Anyone ever put one of these in a rocket?

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Jan 17, 2009
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I was looking at video cameras the other day, and I came across this one. Sure, it's really cheaply made, but it does 1080p and the image quality is apparently not bad. There are some limitations, like audio, low-light, and battery life, but they don't really matter for what I will use it for, and for $140, the price is hard to beat. When it's not in a rocket, I could use it on the ground to record launches.

For the rocket, I am thinking about a 5.5" rocket (the camera is about 3 inches wide), but I don't know which one yet. Any suggestions? I want to keep the kit, or at least all the materials if is is scratch, under $300, and even less would be better.
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Aiptek make a large number of inexpensive digital camcorders and they have been used in many rocket applications. Look carefully before you buy a given camera, because for the same price you may be able to get a better version. lists a number of examples. The top line Action-HD GVS - 1080P HD Camcorder w/ 5x Optical Zoom & Gyroscopic Stabilization has a real 5:1 optical zoom and image stabilization which is useful for taking launch pictures. The Action-HD - 1080P High Definition Camcorder w/ Optical Zoom has a real 3:1 optical zoom where as the one you pointed out A-HD+ - 1080P High Definition Camcorder (Silver) only as a digital zoom.

Don't expect them to be as good as a higher price camera. The optics aren't as good, and I really don't believe you have the optical resolution to take advantage of the 1080P mode. Having said that forget about the 1080P because IMO the 720P recording option is what you want for a rocket launch: 720 P @ 60 fps is much better than 1080P @ 30 fps.

Jimmy Yawn has flown a few AIPTek cameras in his rockets. I'm not sure if it's the same model, but his latest one is an HD camera. He has a page about how he mounts the camera in his rocket at:

I'm flown an AIPTek and a couple of other similar cameras a few times in my rockets. So far they all record at SD resolution. I don't see much reason to worry about HD when the quality probably won't be much better - you can only do so much with a small plastic lens and small sensor. And I don't have the "workflow" set up on my computer to edit HD videos ... yet.

I've been pleased with the onboard videos. A video from my AIPTek camera is at:

In addition to the HD support, the camera you are considering has a few advantages over the one I used. It has a lithium-ion battery which will last longer than the AA batteries. I've had times where the battery ran out on the pad just before launch so I missed getting a video. Also, the camera you're considering uses SDHC memory cards so you can use a larger memory card than my camera can.

I think you'd be happy with that camera.

As an aside ... I've recently added a few new cameras to my "onboard" arsenal.

The first is a Panasonic SDR-S10. I got a good deal on it at Circuit City just before they marked everything up for liquidation. It's a "real" camcorder in the sense that it has a better lens and optical zoom. But, it records to a memory card like the AIPTek cameras. It's designed to be waterproof and shock resistant. It's small and not-too-heavy. It has a shape that makes it easy to mount in a rocket. It's an older model, but Panasonic has a newer one with similar features. I only paid about $170 for mine, but the price of the latest model is about $300. So, it's much more expensive than the AIPTek.

On the first flight with the Panasonic camera, the payload section of the rocket came separated and fell freely for about 900' until the main 'chute deployed. The rocket jerk violently ejecting the camera which fell 700' to the ground. Although the memory card had come loose, the camera was still working when we found it. Since it's waterproof, I was able to rinse off the dust and it was like new.

The second new camera is not really new. The LCD on my wife's P&S Olympus camera quit working which makes the camera pretty much useless for taking stills. So, for a flight of our "Big Daddy Akavish" last month, I taped the camera to the rocket and set it to record a video. I had to set it to a lower-resolution video mode so it would record for enough time, but it still produced an interesting onboard video.

The third new camera is still in it's original packaging. At a raffle during a car show the other week, my wife won a memory card camera similar to the AIPTek one you are considering. I immediately claimed it for my collection. :)

Sorry for the digression .... back on topic ... I think the camera you are considering will work well in the rocket you are building. As I said, I don't think HD recording is that important, but I doubt you'll find a standard-definition camera for that price that uses SDHC cards and a lithium battery.

For memory cards, I bought a few Transcend 16GB SDHC cards. When I bought them a few months ago, they were under $30 each. The price seems to have gone up lately, but they are still a bargain and work very well. A 2GB card, however, would be more than large enough to record a single flight.

-- Roger
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If it will fit in a 3" rocket, that would be great since I already have a 3" fiberglass kit waiting to be built. To mount it, I was planning on casting it in expanding foam (cover the camera and the inside of the coupler in plastic; pour in foam; wait; cut camera out of foam and add necessary holes for buttons and the lens). After seeing Jimmy Yawn's videos, I think it would be cool to have the ability to do horizontal or down-looking video, so I'll try to make a removable mirror that can attach to the outside of the rocket, and a dummy mirror-shaped object for the other side to reduce spin.

The sample HD videos I have seen from this camera look better than SD, but obviously not nearly as good as "real" HD.

Image stabilization and zoom don't matter too much since I can always put it on my tripod near the pads.
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