POV cameras are designed to capture your personal, unique point of view and we’re seeing them everywhere. They’ve gotten smaller, smarter, lighter and more durable and it seems everyone wants to own one.
The greatest film directors are known for their unique perspectives as much as they are their special effects, blockbuster casts and memorable scores. Spielberg, Scorsese, Tarantino, Coppola ... the list and rankings change based on who you ask, but what is one thing each is a master of? The use of point of view, or POV imagery. What used to take months of preparation and hours of execution to capture the perfect shot, can now be replicated with a brand of camera synonymous with HD POV: the GoPro. Whether it's the HERO3+ Black Edition and it's 4K video capabilities, or the earliest GoPro models that have humble beginnings and shot on 35mm film, from the moment this miniature camera manufacturer came on the scene in 2004, the way life has been captured will never be the same.
Don't be surprised if the way we capture unique perspectives evolves beyond the amazing content we've already seen.
Walk into any big box retail store and you'll find a dedicated point-of-sale post featuring GoPro cameras and a wide swath of accessories. From bar mounts to Wi-Fi remotes, GoPro seems to have thought of everything, and in the process, gained a seemingly insurmountable majority of the mountable POV camera market. While GoPro cameras seem to offer limitless possibilities, there are other options that deliver comparable picture quality, durability and user friendly features.
In this article, we've highlighted eight of the most readily available mountable cameras on the market today. The POV camera market is certainly gaining in both popularity and accessibility, and as technology advances, processors get faster, and systems get smaller, don't be surprised if the way we capture unique perspectives evolves beyond the amazing content we've already seen delivered by GoPro cameras and the other POV cameras listed here.
The Black Standard
It's hard to argue with the innovative design and functionality of the HERO3+ Black Edition camera ($400) Not only does this camera offer incredible 4K video quality, 12 MP photos, and extreme sports capabilities that range from 130-foot dives under the sea, to soaring loops high above it, GoPro's mastery of mountable cameras has been hard to top. That said, when consumers are comparing POV cameras, they often use the HERO3+ Black Edition as the gold standard when vetting video cameras. Try as they might, many competitors have come and gone from the POV camera market, but few have held up to the performance of this miniature marvel of HD POV design. If budget isn't an issue and you want to flex your creativity in capturing unique perspectives, this is the camera for you.
Sony's HDR-AS100 ($300) boasts an innovative design that allows users to run longer, dive deeper, and capture anything the trail throws their way. With Sony's trademarked SteadyShot technology, the HDR-AS100 promises the moments captured in this 2.4oz. POV camera will play back almost as clear as the actual moments themselves. The lightweight and rugged casing protects the HDR-AS100 from the best — and worst, your extreme sports can throw at it. With a solid lineup of accessories, there’s little to stop you from strapping the HDR-AS100 onto your biplane, bike or body the next time you aim to capture some unique perspectives.
Addicted to POV
JVC has always delivered consumer camcorders that stretch the boundaries of size, while packing a hefty punch in picture quality. The Japanese manufacturer takes on the POV camera market with two feature-loaded HD POV offerings in the GC-XA1 and GC-XA2 cameras. If you're addicted to extreme sports, then either camera could be a great fit. The innovative design is retained in the GC-XA2 ($300) which offers a feather-light body (135 grams with battery and memory card), and extremely wide 160-170 degree perspective lens, a built in 1.5-inch LCD screen that allows you to relive your most epic rides in real-time, but perhaps the best feature, inverse picture functionality, which allows you to swivel your shot on the fly; talk about unique perspectives! Lightweight, beefed up features, and probably saving you money on accessories, for the extreme sports enthusiast, the GC-XA2 can deliver big results.
Walking on Air
One of the major entrants into the HD POV game is iON. The company prides itself on being a disruptive game-changer, and all you have to do is place one of the company's six different POV cameras in the palm of your hand. iON’s Air Pro 3 is light, requires no external housing, can dive deeper than any POV camera without the need for a waterproof casing, and allows users to share video files instantly through their mobile device. A simple slide-to-record control system means you'll get the shot without worrying about double-punching the record button. If a conversation piece is what you seek in your extreme sports equipment, consider adding the Air Pro 3 ($350) to your arsenal.
