A motorcycle helmet camera is really useful for hands free recording while riding. They work in the same way as a normal video camera. I have spent a lot of time trying to find a good motorcycle video recording setup for my own trips and this page is the result of what I have found to work well.
If you have any recommendations or want to show off your own video recording setup please send them to me using the contact form and I’ll put them on the site!
Motorcycle Helmet Camera Quality:
As with home video cameras, generally the more you spend on the motorcycle helmet camera the better quality the recording, although there are some things to watch out for:
The most important feature of the camera. Along with the recording resolution, this will determine how good the overall quality of your footage will be.
Lens sizes vary, but ideally 3mm or more will get a good picture quality.
PAL or NTSC Format?
Which country are you going to watch your video in? If you are using analogue systems to record and edit your footage (video tape instead of a memory card), you’ll need to know which one you need.
This is less important if you are using a digital video camera and using a PC/MAC to edit. 99.9% of video editing software can read both PAL and NTSC so it’s not a problem if you’re making videos for Youtube, but…
If you are eventually creating a DVD of the videos you have made with your motorcycle helmet camera then get the correct format for your country. United Kingdom use PAL, USA & Canada use NTSC…
If you’re not sure ask the store you are buying from.
At high speeds a stone flying at your new helmet cam is the last thing you want! Make sure that the camera you buy either has a transparent lens cover fitted or comes with a protective cover that can stay on while recording.
Called bullet cameras for obvious reasons, these will plug into most video recorders and fit easily to the side of a motorcycle helmet. They can also be attached to a motorcycle so are useful if you want to record different angles.
If you choose a bullet cam be careful as there are a lot that are made for static CCTV and won’t be suited to motorcycles. Sony CCD motorcycle helmet cameras are generally pretty good.
Bullet Cameras need a power source, this is normally a battery pack that holds AA batteries (you’ll need quite a few, probably 8 or more batteries at a time). Get a rechargable battery pack like the ones used in remote control cars to save some cash on batteries.
Each camera will be capable of recording a certain amount of lines, the higher the number of lines the better the quality. To get something that is good for watching on Youtube go for 500 TVL or more, anything under will look slightly grainy.
Digital Video Cameras record at varying resolutions. The higher the resolution the better the recording quality. The highest quality cameras will be able to record in HD.
Motorcycle Helmet Camera Lens Angles:
Cameras are available with various lens types, both narrow and wide angle. A 3.6mm lens will record the road in front of you and some of your bike while a 6mm lens gives a narrower angle so won’t record as much of your bike.
For around $150 you can buy a bullet camera and microphone. Don’t forget to make sure that your camera is waterproof!
Recording your footage:
A simple Mini DVR (Digital Video Recorder) is all you’ll need to save your footage. These are essentially a multimedia player that allows an external camera to be plugged into it. Most have SD card slots or internal memory. Ideally get one with an SD card slot as you can then take spare SD cards on a trip and never run out of space to record.
Ease of Use:
If you buy a motorcycle helmet camera pack you might find that it becomes a bit of a hassle to setup. If you just want a simple all in one video camera then the GoPro Hero is ideal (read more about the GoPro below). If you need ultra high quality recordings with long running time and high quality sound then a bullet camera pack is for you.
I personally like to be able to stick the camera on my bike/helmet, press record and go! This doesn’t always give the best results though, it depends what you want from a helmet cam.
Recommended Motorcycle Helmet Cameras:
Motorcycle Helmet Camera @ GoPro.com
If you love to ride as much as I do and would love to be able to re-live your experience then you should seriously consider a GoPro camera. For those unfamiliar with GoPro, this is a tiny camera which fits neatly onto your helmet and captures your adventures in beautiful 1080p wide angle glory. The fairly new California based GoPro company operates under the motto “Be a Hero” and currently has three fixed-lens cameras to choose from – the Hero (Session), the Hero4 (Silver Edition) and the Hero4 (Black Edition).
