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How to Choose an Action Camera

Remember that time you paddled a Class 5 rapid and lived to tell the tale, but had no video proof of your athletic achievement? How about the time you dropped in from the ridge in the Rocky Mountains and skied right out of the cloud of snow you created? No? It sounds like you may be in the market for an action camera.

Capturing these feats has become easier than ever, thanks to a new generation of sports cameras that can take just about any abuse you put them through and still deliver high-quality pictures and videos. Try doing this with an average digital recorder, and you’ll nauseate your audience with all the shaking and whirling—if the camera survives the trip.

When choosing one of these devices, keep a few considerations in mind to help you choose the perfect camera for you and your sport.

Helmet Camera

Helmet Camera

If your preferred action sport requires a helmet, one of the best ways to get your accomplishments down on tape is to use a high-quality helmet camera. Since you always wear your helmet during sports like kayaking, biking, skiing, and climbing (don’t you?), it won’t even take very long to get acclimated to the addition. A helmet camera can capture either great first-person views or even video of your face. You’ll also enjoy hands-free operation, which makes it supereasy.

When choosing a helmet camera:

i) Decide how you’ll mount it. Most action cameras fit normally on a basic helmet, though it’s possible you’ll need an adaptor to keep the camera secure. Also, if you’re looking for unique angles, you may have to purchase extra equipment.
ii) Know which sport you’ll be using it for. Obviously, a mountain biking helmet will differ from a rock climbing helmet, so be aware of the hardware you’ll be using and make your decision based on this.

All-Purpose Action Cameras

Several cameras were designed for just about any sport and can be mounted to any surface, ranging from steering wheels to kayak cockpits and tips of skis to tops of handlebars. Like helmet cams, these are designed to stabilize video footage so you can record a smooth picture of whatever activity you like

But the makers of these products didn’t stop at durability. Most of these action cameras offer professional-grade video quality that can be edited and mixed once you’re off the river, mountain, or trails.

Specs

When choosing a sports video camera, it’s important to check out the tech specs. This includes the camera’s digital storage space or how many pictures and videos it can hold. For example, the GoPro Hero 3 has 64 GB of memory, which gives you the freedom to choose shorter, high-resolution video; hundreds of pictures; or longer videos at standard resolution.

For the best-quality picture and video, you’ll want a camera with high resolution and several frame-rate options. The best cameras give you many high-definition options, such as recording in 1080p-60, 720p-120, and other video modes.

Audio

Different cameras are able to catch sounds better than others. If you want to record those whitewater rapids in all their fury without the sound clipping out, you’ll want to make sure you get a camera that can compress and record it accurately. The same goes for recording at high speeds. Any average camera will be drowned out by the wind, but new wind-noise reduction technologies let you hear the subtle sounds of the outdoors.

Special Features

These days, there are virtually no limits to what you can film, where you can film, and the angles at which you want to film. However, you may need to purchase special mounting products or adaptors to go with your camera. For example, with the right equipment, surfers can safely film every wave they hit. This equipment may include a completely waterproof case and a mounting system that securely fastens the camera to the surfboard.

Get Creative

With action cameras, you have the chance to play director in the movie of how awesome you and your friends are. Do you want to put together a time-lapse montage of your entire kayak trip, with the camera taking a still photo every two seconds? You can do that. Do you want to set the camera up in a single location and activate it remotely as you fly by? There’s an option for that.

Many of these cameras have WiFi features that let you stream photos and videos directly onto your computer and the Internet. From there, you can edit and organize them on just about any operating system, making it easy to catalog all your adventures.

The world of action sports flies by fast, so make sure you’ve got a camera that won’t miss it.

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