image enhancement options have rescued some dark and otherwise unusable footage on more than one occasion. This is my fav film from this year created with this software. The only downside is it is a resource hungry animal and you’ll need something pretty powerful to run it properly. I’d recommend something like the Lenovo Ideacentre K450, with stacks of RAM, storage and video oomph.

Kodak Playsport ZX5 and ZX3 Action Cameras Amazon for ZX5 but eBay for ZX3

Kodak ZX3

For the second year running these amazing little cameras have proved to be my mainstay action camera. I stumbled on them absolutely by chance and have since bought 7. They are relatively cheap and I have been buying both the ZX5 and the ZX3 (the latter second hand on eBay). They are essentially the same camera but the older ZX3 has a removable battery and to be honest, I quite prefer the older one because of that. Other than the battery they take exactly the same images and that Kodak lens is amazing. It completely puts to shame the very expensive and industry standard GoPro in the image and even sound department.

Where the GoPro and indeed most action cameras require a secondary housing to make them waterproof and shockproof, the Playsport range in standard guise does all that as standard. Believe me I have tested them to near destruction on many occasions during the year. I took one on holiday with me this year and it made a fantastic underwater film without the need to add a cumbersome case.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ48

Panasonic Lumix Bridge

This is the second of three cameras to make my short list this year and another that has helped me improve both my stills photography and my video photography. Originally when I bought the Lumix Bridge camera the theory was I needed to progress beyond a standard happy snapper but not go so far that I’d need to spend an hour reading a manual every time I wanted to take a picture. This camera has a top quality lens and a very simple dial that allows you to alter settings quickly to match the type of photography you’re taking.

Whilst I didn’t consider this aspect when I bought it, to my amazement the video functions of the camera are also fantastic. Often you find that the video features are a bit of an afterthought on stills cameras and are low quality. Not so with the Panasonic and whilst it can be difficult to hold steady, the clarity of the video images is the best of any camera I own, probably thanks to the quality of its lens. Read my full review here.

Drift Ghost HD Action Camera

Drift Ghost HD Action Camera

So to my last but definitely not least tech buy of the year. When I originally reviewed this action camera I was in two minds about it. In fact when I re-read my review I’ve been down right uncharitable. Looking at the facts, its  expensive compared to the Kodak range and straight out of the box the image quality, mounting set-up and operation are all a bit of a pain. Keeping to my Dummy ethos, it felt like a bit of a hassle to be honest.

Having now lived with it for a month or two, boy is this a piece of kit. It seems that the issues I had filming in low light are resolved by a slight tweak to the aperture settings. Bluetooth connectivity to my mobile phone turns out to be a great, though rarely used feature – I can view what the camera sees, on my phone. The remote control is a revelation for action camera photography; by making it so much easier to switch on and off this vastly reduces the amount of boring footage I have to edit out. You’ll need to buy a decent class 10 microSD card to get the best from it, but they have come right down in price now.

Ok; all of this comes with a £250 price tag (Geek & Dummy do have a 10% discount voucher for the first lucky reader requesting it) but for the time it saves me and the quality of the images I’m now getting, it’s worth every penny. In fact do you know what, I’m getting another one for Christmas!

Review: Sony HDRAS15 Sports Action Camcorder with Full HD and Wi-Fi

I am constantly on the look out for good action cameras. The action I shoot is quite specific in that I attach cameras to off-road vehicles and I insist on them being robust, easy to use but obviously able to capture quality images in all weathers. Audio is important to me to the extent that there must be sufficient sound quality to capture an old Land Rover engine.

Sony HDRAS15 Zeiss LensThe market leading GoPro range can be found wanting in many of these areas: the moment the sun goes in or you drive down an enclosed lane, the picture quality plummets. That and thinking of the extra case needed to make it waterproof and the poor sound, well it’s fair to say I’m not a GoPro fan.

So I read about this Sony Sport Camera and the fact it was running a Carl Zeiss lens and I was excited about the prospect of some high quality images. Perhaps I’d found a competitor to my current camera of choice the Drift Ghost HD?

