Sports Cameras for the Extreme Soul


Biking a tough trail can be exhilarating—the wind rushing through your hair (through your helmet vents, of course) as you swerve to avoid obstacles, bombing down hills at speeds that you’ll brag about for months. Thanks to a new line of rugged sportscams and helmet cameras, you can have high-quality HD video to relive every jump and swerve in high definition. Or you can post the videos online so that your friends can live vicariously through your extreme sports exploits. 

No matter what your sport —skiing, surfing, skateboarding, lawn darts—it's always exhilarating to replay and show off your greatest rides. Or maybe you’re more of the analytical type, studying your performance in footage your friends have shot, making note of everything you did right, as well as discovering areas of your technique that require improvement. Finding the right sportscam can make reliving these moments that much easier.  

A dependable sportscam needs to be rugged. When you're shooting down a ski run, the last thing you want to worry about is accidental knocks, abrasions or impacts to your camera. Likewise, If your sport of choice happens to involve water or snow, a waterproof camera should be a no-brainer. The two types of cameras we’ll examine in this overview are handheld sportscams and helmet cams.

Handheld sports cams

The Kodak PLAYSPORT is just right for acquiring footage of somebody else in action, or for when you're able to hold the camera in your hands as you rip. Its ability to shoot 60 frame-per-second 720p video makes the Kodak PLAYSPORT a terrific choice for capturing fast-moving sports action. It even has an LCD screen Glare Shield feature—how cool is that? This camera is waterproof to 10 feet (3 meters), perfect for water sports or filming in relatively shallow water. The camera can also record 1080p at 30fps, but from my experience, the footage doesn’t look nearly as smooth, and I could barely notice any discernible difference in image quality between the 1080 and 720p settings. The PLAYSPORT can also capture 5Mp still photos in 16:9 widescreen aspect ratio for your dynamic screensaver slide show. Since sports videomakers are a diverse group in their tastes, the Kodak PLAYSPORT is both Mac and PC compatible. It's available in Purple, Blue or Black.


Helmet cameras

To get thrilling point-of-view (POV) action shots, try strapping on a helmet cam. Even if you’re not wearing a helmet, many of these cams can be attached to your head or other appendages to capture the same action that you’re seeing. 

The shock-, impact-, water- and vibration-resistant ContourHD 1080p from VholdR has a 5Mp CMOS sensor and records 30 fps at full-HD 1920x1080 video. It can also record at 60 fps at the lower, but still HD, 1280x720 (AKA 720p). You can record 720p at 30fps, and SD video at 60 fps. A dual laser alignment function allows you to capture footage that is similar to your own point of view. The camera records directly to MicroSD cards and supports up to 16GB cards, which could give you as much as eight hours of high-definition video or 16 hours of lower-resolution footage. You should have an average run time of four hours on the fully charged lithium-ion battery, and the camera comes with a 2GB MicroSD card. There is also a lower-resolution ContourHD model that only shoots up to 720p at 30fps. Both cameras—they're Mac and PC compatible—are social-media friendly, and the ContourHD 1080p includes Easy Edit software that lets you upload and edit your footage for sharing to the VholdR website. 

Don’t let the GoPro HD Helmet HERO’s name fool you. Intended for mounting on helmets, you can mount this camera just about anywhere you might want it to go. Hello surfboards, bikes, cars, skateboards. The camera's exoskeleton polycarbonate housing is entirely waterproof, so you can shoot video up to 180 feet (60m) underwater, and dish out a beating that the GoPro HD Helmet HERO will simply shake off. The camera comes complete with three helmet mounts, two gear or vehicle mounts and a headstrap so you can wear the camera like a headlamp.  It shoots 1080p with a 127° viewing angle, or 960p (30fps) and 720p (60fps) with a viewing angle of 170°. This camera also shoots 5-megapixel stills. And good news for European extreme sports fanatics: the GoPro HD Helmet HERO is NTSC and PAL switchable, so you can watch recorded video directly from the camera on either system TV. There is also a standard definition Helmet Hero Wide available.


Coming soon is the 1080p Drift Innovation HD 170. Unlike other helmet cams, it has a built-in 1.5 inch LCD on its side to monitor exactly what is being recorded, or to play back what you've already shot. Its included remote can help you stop and start recording easily, to ensure you only record the most exciting moments. Want better audio quality? The Drift Innovation HD 170 has an external microphone input. For your convenience, it offers 32MB of built-in flash memory, and supports up to 32GB with SDHC cards. It also has a night mode for recording in low light. Though it's waterproof to 1.6' (0.5m), I'd think twice about clipping this camera to my surfboard. And since the Drift Innovation HD 170 comes with grips, mounts and straps that allow mounting on the head, helmet, goggles, handlebars and other places, you'll have plenty of options for your POV video. 

A more budget-conscious helmet camcorder, the Drift X170 Action Sports Camera, records 720x480 standard-definition video, has a 170° lens, a 1.5-inch color LCD screen and includes mounts to attach the camera to various locations, like its big brother. It also takes 5Mp stills, supports up to 16GB of SD or SDHC memory and can be controlled with the included remote control. Cool feature: the camera can be powered by two standard AA batteries (included, although the manufacturer recommends lithium batteries for long-term use). 

Do you have any experience shooting with any of these or other sportscams or helmet cams? I'd love to hear your thoughts and stories and even see some of the footage you've shot. Tell me all about it in the Comments section below.