Tested: Techalogic DC-1 front and rear helmet camera review

Techalogic DC-1 helmet camera review_01

 

Date reviewed: December 2020 | Tested by: John Milbank | RRP: £179.99 | techalogic.co.uk

 

Designed as a hybrid dash-cam and helmet cam, the Techalogic DC-1 on review here incorporates front and rear cameras to constantly record everything that happens on a ride.

The recordings are looped, made up of 1, 3 (default), 5 or 10 minute seamless clips. When your memory card is full, the camera overwrites the earliest clips, so as long as it has power, it’s always recording. You can also choose non-looped (but still consecutive) recordings, each of 15 minutes (the camera stops when the card’s full)
If you see something you particularly want to keep, tap the button on the supplied remote and that clip will be moved to a secure folder that doesn’t get overwritten. This camera could be a great choice for those who want to ensure they don’t miss that rare event or view that always occurs when your action camera is turned off, as much as it would suit riders looking for some evidence in the event of an incident.

Some of my friends have said I take product testing too seriously, but I can assure you I didn’t plan to test the DC-1 by having a car run into the back of me while I waited to join a roundabout…

 

For and against
  • Films front and rear simultaneously
  • Never miss anything again
  • Good compromise of dash-cam and action cam
  • Compromises do limit some performance
  • Audio quality lacking
  • Battery life may be an issue for some
Techalogic DC-1 helmet camera review_02

The DC-1 comes with a good variety of mounts

 

Mounting to the bike

Unlike other motorcycle dash cams, the Techalogic is not fitted to the motorbike – while it uses GoPro-style mounts and could be fitted anywhere, for a clear view of the front and rear it should be fitted to your helmet. Impressively, the camera comes with a range of fittings to suit motorcycle, equestrian and bicycle lids. If you are using this on the bike as an action camera, it could be fitted to show the road and the rider, for instance, though do keep in mind that the rear camera is angled slightly downwards. The watermark that you’ll see on my sample videos can be turned off in the app.

Made of aluminium for the front section of the camera tube and plastic for the curved rear, the DC-1 is surprisingly light and really isn’t noticeable on the helmet. With the mount fitted, it weighs in at 154g; a GoPro Hero 5 is around 179g with similar mounting hardware.

The lens covers appear suitably scratch-resistant, while I’m no Jerry Rig Everything, scraping at the covers with my keys caused no damage, and new covers are available.

Fitting to your lid is a simple matter of positioning one of the supplied mounts (it comes with one flat and one curved) onto your helmet, then fitting the camera with the supplied brackets. You get the camera holder, a connector and two GoPro-style mounts, each with a rotating base that makes it easy to get just the right position. This can be knocked in use though, so do check the camera’s in the correct position before you ride – I’d have liked to have seen the option to tighten the screw down and have the camera immovable once set, but there is a good strong ratchet in the pivot.

Take your time positioning the camera as if you put it too far forward it could slightly inhibit your view when doing shoulder checks, but most motorcycle helmets will easily accommodate this.

 

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A remote control is supplied, but it comes with a strap that I assume is designed to be worn around the wrist. This is fine on a bare wrist, but it’s too short to fit around a jacket sleeve or glove cuff. The problem is that it’s too long to easily fit to a bike’s bars, so it ended up lashed between the bars and the cross-brace on the Royal Enfield, making it hard to access. I’d suggest sticking it to the tank or fairing with an adhesive pad, or some Dual Lock tape, though keep in mind that the CR2032 cell is accessed through the base of the unit.

 

 

Set-up and control

I’d have liked to have seen a printed quick-start guide with the camera, but you do receive a small card with a QR code that links to the PDF instructions; you can read them here.

Putting a fresh card in for the first time will see the camera buzz (it has haptic feedback) and flash to warn you that the card isn’t formatted – you can do this by double-tapping the single button after powering up with one long press. When the blue LED turns off, tap the button five times and after more buzzing, the LED will flash once a second to indicate that the process is complete and the camera has started recording. You can use the same steps to reformat an existing card at any time.