Sony HDRAS15 FlimsyOut of the box I was immediately a little disappointed. Everything felt flimsy and light. The access panel to the camera’s inner workings is a really shoddy-feeling click-off panel. I was willing to forgive it this because after all, it did come with a snazzy looking waterproof case. The battery compartment was similarly fiddly and cumbersome and this camera was starting to me more like one of those cheap Chinese ones you pick up from eBay. I couldn’t help but hold it up to the HD Drift Ghost and wonder if I had paid a lot of money for a dead duck!

It uses what is now the standard (MicroSD memory cards) and can handle up to 32GB.

From some quick research, it had everything I expected from an action camera in this price range other than, weirdly, a colour screen. Instead Sony assumes the wireless connection to your mobile phone will be all you will ever need. I think that’s a big mistake. Action cameras should trade on simplicity and image quality and I’m not a fan of unnecessary bells and whistles that do little other than push up the prices.

So I read ‘Carl Zeiss’ on the side of the camera by the lens. Surely the pictures at least will be high quality?

Okay then, time for a short video demonstrating the footage this camera takes.

Sony HDRAS15 On of buttonWhat can I say after that? To be honest I cut my review short. It’s quite simply unfit for purpose and I returned it to Amazon for a refund. I really could not find one redeeming feature in this camera and apart from the poor case design, average sound, average visuals it simply didn’t work. The on/off switch through the case was rubbish and often wouldn’t toggle the power without some serious force. It was just a really bad user experience and something that I recommend you avoid. You would be much better off spending a little more for a Drift Ghost HD or even a little less and getting the Kodak PlaySport Zx5, both of which are superior in every single way.

I had high hopes for this camera and it’s not often I buy something that so bitterly disappoints. I’ve watched and read quite a few reviews that seem to make some lofty claims and I can only guess they are sockpuppet reviews from retailers because this camera is nothing short of useless. In fact since buying it and writing this review I notice the price is plummeting which tells you all you need to know really!

[easyreview title=”Dummy rating” icon=”dummy” cat1title=”Ease of use” cat1detail=”No screen to align the camera; on off button is hopeless.” cat1rating=”0.5″ cat2title=”Features” cat2detail=”I’ll credit it a 2 because of the features it claims it has. I didn’t get that far.” cat2rating=”2″ cat3title=”Value for money” cat3detail=”I found it unfit for purpose. Certainly expected a lot more for the money.” cat3rating=”1″ cat4title=”Build quality” cat4detail=”Everything about it felt cheap and shoddy” cat4rating=”0.5″ summary=”I’d spend a quarter of the price of this on an eBay special and get better quality .”]

Review: Drift HD Ghost Action Camera


I’m going to start this review in an unusual place for me, with the packaging! Have you ever looked at a review and it starts with someone taking the product out of the box and you just think ‘Why? Not interested!” and then you fast forward? Yes, yes I know, I do the same. So at at the risk of boring you guys…

I picked this one up from Action Cameras UK and what a cool little box the Drift HD Ghost comes in. It’s designed so well to display the product and also to be used as for ongoing storage that I thought it merited a mention.

The Ghost is the updated incarnation of the Drift HD, which was already a pretty successful action camera in its own right. The big draw of the HD Ghost for me was the remote control unit.

Drift Ghost Camera and RemoteBoth the remote and the camera have a durable rubberised coating. If you’ve experimented with one of the cheap and cheerful ‘Chinese’ eBay action cameras, the jump in quality to the Ghost is very evident indeed, as is the price of course. It feels satisfyingly heavy giving me the impression of quality but perhaps it would be a little too weighty to be used as a helmet cam. Since I plan to mount this on a 4×4 and give it some abuse, that’s not an issue for me.

Now as is my Dummy remit, reading the manual before using the camera is not my style. My first test was to jump straight in. I mounted the HD Ghost on one of my VacMounts Pro series suction mounts (after all it’s more expensive than my usual cameras and I didn’t want to lose it) and went for a day’s green-laning in the Oldham and Holmfirth area. The weather was horrible, so perfect as a first test for something claiming to be an action camera.

