Sports-action cameras are hugely popular, as they allow professional and amateur athletes to capture their activities in high-resolution stills and high-definition video. Friends and family can’t deny your fanciful claims when you have stills and video to back them up; the proof is in the pudding, so to speak. Not only can you impress friends and family, but websites like YouTube make it easy to impress the world with your athletic acumen. Any season is a good time to spoil an athlete you know, and give them the gift of capture. B&H has all the latest models. Let’s take a look at some of the more popular ones.
GoPro is a big player in sports action cameras, with different models and kits to choose from, depending on what you want to do with the gear. GoPro’s HD HERO captures H.264 HD footage and still images using a 1/2.5" 5MP CMOS sensor, a fixed-focus lens, automatic exposure control and auto white balance. It has a low-light sensitivity of 1.4 lux; a 1.5" status LCD that indicates its settings and an SD/SDHC card slot that accepts cards up to 32GB in capacity.
The HD HERO can capture 5MP digital stills and 1920 x 1080/30p, 1280 x 960/30p, 1280 x 720/60p—or 1280 x 720/30p—video. You can set it to shoot still photos automatically every 2, 5, 10, 30 or 60 seconds until the battery dies or the memory card fills up, and you can use the self-timer to get yourself into photos. The camera’s rechargeable lithium-ion battery is good for 2.5 hours of constant recording, and an integrated battery heater keeps things functioning in freezing conditions. The camera is NTSC/PAL switchable and it’s compatible with Macs and PCs.
All HD HEROs come with a rechargeable lithium-ion battery. They also include a polycarbonate housing that’s waterproof down to 180 feet, so you can use the camera without fear near water or deep underwater—just don’t forget your scuba gear.
The most basic version of the HD HERO is the HD HERO Naked Wearable Camera. This package includes the camera, battery, waterproof case and one mount for attaching the camera to a helmet or other curved surface. Of course, the camera is compatible with ALL GoPro HERO camera mounting accessories.
Go Pro is also fond of motor sports, as are many of its customers. Your choice of vehicle is irrelevant—auto racing, motocross, tractor pulls—no matter. The HD Motorsports HERO Camcorder is ready to capture those high-speed thrills in full HD video and vivid still images. It’ll mount on a helmet, motorcycle, ATV, car, plane, jet ski, boat, snowmobile or any other vehicle. This bundle includes the camera and all standard accessories, plus two helmet mounts, three vehicle mounts and a suction-cup mount. Because you'll probably want certain additional accessories, B&H carries what you need—from cases, mounts and batteries to extra memory cards.
If you don’t insist on the cutting-edge features, and would like to save some money, GoPro’s HD HERO 960 Wearable HD Camera is the ticket. It doesn’t do 1080p HD video, but is otherwise the same as the HD HERO. The HD HERO 960 captures 1280 x 960/30p or 1280 x 760/30p HD video and 5MP stills. It has an SD/SDHC card slot, a 1/2.5" HD CMOS sensor, a rechargeable lithium-ion battery and battery warmer and comes with the rugged housing that’s waterproof to 180 feet. It also comes with a curved 3M Adhesive mount, a flat 3M Adhesive mount, a helmet front mount, a head strap mount and a quick-release buckle.
Conversely, if you don’t mind spending a little more money to get the very latest features available, GoPro’s HD HERO2 should be more to your liking. The advanced HD HERO2 is more powerful with a more intuitive interface, and LED lights on all sides can be seen from any angle. It can shoot 1080p video at 30 fps, 960p video at 30- or 48 fps, 720p video at 30- or 60 fps and WVGA video (848 x 480) at 60- or 120 frames per second.
Features of the HD HERO2 include a 3.5mm stereo microphone input and a mini-HDMI output port. The f/2.8 fixed focus glass lens is twice as sharp and the image processor is twice as fast as the regular HD HERO. Natural and High Wind Audio Modes have been added. Built around an 11MP, 1/2.3" CMOS image sensor, the HD HERO2 can capture 11MP, 8MP and 5MP stills. A new burst mode shoots 10 images in 1 second and a time-lapse mode can be set to shoot an image every 0.5, 1, 2, 5, 10, 30 or 60 seconds. The camera is also compatible with GoPro’s Wi-Fi BacPac and Wi-Fi Remote. Those accessories permit Wi-Fi video preview and playback on smartphones, tablets and computers; long-range remote control of multiple cameras; and live streaming to the Web.
