The Atom has an impressive standby time, which coupled with the voice actuation feature is a great function for the budding Bond. You can leave the camera primed on Vox mode for over ten days, a perfect feature for the paranoid spouse or for keeping a watchful eye on the new nanny. Big brother, eat your heart out.
Voice actuation lets the spying continue when you're nowhere in sight
Yet in use, Vox mode is too easily triggered from the noise of switching it on in the first place. Thankfully, the Atom will automatically return to standby mode after three minutes of inactivity, but you didn’t want those unnecessary minutes of video in the first place and considering that overall, I found myself deleting 80 per cent of what I’d captured anyway, it was frustrating to have to weed out more.
Being so small, the Atom has had other compromises too. Compared to its predecessor, the Micro, there has been a huge reduction in battery life – a distinct downside, especially if you choose to upgrade your memory capacity or use several memory cards. Charging for 90 minutes for just 60 minutes use is somewhat frustrating. I often found myself out of juice when I wanted it most and, with no removable battery, I had to return to a computer regularly to tether and recharge. A wall charger would be nice and can be bought separately.
While USB 2.0 compatible, the device itself is just USB 1.1, so copying files directly is slow and extremely tedious and you’d be advised to use an external card reader. Why Veho didn’t opt for a faster connection considering the device transfers large video files is somewhat baffling.
The Atom’s CMOS sensor is akin to the type you’d find on an average webcam. Depending on the content, images can suffer from rolling shutter effects. Fortunately, the Atom’s jelly wobbles are less noticeable than the Micro that I had the opportunity to try out recently, but the results are still a long way from ideal with partial exposure artefacts being the main culprit. White balance seems fixed too, with indoor and low light shots appearing rather orange.
Still JPEG images are captured at 1280 x 960 pixels, about 1.2Mp – another ‘spy-cam’ feature in need of thorough testing. However, after breaking into government buildings and taking photographs of top-secret documents, I was annoyed to find all the images blurry and illegible. Being fixed focus, it doesn’t handle close ups at all well and with the output quality worse than your average mobile, I really don’t see much point to it at all.
Next page: Sample Video
Clones are $15
Delivered from certain well known chinese websites.
You'd be a fool to drop 80GBP on it.
Get a clone
I've got a clone, it does a better job than the real thing. They're quite popular with mtbing folk, and it's always amusing to compare the footage I've got for 12 quid to the one that someone payed 80 quid for.... esp the older ones of the model reviewed, that actually only do 20fps...
They work well in good light (e.g. strapped to a snowboard boot), and badly in low light.
My older Micro doesn't suffer from rolling shutter or the short battery life, plus it's only US$75 at Brookstone, so apparently they've taken several steps backwards.
The thing is only the size of my thumb anyways, so another cm or so smaller isn't that big of an advantage to me.
Now one issue is my Micro IDs itself as USB 1.1 (on Linux, Windows XP and Vista, on several makes of PC) and only transfers at 1.1 speeds. I talked to Veho tech support, and they didn't bother to reply. It's a LOT faster to take the card out and use a USB 2.0 reader.
Also, both xine and mplayer find lots of issues with errors in the resulting video files, but they can still play it.
I didn't know about keyfob cameras, but now I do... thanks to the other comments.