Action Video Cameras - Lights! Camera! Action!
Be the next YouTube star with your own track video using action cams
Check out the Action Camera Comparison video at the end of the article!
You can literally spend days perusing YouTube watching Mustang (and Ford-powered) action videos. From sideways drift machines to wheels up drag racing and hot laps at Laguna Seca, there's new video content being uploaded daily and it's easy to do with digital action cameras.
Video recording has come a long way with regard to equipment, as well as the types of video being made. No longer do you have to solely rely on those old Polaroid prints for posterity. Video is a rapidly growing medium that offers a different experience. Video walk-arounds offer prospective vehicle buyers a more intimate look, and they get to hear the sound of the vehicle they are buying as well. This is ever more beneficial with today's online car marketplaces like eBay and Craigslist.
In-car video can record track event experiences, and can be used to educate the driver or other drivers on various track topics. You can even mount the cameras under the cars to watch suspensions articulate or to watch how a tire grabs the track at launch. There's also the endless entertainment on sites like YouTube where people create their own movies—the ways in which we use video continue to grow every day.
It wasn't so easy when we first started taking all this great video, and there are millions of personal and quite bulky VHS-based video cameras on closet shelves as evidence of where we started. As technology has improved, we have seen the cameras get smaller and lighter to the point where racers started rollbar-mounting their palm-sized video cameras that used VHS-C, Mini-DV, or 8mm video tape cartridges. However, while the technology improved, it still meant dismounting the camera and connecting it to a TV to watch or using expensive equipment to transfer it to a computer.
As the computer age spread to consumer electronics, we started to see small personal video cameras that didn't use any tape or moving parts. Instead, they recorded video on internal memory. These handy little gems meant that recording video just about anywhere was as simple as aiming and pressing a button. Connecting them directly to your computer via a Universal Serial Bus (USB) cable allowed quick and easy video transfer, and the online/Internet video boom happened just like that.
While we can't say for sure when the wearable/mountable action cam market started, most car enthusiasts will agree that their first notice of such "action cams" was in 2008 with the release of the GoPro Digital Hero camera. It allowed users to mount the camera just about anywhere with its adhesive-backed mounting brackets or optional suction-cup mount. Today, the GoPro is not only better in every way, but there are several other competitors vying for your action cam dollars. These cameras all take great video (and still photos as well!), but each has its own set of mounting system options, feature sets, and functionality traits.
We rounded up the latest cameras in this segment to show you what's out there and how they work. We not only photographed each unit in our photo studio, but we also "test drove" each one (you can find the testdrive videos, along with expanded text and photos, on our website as part of the digital version of this story). You can find these cameras for sale directly through the various manufacturers' websites and at major electronics and sporting goods retailers.
One of the first things that might jump out at you with the ContourROAM2 (www.contour.com) is its price point. It may be the lowest priced cam in our roundup, but don't let that fool you into thinking it's of lesser quality than others we tested. The ContourROAM2 is a solid unit, utilizing an aluminum housing and quality optics. A traditional "lipstick" cam shape and size, the ContourROAM2 can be easily mounted to a vehicle with the included adhesive mounts or an optional suction-cup mount, and it also features a standard ¼-20 tripod mount socket for stationary video use or tripod-based universal mounts. The ContourROAM2 is also the only camera in our test group that is available in colors (red, blue, green, and black). Its 270-degree field of view ensures you catch all the action, but like most wide viewing angles, it can show slight distortion at the edges or with close-up action.