As soon as you power up the camera it starts recording, with the white LED flashing as an indicator; if you tap the button once it will stop, and that just leaves the white LED steady. While brushing against the button won’t trigger it, I’d like to have the option to disable recording stop, so you know you can’t accidentally stop it (turning off fully requires a longer press).

 

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The smartphone app connects to the camera through a WiFi hotpost, and as is stands does all it needs to. However, the translations on the iOS version can be pretty comical and while the Android app is better, being generic it has some features and options that are irrelevant here. With a dedicated app expected in January 2021, these small issues will likely be addressed.

What I do appreciate is that the recorded clips are shown with thumbnails in the app, so it’s fairly easy to find the clip you want to view. You can also trim clips and add music in the iOS version, but you can only share them to the Roadcam community – clicking ‘more’ crashes it.

Whether this will change in the Techalogic app isn’t clear, but there’s no need for this to be a video editing app; what matters is that you can set your camera up easily, and you can download clips to your phone.

Settings include the ability to choose clip lengths, adjust exposure, turn sound recording off, and disable the watermark. You can also choose the resolution of the camera as follows:

 

Setting

Front camera

Rear camera

Default

1080FHD @ 30fps

1080FHD @ 30fps

720

720P @ 60fps

720P @ 60fps

QHD

2K (1440) & 30fps

OFF

 

The supplied remote control is fairly important; while it has a ‘photo’ button, it’s the red save button that matters most – when you press it, the camera buzzes and the current clip is saved into the ‘SOS’ file, which won’t be overwritten when the card is full. Do remember to empty this out after a ride, as every file in here will limit the capacity to record new footage. Still, cards up to 128GB are supported and my 64GB MicroSD formats to 63.8GB and can hold up to eight hours of footage from both front and rear cameras.

It's important to understand that when you press the button, the camera moves the current recording to the ‘safe’ folder. While some dash-cams will save the previous 10 seconds and the next 50 seconds, for instance, the DC-1 will save the single file. What this means is that you could, in theory, miss the event you wanted to save; say something happened just before a three-minute segment ended, if the next segment has started as you press the button, you’ll save the wrong clip. The one you want will still be there (as long as it hasn’t been looped over), so you’ll have to go by the thumbnails or the files names to find it. 20201210163213, for instance, relates to a file from 2020, December 10, 16:32 and 13 seconds.

When I had my crash, the recording was saved due to me pressing the button right at the start of that segment recording – just a few seconds in – as I thought it’d be interesting to show a roundabout. I did think to press the save button later, but it picked up a later segment. Again, the file would still have been on the card if I hadn’t happened to press it when I did, but I would have had to look for it. Turn the camera off after an incident and it’ll be the last files on there so easy to spot.

The haptic buzz when turning on/off and when pressing the remote button is a genius idea as it rumbles through your lid, though do keep in mind that over 50mph on an unfaired bike you might not hear it. On a machine with a larger screen, it’ll likely be fine up to much higher speeds.

 

The optional water-resistant USB cable allows the camera to be powered by an external USB supply, like the Techalogic Power Bank

 

Techalogic DC-1 battery life

The DC-1 has 1,600mAh battery built into it, which is claimed to last 2.5 hours on a full charge. I bench-tested it at room-temperature and got three hours and 16 minutes, so this does seem realistic, keeping in mind that cold weather has an impact on battery performance.

It's possible to turn the camera’s WiFi off, but it’s only active when it’s first turned on and has little to no effect on the battery life; I only noted a maximum of four minutes difference.

The DC-1 can operate while it’s being charged, and Techalogic offers a water-resistant micro-USB cable that allows you to power the device from a separate USB power bank.

Techalogic offers its own powerbank, with a 10,000mAh unit retailing at £24.95. I tried this with the DC-1, and while my tests didn’t indicate it was delivering this capacity, it did keep the camera running for 17 hours and 19 minutes at room temperature – with something like this in your pocket, you’ll have no problem keeping the camera recording.

The camera does have an auto-shut off feature, which sees it power down after three minutes if it’s not moving. While this won’t be a problem for most, do remember to turn it back on if you take your lid off and put it down anywhere for that amount of time. The auto power-off feature is claimed to be disabled when the unit is externally powered, but I’ve found it does still shut down.

