Camera test

Is this the perfect camera car?

Have you ever wondered how we produce some of the fantastic photography that comes with MotorTrend‘s written words? In short, automotive photographers will put their bodies on the line and push themselves in and out of almost any aperture in order to get the best shot possible. If we’re lucky we use a vehicle with a comfortable ride and a hatch to relax in while we go from car to car – those cute moving action shots you see everywhere MT stories. Most of the time, our bodies end up hanging halfway out the side window, feet clinging to any voluntary crevice, core muscles tight, and arms outstretched. (Yes, we use harnesses.) We can use almost any vehicle to capture these car-to-car shots, but there are usually a lot of trade-offs. This is why the MT The photo team was so eager to give the Arcimoto Cameo prototype – an Arcimoto FUV made more camera and photographer friendly with a rear-facing open-air seat – a try in the hopes that it might be the response to our car-to-car requests.

Car to car explained

Car-to-car photography is where two vehicles maintain the same speed, with a photographer shooting from one vehicle to the other to create dynamic shots. Cars with rough handling such as sports cars or performance-oriented vehicles create unpleasant shooting conditions as every bump directly affects camera stability. Narrow openings like trunks and thin windows limit visibility and range of motion, but cabs with an open greenhouse with spacious sunroofs and large windows are excellent support vehicles. As photographers, we use what he has, but minivans, comfortable SUVs, and vehicles with well-tuned air suspensions always make it easier to shoot. Our perfect camera car wouldn’t have C-pillars and miss the rear bodywork entirely, much like the transformation the Arcimoto team gave the roughly $18,500 FUV to create their Cameo prototypes. (There are now two Cameos.)

What does the Cameo look like?

The Arcimoto Cameo FUV rides like an ATV with the controls of a motorcycle. A twist of the right wrist controls the throttle; the lower right pedal controls the rear brake. Your left hand has access to the lights, horn and signal controls. Being an electric vehicle, you get an additional switch (located where a traditional front brake lever would typically be) that modulates battery regeneration. If the use of this last command is well thought out, you will not have to touch the brakes at all. Unlike motorcycles, the vehicle does not tilt or lean to turn. Instead, you sit upright while pushing and pulling the handlebars to maneuver. It’s a weird feeling at first, but it’s extremely fun and addictive to drive. We had big smiles on our faces as we rode the twisty roads of Honda’s California Proving Center test facility.

How does it work as a camera car?

Shooting the back of the Cameo for the first time was surreal. In motion, the open-air seating combined with the wide field of vision intensifies speed and turns. But having such a wide line of sight allowed me to switch from shooting the front of the cars to the back without having to change positions in the vehicle, which helped to streamline my workflow. Normally I stop to change positions in the car to get multiple angles.

While the dual seat belts held me well in my seat, it was extremely difficult to lean forward to drop the camera close to the ground. So was lifting the camera above my head for higher angle photography. The seat is not bad for my application, but not ideal. I would like to see a wall instead of a seat, with multiple attachment points for a harness. And instead of a cage for your legs, a flat platform for prone and standing shooting.

Wind noise made radio communication difficult, but hand signals were easily visible to our drivers. Swinging my arms left and right felt fluid and I was able to extend my arms in any direction with more confidence knowing my body was securely attached to the seat. There was no problem having the support vehicle in the frame, even when shooting the other way around, as there were no pillars, roof, mirrors or sheet metal to enter in my shot. I could rotate my torso to face the other direction and still have room to micro-adjust my camera angles.

Three-wheel movement: the numbers

We had never tested the performance of the Arcimoto FUV on which the Cameo is based, so we were curious to see how fast this version can perform. On the track, he completed the quarter mile in 17.8 seconds at 79.0 mph. For reference, a Jeep Compass we tested previously recorded the same time but was traveling at a slower 76.1 mph when it crossed the line. Interestingly, the Cameo accelerates the Jeep in the 0-60 tests, hitting the mark in 9.7 seconds; the Jeep needed 10.5. Powered by two electric motors producing a combined 75bhp, the Arcimoto Cameo has no trouble accelerating to the pace of the photo, and it tops out at 82mph. At 113 inches long and 61 inches wide, its footprint is tiny compared to conventional car-mounted crane systems. This means that the size of its reflection in the cars we film will be smaller and easier to edit in post-production.

Our opinion

The Arcimoto Cameo FUV is the most photographer-oriented support vehicle we’ve ever used. While there were a few downsides that limited photographers’ movement, the excitement of all possible applications with few modifications needed has us excited to see what the future holds for these three-wheeled electric vehicles.

  • Almost a 360 degree field of vision
  • Small footprint allows access to narrower pathways
  • Highly editable for props and camera rig
  • Range of motion is significantly limited when strapped
  • Helmet mandatory for legal use on public roads
  • High-speed maneuvers are not really recommended
Arcimoto Cameo FUV Prototype Camera Rig Specifications
STARTING PRICE N/A (prototype)
VEHICLE UPFIT Front Engine Motorcycle, FWD, 2 Pass, 0 Doors
TYPE OF ENGINE Electric permanent magnet x 2
TRANSMISSION 1-speed automatic
CURB WEIGHT (DIST FWD/REW) 1,340 pounds (69/31%)
Length x Width x Height 113.0 x 61.0 x 65.0 inches
0-60MPH 9.7s
QUARTER MILE 17.8 sec at 79.0 mph
BRAKING, 60-0 MPH 158 feet
MT FIGURE EIGHT 32.9 sec @ 0.45g (average)