The POV Action Cam Shootout Helmet

Point-of-view (POV) cameras are hot. They aren't just a specialty item for extreme sports athletes anymore. They're everywhere these days - from the handlebars and helmets of our homies on mountain bike trails and at ski resorts - to network TV. There are a growing number of POV camera manufacturers, too - GoPro, Contour, Sony, JVC, Drift, etc. But how do you know which camera is the best?

There are millions of videos to watch on YouTube and Vimeo, but as far as I know, no one has ever done a head-to-head comparison with all the top cameras. So here it is - a serious POV camera shootout. We're comparing camera features, specs, useability, and mount options. But more important, we set up a controlled back-to-back test of six of the top cameras at the same time so you can see for yourself which cameras are the best. That's right - I wore that helmet. Go ahead and call me the court jester of POV cameras.

Go to the next page to watch the POV camera comparison video, or use the navigation below to check out information on the cameras or go straight to the conclusion:

POV Camera Comparison Page >>
Camera Descriptions, Specs & Full Size Sample Videos >>
POV Camera Shootout Conclusion >>
Video Quality, Sound & Mounts >>

The Author & The POV Shootout Test Rig



POV Camera Shootout - The Cameras

The cameras featured in this shootout are the Contour+2, the GoPro Hero3 Black, the JVC Adixxion, the Sony Action Cam, the Replay XD1080, and the Drift HD Ghost. There are a lot of POV cameras on the market now, with prices ranging from less than $100 to over $500. Rather than compare them all, we chose what we think are the best and most popular current cameras and compared them back-to-back, in a format that clearly shows the difference in video quality. For testing, I built a really stupid, but effective helmet rig that can accommodate all six cameras. That way I could shoot the exact same shot with all the cameras at the same time. In the video below, you'll see all six videos running next to each other along with a little bit of analysis from me. Please pause and compare wherever you see fit. The more you look, the more you'll notice the differences.

POV Action Camera Shootout Video Comparison


If you want to take a closer look, all the full HD videos are available on the next page. Although each of the cameras has multiple resolution and frame rate settings, to keep this test simple, establish a baseline, and keep the emphasis on video quality, all the clips were shot at 1920 x 1080 (full HD) at 30 frames per second at the widest lens setting offered, with no image stabilization (the JVC and Sony have built-in image stabilization). No adjustments or corrections of any kind were made while editing. The goal here was to provide sample video on as equal a platform as possible so you could judge the quality for yourself. I did my best to make sure all the cameras were pointed in the same direction, but there is some variation. You'll also notice some angle-of-view differences - most notably, the Replay's 135° lens; the Contour, which has a 125° angle-of-view in full HD; and the JVC, which I'm honestly not sure about. It's supposed to have a 170° lens but that obviously isn't the case.

Go to the next page for more information on each camera as well as the original full HD videos I used to create the comparison video here. If you want to discuss other POV cameras or share your own camera experience, you can discuss all POV cameras and techniques on our Videos and POV Cameras Forum; or write your own review in our Video Cameras User Review section.



POV Action Camera Full Size Videos, Specs & Reviews

POV Camera Shootout - Camera Features & Specs


Contour+ 2 POV Action Video Camera

Contour+ 2 POV Action Video Camera

  • MSRP: $399
  • Resolution Options: 1080p at 30, 25 FPS; 960p at 30, 25 FPS, 720p at 60, 50, 30, 25 FPS
  • Lens: 170° rotating wide-angle lens
  • Still photo resolution: 5 megapixels
  • Built-in GPS
  • Time lapse mode
  • Bluetooth remote control with mobile app for iOS and Android
  • Weight: 156 grams

The biggest benefit of Contour is it feels like a real camera. It's an electronic device that has a machined case, nice big glass lens. It's a little big but it feels good and ergonomic specially when hand-held. The big downside is the form factor and lack of mounts. That's where GoPro dominates with their Hero series as their camera can be mounted practically anywhere in their robust little case...

Read The Whole Contour+ 2 Intro >>
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Full Resolution Contour+ 2 Video Sample (1920 x 1080 at 30 FPS)





Drift HD Ghost POV Action Video Camera

Drift HD Ghost

  • MSRP: $399
  • Resolution Options: 1080p at 30, 25 FPS; 960p at 25, 30, 48, 50 FPS; 720p at 25, 30, 50, 60 FPS; 800x400 at 25, 30, 50, 60, 100, 120 FPS
  • Lens: 170° rotating wide-angle lens
  • 2-inch color LCD display for composing and playback
  • Still photo resolution: 11 megapixels
  • Time lapse mode
  • Built-in Wi-Fi with remote control unit and iOS mobile app
  • Weight: 167 grams

The Drift Innovations HD Ghost is a rugged outdoor sports video camera, that is easy to use, has a long battery life, and includes a 11 megapixel sensor, built-in Wi-Fi, and two-way remote with indicator lights, and a unique video tag/loop recording function. It has an excellent usage and form factor, combining loud indicator beeps for mode changes, the remote, an intuitive menu system, a fully rotatable lens and a useful LCD screen...