 

Techalogic DC-1 image and audio quality

Sample footage (including incident) of this front and rear helmet camera

 

Techalogic DC-1 video quality

This is no GoPro Hero 9. While image quality is fine, there’s not the punch or clarity, or indeed the image stabilisation that a £400 dedicated action cam will deliver. What there is though is an always-on recorder that gives a good, clear view of the surroundings and other vehicles in day or night.

As an action camera, the Techalogic DC-1’s main strength is the fact that you know you’ll capture everything; the best camera is the one you have with you, and the best action camera is the one that’s turned on. The best example I can give is that on press launches, where I’m riding often beautiful but unknown roads, I will still take my Insta360 One R for its massive versatility and high quality, but I will also use this, because I miss far too many key events when riding. The only grumble I have is that pressing the button might not always capture the piece I wanted, but as long as I sort my footage at the end, I know that shot will be in there. I’ll have to fashion a longer strap to get the remote over my jacket though…

Being head-mounted does mean that image quality is at the mercy of your movement, and that’s as relevant when used as a dash-cam; it’s difficult to read number plates at times, especially when the light is more poor (even overcast) due to the blurring, but it’s important to be realistic about what to expect.

The other dash-cam I’ve tested (more are to come, so check in the technology reviews), had similar difficulty distinguishing registrations at times, so while it could in some situations limit the ability to identify a driver who left a scene, in the majority of scenarios this wouldn’t be an issue.

In my incident, the driver’s registration is clearly visible (I’ve blurred it in the samples), and my boss Steve Rose was knocked off many years ago by a driver doing a U-turn out of a queue of traffic. When that happened, the driver took full responsibility, but later she tried to blame Steve, which made for a very messy claim. “I’m convinced that if I’d been wearing that camera, it would have been very obvious that she was at fault,” he told me.

When the camera is recording, the photo button on the remote simply saves a frame from the video, but turn recording off and the camera switches to full resolution photos. In the 1080 mode, this takes 10MP images front and rear, and while the compression is clearly reduced, the quality is still very low; most smartphones take far better shots.

 

These two images were taken with the DC-1. I’d have used more inspiring shots, but I’m currently unable to travel. The 4:3 format shot was taken with the video recording off. These images have been resized for our site, but the enlargements show the detail.

 

Techalogic DC-1 audio quality

Audio on any action cam is severely compromised by the wind. The latest GoPros still seem to be the best at handling it, but that’s by using multiple microphones and you still won’t hear the engine in most circumstances.

As standard, the DC-1 has its microphone sensitivity set at ‘high’. You can change this to ‘medium’, but you’ll need to install a different version of the firmware.

I do feel more could be done to optimise the microphone for voice – talking to my Mum and Dad, they were very hard to hear even a metre away, and at the scene of the accident, while it is possible to hear some of the conversation with the helmet on the floor about two metres away, the traffic noise overpowers it. Maybe this is something a firmware update could address.

 

Techalogic DC-1 helmet camera review_08

 

Techalogic DC-1 motorbike dash-cam waterproofing

The DC-1 is fairly water resistant, but while claimed to be ‘waterproof’, you need to be aware that the microphone hole on the base does not appear to be sealed.

The USB port and the MicroSD card slot are towards the rear of the unit and as long as the covers are properly in place you shouldn’t have any issues, but while the mic hole is at the bottom, riding at speed in very bad weather sees some moisture creep in; in my testing it collected in the rear lens cover. I’d suggest checking this by unscrewing it if you’ve been caught out on the motorway in torrential rain.

 

Techalogic DC-1 helmet camera review_09

 

Ease of viewing footage

Viewing clips on the phone is simple using the app, and it’s great to see them displayed as thumbnails, which makes finding your footage a lot easier. You can download files to your phone for safe-keeping, though it’s not a very fast process; one three minute clip takes one minute and 18 seconds over the WiFi hotspot connection, but I did find this ability reassuring when copying off the two clips of my accident while in A&E.

