You can’t go to a drift or race event without seeing video cameras plastered on nearly every single car. While these cams may be tiny, the quality is good enough for big budget movies—even professional film crews use ‘em! But these cameras aren’t just intended for snooty directors, they’re meant for enthusiasts like us. And since they’ve been around for almost ten years, these cams are getting increasingly better, easier to use and more affordable. So to help you get started, we’ve narrowed down four of the best cameras out there—all of which record 1080P high-def video, capture a wide angle perspective and feature Wi-Fi or Bluetooth that allows you to start/stop video from your phone or use your phone as a viewfinder. Also remember that all these cams have accessories like suction cup or roll-bar mounts designed for car guys. For a more in-depth review, we’ll be testing all four cameras on the road and posting our results on our YouTube channel. We might even include more boobies for views!
We all know the name, but bet you didn’t know they had an action cam, too! Sony’s HDR-AS15 is new to the market and a legit contender. Using a 170-degree wide-angle Carl Zeiss lens, it shoots 1080P video at 30fps. There’s also a slow motion mode setting which records 720P video at 120fps. Sony’s added an image stabilizer feature that works well but you lose the wide angle. Overall, it’s a good entry-level cam and can be bought without the Wi-Fi option for under $200.
What we like: It’s hard to lose with a name like Sony. The video quality is pretty good and it’s a great camera if you’re looking to get started. Plus your parents will like that fact that it’s a Sony; they probably had an old Sony handycam back in the day.
GoPro Hero3 Black Edition
GoPro needs almost no introduction. They are the most popular action cam in the market and even the founder is heavily rooted in the auto industry supporting Formula D, Indy and more. The Hero3 Black Edition is their latest and greatest invention. It’s smaller and lighter than their previous model and the video/image resolution and available frame rates are the best a regular consumer can get. Its f/2.8 170-degree wide-angle lens is super sharp and offers the least amount of distortion—the video is even clear in low light conditions. It captures full frame 1080P video at 60fps, but can be slowed down all the way to 240fps at 480P quality. The Hero3 Black Edition can also get quality crazy with the ability to record at 4K, 2.7K and 1440P. The still photos are possibly the best as well at 12-megapixel.
What we like: There’s a reason everyone and their mama uses a GoPro. While it might take a little longer to learn how to use, they have the best video and photo performance in the game.
Win a GoPro!
In addition to the Black Edition Hero3, GoPro also offers a Silver and White Edition. The Silver ($299.99) is virtually the same camera as the Hero2 recording 1080P video at 30fps. But it doesn’t come with all the bells and whistles of the Black Edition, like the remote. The White Edition ($199.99) is one step down lacking the photo capabilities of both. But don’t get us wrong… both are still great cameras. And since we believe we can find the next M. Night Shyamalan (the director of The Village), we’ll be giving away one of each GoPro to three lucky readers. Just e-mail us at email@example.com and tell us your next great video idea!
Liquid Image is recognized more for their built-in goggle cams that are widely used by snowboarders and off-roaders. The EGO is their answer to a standalone sports cam. It’s the smallest and lightest of the bunch, making it super easy to travel with and a breeze to mount. The 135-degree wide-angle, f/3.2 lens offers decently sharp 1080P video at 30fps. While it’s not as advanced and clear as a GoPro or Contour, the EGO is an excellent beginner camera to get started with.
What we like: So easy to use, you don’t really need to read the manual. The HD video quality is good enough for the average YouTuber. Plus, your girlfriend will think it looks cute. You can even tell her it comes in five different colors.
We asked Ben Abrams from eGarage.com to give us advice when using these action cameras. Since he uses his personal Contour cameras on the regular, he came up with ten tips to help you:
- Vibration is the enemy of good footage. Make sure that you have a stable and tight mounting point.
- Stay away from loose body panels and stay close to body seams.
- Suction cup mounts don’t stick to decals. Paint is better, glass is best.
- When available, use the lasers or Wi-Fi/Bluetooth feed to frame your shot.
- Move the camera around to get different perspectives. Get creative with placement.
- Periodically check the lens for debris or moisture, especially in the rain.
- Adjust settings on camera to turn off when not in use. Conserve battery.
- Use pre-programmed switches or Wi-Fi/Bluetooth to adjust for lighting, changes in resolution or frame rate.
- Dump files off camera often, if possible.
- Don’t film uninteresting perspectives. At least, not for too long!
One of the best in the biz, the Contour +2 captures super crisp video and is also surprisingly easy to use. It delivers 1080P HD at 30 frames per second (fps) with a 135-degree wide-angle view, but can also shoot 120fps in 480P for super slow motion footage. The Contour +2 uses Bluetooth to connect to your phone and unlike the other cams, records GPS location and speed data. Fancy! Lastly, on the tip of camera, you can actually rotate 270-degrees to get the angle you want—so even if you mount it poorly, you can correct the angle with ease.
What we like: Quality is top notch. Its shape lends itself to less wind noise and is perfect for helmets. We also dig the rotating barrel that lets you align your videos better than the other cams.
Noemii J! We’ll have more of this LA girl next month but for now, follow her on Instagram and Twitter @noemii_j