Read The Drift HD Ghost Review >>
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Full Resolution Drift HD Ghost Video Sample (1920 x 1080 at 30 FPS)





GoPro Hero 3 Black POV Action Video Camera

GoPro Hero3 Black

  • MSRP: $399
  • Resolution Options: 1080p at 60, 48, 30, 24 FPS; 960p at 100, 48 FPS; 720p at 120, 60 FPS; 800x400 at 240 FPS; 4k at 15 FPS; 2.7k at 30 FPS
  • Lens: 170° wide-angle lens
  • Still photo resolution: 12 megapixels
  • Time lapse mode
  • Built-in Wi-Fi with remote control unit and mobile app for iOS and Android
  • Only POV camera with a chest mount option
  • Weight: 182 grams with battery and waterproof housing

The GoPro HERO3 Black Edition has quite a few excellent features on top of its already outstanding functionality, the most prominent being the 12 megapixel sensor, which is accompanied by a sharper glass lens, both of which result in photos and videos with increased clarity and sharpness and more vibrant colors. It has built-in Wi-Fi, a wearable Wi-Fi remote with an LCD screen and buttons to emulate the camera, and Wi-Fi smartphone App capabilities, which give full camera control and scene preview...

Read The GoPro Hero3 Black Review >>
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Full Resolution GoPro Hero 3 Black Video Sample (1920 x 1080 at 30 FPS)





JVC Adixxion POV Action Video Camera

JVC Adixxion

  • MSRP: $299
  • Resolution Options: 1080p at 30 FPS; 960p at 30 FPS; 720p at 60, 30 FPS; 854 x 480 at 30 FPS
  • Lens: 170° wide-angle lens
  • 1.5-inch color LCD display for composing and playback
  • Still photo resolution: 5 megapixels
  • Digital zoom
  • Digital image stabilization and rolling shutter suppression
  • Time lapse mode
  • Built-in Wi-Fi with mobile app for iOS and Android (requires hot spot)
  • Weight: 126 grams

The main things that make the JVC Adixxion different are its "Quad Proof" design (shockproof, waterproof, freezeproof, dustproof), 5x digital zoom and 1.5-inch color LCD display for composing shots and reviewing your videos. Like other high-end POV cameras, the JVC has full 1920 x 1080 full HD video and a 170-degree wide-angle lens. It can also take 5-megapixel still photos and it has built-in Wi-Fi with a mobile app so you can use your Smart Phone or tablet to compose shots and change settings...

JVC Adixxion First Look Video Intro >>
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Full Resolution JVC Adixxion Video Sample (1920 x 1080 at 30 FPS)





Replay XD1080 POV Action Video Camera

Replay XD1080 POV Action Video Camera

  • MSRP: $299
  • Resolution Options: 1080p at 30, 25 FPS; 960p at 30 FPS; 720p at 60, 30 FPS
  • Lens: 135° wide-angle lens
  • Still photo resolution: 5 megapixels
  • Time lapse mode
  • Weight: 85 grams

The XD1080 is a small, light and compact video camera, which is easy to use and has a simple interface for video resolution changes. It has an excellent usage and form factor, combining two sharp tactile buttons (power and record) with distinctive vibrating mode changes, and a tiny cylindrical camera body. The rugged and water resistant camera records in a wide array of high-definition video resolutions up to 1080p, and have proven itself to take excellent footage with great clarity and realistic colors...

Replay XD1080 Review >>
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Full Resolution Replay XD1080 Video Sample (1920 x 1080 at 30 FPS)





Sony Action Cam POV Video Camera

Sony Action Cam POV Video Camera

  • MSRP: $249
  • Resolution Options: 1080p at 30 FPS; 720p at 120, 60, 30 FPS
  • Lens: 170° Carl Zeiss wide-angle lens
  • Sony SteadyShot optical image stabilization
  • Still photo resolution: 2 megapixels
  • Time lapse mode
  • Built-in Wi-Fi with mobile app for iOS and Android
  • Weight: approximately 170 grams with battery and underwater housing

What makes the Sony Action Cam different from other POV cameras is the Carl Zeiss lens and built-in SteadyShot image stabilization. Also, unlike most POV camera manufacturers, Sony has a long history of making cameras, lenses, and camcorders and that should give them a leg up on the competition. They've also been kicking some serious ass in the camera world over the past few years and it seems like when they decide to do something, they do it right...