The Micro SD card’s a little fiddly to access thanks to the tethered cover, but as the camera mounts as a storage device when you plug it into a computer, you’re unlikely to need to take it out unless you’re copying a lot of files and want faster transfer rates (in my testing, it was more than four times faster to copy direct from the SD card). Once on your machine, the video files are a standard MPEG-4 movie format.

 

Accuracy

The Techalogic DC-1 has no GPS, so it won’t record your location or speed.

 

Is it worth getting a dash-cam?

While not that common on bikes, according to research carried out by Money Expert, around three million UK car drivers now own a dash-cam, which resulted in 5,000 cases of police action within 20 months.

Almost two thirds of those who completed the survey had used footage as part of an insurance claim, and just under a third said the footage had helped them prove they weren’t at fault.

Earlier research by Aviva indicated that 17% of people who bought dash-cams did so because they’d previously been involved in an accident where they couldn’t prove their innocence.

The global dash-cam market was valued at USD 2.8 billion in 2019, so it’s big business, with 36.1 million units sold in that year alone.

Which? explains that 2015 saw the first UK jail sentence handed out off the back of dash-cam footage, the dangerous driver being arrested after police were shown the clip. In 2017, dash-cams also helped in the cases of a Humberside hit-and-run, a Yorkshire dangerous driver, a West Yorkshire road-rage attack, a Surrey roadside scam and a West Midlands car-jacking.

It's worth being aware of course that your own footage can be used against you, and deleting it could be a serious offence if confronted by the police.

The National Dash-Cam Safety Portal allows owners of cameras to upload footage to the relevant police force, should they witness an incident. This is an official police report, and it’s possible you could be required to attend court if necessary.

 

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Techalogic DC-1 front and rear helmet camera review: Verdict

The Techalogic DC-1 is not the best motorcycle dash-cam, and it’s not the best motorcycle action cam. But it is a very impressive combination of the two, and given its price, if you understand the limitations it could be a great option.

For touring with mates or riding on your own, this is a great way to ensure you capture every moment, rather than wishing you’d turned the GoPro on a few seconds earlier. Equally, if something bad does happen, this could give you the evidence that helps prove liability.

My crash was classed as a serious collision because I had to be taken to hospital (I had two broken ribs and a collapsed lung), so the driver is facing an awareness course or prosecution. As he admitted liability to the police, the officer who attended didn’t want to see my footage when he visited me for more information, and to be honest, there was no need. The driver did something that many of us have done at some point to some extent: watching the gap on the roundabout without paying enough attention to the traffic ahead. The driver in front of me hesitated, I kept a steady pace and a good distance, but the guy behind me realised we hadn’t take the gap too late. If it had been three cars the damage would have been very minor, but after 21 years of riding very regularly, I just got unlucky.

While this incident was pretty cut-and-dried when it came to whose fault it was, it was certainly reassuring to be able to tell the insurance claims handler that I had the whole thing on camera, front and rear. Given I was pumped full of tramadol and sat in a bed in A&E after a night without sleep, that certainly made life easier.

A dash cam won’t protect you from an accident – training is the best bet for that, and I thoroughly recommend BikeSafe – but it might make your life easier after the event (unless it proves you were at fault). While I prefer a permanently-mounted device that’s powered by the vehicle’s battery for this purpose, the DC-1 is appealing to a wider audience with many of the benefits of a dash-cam, and a lot of those of an action camera.

There’s no denying the peace-of-mind a dash-cam can bring; I already have a permanent one on my BMW S1000XR, and I’ll be testing more motorcycle models in the future. As soon as I’m able to get out again though, I’m going to buy one for my wife’s car…

SAVE £15 OFF THE TECHALOGIC DC-1 WITH BENNETTS REWARDS CLICK HERE

I’m writing this review from an editorial perspective exactly as I would have in my years working on RiDE, MSL, Bike and MCN; this is not an insurance company trying to encourage people to use dash-cams. Motorcycling is about freedom of choice, and it’s up to you if you’d like to use one.

Having this camera allowed me to analyse what happened for myself, and backed up that I wasn’t at fault. I’m now looking forward to using it on press launches, where it’ll be invaluable for catching those great riding moments that too often get missed.

 

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