Helmet cameras are proving popular with cyclists for a variety of reasons: to record and share rides, races and commutes and also as a safety aid to record any incidents on journeys from their point of view. Images can be captured whilst still keeping complete control of your bike, so no wobbly footage (or of course potential injury) to worry about.
From it’s humble and bulky beginnings feeding a signal via cable to a VCR in a padded backpack, the newest generation of helmet cameras offer features like on-screen menus, high-definition format, wireless transmitting, 3D capabilities and waterproof enclosures. With a smaller design, and smaller than previous price tag, plus greater image quality, a cycle camera is a great piece of kit to invest in.
Types of Camera
Available in a variety of forms, most helmet cameras are small and cylindrical, hence the names lipstick or bullet cameras. These can be connected to a video recording device such as a camcorder or digital video recorder. Some need the use of a battery pack but some are all in one.
Choosing the right camera
Key factors when choosing a camera are how portable it will be, battery duration and quality of image. There are quite a few things to consider, so we’ve outlined the various specifications below.
The good news is that many manufacturers include additional mounting equipment with the camera, so you can change the location of your camera to see which suits you best. Helmet cameras can be worn at the front of the helmet or on the top, you could go for a handlebar, chest or wrist mount, or even mount it to your frame. It all depends on the angle you want to capture, and the camera not being in the way whilst you are riding.
As with any camera, the main feature to consider is battery life. You’ll need to pack extra batteries for a camera with replaceable batteries, and it’s worth investing in lithium alkaline batteries for extended duration. Cameras with built-in batteries make for more convenience, but your filming will come to an abrupt end once they run out.
Don’t worry too much about the memory included with the camera, as better cameras include a memory card slot. This means you can upgrade to a larger memory card, at a small additional cost.
Frame rates affect video quality, so you’ll need a camera that shoots at least 30 frames per second. If you need to capture fast action, 60 frames per second is a better investment. Standard Definition (SD) cameras are fairly cheap, but the image quality tends to be quite grainy. High Definition (HD) cameras (either 720 pixels or 1080 pixels) are a better bet and both options will give good quality web upload images. Luckily, a lot of cycling cameras offer you the choice of SD, 720p, and/or 1080p so you can experiment with the results. You also need to look at the brightness and colour each camera offers, although better models will adjust the image balance based on light conditions automatically.
Definitely try out the buttons on the camera before buying, as if you’re wearing it on your head, it might not be that easy to operate. Luckily, many designs are simple enough to use whilst wearing gloves.
Sound and vision
As consumer-level cameras have lenses which are not typically replaceable, it’s better to have a good shop around. A standard lens will give you a “tunnel vision” effect so a wide angle lens is a much better option. Audio quality on cycling cameras is not great, as there are often a lot of external sounds to contend with, such as wind, traffic, general huffing and puffing, etc.
With online video editing readily available, or software like Windows Movies Maker or iMovie for Mac, you can ignore the software included with your camera and not have to worry too much about this.
There are many optional extras available for every budding film maker out there, ranging from mounts to batteries, waterproof cases to anti-fog inserts and chargers to memory cards.
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