Sport Action Camera: Which One is Right for YOU?
Action sports cameras are all the rage right now, with riders everywhere recording their motorcycle riding memories in video. On this blog, we’ve covered what you should consider before buying and tips for making awesome videos.
Now I’m about to tackle the question of: which camera?
An article like this is almost guaranteed to be out of date almost as soon as I post it, but I thought I’d take a stab at it anyway. Because there is more to life than the GoPro, which, as the primary initiator of the “action sports camera,” has rightly gotten a lot of coverage.
But there are other options, and one might be right for you. Here they are, in no particular order. Oh, and one more caveat: I’m not a huge techie, and you can find specs on these cameras everywhere, so I tried to just hit the highlights and stand-out features (if there were any) of each camera.
Of course, I'd be remiss if I didn't point out that we have an awesome mount (Swivel-CAM) that works with all these cameras (and any camera that has the tripod hole or tripod adaptor). Details here.
Garmin, the 600 lb. gorilla in the world of GPS devices, recently entered the action camera market with the VIRB. The VIRB is waterproof, integrates a 1.4-inch chroma display as a built-in viewfinder, offers automatic image stabilization and includes a 2000mAh battery for 3-plus hours of shoot time without having to resort to battery backpacks or similar options. The hardy cradle mount design is robust under stress.
What’s different: Being a Garmin product, GPS functionality comes standard (in the Virb Elite model, anyway). When activated, the system integrates route data, velocity and altitude into the video output, easily accessible with Garmin’s software.
Footage: 1080P / 16MP sensor
Not to be outdone by Garmin, TomTom’s new Bandit Action Camera offers some unique features. It has GPS functionality (which you’d expect from a GPS satellite navigation company). And it’s waterproof.
What’s different: the “batt-stick” integrated battery/USB/Micro SD card. After shooting footage, simply pop out the entire module and stick it into your computer, where it’ll mount like a USB stick and charge the battery at the same time. According to TomTom you can get up to three hours of recording time. Clever! (No more juggling cards and batteries.)
Footage: 1920 x 1080 footage at 60 frames per second, and 1280 x 720 at 120 fps.
To break into the action sports camera market, Sena created the new Prism Bluetooth Audio camera and, as a well-known player in the Bluetooth world, it makes full use of the device-to-device communications technology.
What’s different: Voice commands can be used to control the camera and check on its status. Real-time voiceover functionality. Plus Sena includes a large range of standard mounting accessories in the box, which adds convenience and value. Includes waterproof dive case.
Footage: 1080P/30 FPS
Sony's Action Cam lineup hits all the key markers including standard SteadyShot image stabilization, multiple camera control with an accessory remote and paired stereo sound microphones.
What’s different: The unique “Camcorder”-style cradle with integrated LCD viewfinder and the LiveView remote, which mounts the LCD remote directly on your wrist.
Footage: 1080P video at 60 FPS with up to 240 FPs for slow-motion shots
Canadian firm WaspCam is a relative newcomer to the market, but it is immediately recognizable with bright orange detailing.
The top-tier Gideon kit includes a 16MP sensor and offers 1080P video at 60 FPS, and WiFi connectivity for a companion smartphone app.
What’s different: A wristwatch viewfinder. Using the Live Viewing Display (LVD) allows the user to set up and control the shot easily from a distance. Includes fully waterproof covers.
Drift is best known for the Ghost and Ghost-S action cameras, each of which offers a beefy 3-plus-hour battery life, WiFi connectivity to smartphone apps, and a rotating lens.
What’s different: Compared to most action cameras, which offer a single orientation for recording video (perhaps with a selection to flip video to mount the unit upside down), the Drift units can rotate the lens 300 degrees, easing mounting options for a level shot, every time (very useful on a motorcycle).
In addition to the Ghost and Ghost-S units, which both include an integrated two-inch color LCD screen and standard waterproofing, Drift makes the Stealth 2m which is one of the smallest and lightest cameras on the market. Another clever feature found on the Ghost range is looping video with a tagging feature, which allows the user to record continuous playback, but only save wanted content as needed.
Footage: 1080P video at 60 FPS along with 720P/120 FPS slow-mo shooting (Ghost-S)
Contour was one of the first HD cameras on the powersports market, and the company is back with the new Roam3 camera, which claims to be the easiest-to-use camera on the market.
The Roam3 features a 270-degree rotating lens, rail and threaded screw mounts, standard waterproofing and a unique laser leveling system that fires a pair of red beams to check alignment at a glance. It is ruggedized to handle a good measure of abuse, and the internal battery claims a three hour life.
The Roam3 shoots the usual resolution and frame rate settings, up to 1080P at 30 FPS, and is built for powersports shocks. With the GPS enabled, Contour’s software is able to overlay a map of the video’s path in real time.
Shooting at up to 1080P and 60 FPS, the Prime X uses a high-end 16MP sensor with improved power consumption, further helped along with a high capacity 1700 mAh battery, to claim a shooting life of 3.5 hours. And thanks to its tubular shape, it’s one of the most compact and low profile cameras on the market.
What’s different: The CinePrime X lens. This patent-pending design promises professional levels of glare and color correction despite the compact half-inch format. And to check your shot, the small camera still has enough room for a WiFi antenna to communicate with Replay’s smartphone controller app.
GoPro is the gold standard that seems to define the action sports camera market, to the point where GoPro has become a sort-of generic term. GoPro uses a now familiar cubic form factor, and constantly pushes the state of the market with consistently high-quality video.
The Hero4 offers 4K recording at 30 frames per second, as well as 720P at 240 FPS for high-def slow motion. It can shoot time lapse videos automatically, excels in low-light conditions and can be paired with GoPro’s Protune software to unlock complete color, ISO limit, white balance, sharpness and exposure control. GoPro also claims to offer the best audio performance in the industry. For power users, GoPro’s high-level options make it a top choice.
- Tracey Cramer