While point-and-shoot cameras might be falling victim to the popularity of the smartphone, the demand for devices that shoot unique action video is still strong.
Action cameras are often aimed at sport or athletic enthusiasts, allowing them to capture moments they otherwise wouldn’t be able to by wearing the device or strapping it to an accessory. Biking, surfing, hang gliding, swimming and hiking are just a few of the many examples of how people use this category. Television shows have even used the devices in the past to get unique, point-of-view shots that typical studio-grade cameras can’t.
This category of cameras is always popular during the holiday season as more people tap into the trend and find different uses for the devices. Here are some new, popular and interesting cameras to consider for your gift-buying needs.
Starts at $259.99
The undisputed champion in terms of popularity is still GoPro. The company popularized this category of cameras and continues to update its line most years with new bells and whistles, as the competition tries to break into the market.
GoPros are all small, lightweight and incredibly easy to use. Most models now have WiFi and Bluetooth capabilities for easy syncing and raw video uploading, plus are compatible with a wide line of accessories, meaning you can mount the camera almost anywhere.
Getting into specific models, GoPro’s new Hero4 camera (starting at $530) might be a bit too steep for the average user. The main two advantages of the latest unit are new 4K high-definition video (if you happen to have a television that supports it) and 12-megapixel still pictures with 30 frames-a-second bursts. But if you are just looking to start out with the action camera category or don’t need that 4K video, that is probably overkill for your needs.
Therefore, if you are looking at a GoPro model, the Hero+ is still the best value overall. You get 1080p HD video and eight-megapixel still pictures (though with just five frames-a-second bursts), all of which is plenty capable for the average user. Plus with a $260 price tag, the money saved could go toward additional accessories, such as mounting kits or memory cards.
Starts at $529.99
While GoPro may be top of mind, there are other companies making great products and trying to innovate in the action camera category. One of the more intriguing ones of late is 360Fly, which is taking on the new 360-degree video trend.
While 3D video failed to take off, there are fewer barriers to entry with 360-degree video. Websites such as Facebook and YouTube already support the technology, with the ability to move the mouse on the screen to look around or physically check out the scene with a smartphone by using its motion sensors. No fancy screens required. Plus with the rise of virtual reality (VR) headsets, more people will want to take more immersive footage.
Enter 360Fly, an innovative, 360-degree action camera that’s rugged and even waterproof (just don’t forget to insert that microphone plug) so it can be used in a variety of situations. It comes with both flat and curved mounts, depending on what you’re attaching it to, plus there are additional accessories for more complicated needs.
First, the downsides: It is a little pricey and the video quality isn’t as strong as competitors since some resolution is lost because of the fish-eye style angles, so solid lighting is a must. Also video clips shared to social media are limited to two minutes, the corresponding mobile application is not very user friendly (hopefully this is fixed) and it is a little bulkier than a GoPro.
However, the camera itself is pretty easy to use with just one button to press. Plus the social media uploading is handy (despite its limit) and there is even a 360Fly social network to share or embed videos with other users.
Then there is the cool factor, as users will more than likely be the only person on their Facebook timeline sharing interactive 360-degree videos, meaning the 360Fly is the perfect option for that early adopter of technology in your life. Just keep in mind that it is only available at Best Buy in Canada.
Sony Action Cam HDR-AS200VR
Starts at $349.99
While tiny cameras like GoPros or the 360Fly are great for certain situations, some people don’t mind putting the same money into a bigger camera with a few more (or stronger) features. For example, often skateboarders can be seen on city streets shooting video of each other while attempting to land big tricks, but they still opt for hand-held cameras with stabilization instead of strapping them on.
Sony, known for quality camera lenses, doesn’t disappoint on the Action Cam HDR-AS200VR with its Zeiss lens that helps produce solid 1080p HD video, which includes surprisingly solid footage in low-light situations. It is a wide-angle lens, so it is optimal for sports (including skateboarding) and claims it’s “built to withstand the elements.”
The camera is waterproof to five metres (when placed inside an included case), can handle temperatures as low as -5 C and is shockproof or dust proof. There is WiFi support for easy sharing, near field communications (NFC) for phones that support it and an LCD screen to review footage.
The main takeaway with this camera is it’s rugged with a high-quality lens compared to the smaller competition, with image stabilization to help keep things smooth. It is certainly a great action camera alternative to the devices that focus more on size.
iON SnapCam Lite Lifestyle Wearable HD Camera, above
Starts at $109.99
This particular unit is straddling two different categories: action cameras and wearables.
With a built-in clip or magnet, this tiny camera is designed to attach to your clothes so you can walk around and capture moments while forgetting you are even wearing a camera in the first place. This will only appeal to certain people, but can be great for family members who want something affordable and easy to use (thanks to the simple one-button activation) with a unique point of view.
You get what you pay for – only 720p video and up to two hours of memory. Plus if the user is wearing loose clothing, there is a chance that the lens might shift and aim downward instead of horizontal, so the user needs to be aware of its position.
However, it is cheap and has the potential to capture unique moments in a variety of settings, such as parents playing with their children while needing both hands free. Just don’t expect the greatest video quality, especially in low-light situations.
Starts at $79.99
For some, the best action camera to them is already in their pocket: their smartphone. As cameras inside these devices get better, so do their video-taking capabilities.
A company called Olloclip makes a popular camera accessory for a variety of iPhone and Android models that give you three or four extra lenses for a unique look. The macro lenses might be better for up-close photos, but there are also wide-angle and fish-eye lenses included that work well with video.
Users simply slide the small lens adapter over of the phone’s existing camera, then they can shoot video or snap photos with the new effects. Wide-angle lenses are better for group scenes while the fish-eye lens is often used for sport or athletic videos.
The main downside is that Olloclip lenses cannot be used with phone cases, since each unit is designed to work to very specific phone specifications. This also means Ollopclips aren’t universal, so make sure you select the proper lens kit for the specific phone.
Sony QX10 10x optical zoom lens, above
Starts at $229.99
Sony is embracing the consumer shift to smartphone use by creating a lens that syncs to your iPhone or Android wirelessly through WiFi and NFC technology.
Smartphone cameras generally have two major problems: The digital zoom is pretty horrible and the lack of true image stabilization makes for shaky videos. This standalone lens fixes both of these issues by letting you forgo the phone’s built-in and using the external one instead.
As previously mentioned, Sony is known for some great lenses and the QX10 is excellent for people wanting action videos and photos from a distance – perhaps of their children playing sports or simply being a spectator at an event. There are also macro options and 18-megapixel still photos. Since the lens is external and connected wirelessly, you can choose to mount it on a tripod or hold it close the ground while using your smartphone as a viewfinder. You can also choose to just attach it to your smartphone directly with expandable clamps.
This doesn’t scratch the itch for those looking at true action cameras with unique point-of-view footage. However, this is a solid, portable alternative for those who want close-up and image-stabilized video while using a device they are already used to.
Courtesy: The Globe And Mail