Like the HD HERO, the HD HERO2 is available in different configurations, depending on the types of sports you favor. The HD HERO2 Motorsports Edition is ideal for shooting HD video on the road, trail or track. Easy to mount securely on any vehicle, the HERO2 Motorsports comes with a suction-cup mount, J-Hook, three curved adhesive mounts, two flat adhesive mounts and a three-way pivot arm. The HD HERO2 Outdoor Edition caters to just about any kind of outdoor activity you may be into, such as horseback riding, skiing, snowboarding and more. It comes with a head strap, a helmet strap, two curved adhesive mounts, two flat adhesive mounts and a three-way pivot arm. The HD HERO2 Surf Edition is intended for those of you involved in water sports. It comes with assorted mounting hardware including two surf mounts, an FCS plug mount and a Floaty Backdoor that keeps the camera afloat in case it detaches from your board or your grasp. If only Bruce Brown had been able to bring a couple of these along when he was filming Endless Summer in 1965!
Other various GoPro accessories are sold separately. The HD Wrist Housing mounts the camera to your wrist, allowing you to capture any kind of action while keeping your hands free. The HD Skeleton Housing, while not waterproof, does protect the camera against dirt, dust, bumps and knocks. Open sides provide access to all the ports while also venting the case in hot environments. The Helmet Front Mount turns the camera on you, capturing all of your facial expressions as you progress through the action. It can also be used facing forward.
Another neat accessory is the 3D HERO System Waterproof Housing & 3D Synchronization System for Dual HD HERO Cameras. This unique waterproof case houses two HD HERO cameras—one upside down to keep the two lenses close to each other—allowing you to capture 2D and 3D video at once. You do, of course, need to have two HD HERO or HD HERO 2 cameras to use the case.
A synchronization cable keeps both cameras’ shutters yoked, allowing you to press one of the shutter releases to start recording dual-synched streams of 2D HD video. (Either stream can be viewed on a traditional 2D display.) Next, GoPro’s CineForm Studio software imports the 2D videos and photos and converts them into 3D files. You can create simple 3D output for viewing on 2D displays with the included anaglyph glasses or cutting-edge 3D video that must be viewed on either active-shutter 3D TVs or passive, polarized TVs.
GoPro’s cameras do not have built-in monitors, but the LCD BacPac will provide one when needed. The detachable LCD panel lets you frame complex scenes, check lighting levels and view recorded content. It features a built-in speaker, volume control and fast forward/reverse controls.
The Contour+ Helmet Camcorder captures 1080p, 960p and 720p video at 30 fps, but can also capture 720p video at 60 fps for faster action shots. The camera can also capture 5MP still images. Everything is recorded on a Micro SD card, up to 32GB in capacity. The included 2GB card is enough to store roughly one hour of HD footage. The Contour+ is housed in a rugged, water-resistant shell, and it comes with three mounts, a USB cable, a mini HDMI cable, a microphone cable and a lens cap.
The lens of the Contour+ rotates so you can capture a perfectly level image regardless of how or where you mount the camera. The camera features a built-in microphone, along with a 2.5mm jack to connect an external microphone. An internal GPS receiver tracks speed, location and elevation, and bundled software lets you review your escapades on an interactive map.
Once the camera is mounted on your helmet, it’s impossible to monitor what it’s recording and difficult to change settings. But embedded Bluetooth v2.1 and a free wireless viewfinder app for iOS and Android devices turns your mobile device into a wireless live viewfinder and also lets you change settings on the camera, check battery status, see if GPS is locked and so on. A mini HDMI-output lets you connect the camera directly to a big-screen TV to view recorded footage.
V.I.O.’s POV.HD Digital Helmet Camera System is a precision two-piece device with a tiny camera connected to a recording/playback unit by cable. The camera can be mounted wherever you see fit, such as on a helmet, vehicle roll bar, car bumper or whatever. You simply mount the camera in a position best suited to capture the angle you’re after and keep the recorder/player on your person, on a dashboard or in an assistant’s hands.
The POV Helmet Camera is shock proof, dust proof and waterproof to 3.3 feet underwater. It features a six-element glass lens and 1/2.7" CMOS sensor. The system is powered by four AA batteries so you can use this thing for hours or days on end in the wilderness, nowhere near an AC outlet, simply by changing the batteries when necessary. Of course you can always use rechargeable AA batteries as well. The camera records 1920 x 1080p or 1280 x 720p high def video and high-resolution still images onto SD/SDHC memory cards up to 32GB in capacity. It features a fixed-focus lens with 142°, 120° and 95° fields of view. It offers in-camera editing, exposure control and four different recording modes including Clip, Loop, Loop and Forward and Still Image.
You can control the POV Cam from the recorder itself or from the included wireless remote. You can also tag scenes while recording from either the recorder or the wireless remote. The recorder features a 2-inch LCD and contains built-in editing software so you don’t need a computer to tweak your footage.
