The Complete Guide to Buying a Helmet Camcorder

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The Complete Guide to Buying a Helmet Camcorder

When buying a helmet camcorder, the decision is often focused solely on the various features offered by the different models under consideration. While these differences can be significant to the experience of operating the camcorder, they should not exert such undue influence that all other factors are neglected. Helmet camcorders are costly devices, so buying the wrong one can be an expensive mistakes. A little extra research is all that is required to ensure the best camcorder is selected for the chosen application.

Camcorders and the Law

When engaging in a sport or activity while wearing a helmet camcorder, the operator will be creating a record of events which can later be used as evidence. This can work in their favour should they, for example, be involved in a road traffic accident which is not their fault. However, it should be remembered that it is also a source of evidence which can be used against them.
If stopped by the police, any recording equipment may be confiscated and the recording reviewed. The camcorder owner can then be prosecuted for every instance of law breaking that the footage contains. A single motorbike journey with multiple examples of speeding can result in the rider losing their license. For this reason, the decision to use a helmet camcorder to film such illegal activity should not be taken lightly.

Choosing a Helmet Camcorder

When choosing a helmet camcorder, it is important to match the camcorder to the chosen activity. It may be the case that the most suitable camcorder does not necessarily have the best technical specification.
When comparing camcorders, it is worth considering any alternative sports and activities where it might be used. Many camcorders offer a range of accessories, and these can be worth investigating. Doing so can allow a device to be selected which has the potential to be upgraded at some point to enable it to be used in a different role.

Air Resistance

For higher speed activities, such as motorcycling, the most aerodynamic device might well be the best choice. Some designs of camcorder are more streamlined, providing less wind resistance. When comparing camcorders for aerodynamic efficiency, look for models which have the smallest possible frontal area. The weight of the camcorder is also worth considering as for heavier camcorders, the buffeting action of the wind will put greater strain on the camcorder mounts.

Water Resistance

Where an activity unavoidably involves water, such as canoeing, only the highest level of waterproofing will be acceptable. However, for other activities, it also needs to be a consideration. When it rains, a camcorder mounted on a motorbike helmet will encounter considerable amounts of water directed forcibly at it. Mountain bike accidents can also expose the camcorder to significant amounts of water.
Helmet camcorders offer varying levels of water protection, from basic splash resistance through to fully waterproof models which can be submerged to depths in excess of 50 metres.
Some manufacturers also offer enhanced waterproofing in the form of additional outer cases. These can either be bought with the camcorder as a package at the time of purchase or later as an accessory.

Robustness

In some activities, such as motorbike touring, an accident will hopefully be an extremely rare occurrence. On the other hand, when engaging in some other leisure pursuits, such as mountain biking or skiing, accidents are seen as an occupational hazard. If the helmet camcorder is intended to be used to film pursuits where mishaps are common, then due consideration should be given to the robustness of the devices being contemplated.
Smaller helmet camcorders will generally fair better in an accident than larger ones as they are more easily positioned out of the way. Some thought should be given to the location of the unit on the helmet as this can have a significant bearing on how well the unit fairs if it is involved in a crash. Generally, mounting the camcorder to the top of the helmet will afford the best protection. However, for some activities, notably canoeing, locating it on the side of the helmet will be the best option.
If the chosen helmet camcorder is to be subjected to a fair amount of abuse, it is worth considering models with replaceable lenses. Damage to the camcorder lens does not then necessarily mean the camcorder is a write off. Some camcorders also come with transparent protective lens caps although using these can sometimes result in a lower image quality.

Camcorder Features

Choosing a camcorder which lacks sufficient features can mean it requires upgrading prematurely. However, it also makes little sense to pay more for a camcorder with functionality that is never used.
There are a wealth of different features offered by the various helmet camcorders on the market. With so much choice, it can be a good idea to note which features would be useful during the process of comparison. When prioritised, this list can be a useful way to find which particular camcorders are the best match. Some of the more common features are listed in the table below.

 

Connectivity

Check the compatibility of the wired (e.g. HDMi, USB) and wireless (e.g. Wi-Fi, Bluetooth) connectivity on offer.

Laser Level

Some models offer a laser levelling facility to avoid the picture looking crooked when replayed.

Rotatable Lens

Allows the picture on the mounted camcorder to be levelled without having to move the whole device.

Digital Zoom

Can increase the versatility of the device, particularly when used for still photography.

Remote Confirmation

Once the helmet mounted device is being worn, it can be useful to know that the desired option has been successfully selected. The unit provides confirmation by vibrating or emitting a beeping tone.

External Microphone

Useful for allowing a running commentary to be recorded. Can help reduce excessive wind noise.

Image Quality

Helmet camcorders are capable of recording in high definition at frame rates which match, or even exceed, those of a broadcast television picture. On many devices, the format of high definition as well as the frame rate can be specified.
Choosing a lower format of high definition, such as 720p, can be an effective way of maximising the storage space available. It also allows the picture to be reproduced on older high definition televisions which only support this format.
Increasing the frame rate from the standard 30 to 60 frames per second will allow important moments of the action to be displayed in clear slow motion. However, doubling the frame rate will inevitably halve the length of footage that can be held by the device.

Viewfinder

Not all models have viewfinders as once the device is mounted to a helmet and the helmet is worn, the viewfinder becomes largely redundant. Different manufacturers offer various alternative solutions for this problem.
One answer is to simply do away with having a viewfinder altogether. The camcorder confirms an operation, such as commencing to record, by emitting a tone or vibrating. A light will usually provide visual confirmation of the current status.
Some manufacturers supply separate wired or wireless viewfinders, either packaged with the camcorder or available as an upgrade. These are sometimes wrist-mounted to allow the device to be remotely controlled and for checking the current footage.
Another solution is for the camcorder to offer the facility to be connected to by a smartphone. The camcorder can then be accessed via an app, which allows the phone to act as both controller and viewfinder.

Conclusion

Buying a helmet mounted camcorder does require careful consideration as there is a great deal of diversity among the current products on the market. Consider the full range of current and future uses for the camcorder to ensure right one is purchased. Matching the camcorder to the activity will mean the camcorder will be able to cope with any harsh conditions encountered. It is worth making a prioritised list of desired features and then using this to identify the camcorder which is the most suitable. With a little planning and some careful research, it should be possible to get the best possible match between camcorder and buyer.

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