Action Camera Comparison | Gear

Lights, Camera, Action!

By Ari Henning, Photography by Joe Neric

Gone are the days of duct-taping a chunky VHS recorder to your helmet or gas tank! In the last few years the action-camera market has exploded, and today there are numerous options for capturing high-quality footage of your ride or race. Whether your goal is to record laps at your local racetrack, the epic scenery on your big adventure or just document your daily commute, this action-cam comparison will help guide your selection.


Gopro Motorsports Hero HD
Crisp, high-definition video, clear sound, a long-lasting rechargeable battery, an all-encompassing 170-degree recording angle and adaptable mounting options are just a few of the reasons GoPro’s Hero camera is our top choice for onboard recording. The Motorsports package is ideal for motorcyclists and comes with a variety of mounts that are perfect for affixing the camera to helmets and bodywork. The GoPro offers useful video, picture and sound modes, but everything is controlled via two hard-to-press buttons, making it easy to select the wrong setting. This is one camera that requires some study to master, but once you do the results are worth it. Users spoke and GoPro listened: An LCD screen module and remote control are forthcoming.
Price: $299.99
www.goprocamera.com
MC Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Lens angle: 170° in 720p,& 960p, 127° in 1080p
Resolution settings: 720p, 920p, 1080p
White balance: Auto
Microphone: Internal
Photo resolution: 5 megapixel
Memory capacity: 32 GB SD card
Claimed recording: 8 min./GB at 1080p
Battery type: Rechargeable lithium-ion
Claimed battery life: 2.5 hours
Waterproof rating: 180 feet
Remote control: No
Dimensions: 72x50x75mm
Weight: 5.9 oz.

PROS
-Wide angle lens provides huge field of view
-Good sound quality
-Excellent mounting options
CONS
-Is it on?
-Takes time to master operation


Oregon Scientific ATC9K HD
A color LCD screen and range of function buttons make it easy to operate and set up Oregon Scientific’s ATC9K action camera. But the included mounting hardware was designed for skiers and cyclists, so unless your bike has a 7/8-inch handlebar none of it works well on motorcycles. If you can successfully finagle your own mount (we used Velcro), the ATC9K yields the sharpest and most vivid video of the bunch, although the internal microphone picks up too much wind noise at speed. The screen lets you preview your shot and view video, and there’s even a remote control and internal G-sensor that can record acceleration and cornering forces. If not for the sub-par audio and restricted mounting options, the ATC9K would have been in the hunt for the win.
Price: $299.99
www.oregonscientific.com
MC Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Lens angle: 130° in 720p & 1080p
Resolution settings: 720p, 1080p
White balance: Auto, manual
Microphone: Internal
Photo resolution: 5 megapixel
Memory capacity: 32 GB SD card
Claimed recording: 9 min/GB at 1080p
Battery type: Rechargeable lithium-ion
Claimed battery life: 1.5 hours
Waterproof rating: 65 feet
Remote control: Yes
Dimensions: 100x55x44mm
Weight: 7 oz.

PROS
-Loads of useful features
-Color screen with preview and playback
-Remote control
CONS
-Large, awkward and heavy
-Supplied mounts don't work well on motorcycles
-Poor sound quality


Drift HD170 Stealth
If you don’t speak in beeps and flashes like R2-D2, you’ll appreciate the Drift HD’s color LCD screen, full complement of function buttons and matching remote control. You can preview your shot and even watch video on the unit’s screen, which makes getting the shot you’re after a cinch. The included mounts don’t work well on helmets or bodywork, but the threaded receiver on the camera’s bottom will accept a Panavise or RAM mount (see right), solving mounting issues. Still, the camera’s size and weight make it somewhat unstable, resulting in shaky footage.
Price: $349.99
www.driftinnovation.com
MC Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Lens angle: 170° in 720p, 127° in 1080p
Resolution Settings: 1080p, 720p
White balance: Auto, manual
Microphone: Internal with input for external microphone
Photo resolution: 5 megapixel
Memory capacity: 32 GB SD card
Claimed recording: 11min/GB at 1080p
Battery type: Rechargeable lithium-ion
Claimed battery life: 2.5 hours
Waterproof rating:Water resistant
Remote control: Yes
Dimensions 133x50x33mm
Weight with battery: 5.6 0z.