Camera Mounting

One issue that irritated me about the HD Ghost was the way it mounted. The standard camera screw thread is located on what is in fact its side. To me it appeared to be the base so when I mounted it for the first section of testing, a laning day in Oldham, all the footage was on its side and I had to flip it in post-processing, which lost the effect of the 170 degree lens. The thread seems poorly located to me and I expect everyone to make a similar mistake the first time they use the camera. Okay, you can spin the lens around but the more you have to mess about with an action camera to set it up, the less I see it as an action camera.

Camera Lens and Waterproofing

Drift Ghost Fish Eye LensThe weather during this testing was horrible: driving rain and a dark brooding day. When I started watching my footage back the first thing I noticed was that all of my cameras with a traditional flat lens had collected beads of rain and a lot of the footage from them was useless. The Ghost HD has that fish eye lens in a glass dome and whilst rain did hit it and stick for a short while, the shape encouraged the rain to run off. The first gust of wind or bit of speed and the lens would clear again. Definitely score one for the Ghost. As for being waterproof, the weather was simply horrible all day long and short of being submerged I couldn’t have tested it any more thoroughly. The Drift Ghost came out with flying colours.

Battery life was comparable with any other camera I’ve used in the action area. I started with a fully charged battery and with frequent activation via the remote, the camera battery lasted about 3 hours. The remote unit lasted all day without any issues.

Drift Ghost RemoteWhilst we are on the subject of the remote, wow, what a feature that is! It flashes in different colours to indicate to the operator what mode the camera is operating in and what the camera is currently doing. The camera options to take single pictures or bursts of pictures (which you might use for stop motion photography?). I stuck with it in standard video mode because that works best for my kind of action photography. However I did test both modes and they worked perfectly and the images were of a good quality. I loved the fact that when the camera was recording, the remote flashed red and it gave me great control of the footage I was shooting and saved me hours in the editing room.

Sound Quality

When I did start editing the footage I noticed that the sound recorded by the Ghost was very subtle and of low amplitude. Within the sound recording options I found I was 2 clicks off the maximum setting but even cranking it up to full, the volume level was pretty low. It did however eliminate wind noise like no other camera I’ve used to date so the low volume can be fixed during editing.

To start my testing of the video quality I took the Ghost HD on a Green Lane day with my local Land Rover club during which I also filmed with some of my favourite Kodak Playsport ZX3 cameras (review here). The lens on the Kodak is superior to anything else I’ve used so straight away it had a lot to live up to. I also took some side-by-side sample shots so you could see how the cameras transitioned between light and dark conditions. I did also include my expensive Panasonic Bridge Camera in this test, which I would never mount on my bonnet for anything other than a test, but I thought it would set a bench mark for everything else!

Everything was testing using VacMounts’ professional quality mounting systems, which I have already reviewed and found to be quality kit at the right price.

I’d suggest you watch this short video because the results could come down very much to personal taste. The colours and quality from the Drift Ghost are what I would demand from a camera costing £250. That coupled with the genius remote system make it a major contender and something I am considering buying for myself (I had a demo unit for this review). My only issue is the way it handles anything other than perfect lighting situations. For use in woodland and overgrown lanes therefore the camera can be found lacking – in fact not as good my cheap and cheerful Kodak Playsports.

[easyreview title=”Dummy rating” icon=”dummy” cat1title=”Ease of use” cat1detail=”Its okay. Not too complex but the mounting angle is just plain weird.” cat1rating=”4″ cat2title=”Features” cat2detail=”Honestly can’t think what else it could have. Remote is genius, low light filming average.” cat2rating=”4″ cat3title=”Value for money” cat3detail=”Quite simply, it needs a better lens. for this money it should work in low light.” cat3rating=”2.5″ cat4title=”Build quality” cat4detail=”Its solid and robust and oozes quality.” cat4rating=”4.5″ summary=”It’s a cheaper more flexible Go-Pro with the same frailties but some nice bells & whistles.”]

