The Veho Muvi HD is the only camera in this roundup to come with a rear LCD monitor. It might only be 1.5-inches in size but a rear screen can make a big difference when composing shots and changing settings. The 1080p Veho Muvi HD comes with a 60-metre underwater casing and massive selection of mounts, even a remote control for operating the camera from a distance. Its footage isn't anything to write home about and its field of view isn’t especially wide. But it's still good value given the surfeit of mountings it comes with.
Veho Muvi HD NPNG Edition
Mechanical image stabilising systems have been around since 1978 when cinematographer Dean Cundey and director John Carpenter first unveiled their sequence of super smooth and undeniably scary POV tracking shots for the film ‘Halloween’. They were using what was to become known as the Steadicam , a system that allowed filmmakers to shoot fluidly smooth handheld footage while walking or running. But that was then… Today there are quite a few consumer-based stabilising systems on the market but few hold a candle to DJI’s startlingly efficient Osmo. Some call it a glorified selfie stick but the Osmo is so much more than that. The handheld Osmo is equipped with a three axis motorised gimbal and the same 4K camera as featured on DJI’s Inspire 1 UAV. However, do bear in mind that, like pretty much every other gimbal, the Osmo doesn’t have a fourth vertical axis so walking or running with it will create a gentle up/down motion, at least until you master the art of the ‘duck walk’ – bent knees and hands as steady as humanly possible.
The Osmo is comprised of a cylindrical grip, an egg-shaped 4k/1080p camera up top and a very cool smartphone holder. To use, simply attach a phone, log on to the Osmo’s own wifi circuit, launch the DJI Go app and you’re ready to start shooting. Pans are super smooth and you can also move the camera using the little thumb-operated joystick or by pressing your finger on the phone’s screen and dragging it across the image. And if you’re a selfie fan, simply tap the front button three times and the camera swivels 180˚ to face the user. All camera settings are performed via the app and footage is saved to a Micro SD card situated in the camera itself.
Now, it must be said that the Osmo isn’t without fault. Occasionally the horizon goes a bit squiffy (a gimbal calibration usually rectifies this) and the battery only lasts 60 minutes. But these anomalies pale into insignificance when compared to the onboard microphone. It really is awful to the point of being unusable. DJI is clearly aware of this and has posted a list of recommended external mics. We've looked at a couple of simple plug-in models from Edutige (www.edutige.net) and they both make a huge difference. The omnidirectional ETM-001 is probably the better model to go for since it picks up everything in a wide arc. The unidirectional ETM-008, on the other hand, picks up sound from the front only. However, it’s not as sensitive as the ETM-001 so you may need to ramp up the volume in post production. We think the best solution would be to use the omnidirectional ETM-001 with an extension cord (supplied as standard with the ETM-008 and also available separately) so you can either clip the mic to your lapel or fit it somewhere on the phone holder away from the camera section.
The Osmo is incredibly well built and is pretty easy to set up but it’s not a camera you just whip out when you see something going down. It takes at least three minutes to get it out of its superbly designed case, fit the phone, unlock the motors and log on to the wifi. But it’s well worth the hassle when you see the magnificent cinematic results it produces. See also the Osmo Mobile below.
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Polaroid’s flagship action camera bears close resemblance to the Ion Air Pro. Like the Ion and Contour+, a fumble-free sliding switch puts the XS100 into instant record – a reassuring asset for those wearing bulky gloves. This is the cheapest camera on the page but you wouldn’t know it judging by the lush 1080p HD footage it produces. It even has an orientation sensor that automatically flips the image when the camera is mounted upside down. The Polaroid XS100 is waterproof to ten metres but one thing it lacks is a smart phone app with which to compose images and make camera adjustments on the fly. But at least there’s a switch on the rear that allows you to flick between 30fps 1080p and 60fps 720p resolutions. The XS100 comes with fewer accessories than the others – a carry pouch and a pair of helmet and handlebar mounts – but at this price, who’s complaining?
The aptly named Chameleon has a multi-directional lens on either end, making it an ideal two-way helmet-mounted option for angry cyclists and motorcyclists to film themselves being cut up by inconsiderate motorists. It’s also a useful video device for anyone who wants to set up a dual perspective shoot without the need for an extra camera. Sadly, the quality of the Oregon Scientific ATC Chameleon’s 720p video is very poor. It isn’t too bad in bright light but when introduced to a sunset or indoor scene, the resulting picture turns out grainy and muddy. The auto-synced, twin-angle split screen presentation is irritating, too, as you’re required to focus your eyes on two images at once. The ATC Chameleon is an interesting concept, but most videographers and photo snappers would likely prefer to have a single-lens camera that shoots well – all the time.
Oregon Scientific ATC Chameleon
Ion Air Pro 2
UK based Ion may be a relative newcomer to the action camera arena but it’s entered with a cracker. Similar in design to that of the Contour+ 2, the Ion Air Pro 2 is a doddle to use but it doesn’t come bundled with many mounting options. Like the majority of action cams, the wide-angle Ion Air Pro shoots in a variety of formats (including 1080p) and can be controlled via a smartphone app. It's also waterproof to 10 metres. The quality of its footage is pretty darn good but not quite up there with the GoPro.
