Guide to Helmet Cams

If you’re the adventurous type – skateboarder, mountain biker, snow-boarder, etc. – a new breed of digital camcorder can help capture your epic moments (or epic fails). The helmet cam, or sports camcorder, is a durable video camera capable of being clipped to a helmet or handlebar to capture a first person view of your adventures.

What’s a Helmet Cam?

A helmet cam is essentially a small, rugged camcorder that’s sold with a variety of hooks and clamps that allow the user to attach the camcorder to several surfaces, typically bicycle helmets and handlebars but even skateboards and snowboards.

Thanks to flash memory, camcorders have been able to shrink in size and become much more durable – able to withstand bumps and vibrations without interrupting video recording. Helmet cams use the advantages of flash memory to deliver very small, lightweight yet very shock-resistant camcorders to sports enthusiasts.

Helmet Cam Features:

As you’d expect, helmet cams are not meant to be handled much by the user. After you strap it onto your head, you can’t be expected to fiddle with things like a zoom lens or other camcorder settings. So helmet cams have a very bare bones set of controls – usually an on/off switch and a large “record” button which can be pressed down even if you’re wearing gloves. That’s about it.

Helmet cams typically don’t offer built-in flash memory but record to removable memory card, either SDHC or the smaller microSD format. They come in both standard and high definition resolutions as well, and some allow you to adjust your resolution to preserve memory card space. The video quality itselfcan vary, but don’t expect the same performance as you would from a traditional camcorder.

The lenses and processors on a helmet camcorder can’t match the quality of those found on higher-end camcorders.

Aside from being durable (able to withstand some falls and bumps), they’re also weatherproof, so they can get splashed with water or snow. Note: this isn’t to say they’re all fully waterproof. Most helmet cams are not meant to be submerged underwater for extended periods of time.

While they’re pretty bare-bones as far as features go, helmet cams do have a few bells and whistles. Some models have incorporated GPS chips inside them so you can geo-tag your videos, plotting them out on a map when you’ve loaded them onto your computer. Others offer Bluetooth, so you can stream previews of your video to a smartphone (helmet cams usually don’t offer LCD displays to preview your scene before you film it).

Helmet Cams Not For Everyone

Obviously, if you’re not big into outdoor adventures or aren’t auditioning for the X-Games, a helmet cam isn’t a good choice. If you’re a sporting enthusiast but don’t need a first-person view of the action (or don’t need your hands for steering), consider a rugged, waterproof model instead as it will offer you more features for the money. Speaking of money, helmet cameras range from about $99 to $350, depending on the features and resolution.

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