Review: Car & Action Camera Mounts from VacMounts – Single Base Mount & Triple Mount

When I first started using action cameras to film 4×4 trips, I struggled for a long time trying to find a mount. My two main considerations were that the cars were bouncing around significantly and I was using expensive camera kit. A mount then had to be reliable and able to absorb some of the shock.Land Rover Action Camera

There were a number of offerings on the market but these fell into two categories. 1: made in plastic with rubbish suction clamps or 2: very professional and large but costing 3 times the value of my cameras. I bought a few of the plastic versions; some of these were quite expensive devices, but in my opinion, if it’s plastic, it’s junk. I have a drawer in the garage stuffed with broken bits of plastic clamps, suckers and brackets. I didn’t even start down the pro mount route as I run 6 cameras on some days out and quite simply that was out of my budget.

So hunting around eBay for something that might do the job, quite by chance I stumbled on VacMounts.

VacMounts TripleThe first thing to note is that they are made of anodised aluminium and come either in a triple or a single ‘super’ suction configuration. I was immediately drawn to the triple mount because it looked like it would give a good firm base for the kind of phone style cameras I use.

The suction pads are each 8cm in diameter and operate via a simple 90° lever mechanism, which seems incredibly robust – certainly compared to the plastic offerings I have used so far.

I always try to position my cameras so you can just see part of the bonnet or bodywork because it better orientates the viewer. I tested the suction on a variety of car bonnets and windscreens with finishes ranging from perfectly polished paint to vinyl covered bonnets, right through to poorly brush-painted panels.

An interesting feature of the triple mount is that the support arms are slightly pliable. This has two effects. Firstly, it lets you alter the angle of each cup to suit the surface. Secondly and most importantly for me, they absorb vibration and shock to help keep my images smooth and stable.

VacMounts Triple SuctionJust a few small pointers to ensure this mount works faultlessly. Always keep the suction cup and the surface clean. The only failure I had with the triple suction mount was when I put it on a mud covered bonnet without giving it a quick rub first. Also, make sure you moisten the cup before applying.

At the camera connection end of the mount there is a similar quality feel. A triple jointed standard 1/4″ thread ensures you can mount the camera at any angle. With metal lock nuts and joints everything feels high quality and reliable. Certainly for the smaller action cameras I use, I feel like I’ve found the perfect mount.

VacMounts Single SuctionMoving onto the single suction mount: it’s an interesting mount and at first the fact it was a single sucker made me think it would be less reliable. This uses a chuck key and a larger sucker that is 10cm in diameter. The fact it uses a removable key rather than an attached clamp means you are unlikely to unlatch the camp inadvertently, something that has happened to me occasionally when I’ve pushed my Land Rover through dense vegetation. Also the chuck key adapter allows you to activate a 180 degree turn, providing a far increased level of suction. The 1/4″ thread with double jointed fastenings is then the same as the triple mount.

In tests I’ve found that both mounts produce nearly identical results. They both seem to grip incredibly well on any half-decent surface. The triple mount suction cups have failed me once completely on a badly painted bonnet and a number of times just a single cup has come loose. The single suction cup always seems to be locked very securely indeed and although I don’t get quite the shock absorbing properties, I have to say I feel a little more confident of it.

As a budget camera mount for vehicles, both these VacMounts are way ahead of the curve. They both offer unparalleled features with the highest level of build quality I have seen in this area. Combine that with a good action camera and you have an unbeatable combination.

The triple suction mount can be found on eBay for £29.95 and the single suction cup for £13.95. Both a bargain for what they offer.

You can also visit the VacMounts website.

Visit the VacMounts store on eBay to find out more.