Eyes Like an Eagle
The Lavod Eagle LFC-513 HD POV camera ($149) takes the gold when it comes to picture quality, thanks to its embedded bronze lens-filter-like quality. Six layers of glass make up this 170-degree wide angle lens, while the waterproof casing makes this a durable extreme sports camera that is sure to turn out great results. Compared to other HD POV cameras, Lavod simply doesn't have the marketing prowess to generate a lot of attention in the POV camera market, so they let their equipment do the talking. This is one of the smallest cameras featured that doesn't require an external housing.
Drift’s HD Ghost (USD $299) will make you stop in your tracks when you hear the top-line specs of this HD POV camera. Whether it's the 300-degree adjustable lens, the three hour battery life, or the 2-inch LCD integrated into this mountable camera, Drift has made a business model out of delivering innovation and efficiency into its extreme sports cameras. Much like the Eagle LFC-513 and Air Pro 3, the HD Ghost doesn't need special waterproof housing to get down and dirty. The HD Ghost's innovative design means you can whip the waves, slice through the powder, or simply kick back and let your camera capture the unique perspectives of your unique adventures, without much more than a few taps of the control pad.
Taking Sharing to New Levels
Polaroid has always been about the "instant share" long before social media was relevant. While the Polaroid XS100i HD POV camera ($300) doesn't allow you to make instant prints of your extreme sports outings, it does offer a pretty powerful performance at a relatively affordable price. The canister-style streamlined design offers a shock-proof casing with minimized wind noise. Polaroid has built in a G-sensor, which keeps the footage orientation always facing the right side up, so video producers can simply sit back and relive their adventures having to do less to fix the footage in post-production.
Budget and Family Friendly Option
All of these options are great if extreme sports and action perspectives are your thing. But what if you want an affordable alternative that you can hand over to the kids and not lose sleep over whether the durability promises don't live up to reality? The Midland Radio Corporation’s XTC280 and XTC285 HD POV cameras ($150 and 170 respectively) are both budget and family friendly. From lakes to bike trails, hunting paths to skate parks, the XTC280 and XTC285 POV cameras deliver maximum results with minimal investment.
Take a Beating, Keep on Rolling
When scouring the POV camera market for the right model, it's important to weigh the risks and rewards of how you'll use your POV camera. If your goal is to build up some suburban street cred by shooting time-lapses of your lawn mowing prowess, the top shelf HD POV cameras may not be necessary. However, if your nickname is "Wally Wingsuit", spending more to get more, might be just the thing you need to land yourself in the Action Sports Hall of Fame.
With all HD POV cameras, it's important to invest in the accessories that will help you protect your investment. Ensure that your camera can meet the demands of your extreme sport, or not so extreme lawn care regimen, by reading the product specifications closely. How deep can the camera be submersed under water? If your actual face hits a rock face while performing inverted rappelling stunts, can the housing protect the camera? If your kids think it's fun to capture some unique perspectives of their sandcastle building competition, can the camera survive the various grades of sand that might work their way into the camera?
Educate yourself on what your HD POV camera is capable of withstanding, then invest wisely. Just because you see the professional stuntmen and stuntwomen on TV wearing five or six POV cameras, doesn't mean you need to do the same just to capture your weekend getaway to the lake cabin.
Smart POV Cam You Already Own
With the amazing expansion of mobile phone and tablet camera technology, why not just use your smartphone as a POV camera? Well, if you can get past the whole replacement cost factor, smartphones can actually make amazing POV cameras, so long as you use the right equipment. One incredible system we found was the Miveu-X ($99) wearable iPhone5 system. Whether it's on your crossbar, helmet or chest, Miveu's two-piece harness system locks your phone in place and offers an extreme sports friendly wide angle lens. The Miveu-X harnesses the power of your phone's camera, while taking your mobile device to places it had only previously dreamed. Just don't tell your wife what happened when you accidently run over your phone while attempting a feeble grind in front of the neighborhood kids.
Dave Sniadak is the Director of Visual Communications for a Minneapolis-based marketing agency, servicing several Fortune 500 companies with a hybrid journalistic approach to video production.