GoPro’s not the only action camera on the slopes. Here comes Sony with a little whopper that’s smaller, better equipped and just as cinematically endowed. The AS30 comes with a sharp 170˚ Carl Zeiss lens, a 60m underwater housing, hands-free wi-fi and NFC connection, and an excellent 120fps HD slow-mo option. The AS100V’s flattish barrel-shaped body is easy to hold in the hand and nicely streamlined for helmet use. Image quality is outstanding; it’s noticeably sharper than the GoPro’s 1080p setting and it packs much more vivid punch. Its sound recording quality is leagues ahead of the GoPro, too. But what really impresses here is the addition of SteadyShot stabilisation which irons out even the most violently shaky footage; an ideal option for mountain biking, running and any other active sports. A wrist watch-style Live View remote control is available separately.
The versatile little GoPro is ideal for capturing outdoor pursuits from the protagonist’s point of view. Its small dimensions, ultra-wide 170˚ field of view and wherewithal to be attached to items like helmets, bicycles, motorbikes and surfboards help give give stills – and video – a real sense of drama. The newly updated 12mp HERO 4 produces crisp panoramic images and shoots video at a variety of HD resolutions, including 4K at 30fps. It can also be operated via a smartphone or tablet app. Use it underwater with the supplied 60-metre underwater housing and you’ll be truly amazed by the vivid results.
GoPro HERO 4 Black
Here’s something to give the GoPro a run for its money. It looks like a GoPro too, but then there are several GoPro lookalikes coming out of the Far East right now. The BlackVue comes from Korea and features a Sony Exmor 12MP sensor and a rear two-inch LCD monitor. Those two facets alone should prick up the eyebrows of any action cam fan. Device Squad gave the SC500 a whirl in the danger-filled environment of a back garden and can report that it admirably passes great muster. The underwater housing too, proved very successful in a swimming pool test.
There aren’t nearly as many functions as the GoPro offers but that can be a good thing given that camera’s finger-twisting fiddliness. The BlackVue shoots at 1080p at 60fps to 720p at 120fps and offers users the wherewithal to access their two favourite frame rates via a simple button press. Sadly, you can’t change the fixed 157˚ view. Like the GoPro, the SC500 can be operated using an iOS or Android app so you can see what the camera sees when mounted in an inaccessible position. However, for some bizarre reason the monitor goes blank as soon as you start shooting. Nevertheless, the BlackVue at least sports a much faster streaming speed than the GoPro, which is usually a good few seconds behind real time.
Picture quality? Very good, it must be said, and not too bad in low light either. It isn’t any better than the mid-priced GoPro Silver but for roughly the same price you’re getting a pretty decent little monitor for shot composition. A good effort all round, we thinks.
BlackVue Sport SC500
Panasonic’s taken a completely different approach with this wearable camera by separating its lightweight bullet-shaped lens (just 31 grams) from the main electronics unit by means of a 60cm water-resistant cable. This split component method is great for users like skydivers and kayakers (it’s waterproof to around five feet) who usually mount their action cams to the side of their heads. However, that cable means it’s not so good for mounting on machinery like bikes and boats. The A500 has four USPs: 4K video recording; image stabilisation; a level shot function that keeps the horizon straight; and a rotating lens. Four reasons to bite the bullet.
While GoPro is still the most popular action cam on the market, Drift has started making a name for itself as a viable alternative. The Ghost-S has a built-in Gorilla Glass LCD monitor which makes framing very easy. It also comes with a belt-mounted remote replete with flashing lights to tell you whether it’s recording or not. Like the GoPro, the Ghost-S shoots wide 160˚ video and supports several different frame rates (from 25fps at 1080p to 240fps for low-res slowmo). But unlike the GoPro, you can operate this rubbery cam with gloves on and swivel the lens a full 360˚ for fuss-free helmet mounting.
Rollei Sunglasses Cam 200
These camera-equipped sunglasses are no svelte Google Glass imitation, but credit where credit’s due, optics manufacturer Rollei has made a fair fist of producing a pair of shades that don’t look like NHS spectacles, circa 1957. The Rollei’s centre-mounted 135˚ lens shoots either Full HD video or stills and saves it all to a MicroSD card. Image quality doesn’t light up the world but it’s far from unacceptable; centre sharpness is fine but there’s a lot of softness around the edges. Nevertheless, for action sports and especially driving, you could do a lot worse than slap a pair of these on your visage.
Visually diarise your entire day with this low-res, five-megapixel, multi sensor-equipped clip-on camera that intelligently selects its own ‘interesting’ subject matter and then automatically fires the shutter repeatedly throughout the day. Of course, this means that when you get home, you’ll have as many as 1,000 crappy fisheye images to wade through, but chances are you’ll have at least a dozen keepsake shots for the memories bank and another bunch of diary pics for your TwitFace account. If you can be arsed.
If you’re tired of shaky smartphone footage and yearn for butter-smooth cinematic visuals, add a DJI Osmo Mobile to your armoury. The Bluetooth-enabled Osmo Mobile features a swivelling three-axis gimbal and a slick adjustable clamp to accommodate any Android or iOS phone up to the size of an iPhone 7 Plus. It works just brilliantly. On-the-move shooting produces remarkably fluid visuals with no shakiness whatsoever while panning is smooth as silk. And there’s more. Switch it to Active Tracking and the phone’s camera tracks a person’s motion no matter where they move. Or select Motion Time-lapse for fully automated hyper-lapse movies. It even does selfies! Essential kit for the serious phonographer.