Whether you’re a sports fanatic or an indie filmmaker on a budget, POV cameras are great for adding a humanizing bit of perspective to your video. Strap one of these to your head, body, board or bike, hit “record,” and put your audience directly into the middle of the action. Drop in on a wave or jump out of a plane, and your viewers get taken along for the ride.
One player has dominated the market recently: GoPro. Since its foundation in 2002, the company has been challenging the idea of what should be expected from an affordable POV camera. Recently, however, several other companies have introduced cameras that compete with the same core strengths — picture quality, ruggedness, usability and price. We decided to test the GoPro HD HERO2 against two of the strongest contenders, one camera from Contour and the ION Air Pro. The video above shows results from all three, and the full reviews are below.
ION Air Pro Wi-Fi
The sturdy and sleek ION Air Pro Wi-Fi ($350) is made to take a dunking — it’s completely enclosed in a waterproof housing that allows it to safely film at depths of 30 feet. With a 170-degree field of vision, it would be pretty hard to miss any of the action you see through your snorkeling mask.
GoPro HD HERO2
Aside from being able to shoot at a best-in-test 120 fps, the folks at GoPro have somehow found a way to greatly reduce the rolling shutter effect on the camera’s CMOS sensor. All this and it’s still very affordable: it’s $300, and depending on the bundle you choose, the camera comes with a variety of sport-specific accessories and mounts for motorsports or surfing.
The GoPro’s versatility comes with a trade off: Choosing settings is time-consuming. Since the GoPro uses a two-button system to access all the settings, you have to cycle through every option to move around the menus or exit the screen. Also, the GoPro HD HERO2 lacks the built in Wi-Fi or Bluetooth feature for using a remote viewfinder. In order to monitor a shot, you need to either buy the LCD or Wi-Fi back, or connect a monitor to the mini HDMI output, (which isn’t really an option in the half pipe). Lastly, much like the ION Air Pro, the image from the GoPro HD HERO2 is warm and slightly over-saturated, so it makes the process of matching footage from multiple formats more difficult. Still, the overall stability of the picture trumps the minor annoyances.
get-gadget Variety of frame rates, including 120 fps. Limited rolling shutter effect. Access to all the settings using on-camera controls.
TIRED Oversized, plasticky build feels dated. Picture quality drops to 848 x 480 when shooting at 120 fps. Two-button menu navigation deflates your stoke.