POV Action Cams Carve Out a Profitable Niche

POV Action Cams Carve Out a Profitable Niche


POV (point-of-view) cameras used to be expensive and cumbersome for the average person, not to mention the low resolution and muffled audio that came with them. Now, they’ve become a burgeoning category and their capabilities seem to increase every year.

Along with their growing popularity comes an increase in the number of manufacturers getting into this space. Here are some of the latest POV cams that have hit the market.

GoPro Hero3

The Hero3 is 25% lighter and 30% smaller than the previous model, making it the smallest GoPro action cam ever. Even the clear plastic waterproof shell is now thinner than before. Options abound on the camera itself, including built-in Wi-Fi and the ability to work in tandem with the GoPro app for iOS and Android, plus a microSD card slot (card sold separately). The Black edition doubles the shooting capabilities of its predecessor, including capturing footage in 4KP at 15 frames per sec, though a compatible monitor is needed to view it.

The Silver edition is very similar in specs to the Hero2, with 11 megapixels, a 10-fps burst and 1080p video recording. The White edition is an entry-level model for casual users, offering 5MP, a 3-fps burst and Full HD video capability. There are a number of accessories available to mount or enhance them. Black edition, $399.99; Silver, $299.99; White, $199.99. gopro.com

Contour+ 2
The Contour+ 2 combines some features from the previous Contour+ and the ContourGPS, plus an improved image sensor. It offers a 5MP image sensor and recording modes remain unchanged: Full HD 1,920×1,080 at 30/25 fps; Tall HD 1,280×960 at 30/25 fps; Action HD 1,280×720 at 60/50 or 30/25 fps; Slow Motion 854×480 at 120/100, 60/50 or 30/25 fps; and Codec H.264/AAC/File Type – MP4.

A sliding instant-on recording switch locks to ensure footage isn’t accidentally cut, and the waterproof casing, which used to be a separate accessory, now comes in the box. Even without it, though, the Contour+ 2’s body is capable of withstanding moisture from rain or snow. 

The camera’s GPS receiver makes it possible to record and embed overlays for speed, distance and elevation, which also stay intact when shared to YouTube, Facebook and Vimeo. Contour has also developed a complementary app for the camera to use as a remote or for basic settings tweaks. It is also backward compatible with previous mounts and accessories. $399.99. contour.com

Sony HDR-AS15
Like other cameras in this category, this one can shoot 1080p Full HD video at 30 fps and offers two slow motion modes at 2x and 4x settings. The HDR-AS15 uses a Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar lens with the 16 megapixel back-illuminated Exmor R CMOS image sensor that Sony has equipped in prosumer cameras for better low-light performance. The included waterproof housing has a universal tripod mount and works at depths as low as 197 feet.

Users can connect an iOS or Android smartphone or tablet running Sony’s PlayMemories app to the HDR-AS15 and use its built-in Wi-Fi connection to transfer over footage and still photos. The HDMI output is there for playback onto a TV or monitor, but Sony doesn’t include a cable in the box. $269.99. sony.com

iON Air Pro WiFi

On par with most of the other action cams when it comes to shooting resolution (5MP stills) and waterproofing, this camera comes bundled with a helmet and bike mount, as well as a separate Wi-Fi kit. Waterproof to 30 feet, the Air Pro has a waterproof microphone for recording audio even when submerged. Its wide-angle lens doesn’t rotate, but the accelerometer inside automatically flips the orientation between landscape and portrait.

Despite being able to connect to the iOS or Android app to tweak controls, there is no way to adjust settings on the camera itself. The Wi-Fi Podz kit goes beyond just previewing footage and enables sharing with a compatible smartphone or tablet for uploading to YouTube and Facebook. $349.99. iontheaction.com

Drift HD Ghost

This POV camera comes with a wearable two-way remote control that uses a color-coded LED system to correspond specific modes with set colors, indicating video, photo, time-lapse or photoburst modes. The body is waterproof to 9 feet without the need for a housing, though there is a separately sold housing for taking that down to 180 feet. An improved microphone, digital signal processing and wind-noise reduction is said to have made a noticeable difference in sound quality compared to the previous model. In addition to 1080p, 960p and 720p video, it can also capture 11MP stills.

Drift claims the HD Ghost has the longest standard battery life on the market at three hours of recording time on one charge, thanks to the 1700 mAh battery. There is also a Drift iOS and Android app for transferring content over to a smartphone or tablet. $399. driftinnovation.com

Replay XD1080

Lightweight and with controls that are less intricate than others in the category, the 1.1×3.6-inch Replay XD1080 doesn’t have a steep learning curve. The camera body is water resistant, but not waterproof, and there is no housing to buy separately for the Replay XD1080. Still, the anodized aluminum frame is tough enough to handle rain, snow, sand, mud and ice. Two mounts come included in the box, with a few options on how to deploy them.

There’s an HDMI output (cable included) for viewing footage on a TV or monitor, however, there’s no built-in Wi-Fi or an accompanying mobile app to tweak settings or frame a shot. But users can stream Full HD 1080 video through the built-in HDMI out connector, and record and stream video simultaneously or just stream video straight to an external HD recorder or transmitter. A 4GB microSD card comes with the camera, and it supports up to a 32GB card. $299.99. replayxd.com

JVC GC-XA1 Adixxion
This is JVC’s debut in the category, and they consider it to be “quad-proof”: waterproof (16.4 feet), shockproof (a 6.5-foot fall), dustproof and freezeproof. It shoots at the same resolutions as most of the other wearable cameras on the market, with 5MP still capture as well as Full HD 1080p and 960p to 480p recording. The 1.5-inch LCD presents all the camera’s options without resorting to a remote, but it should be noted that the zoom and image stabilization are both digital, not optical.

Built-in Wi-Fi goes beyond just bridging content over to iOS and Android devices by also enabling users to stream footage live over Ustream via a hotspot. There is just one goggle mount included in the box to go with the two adhesive discs that can be mounted to almost any surface. $299.95. jvc.com

Liquid Image All Sport HD

This pair of goggles (model 384) has a 135º wide-angle lens embedded right above the nose to get a centered view of the action from the user’s perspective. It can record in 720p HD at 30 fps and is designed to be ideal for snow and off-road action, but it’s applicable to some water sports, too. The goggles come with two lenses for exactly that reason, because the snow lens can be attached when needed, and Liquid Image offers others that are equally compatible.

Two outrigger locks are included to ensure that the goggles can wrap around most helmets, making it possible to use for a variety of activities. Footage and 5MP still photos are recorded to a microSD card in the slot (supporting up to 32GB). $199.99. liquidimageco.com