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Of the awesome and highly technological helmet add-ons available today, which intrigue you the most? Bluetooth? AR displays? If you're anything like me, then a good camera is high on your list of "accessories I'd most like on my helmet."
GoPro Hero4 Black
45 Minute Filming Time
1-Year Limited Warranty
Sony Action Cam FDR-X1000VR
1 Hour Filming Time
1-Year Limited Warranty
3 Hours Filming Time
2-Year Limited Warranty
1 ½ hour Filming Time
1 ½ -Year Limited Warranty
1 ½ Hour Filming Time
1-Year Hassle Free Warranty
A good helmet cam will afford you the capability of recording your rides in all of their glory. Whether your goal is simply sharing your ride videos with friends, or finally getting featured on one of those YouTube dashcam video compilations, you'll need something high quality to get the job done.
The options out there are numerous, and with the goal of finding the best motorcycle helmet camera, I figured now was as good a time as any for a series of motorcycle helmet camera reviews.
The first factor that will weigh into your purchasing decision is a camera's video quality. On its own this piece of advice might seem vague, but there are particulars you can zero in on that will help you determine how good the video shot on a camera will be. Most folks will instantly cite frame rate and resolution as being the two most important details, and generally speaking, the higher, the better. Savvy video experts, however, would argue that bitrate is an equally important factor when determining the quality of the final product.
It's easy to forget sometimes, but a video is just a series of still images displayed consecutively to give the illusion of motion. A video's frame rate (or frame frequency) then, is the number of still images displayed within a one-second time frame. Commonly measured as "FPS", the higher the number, the more graphic a video will appear to the human eye.
Closely related to frame rate is a term known as the refresh rate, which is the total number of complete still images shown every second, and is measured in Hertz (Hz). When it comes to TVs and digital displays, you can find an excellent breakdown of the concept here.
In days past, 24 and 30 FPS were the most popular and unchanging formats, but with the invention of HD display systems and video uploading, 50 and 60 FPS have become more common, and will likely continue to grow in popularity. When trying to select your camera, you'll probably want one that shoots in this range.
This term refers to the amount of pixels used to compose the images in the videos you capture. As stated, higher resolution means more pixels, which broadly translates to better-looking video. There are, mind you, a few details to take into consideration.
For digital devices, the display resolution is the maximum measurement that is conveyed as width versus height. 1920x1080, or 1024x768, for example. When talking about video capture and playback, one must also factor in the PPI, or pixels per inch, that a device can display. PPI is a measure of pixel density as opposed to the total number, and can vary from screen to screen.
Oft overlooked but just as essential to final image quality and file sizes is bitrate, the number of bits (which are just pieces of information) that are used per unit time of a recording. A high bitrate means more information, which in practical terms means better-looking videos. The trade off is that high bit rates also mean large file sizes, which, when you're trying to upload or download a video, can cause it to take more time to load.
The physical construction of a camera is another important attribute. Questions you'll want to ask about any potential camera include: How heavy is it? What are the size and shape? How/where will it mount to my helmet? Is it durable? Is it easy to operate? Is there a remote control option?
By and large, you'll probably want to look for something that is lightweight, and won't cause undue strain to wear. A boxy camera like the GoPro might be to your liking, but then again you may prefer the way a more narrow design like the Sony FDR-X1000V feels.
On a related note, your camera should fasten securely to your helmet and be able to stay in place while you're riding at speed (a factor that will be partly influenced by its shape, size, and weight). You're likely to prefer a camera that will stay in one piece in the event of a spill, and one that doesn't take a correspondence course to learn how to use properly.
There are a few indicators here, but for a rider, the ones to look for are battery life and storage capacity. You might be out on the road for a while, so you're going to want a device that optimizes both of those functions. A large battery lasts longer, and more memory means you can shoot longer videos with greater quality.
A feature-heavy camera is going to have a greater draw on its battery. Finding a camera in which the features are optional will let you conserve battery life in situations where those features are not going to be applicable. Wi-Fi capability, for example, won't be necessary while you're tearing it up on the highway, so why not be able to turn it off and save a bit of juice?
The reigning champ in the action camera field, the GoPro Hero 4 Black is top of the line regarding video resolution and framerate. It can shoot in 4K resolution at 30fps. There's also a smooth 120fps option, though at a 1080p resolution instead. The high bitrate, 60Mbps, further contributes to the smooth playback. The advanced video capabilities are aided by a revamped, powerful processor. It comes at a cost, however, there is a huge draw on the battery, which will give you only 50 minutes of shooting time on average.
On that note, GoPro earned some points with me for making the battery easy to swap around, but instantly lost that goodwill by necessitating the purchase of new batteries. That's right, if you have an older GoPro and wanted to use those batteries as backups for your new Hero 4 Black, you're going to be sorely disappointed.
The Hero 4 Black comes with mounting accessories included but doesn't include cool extras like the Smart Remote. You'll have to purchase that separately. This GoPro does, at least, have additional features like Wi-Fi connectivity, Bluetooth, and variable "film" and shutter speeds. Although I've heard the argument that the differences in performance aren't much different from the slightly cheaper Hero Silver, the advanced video capabilities alone make the Hero 4 Black the best GoPro for motorcycle helmet currently on the market.
