POV Action Cams Are Wildly Popular—For Fun and Work

POV Action Cams Are Wildly Popular—For Fun and Work


The POV action camera has become more than just a toy; it’s now effectively become a production tool, and the category itself is beginning to reflect that. With more immersive features at the high end and solid quality on the lower end, these point-of-view capture devices now cater to a wider subset of users who are recording professionally and for posterity.

While 1080p Full HD video continues to be the norm for resolution, 4K Ultra HD is likely to become a staple feature for higher end models. Here’s a look at the latest POV cameras the market has to offer.

GoPro Hero4 Black  
Still retaining the unofficial crown for the category, this latest model makes 4K footage usable, raising the frame rate to 30 frames per sec, while also adding the option to do 2.7K at 50 fps, 1440p at 80 fps and 1080p at 120 fps. QuikCapture brings one-button operation to the unit, powering on and recording with a single one-second press.

The new night photo and night lapse modes allow users to tinker with exposure settings to capture dark and low-light scenes without noise seeping in. Other modes, like auto low light and superview, respectively adjust low-light settings and widen the angle to capture more of the background. Standout clips can be highlighted using the “HiLight Tag” feature for easier playback and editing afterward. In addition, Protune slightly compresses the video, while offering manual control over color, ISO, exposure, white balance and sharpness. This mode can also be used for 12MP still photos. And while the body is still essentially the same, it’s waterproof down to 131 feet. $499.99. gopro.com

Sony HDR-AZ1
A smaller version of Sony’s flagship HDR-AS100V, the AZ1 sheds a third of the girth of the larger model, making it among the nimblest action cams available. Much of the setup and performance of its bigger brother has been handed down to this one. A waterproof housing ($39.99) lets it submerge without incident, though the body is durable enough on its own to withstand contact with rain, splashing water and snow.

The 16.8MP Exmor R CMOS sensor inside keeps specs and performance close to the family as well, recording in 1080p at 60 fps or 24 fps and high-speed 720p video at 120 fps and 240 fps with sound. SteadyShot image stabilization helps with motion blur or shaky footage, though it reduces the view to 120º from the standard 170º. The Live-View Remote wristband can be purchased separately or bundled with the camera itself. Connecting to the AZ1 via NFC for quick Wi-Fi pairing, the remote maintains the same functions, including previewing video and photos and controlling playback. Up to five cameras can be paired with it at one time.
$229.99; $329.99 bundled with Live-View Remote. sony.com

Contour Roam3
After unceremoniously going out of business in 2013, Contour returned with the Roam3, its latest flagship action cam that isn’t necessarily designed to go toe to toe with the likes of the GoPro. The Roam3 is aimed at entry-level users, adding a few particular features that have always dogged previous models. It is now possible to toggle shooting modes and switch between video and photo on the body itself, rather than having to use a computer to manage it. It’s also possible to submerge it underwater down to 33 feet without the need for an external casing.

Since there’s no live view, a laser level can be turned on for 15 seconds to line up a shot. Footage tops out at 1080p at 30 fps and 720p at 60 fps. Video and photos can be stored on a microSD card (it comes with 8GB) up to 32GB in size. The smaller frame also means a smaller battery that lasts about 3.5 hours. $199.99. contour.com

Panasonic HX-A500

Sporting one of the more unique designs for a POV action cam, the A500 comes in two parts—a small tube camera with a 160º lens that connects with a rugged cable to a recording unit that handles controls. The unit has a 1.5-inch LCD for previewing footage, and a leveler and image stabilization are meant to keep shots aligned and steady. The camera itself weighs only an ounce and can be mounted on any surface or object through the various compatible mounts, while the recording unit can clip onto a belt, strap or backpack for easy access.