In late 2014 the GoPro Company launched the Hero4 models which step up the number of megapixels (12MP) and improves the frame rates. I personally have the Hero4 Black which boosts the field of view (they call it “SuperView”) and bundles in a handy little WiFi remote. The newer Hero4 starts at $329.99 for the Silver model and $429.00 for the Black model. If you’re strapped for cash the Hero Session model can be had for around $199.99.
My experience with the Hero4
I was pretty psyched when I picked up my Hero4 Black last Year. I picked it up from Amazon.com who shipped it out free and it was at my door within a couple of days.
In the box came the camera, WiFi remote, two quick-release buckles, two sticky mounts (one is flat and the other curved), a three-way pivot arm and a USB charging cable. Oh, and a waterproof housing too. Yes, I wasn’t expecting it but this baby is waterproof! Now, it’s not that I’m going to be cruising through a tsunami anytime soon but in the heavy rain that winter brings that sure is reassuring.
I never owned a regular Hero3 camera but from what I can tell the new Hero4 looks pretty damn similar in all aspects. Of course, it’s under the hood where the real upgrades live. The optics have been improved immensely – the Hero4 is a lot sharper and has richer color tones with better brightness. It’s pretty easy to operate too. The buttons are nice and large that I can even get by most of the time with my gloves on. Like most successful technology products these days, it’s simple and intuitive to operate yet insanely powerful behind the scenes.
I bought a front mount for my helmet and attaching it couldn’t be simpler. Before I knew it I was on the bike and taking this thing for a spin. I live pretty close to the California Pacific Highway so I was there in a flash and recording as I rode the best bits. The weather was near perfect – clear skies and amazing views. I found myself getting excited to see what this thing was able to produce so I was home in less than 30 minutes to check out the footage. All I can say is Wow! I was shocked how crisp and clear the images were. In a nutshell you can “re-live” all your rides and play them back as often as you want. Memories made permanent!
Note the GoPro is more than just a simple video recorder. One of the features I like to play with is the time-lapse which allows you to take a picture every interval from half a second to once every minute. There’s a burst mode too for capturing something like 30 pictures every second. In case you were wondering, the battery performs reasonably well, mine records for about 2 hours and you won’t be surprised to know that they also sell additional battery packs for those longer journeys.
Tons of accessories
The GoPro company is smart in their marketing – they’ve created a ton of accessories and add-ons for your Hero4. I mean everything from chest harnesses to tripods to grips. There’s even a free smartphone app (I have the iPhone version) which allows you to compose images on your phone, playback recordings and tinker with the camera resolution and field of view. You can also use the app to go between the different modes (photo, video, time-lapse, etc.) and even save your recordings direct to your phone instead of the camera. The camera storage uses MicroSD cards by the way, which is great because they’re so cheap these days and come in fairly large capacities.
A buddy of mine has what appears to be the ultimate accessory which is called the Jaws – a flexible high-tension clamp with the GoPro mount on top. The neck is adjustable to allow you to come up with a whole bunch of different filming angles. You could use this to attach the camera to all sorts of places on your bike and capture some really creative video.
To wrap up, I strongly urge you to pick up one of these cameras and clamp it onto your helmet or somewhere else on the bike. If you’re like me you will be experiencing some jaw dropping rides this year and often get home and wish you could look back on some of the best bits. Now you can with the GoPro. Highly recommended!
GoPro Motorcycle Mounting Ideas
ContourHD Motorcycle Helmet Camera
ContourHD – available in 1080p and 720p versions, this is another motorcycle helmet camera that gives top quality results.
The ContourHD has it’s own storage just like the GoPro Hero. It records onto a 2GB memory card which can be removed and replaced. Take a few SD cards on your motorcycle tour and record all of your footage hassle free.
Toshiba Camileo S10 HD Video Camera
This HD digital video camera records to SD memory card. It’s a normal family video camera and it’s small enough to carry around (smaller than most still picture digital cameras) so for long motorcycle tours where luggage space is tight this is perfect.
This HD video camera came with a flexible tripod so it is really useful for attaching to the bike with cable ties.
The standard Camileo S10 can be bought for under $150.