The Sony Action Cam FDR-X1000VR is Sony's answer to the GoPro Hero 4 Black, and in terms of power and camera quality, it seems that Sony has crafted a fitting rebuttal. The Action Cam has an instantly recognizable narrow form that makes it perfectly suited for mounting to the side of a helmet.
The Action Cam bundle includes a waterproof casing, live view remote for operating the camera from a distance, and all the mounting accessories you'll need to strap the camera directly to your helmet.
The lens on the Action Cam is a wide-angle Zeiss. If you didn't already know, Zeiss is a German manufacturer well known for creating high quality motion picture and multi-format SLR lenses. Seeing the Zeiss name on there instantly filled me with confidence, as I recalled college photography lectures in which my professor would go on at length about the performance of Zeiss products. It would seem that he was not mistaken, as the Action Cam lens boasts an impressively large 170-degree field of view. Even with the image stabilization on it can still manage at a comfy 120-degrees.
Incidentally, built-in image stabilization is a key feature the GoPro lacks. When you combine that with the fact that the Action Cam also shoots at 4K resolution/50Mbps, has improved still image quality, and slightly better battery life, you've got a viable alternative for best motorcycle helmet cam.
You may remember TomTom as the manufacturers of various GPS devices (back when they were all the rage). Seeking to expand their range, TomTom has introduced us to the Bandit, a more recent addition to the action camera market. Just because they're a relative newcomer, however, doesn't mean their camera can't pull its weight alongside the other big boys.
The first thing that stands out about the Bandit is it's more traditional "camcorder shape" and an interesting clip system on the underside of the camera, making it easy to attach it to a variety of other objects. Just squeeze the tabs, and slide it onto the adhesive mounts. Score one for TomTom, as this was a feature I really appreciated, especially after agonizing over trying to mount some of the other cameras into place. The drawback though is that the mounting plate doesn't lock in place. Admittedly, I was worried about the device tumbling off!
Of course, in the already saturated action camera market, it takes more than just a slick mount to be noticed, especially when the video quality, while good, is still slightly inferior to the GoPro and Sony Action Cam. In an effort to stand out, TomTom has included a rather interesting auto editing feature that cobbles together your video into an instantly shareable feature. This makes it a solid entry for those looking for an easy to use camera for a lower price, and are willing to sacrifice a bit on video quality.
Is it a poor man's GoPro, or a serious cost-effective alternative? Thoughts on this camera vary, but two things that cannot be denied are that it does seriously undercut the Hero Black 4 on price, and it's 4K video, while good, isn't quite what you're going to get from a GoPro. Sure, the GEEKPRO has the resolution, but it's framerates aren't as fast as more expensive action cameras, which, if you're trying to shoot the best looking video possible, might make this camera more of a backup than a first choice.
If you aren't concerned about having the very best video quality, however, there are some good features on this camera that make it attractive. It's lightweight at 2.2 ounces, has a wide-angle lens that competes with the Sony Action Cam, and a nifty dual display (one smaller screen on the front of the camera, and a larger one on the back).
Mounting options for this device are similar to the GoPro, and like many other action cameras, the EOV1 also has a water-resistant housing and a remote control option for setting up those tricky shots. I personally was surprised by the range on the remote, it's advertised as being effective at 15 meters, and I was able to use it at just about the upper limit of that range. While it isn't a GoPro killer, the GEEKPRO is a viable option for those looking for a slightly cheaper option.
Perhaps budgeting is your primary concern? If so, you may be interested in a cheaper HD action cam, like the Lightdow LD4000. Though it lacks in video quality (can only shoot up to 1080p/30fps), it compensates by being extremely affordable, compact, and easy to use. You'll have to temper your expectations a bit, however, as it will only support a 32GB memory card (as opposed to the 64GB available with more expensive models), and it doesn't come with a whole array of advanced features.
This camera is built to withstand extreme conditions, and you can tell when you hold it that it's a solid piece of gear. It was reassuring to feel that even if I did drop it or take a spill, the camera would probably come out no worse for wear.
All-in-all, the Lightdow LD4000 is sturdy and simple, and provides decent usability for a great price. This camera is a great option if you're looking for a beginner upgrade or are taking your very first foray into the world of action cameras. Just know that at some point in the future you'll likely feel a strong urge to get an even more powerful camera if the action recording bug takes a hold of you!
The competition is fierce, and while price might be your only concern, for those that have the money to spend, the Sony Action Cam is the best option out of the bunch. In addition to having high quality video that competes with the industry leading GoPro, the image stabilization helps ensure your videos look steady and focused.
The way the Action Cam is designed almost makes it seem like they had busy riders on the go specifically in mind. It has an auto highlight feature that clips together multiple videos into a nice feature reel, and also gives users the option of live-streaming video.
The camera mounts well to helmets, and the range of additional features, including remote operation and the option of linking up and controlling cameras through the remote or companion app is a huge bonus. This camera is well suited for anyone who requires high quality video with smart, intuitive camera features. I can confidently recommend the Sony Action Cam FDR-X1000VR as the best camera for motorcycle helmets.
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