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JG Pasterjak
JG Pasterjak Production/Art Director
6/26/17 10:03 a.m.

Remember back in the 1970s, when video cameras were large, expensive and heavy implements that were complicated to use and produced, at best, mediocre images? And do you also remember how many pictures of Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster and UFOs we saw on a near-daily basis?

Nowadays, literally everyone is carrying a high-quality camera 24 hours a day. The result? We have thousands of hours of video from a regional autocross in Des Moines, Iowa, yet no better shots of everyone’s favorite proto-humanoid, never mind our visitors from the Andromeda galaxy.

Friends, this can prove only one thing: Motorsports are more important than Bigfoot.

Today the options for ignoring forest-dwelling bipedal abominations in favor of recording your racing antics are better than ever. You can now walk into any number of big-box retailers and leave, just a few hundred dollars lighter, with a tiny camera capable of shooting feature-film quality moving images. But which one should you choose?

We’ve tried to collect the info for some of the most popular offerings in the ever-shifting marketplace, and provide them along with some feedback based on our hands-on experiences. Although any guide like this needs to be prefaced with a caution that any technology market is highly volatile and prone to frequent changes, two of the heavy hitters in the market–GoPro and Garmin–just released new hardware, so things should be relatively stable at the moment.

Here’s a quick rundown of what we reviewed for each camera.

Price: Listed here are MSRP. Street prices are frequently lower, and promotions in this market are frequent.

Max resolution: We list maximum resolution and frame rate of a video file. All cameras are capable of shooting at lower resolutions than the max listed, and lower resolutions frequently can be used with higher frame rates to produce excellent slow-motion video.

Image stabilization: Both digital and optical image stabilization are finding their ways into high-end action cams. Good stabilization can turn otherwise unusable video into something perfectly watchable. If you drive a kart or a formula car, or a particularly stiff door-slammer, this might be a feature you want to consider as it can considerably reduce shake.

Built-in screen: Most action cams don’t have actual screens, meaning the camera can’t show what it’s recording. Many are Wi-Fi- or Bluetooth-compatible, though, so you can use your phone as a viewfinder. Most cameras do, however, have small interface displays to allow you to navigate menus.

*This guide was published in the June 2017 issue of Grassroots Motorsports. Prices listed are MSRP at the time of publishing and do not include promotional prices.

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GameboyRMH
GameboyRMH MegaDork
6/26/17 10:15 a.m.

I'm surprised nothing from SJCAM made it into the comparison, they tend to be good deals in terms of dollars vs. features.

Andre33
Andre33 New Reader
6/27/17 8:23 a.m.

Jon's looking good ;)

Couple notes on this article, the Replay Prime-X is no longer in production and Replay as a company has been sold.

Cam-Do offers GoPro controller interfaces now, basically, it connects to select Hero models and allows them to be remotely triggered via USB. Handy for Traqmate owners.

Another company that offers interesting camera solutions and bluetooth audio integration is SENA.

Mobius is a great budget option and can be constantly powered via USB. Perfect for rear view as well.

moxnix
moxnix HalfDork
6/27/17 8:48 a.m.

I like my Virb Ultra 30 because of the ability to connect it to a bluetooth OBD2 reader and get data from that as well as the built in GPS for speed and track mapping.

https://www.youtube.com/embed/Ro10T-qOE6c?ecver=1

Ed Higginbotham
Ed Higginbotham Associate Editor
6/27/17 9:10 a.m.

In reply to Andre33:

Thanks for the update notes, Andre33. It's amazing how quickly this market moves.

Stefan
Stefan MegaDork
6/27/17 1:34 p.m.

In reply to moxnix:

for $400 I would hope you'd like it. Sheesh. I'd have to be damned serious about track events to pony up that kind of coin. Cool footage though.

Emilio700
Emilio700 New Reader
6/27/17 4:43 p.m.

Hero 5 does not offer spot metering so it's functionally useless in a closed car. We found out the hard way. Ironic that the company founder is a "car guy" but so detached from his billion dollar company that this oversight made it through product development and into production.

Knurled
Knurled MegaDork
6/27/17 7:07 p.m.

