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Shoot your ride

13 June, 2012

Sharing and recording your ride is easy when you’re packing a modern video camera. Rowan Lamont tested five options.

Tiny cameras and smart phones have helped make video recording easily accessible to us all, while free web hosting sites such as YouTube make it simple to reveal the results to the world.

And there is a now a big range of great quality video cameras designed to strap onto your bike or helmet so that you can do something wild and crazy and then show your friends afterwards. The technology has advanced in leaps and bounds in recent years, with footage capable of being captured in high-definition (HD) quality and video editing software that is very easy to use.

The cameras in our test make it easy for cyclists to record a ride, share it with friends and re-live the good times, although one of the other interesting uses these cameras have been put to is recording footage of dangerous driving. But don’t think simply having a camera on your bicycle means vehicle registration plates will be recorded; I found factors such as speed, refresh rate, and lighting conditions affected the clarity of such details.

Vibrations were most noticeable with cameras mounted to handlebars or bicycle frames, while the most stable footage was provided by the IMGing sunglasses. Image stabilising software can be used to help sharpen the footage.

Some of the mounting brackets facilitated very creative camera positioning. The most enjoyable footage to watch had a point of reference in the shot such as handlebars, forks, or a part of the rider which allowed the viewer to get a sense of movement and speed.

Some of the wide angled lenses (170 degrees) tended to distort the edges of the image with street lamps and trees bending into the image. However these lenses are also fantastic at capturing scenery and give the viewer a feeling of being right in the centre of the action. Sadly they also reduce the size of objects – I particularly noticed this when a friend filmed me riding a wild and crazy rock-drop, only to review the footage and it appear like I’d ridden off little more than the edge of a curb!

Understanding how to get the most out of the lens takes some practice. The weight of the cameras when mounted on a helmet had an odd effect on balance which took a little while to get used to, and of course riding a mountain bike on bushy trails did result in a few close­-ups of low branches and shrubs.

Another issue to consider is that most of these cameras don’t give you the ability to see what you are recording – you have to wait until you load the footage into a computer – so you may not know you’ve got the framing and angle all wrong until after the ride is over.

I found the memory cards to be more limiting than the battery power. Some of the cameras allow the resolution to be adjusted, which helped increase the time filming, but the compromise was less sharp footage. If you are going on extended trips away from a computer, use the largest flash memory card and take some extras cards and batteries.

All the cameras suffered from wind noise passing across the microphone, while the sound sensitivity on the Go Pro and Drift were compromised by their cases. Additional microphones could be used with some of the cameras, although it removes the camera’s resistance to water. Some riders get around this by using a microphone attached to their phone or similar audio recording device, then overlay the sound onto the video in the editing software. Remote microphones may still be a thing for the future.


Go Pro HD Hero 2 

$399 comes with mounts

There is nothing subtle about this camera and no getting away from the fact that you have a box stuck to your head. Some think this can calm traffic as it is very obvious you are videoing. Fortunately the image quality makes up for style demerit points. This is a serious piece of equipment capable of making top-quality footage.

  • Totally waterproof case (with poor sound quality) that can be easily replaced, including lens cover if damaged in a spill.
  • Bright, sharp and clear images.
  • Clumsy mounting system that can loosen with high speed vibrations.

Verdict: 80%


Drift HD 1080P

$319 comes with mounts

This is a versatile camera that lends itself to many applications, not just cycling. An onboard screen is helpful to set up a shot and allows you to review footage away from the computer. A remote on/off button can be attached to a wrist or handlebar, adding more functionality.  A good quality reasonably priced HD camera.

  • Rotating lens allows it to be mounted on any angle.
  • Quite bulky.
  • Great quality imagery, but poor internal microphone.

Verdict: 82%


Contour Roam HD

$299 mounts extra

A tough cylindrical casing contains an excellent camera with rotating lens to help frame shots. A huge sliding on/off button leaves you in no doubt as to whether it is working or not. A laser helps to identify where the camera is aimed at. This is a great helmet camera due to its low profile and it also has excellent mounting accessories for many other applications.

  • Big sliding button leaves you in no doubt and is simple to operate.
  • Low profile shape.
  • Very clear and bright image.

Verdict: 85%


Veho Muvi Micro

$119.95 mounts extra

This is a fun camera for capturing you and your friends out riding. The resolution is low and therefore detail and clarity is lost. It is very light and small, making it inconspicuous and easy to mount to clothing, straps, bike or helmet. This is not in the same category as the HD cameras but is a reasonable introduction or recreational camera suitable for commuting or just having fun.

  • Image quality could capture stationary number plates within 2.5 metres, sound was susceptible to wind noise.
  • Brilliantly small and versatile.
  • Helmet mount is flimsy and does not inspire confidence.

Verdict: 65%


IMGing Glasses


Now for something completely different! These glasses incorporate a camera between the lenses and are aimed squarely at the sports enthusiast. Wherever you look, it sees. The lenses were excellent and performed as a high quality set of glasses. A lower image resolution than other HD cameras on test, it was nevertheless more than adequate for documenting the riding I did.

  • Surprising image quality, colour was a little saturated.
  • Simple button operation was easy to control through gloves.
  • Excellent lens quality.

Verdict: 78%

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Ride2Wk permalink
    27 July, 2012 8:38 pm

    I have a GoPro that I’ve used for years. It comes with 2 different case backs – 1 waterproof, 1 with open panels. I use the open 1 for most rides even if there is a little bit of rain as the sound is much better than the waterproof back.

    On the number plates – I always call out the number so that it’s recorded on the audio as the video is often not good enough in poor light.

    Also watch out if you bash it as the card can pop out and stop filming. If it pops out then put it back in and wait for it to finalise the last video otherwise it gets lost. As I found out when I had the camera handlebar mounted and I got knocked over by a car only to lose the footage I so wanted to keep 😦

  2. Craig permalink
    6 September, 2012 10:45 am

    Hi Rowan,

    Great summary on action cams. Really appreciated the varied cameras tested.
    Do you have information of the record time (mins) of various memory/SD cards?

    Will there be a follow-up when Sony releases their action cam ( What’s your impression of this camera?


  3. Rowan permalink
    7 September, 2012 10:03 am

    Thanks for your feedback, and some great tips – I like the idea of calling out the number plate.

    We were unable to make accurate comparisons of memory storage. The cameras were supplied with different SD cards and it is possible to swap-in your own cards of different sizes. Some of the cameras were able to record at various resolutions which meant a fair comparison was tricky to do.

    There are some new cameras coming out which we would love to test, the Sony being one of them.


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