Top Tips for Picking the Best Sports Action Camera
We all love a good story, and telling tales of daring deeds, nerves of steel and death defying experiences make for great entertainment. Action cameras let us get all those moments on video from a first person view that we can share with friends and family or post to you-tube and other video sharing website.
Bringing these experiences to other people in all their glory is what makes sports action cameras so great. Due to this popularity the market for sports action cameras has grown a lot over the past few years and with so many choices it can be hard to and sort the wheat from the chaff.
So before you dash of and buy one there are a few things you should know that will help you understand all the technical lexicons such as field of view, lens aperture, sensor size, frames per second and a whole lot more, giving you the confidence and knowledge to get the camera that best suits your needs and budget.
Field Of View
A wide field of view is especially important for an action camera as it allows recording in a more immersive perspective. The field of view lets you know the range that can be captured by the image sensor and is generally expressed in degrees. This angel or field of view is determined by the sensors diagonal length and the lenses focal length. The larger your field of view the better, but also be aware that as the field of view grows there could be some distortion as the image is stretched.
Generally the better the video resolution the more expensive the camera will be. 4K also known as ultra high definition is about the highest you will find on an action camera but will set you back a premium price, while 1080p and 720p are labeled as high definition and should be suitable for most footage letting you enjoy video playback on a large screen in a high level of detail without any hint of problems. 480p is somewhat lower but still acceptable for viewing on your Smartphone or tablet and will even look respectable on most TV’s and monitors.
The lens aperture determines the amount of light that is let into the camera and can reach the image plane. This can drastically change the appearance of an image.
If an amateur is narrow then the result is a sharp focus at the image plane. If on the other hand the aperture is wide then the image will be sharper around what the lens is focused on.
As the aperture determines how much light gets into the picture it also determines the darkness or lightness of a picture. A wider aperture allows for a bright image that can be resolved quickly where as a narrow aperture will take longer to resolve the images.
Apertures are represented by an f stop, the smaller the number the wider the aperture.
In sports action filming you will need a camera that can resolve images quickly so a wider aperture is required. Also as the subject matter is generally close to the camera and there is not a huge range between different parts of the image then the wider aperture shouldn’t struggles in keeping most of the shot in focus.
Frames Per Second
Listed alongside the resolutions are generally the frames per second (fps). This is how many images the camera takes per second to make the video. Top end action cameras can manage to capture 120 fps where as 60fps and 30fps are the norm. The larger the fps the smoother your action footage will be as the greater number of frames reduces the jump in movement between each frame and in tune minimizes jumpy footage. So before you buy an action camera think carefully what you want to use if for. If you are going to be doing fast paced sports or actions then you want to aim for 60fps or higher, if not you can probably save the money and opt for a camera with lower fps rating.
Probably more important than megapixels is the sensor size. This determines how much light a camera needs to make a picture. Each image sensor is made up of millions of light sensitive spots called photosites, which record the image information. The bigger the sensor is then more of these little photosites it will have resulting in greater information and of course a better image at a higher resolution
Of course if the sensor is large then the camera lens and in turn the camera itself needs to be large so you’re not going to come across any full frame sensors in a sports action camera as the camera would be too big for purpose. You should try to get the largest sensor for our budget without going overboard or compromising on the other quality’s that matter to you, this is not always easy as not every manufacture will list the sensor size.
Weight + Size
Weight may not seem important but it can make a huge difference. If you plan on strapping a camera to your head or even to your pet dog then you don’t want it to weigh too much. Likewise size will also affect how you can use the camera and where you can put it. Be sure to think carefully about what you want from a camera and whether the weight and size is a big concern for you. Also don’t forget to add the weight of any extra accessories and cases that you may need when using the camera.
Accessories + Mounts
Some cameras come with a remote control which can be helpful to stop and start the recording. Many of these use Wi-Fi or Bluetooth and can be worn on the wrists a bit like a watch. Some even let you see what’s being recorded so you can get the perfectly setup and won’t miss that prefect shot.
Another common accessory is the waterproof case. Not all cameras come with these and some can handle being submerged without a waterproof case but will normally not withstand as much water pressure. If you panning on getting your camera wet be sure to check its water proof ratings and that it comes with a sturdy underwater case for filming beneath the waves or in a torrential downpour.
Most action Cameras come with at least one mounting and generally many more, be sure to check if the camera you want comes with the mounts you need whether it be for a handle bar, helmet or harness. If not you can normally pick up extra mounts from places like E-bay very easily. Just be sure you budget for them and know what the camera comes with.