PROS
-Full color LCD screen with preview and playback
-Remote control
-Rotating lens
CONS
-Stock mounts don't work well for motorcyclists
-Somewhat large and heavy


Contour HD GPS
Charge the Contour’s battery and you’re ready to go, and with its huge slide-switch you know beyond a doubt that the unit is on and recording. The camera comes with a 2-gigabyte memory card and doesn’t need any setup to use right away, but utilizing the device’s many other functions—like the internal GPS transmitter—requires hooking it up to a computer. The adhesive mounts that come with the camera are adequate, but the $39.99 suction cup tower greatly improves mounting versatility. The Contour’s HD video offers plenty of detail, but colors appear muted and the camera’s 110- degree recording angle limits the viewing area.
Price: $349.99
www.contour.com
MC Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Lens angle: 135° in 720P & 920P960p, 110° in 1080p
Resolution settings: 720p, 920p, 1080p
White balance: Auto
Microphone: Internal
Photo resolution: 5 megapixel
Memory capacity: 32 GB Micro SD card (2GB card included)
Claimed recording: 15 min./GB at 1080p
Battery type: Rechargeable lithium-ion
Claimed battery life: 3 hours
Waterproof rating: Water resistant
Remote control: No
Dimensions: 95x55x34mm
Weight with battery: 4.2 oz.

PROS
-Big slide switch is easy to use
-Free editing software
-Rotating lens with laser sights
-Optional Panavise suction cup mount sets the standard in mounting versatility
CONS
-You have to plug it in to a computer to change settings
-Narrow recording angle


Replay XD
The Replay XD records in decidedly grainy 480p, but its miniscule size and sheer simplicity make it a viable option for riders looking for an affordable, uncomplicated way to record their ride. The XD can be stuck anywhere using the included industrial-strength Velcro and rotating mount, and turns on/off at the push of a button. The low-resolution footage doesn’t hold a candle to the high-definition video of the other cameras we tested, but it makes for quick downloads and smooth playback on slower computers. Plus, Replay should have a slightly larger 720p and full HD 1080p model available by the time you read this.
Price: $189.99
www.replayxd.com
MC Rating: 4 1/2 out of 5 stars

Lens angle: 61°
Resolution settings: 480p
White balance: Auto
Microphone: Internal
Photo resolution: Na
Memory capacity: 32 GB Micro SD
Claimed recording time: 30 min/GB at 480p
Battery type: Rechargeable lithium-ion
Claimed battery life: 2 hours
Waterproof rating: Water resistant
Remote control: No
Dimensions: 21x69mm
Weight: 1 oz.

PROS
-Positively tiny
-Simplest to operate
-Affordable
-Easy to carry and quick to set up and use
CONS
-Not High Definition
-Narrow field of view


Cam Mounts

Panavise Mount
Mounting versatility is arguably the most critical aspect of using an onboard camera. After all, the world’s best camera is useless if you can’t safely and securely mount it to your bike. The $25.99 Panavise model 809 suction-cup mount sports a 1/4-20 stud that screws into the receiver found on the bottom of most cameras. The large suction cup sticks to any smooth, flat, non-porous surface, allowing you to quickly and easily mount your camera of choice to your windscreen, gas tank or fairing. The pivoting arm and ball joint provide nearly unlimited range of adjustment.
www.panavise.com

Ram Mount
Looking for a more permanent place to mount your camera, GPS or other electronic device? RAM’s rail mount will bolt onto handlebars up to 1.5-inches in diameter and is made of powder-coated aluminum and zinc-coated steel for strength and durability. Buy a pre-made mount like the C1U model shown here for $31 or build your own to suit your specific needs. RAM makes holders for everything from iPods to coffee cups, and the system’s double-jointed socket arm will accept any of the company’s other carriers.
www.ram-mount.com

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