[easyreview title=”Dummy rating” icon=”dummy” cat1title=”Ease of use” cat1detail=”Pretty obvious stuff once you understand the surface must be clean.” cat1rating=”4.5″ cat2title=”Features” cat2detail=”Perfect for purpose. Triple mount has let me down once. Fortunately no damage to my camera.” cat2rating=”4″ cat3title=”Value for money” cat3detail=”You will be paying considerably more anywhere else for mounts of this quality.” cat3rating=”5″ cat4title=”Build quality” cat4detail=”Infinitely better quality than anything else in its price range.” cat4rating=”5″ summary=”If you want a reliable action camera mount, seriously, I wouldn’t look any further.”]

How-to: Resolve Problems with the iOS 7 upgrade

iOS 7 UpgradeSo I assume you are like every other iPhone fanboy and girl and have been eagerly awaiting the iOS 7 update… Are you also like me and have watched and heard your friends merrily upgrading? Okay, complaining about slow downloads, having to free up memory before starting the upgrade and general niggles but on the whole, after persevering, the upgrade goes ahead?

iOS 7 No UpdateAre you? Is that you? Or are you like me and your iPhone 5 refuses to even see the upgrade let alone download it.

Okay, let’s see if we can help!

Let’s start with what I’ve tried to get past this problem. First though, before you start tinkering it’s vital that you back up your iPhone so you at least have somewhere to go back to if it all goes horribly wrong!

Back to my problem. After waiting for an hour, my phone was still not able to find the update. I made the assumption that there was some software fault in the phone so a hard reset might clear it. Hold down the home button and the lock button for 10 seconds and your iPhone will do a hard reset. When your iPhone powers back up – can you now see the update waiting to download? Nope, neither could I.

iphone Reset All SettingsSo, what do we do next? I’ve got my backup so let’s try the reset options. First Reset All Settings. In theory this should just reset your phone settings and not touch your data and media. Very straightforward; it removes all my little customisations (booo!!!) and unfortunately when I go back to the Software Update screen, still no update!

Right time to get serious, Erase All Content and Settings and then upgrade to iOS 7 before restoring my backup – can’t fail, right?

I select this option and it gives me the impression that it is doing the upgrade but then appears to ‘freeze’ when powering back up. I say “freeze”. I gave it an hour and the flamin’ thing stubbornly refused to switch back on and continually displayed the swirling symbol. I assumed it had frozen and did another hard reset and the phone came back on, obviously not having deleted the content.

Right, it’s time to consult with Geek, who after laughing at the iPhone fanboy, suggested I connect to iTunes via my PC and try the reset or direct upgrade options via iTunes. Sounds like a plan.

On connecting to my PC and clicking on the iPhone icon everything starts happening and iTunes immediately prompts me to upgrade to iOS 7. Brilliant, easy peasy……………….

So after 10 minutes of Apple jiggery-pokery my iPhone comes back to life running iOS 7 – minus all of my data, apps and everything else I loved!!! Arrgghhhh!!!!

Okay, don’t panic, I did my backup before, right? Navigate to the backup section in iTunes and hey presto………………… Oops! no sign of it. In fact a message saying I have never backed up to the cloud! Now you can imagine my panic. That’s 2 years of customization and info. Sack iOS 7 now, that was the least of my worries.

But then it occurred to me, maybe because it was still attached to my PC it wasn’t even looking at the cloud. Back to basics then. Unplug the iPhone; in Settings–>General, select the option Erase All Content and Settings then wait nervously. 7 agonizing minutes later, the iPhone powers back up and prompts me that it is a new phone and would I like restore my last saved backup from this morning? Oh thank goodness!!!!

So in a nutshell, if you are having the kind of problems I have had here you need to make a backup to iCloud, connect your iPhone to a PC to get access to it and update it but then disconnect and Erase all data before restoring from your original backup. Brilliant, thanks a lot Apple, that#s 6 hours of my life I’m never getting back!

I’m still struggling to understand exactly what the issue might have been with my iPhone 5. The only thing I can think of is that it was a specific batch from a specific provider. Mine was one of the very first to be released and was on the O2 network. Ah well, all’s well that ends well.