In reply to moxnix:

The GPS track/speed overlay is exactly why I want a VIRB.

Be neat if someone could get one to talk on Megasquirt's CAN protocol but I am not going to hold my breath.

GameboyRMH
GameboyRMH MegaDork
6/28/17 9:33 a.m.
Emilio700 wrote: Hero 5 does not offer spot metering so it's functionally useless in a closed car. We found out the hard way. Ironic that the company founder is a "car guy" but so detached from his billion dollar company that this oversight made it through product development and into production.

It's especially strange that they made this oversight after putting spot metering into the 1st-gen GoPro!

caffeine357
caffeine357 New Reader
11/24/17 10:28 a.m.

so having caught up on this and seeing a deal on the hero 5 black at costco.

https://www.costco.com/GoPro-HERO5-Black-Action-Camera-Bundle.product.100376560.html

Thats still not an option due to the spot metering? i would primarily be mounting this in a car.

sleepyhead
sleepyhead HalfDork
11/24/17 2:30 p.m.
caffeine357 said:

so having caught up on this and seeing a deal on the hero 5 black at costco.

https://www.costco.com/GoPro-HERO5-Black-Action-Camera-Bundle.product.100376560.html

Thats still not an option due to the spot metering? i would primarily be mounting this in a car.

Probably not.  The inside of a car is real dark, and comprises the "majority of the frame"... so anything outside is blown out whiteness / out of focus... unless you mount it to the dash and all it sees is outside (but, then, no "driver view" is available)

Austincrx
Austincrx New Reader
1/19/18 11:24 a.m.

I would just like to know which cameras make good shots of what is going on outside the car, from inside the car.

I have an original GP Hero and lets just say that when you're inside the car, you can see inside the car, and when you're outside the car, you can see outside the car, but there is nothing in between, and you can't change many settings.

Does the iON Pro Light offer good viewing through a windshield?  (P.s. it's $65 at Walmart now)

Stefan
Stefan MegaDork
1/19/18 11:41 a.m.

In reply to Austincrx :

Here's my cheap Chinese 1080P Go-Pro Knock-off mounted inside the windshield of my FoRS:

https://www.youtube.com/embed/jzPt3oF0RRo

The real issue is that the lighting and focus needs for inside versus outside are completely different, so unless you add a bunch of lighting inside the car (and annoy the driver) you'll always struggle with that to some extent unless you can use a camera with a much more expensive and larger set of sensors and lenses.

For the average joe, using more than one camera is the solution that some choose to use.  One pointed inside at the driver, etc. with perhaps some added lighting to the footwell, etc. to avoid blinding the driver and one mounted looking outside.  The cameras are getting cheap enough and the mounts improving to the point where it becomes much less expensive and less of a hassle to use multiple cameras.

JackOlsen
JackOlsen New Reader
1/19/18 12:08 p.m.

What am I, a Rockefeller?  smiley

A Mobius 2 camera costs $60 and is 1080p with a wide-angle lens.  I use two of them, each 'hardwired' through a USB cord.  They switch on when I turn the car on and switch off 10 seconds after I turn the car off -- I never have to think about the system when I'm driving, which is worth its weight in gold.  I also don't have to ever wory about charging batteries.  I add data using RaceRender software.
 

 

kb58
kb58 SuperDork
1/19/18 12:18 p.m.

I've had several different models of GoPro and will never buy another (never mind the company now being for sale, or not). Both my brother and I are fed up with them "bricking" temporarily, resetting, forgetting settings, not turning on the "recording" LED, etc. My brother switched to the Sony action cam and has only good things to say about it. I'm still "using" the GoPro but am looking for a replacement.

dowroa
dowroa None
1/19/18 1:50 p.m.

I have yet to do in-depth research, but talk of the GoPro 6 is not on here. Any reason? Does it solve the "spot metering" problem in the 5 Black?

Tom_Spangler
Tom_Spangler UberDork
1/19/18 2:26 p.m.
JackOlsen said:

What am I, a Rockefeller?  smiley

A Mobius 2 camera costs $60 and is 1080p with a wide-angle lens.  I use two of them, each 'hardwired' through a USB cord.  They switch on when I turn the car on and switch off 10 seconds after I turn the car off -- I never have to think about the system when I'm driving, which is worth its weight in gold.  I also don't have to ever wory about charging batteries.  I add data using RaceRender software.
 