It shoots in 4K at 30 fps and can also do slow-motion video in 720p at 120 fps. It doesn’t require a casing to go down to about 10 feet underwater for short intervals. Built-in Wi-Fi and NFC allow for pairing a smartphone or tablet with the A500 to preview, clip and share video and photos via Panasonic’s free Image app. $399.99. panasonic.com

Drift Ghost-S
Smaller and more capable than its predecessors, the Ghost-S records 1080p at 60 fps, including slow motion in 720p at 120 fps. The camera’s smaller frame still manages a 2.0-inch LCD to preview and playback footage, as well as accessing the different menu options. The lens is rotatable up to 300º, allowing users to position it in a variety of different angles and still maintain a straight image. There is a separate two-way remote that can control recording and playback, as well as snap 12MP photos during video capture.

Without an extra housing, the Ghost-S is waterproof to 9 feet on its own (a separately sold accessory casing can raise that to 60 feet). Battery life is rated to go up to 3.5 hours on one charge. Built-in Wi-Fi can pair with an iOS or Android device and the free Drift app to act as a remote, viewfinder or basic editor. $399.99. driftinnovation.com

Geonaute 360
Having been introduced at CES two years ago, the Geonaute appears ready for primetime with preorders already underway. The tri-camera system inside uses three 8MP lenses to capture a combined 360º view. Each 8MP lens shoots videos in 2,048×1,024 resolution up to 25 fps. There is no 4K video capability, though it can manage still images at that resolution. The battery musters two hours of footage, and the included skin protects it from splashes of water and snow. A separately sold casing makes the camera submersible down to 60 feet.

A viewer can navigate the footage’s orientation by turning a paired iOS or Android device in any direction, which can be mirrored onto a TV as well. This allows viewers to see a point of view that faces to the side or behind at the same time. The company is also adding a social and sharing element it calls PlayGeonaute to showcase content shot by users in the field. $499.99 geonaute.com

Liquid Image 350 OPS Snow Goggle

Continuing its array of POV camera goggles, Liquid Image’s 350 OPS Snow is exactly as its namesake implies—POV goggles made for snowy adventures. It won’t do 4K, but it does shoot 1080p at 30 fps or 720p at 60 fps. The angle widens at 720p to 135º, compared to the 120º at 1080p. Still images shot at 3MP are also taken at the wider angle. All recorded video and photos need to be on a Class 4 or above microSD card. Supported capacity goes up to 32GB.

It has a built-in mike to capture audio, and battery life is fairly limited at 90 minutes. No software comes bundled with the goggles, though a simple connection to a Mac or Windows PC is enough to transfer content. It can function in as cold as 14º F and is not waterproof, but water resistant. $199.99. liquidimageco.com

Looking like a miniature periscope, the RE is designed to simplify capturing footage as much as possible, falling somewhere in between a POV action cam and flip-style pocket camera. It has a 146º lens and one button to start and stop recording, capturing footage in 1080p, along with slow motion at 80 fps and time-lapse video. It’s a fixed lens, so it’s not possible to focus on a subject or shoot anything in macro when paired with an Android or iOS device via Bluetooth. This is also the case when capturing 16MP still images.

The body is fully waterproof and mountable, though it needs its own accessories with which to do that. Battery life is rated at 90 minutes or 1,000 images. An 8GB microSD card comes in the box, but memory expansion can support up to 128GB. $199.99. htc.com 

Kodak PixPro SP360

Sporting another unconventional form factor for an action cam, the Kodak PixPro SP360 captures 360º HD video and fully immersive images in one shot. It uses a dome-shaped, fixed lens to record 360º HD videos at 30 fps that can be shot and viewed in multiple-vantage-point modes: 360º panorama; 212º front view; 180º split front/rear view; 214º dome; and 360º ring/sphere modes.

Waterproof, freezeproof and shockproof, the SP360’s motion sensor setting automatically triggers recording when it detects movement. The device is also Wi-Fi enabled to enable a quick connection to a smartphone/tablet or PC, to act as a remote control for viewing content shot up to 65 feet away. Once video is downloaded to a PC, users can select individual frames to save as high-res photos. The SP360 can be mounted to anything from handlebars and helmets to surfboards with a variety of accessory mounts. $399. kodakpixpro.com