Sony Action Cam First Look Video Intro >>
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Sony Action Cam Video Sample (1920 x 1080 at 30 FPS)





POV Action Camera Shootout Conclusion

It's very easy to get caught up in the hype and buy into the most popular camera or the one with the best image quality. But the truth is, for a lot of users, price and ease of use will be just as important as tons of features or perfect image quality. On the other hand, if you're a professional athlete, photographer, or videographer, then you may be willing to sacrifice some ease of use for the best possible video quality. Taking the needs of different users into consideration, I came up with four final POV camera shootout categories and chose our top picks based on video quality, features, mount options, price and ease-of-use. One thing I didn't include was sound. However, if you want to evaluate it for yourself, the audio is untouched and intact in the full HD videos and the differences are pretty obvious. Here are our Top Picks:

Best Video Quality: GoPro Hero3 Black Edition

GoPro Hero3 Black

There are a bunch of variables that go into video quality - exposure, color, white balance, contrast, lens, and bit-rate. Bit-rate is one of the biggest factors since it determines how much information a camera collects for each second of video. And GoPro didn't mess around - at 20 Mbps for 1920 x 1080 30 FPS full HD video, the GoPro Hero3 Black recorded 33% more data per second than any other camera in this shootout. And that's not just numbers - you can see the difference. The GoPro Hero 3 Black footage is sharper, has great color, and holds subtle detail in the highlights and shadows better than the other cameras. And that's just for standard full HD video. The Hero 3 Black also has 4k and 2.7k resolution settings as well as Protune mode, which uses less compression and less in-camera processing for even better video quality. I encourage everyone to take a close look at the full-resolution Hero3 Black sample video. I guarantee you'll be able to see the difference.

Best Value: Sony Action Cam

Sony Action Cam POV Video Camera

With the lowest price in the shootout and video quality second only to our winner, the GoPro, the Sony Action Cam is the best value here. It's also the only camera with optical image stabilization to smooth out shaky footage and one of two cameras that can record 720p HD video at 120 FPS. That means the video quality has the potential to be even better than we've shown you in the shootout sample clips. The downsides of the Sony Action Cam are the lack of mounting options and the 2-megapixel still photo resolution. As a photographer, I think we should carry P&S cameras on the trail for still photos and reserve the POV cameras for video, so the still photo resolution isn't a problem for me. The biggest issue for mountain bikers is Sony doesn't make a helmet vent mounting harness for the Action Cam. However, they do have adhesive mounts and where there's a will there's a way. I think the Action Cam's video quality and price should motivate people to get it done.

Easiest To Use - JVC Adixxion

JVC Adixxion

The JVC Adixxion clearly ranks lowest in terms of video quality in this shootout. However, that doesn't mean it's bad. If you're in the market for a relatively inexpensive, easy to use POV camera for footage of you and your buddies getting rad on the trail, the JVC's accessible controls, color LCD display and "Quad Proof" (waterproof, shockproof, dustproof and freezeproof) design make it a lot more enjoyable to use than most of the cameras in this test. However, I wouldn't recommend it for experienced videographers, photographers or anyone else who's trying to make serious video. The video quality is fine for sharing at home on your HD TV or with Facebook friends, but it doesn't come close to the best cameras in this shootout.

Best Overall - GoPro Hero3 Black

GoPro Hero3 Black Edition - Best Overall POV Camera

I'll admit to being a GoPro skeptic. I didn't think the product could live up to the hype when put under a magnifying glass. Boy was I wrong. GoPro was already the biggest name in in the business, with a large enough marketing presence that their name has become synonymous with POV cameras, just like Xerox with copy machines. People don't say "POV camera," they say GoPro.

Apparently, being the biggest wasn't enough, though. When GoPro made the Hero3 Black Edition, they set a new standard for POV cameras. With a bit-rate of 20 Mbps (measured from the sample video shot for this test) for full HD video at 30 FPS, the Hero3 Black collects 33% more data than any of the other cameras in this shootout and the difference in video quality is obvious. It's also the only camera to offer more resolution than 1920 x 1080 full HD. While the 4k at 15 FPS option is more about bragging rights than anything else, it lets everyone know that the GoPro Hero3 Black is more than a toy - much more. If you really do want more than full HD, it can do 2.7k at 30 FPS. And for slow motion action video, it can do 120 FPS at 720p and 240 FPS at 800 x 400. GoPro's Protune mode, which provides even better video quality with minimal in-camera processing, makes the Hero3 Black the obvious choice for pros who use POV cameras for serious videography or even broadcast work.