If you’re looking for a sleek, unobtrusive helmet cam that’s also good for other activities including motor sports, the Drift HD Action Camera might be just what you’re looking for. The compact camera will barely be noticed by spectators when mounted on the side of your helmet. It’s water resistant but not waterproof.
The Drift HD Action Camera shoots 1080p full HD video and 9-megapixel still images. It can also shoot 720p HD video and WVGA SD video. A Photoburst Mode automatically takes pictures every few seconds until the memory card is full or the battery dies. A Night Mode captures better images in dark conditions.
The camera stores recorded content on Micro SD cards up to 32GB in capacity, and lets you frame and review shots on its 1.5" LCD screen. The replaceable lens rotates a full 170°, allowing you to mount the camera anywhere, at any angle, and still capture a perfectly level image. A 4x digital zoom sets the angle of view, and an RF remote control makes operating the camera much easier when it’s mounted on your helmet or anywhere else where it’s hard to reach. A 2.5mm microphone input gives you the option of using your favorite microphones, and a micro-HDMI connector allows instant playback on an HDTV set.
The Drift HD Action Camera comes with several mounting options, including a goggle mount, universal clip, touch-fastener strap and curved and flat adhesive mounts. It also features a standard 1/4" 20 tripod mount. A second rear cover with rubber caps for the USB and Mic ports protects the camera when you need to use it while maintaining access to those ports.
Oregon Scientific’s ATC9K All Terrain Video Camera is as rugged as they come. The camera is waterproof right out of the box, and not just a few feet; the ATC9K is waterproof down to 65 feet underwater, a depth that few divers can even reach. The camera is also shock resistant, or drop proof, from heights up to 4.5 feet, so it should also resist damage from any minor collisions to which it might be subjected.
Like most other sports-action cams, the ATC9K shoots HD video and still images. More specifically, it shoots HD video in 1080p and 720p resolutions, at 30 fps and 60 fps, with 60 fps being better suited for capturing high-speed movement and for converting regular footage into slow motion. The camera also shoots 5MP still images, in 5-shot bursts if desired.
A camera as rugged as the ATC9K is ideal for capturing high-speed exploits such as motocross, snowmobiling and skiing, and in any case it can be strapped to your helmet, handlebars, goggles or any other vantage point that sees all the action. Video is recorded as standard QuickTime (.MOV) files that are stored on SD/SDHC memory cards. Recorded video and stills can be viewed on the camera’s 1.5-inch LCD. The ATC9K even has a built-in G-Sensor which records the gravitational forces, or G forces you're subjected to when using the camera.
Oregon Scientific has upped the ante for the ATC9K with its optional GPS Module. The module tracks location, distance traveled and altitude for each video session via Google Maps or Google Earth. When the video clip is played back on a computer the ATC9K software will display the GPS information alongside the video.
For the ultimate integration of sports equipment with an HD video camera, Liquid Image has incorporated an action camera directly into a pair of winter sports or off-road goggles. Its Summit Series HD 1080p Snow Goggle with Full HD Camera combines a pair of winter-sports goggles and a 1080p HD camera. It’s perfect for snowboarders, skiers and snowmobilers looking to capture that first-person perspective of rushing down the slopes or whipping through the woods. The integrated camera captures full HD video at 30 fps and 720p HD video at 60 fps. The camera is centrally located on the goggle frame and the 136° wide-angle lens features Line-of-Sight video capture with a full field of view. It contains a 5-megapixel 1/3.2-inch CMOS image sensor and a microSD/SDHC slot that supports up to a 32GB memory card. For still images, the camera can capture up to 12-megapixel interpolated digital pictures with 4000 x 3000 pixel resolution. There’s a USB 2.0 port for quickly transferring footage onto your computer. The goggles come with two anti-fog-treated Lexan lenses, a 4GB microSDHC card, USB cable and rechargeable lithium-ion battery.
For off-road enthusiasts, from dirt bikers and downhill mountain bikers to ATV trail riders, Liquid Image offers the Impact Series HD 1080p Off-Road Goggle with Full HD Camera. While the goggle frame is designed differently, the HD camera is the same as the one in the Summit Series. The Impact goggle frame features a nose protector and it also supports tear-away lenses.
Another popular action sports camera model is the Delkin Devices WingmanHD Waterproof Action Camera, which is capable of capturing up to 1080p HD video and high-quality digital stills. The included waterproof case will protect the camera to a depth of 98.4 feet (30 m). Delkin’s WingmanHD features an integrated 1.5-inch (3.8 cm) LCD screen, a 3x digital zoom and an ultra-wide, 150° viewing angle. There’s a universal mounting system for mounting the camera to various surfaces and head gear. And, with an 8-megapixel image sensor and an ultra-lightweight design, the 3-oz (84-g) WingmanHD delivers beautiful imagery in a compact, extremely easy to handle action sports camera.