 

Yeah, I'm in the "cheap knockoff" camp, too.  Santa brought me an Eken H9R.  Came with a bunch of mounts, shoots 4K, and has good reviews on Amazon.  I haven't done anything exciting enough to warrant trying it out yet, but for the price, I figure it's pretty hard to go wrong.

Driven5
Driven5 SuperDork
1/19/18 3:15 p.m.
sleepyhead said:
caffeine357 said:

so having caught up on this and seeing a deal on the hero 5 black at costco.

https://www.costco.com/GoPro-HERO5-Black-Action-Camera-Bundle.product.100376560.html

Thats still not an option due to the spot metering? i would primarily be mounting this in a car.

Probably not.  The inside of a car is real dark, and comprises the "majority of the frame"... so anything outside is blown out whiteness / out of focus... unless you mount it to the dash and all it sees is outside (but, then, no "driver view" is available)

I wonder how securely you'd have to mount a shop light inside the car to get it to pass tech?

sleepyhead
sleepyhead HalfDork
1/19/18 10:31 p.m.

In reply to Driven5 :

how about velcro and some white sheets?

te72
te72 New Reader
1/20/18 12:19 a.m.

Would have a lot of fun with a selection of cameras. The irony lies in that my computer is old enough that editing the videos may not even be feasible. :p

Scargod
Scargod New Reader
1/20/18 7:19 a.m.

I have been using a Hero 3 Black for a while and have certainly had some issues with it as to reliably recording and battery life. Almost more negatives and uncertainty of ending up with video than it's worth. Reluctant to upgrade to another Hero.
Last summer I bought a Panasonic Lumix GH5. I adapted it to my roll bar and have a crude way of stabilizing it in the car. Here is an example of what it can do. This is at LRP. Possibly a rough track would require more serious stabilizing  for its mass. My suspension is race level stiff.

freetors
freetors New Reader
1/20/18 8:29 a.m.

Just say no to gopro. They've been resting on the success of their original models for years and really haven't improved anything since. The user interface of them is atrocious when you're trying to change settings, or set up a recording. And you can never really trust if it's actually doing what you think it is. When they first launched they were on the top of the market in regards to image quality. But time has moved on and their image quality has not gotten any better. You can almost always tell when something is filmed on a gopro and that's really not a compliment.

Plus the way gopro's business is running they'll be lucky to still be making cameras in a year or two.

Stefan
Stefan MegaDork
1/20/18 2:42 p.m.

I mean, how can you go wrong with something like this?

https://www.groupon.com/deals/gs-e-jaguar-inspire-4k-hd-action-sport-wifi-camera-gopro-style-waterproof

$76 for a 4K capable camera that can also work as a dash cam and includes various attachments and mounts.

Its touchscreen and there are models with WiFi capability.

If it fails, then you're only out $76 versus $3-400, same if it falls off or gets wiped out in an accident.

Sure it doesn't have GPS or OBD overlay capabilities, but then there's software called Race Render that you can use to apply that afterward, plus mix in multiple camera angles, etc.

One thing I noticed while watching the latest Grand Tour?  They don't do a lot of camera angles that primarily show both the inside and outside of the car.  They focus a camera or two on the driver while they are doing driving/talking stuff and they have cameras mounted outside for the outside of the car stuff.  Now granted, they use separate mics to capture the sounds and mix them in, but that's one of the things you get with a professional crew.  You can also see in some shots the various GoPro style cameras mounted in the windshield/windows.

trakktapedude
trakktapedude New Reader
1/20/18 4:31 p.m.

I have been using a YI 4K camera for over a year and it is just incredible. more features and better performance than GoPro and HALF the price. VERY easy to use and perfect for in car, on track use. 

Mine was $200. Very complete control of all settings through a well done iPhone app. 

Nugi
Nugi New Reader
1/20/18 5:54 p.m.

I use the older Yi dashcam, and its amazing for the price if you need a dashcam, but is a bit limited for a full race documentation soluntion. I really do like the wifi review.

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