It may not be the most aerodynamic or the easiest to use, but GoPro's basic design gets the job done. They made the Hero3 Black smaller and lighter than previous models and it has a pretty easy to use control system - even when it's in the waterproof case. The Wi-Fi remote control mobile app offers tons of control and works great, too. As far as mounting options and accessories go, GoPro offers the richest, most flexible menu of options. And they're the only manufacturer in this shootout that offers a chest mount system. That's huge since the chest mount position is the best angle for mountain bike and snow sports POV video. If you want that angle, GoPro is your only option.

GoPro didn't just hit it out of the park with the Hero3 Black, they hit a grand slam. There's no splitting hairs here, with the most resolution and frame rate options, the best video quality and the best mounting options, the GoPro Hero3 Black Edition is far and away the best POV video camera on the market.

Note: There have been a lot of reports about software and battery problems with the GoPro Hero3 Black. When it first hit the streets people were having problems with software freezeups and batteries draining overnight for no apparent reason. I didn't experience any of these problems and the reports seem to have stopped in January. So it's possible that GoPro has fixed the problem with newer Hero3 Black cameras. However, if you do buy a GoPro Hero3 Black, it would probably be a good idea to test it out thoroughly and immediately to determine if it has any software or battery problems.

Do you disagree with my test methods or take exception to my results? Do you have questions about the cameras or POV video techniques? Here are your options - you can post in the comments section below; you can visit our Videos and POV Cameras Forum; or if you own a POV camera, you can write your own review in our Video Cameras User Review section. We want to know what you think!




POV Shootout Follow-Up: Video Quality, Sound & Mounts

You guys asked a ton of great questions and made lots of great comments here on the article comments, on our forums and on Facebook. It because clear that there were some areas I glossed over or didn't pay enough attention to. So I'm adding a little bit on here at the end to give some more details on the video quality, sound and mounting options.

Contour Helmet Vent Mount Harness

First of all, let me share my final image quality ranking with you. It played a major role in my Top Picks for video quality, best value and overall best. But I figure you'll probably appreciate seeing how I ranked the cameras. So here's the list, ranked in order of video quality:

  1. 1) GoPro Hero3 Black
  2. 2) Sony Action Cam
  3. 3) Contour+ 2
  4. 4) Drift HD Ghost
  5. 5) Replay XD1080
  6. 6) Time lapse mode

I had lot of questions about audio quality of the cameras I tested. In order to get the project done I just left the audio out of the equation. Plus, in most serious POV videos, the ambient sound gets replaced with a soundtrack. But for those of you who are interested in the cameras' built-in sound quality, I just spent a bit of time checking out the full HD videos and evaluating the audio quality. The biggest issues with sound are wind noise and muffled sound, and all of the cameras have some wind noise when you get moving. Not being that experienced with POV shooting, I don't really know what the solution is for wind noise. However, if you're using these cameras for stuff other than action video, all of the cameras we tested, except for the JVC, offer inputs for an external microphone so you can get better sound than the built-in mic provides. But for out-of-the-box sound, here's my POV shootout audio ranking:

  1. 1) Drift HD Ghost
  2. 2) Sony Action Cam
  3. 3) JVC Adixxion
  4. 4) GoPro Hero3 Black
  5. 5) Replay XD1080
  6. 6) Contour+ 2

The GoPro Chesty Mount

Mounting options are a big consideration with POV cameras. If there's no stable way to mount a given camera, it's not really a very good POV camera. And for mountain biking, one of the critical mounts is the helmet vent harness, which straps the camera to the top of your helmet. GoPro and Contour offer the most options, including helmet vent mounts. No doubt, that's part of the reason they're so popular. GoPro is also the only manufacturer that offers a chest mount. Not everyone agrees with me on this, but personally, I think the chest is one of the best places to mount a camera for ski and mountain bike videos - the two things I my POV camera for. So I think GoPro's Chesty mount is one more thing that gives them an edge in the market. For the cameras that don't offer a helmet vent harness mount, like the Sony Action Cam, adhesive mounts actually work really well - as long as there's a spot on your helmet with enough surface area. If you've got a full-face or dirt jump helmet, that's not a problem, but for standard, vented bike helmets, lack of a helmet vent harness could be a deal-killer. The bottom line is, POV camera makers who want to be real players need to have good mounts for all activities. Right now, GoPro and Contour are the best in the test with Drift and Replay following just behind. JVC and Sony are at the bottom of the cameras I tested - for now.