ife moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it. That was the premise that kicked-off the classic 1986 film Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. But if life was felt to be shifting that quickly way back in the mid-80s, prior to the proliferation of mobile phones, email and, of course, the internet, poor Ferris would find life in the 2020s akin to travelling faster than light.
Fortunately, though, thanks to the very technology that may seem to have made our day-to-day existence busier than ever, we have also never been more free to not only stop and look around, but also to record life and all its events in stunning digital high-definition, caught for all time to revisit whenever we’d like and share with friends, family and fans alike.
Of course, smartphones and the spider’s eyes array of camera lens they now come with have made a decent fist of doing this for some time now, but going fist-free is the way forward and the coolest, most convenient way to capture every moment of the high-life. Get ahead with a helmet camera.
Whether creating cultured content for your vlog, live-streaming extreme sports on social media or merely making videos for your own private viewing pleasure, there’s a helmet cam for all comers and almost all pockets.
Life moves pretty fast. Hook up a helmet cam and don’t miss a minute.
Best for: ultra-high-resolution spherical action capture
From the more expensive end of the action cam spectrum, the GoPro Max is for those that, well, go… to THE MAX! Sorry, got a bit excited there for a moment. And with good reason, for the GoPro Max is a helmet cam is capable of shooting incredibly smooth footage in up to 6K in the roughest, toughest of scenarios.
Built like a video-taking tank and able to withstand being submerged in up to 16ft of water, the options here are almost endless, including four digital lenses to cover Narrow, Linear, Wide and Max SuperView shots, 360° video with sound to match via six microphones, and HyperSmooth stabilisation so that you always get a clear picture of events no matter how bonkers the events you’re involved in are.
HERO mode lets you utilise Horizon Levelling to keep video on an even keel whether you’ve flipping into the air, plummeting down a cliffside or have somehow ended up shooting along sideways. There’s also a Power Pan mode for recording truly breath-taking 270° panoramic footage, and even voice control for when your hands are just too busy clinging onto something for dear life.
Wi-Fi-, Bluetooth- and GPS-enabled, you can live stream in 1080p and share content as and when, or simply harvest it all together in one wild place for instant editing with the GoPro Quik app.
A 2.7- x 2.5- x 1.6-inch colour touchscreen makes the Max easy to operate in those moments where you may have lost your voice, videos and stills record to a single microSD card and battery life gives roughly 85-minutes of 360-degree recording or 105-minutes of single-lens, 1080p (16:9) or 1440p (4:3) video.
Add to all this the ability to shoot both video and images in cool time-lapse using either or both front and rear cameras and the GoPro Max, as the marketing information in no uncertain terms announces, “maximises WOW”.
Insta360 GO 2
Best for: extreme, falling-down-mountain enthusiasts
Looking a little like Wall-e from the Pixar film of the same name, the impossibly small and feature-packed GO 2 from Insta360 has the daredevil sportsperson squarely in its gloriously high-definition lens.
It’s capable of shooting video in QuadHD (2560 x 1440 pixels) and in TimeShift, Timelapse and SlowMotion modes for totally rad video or photo footage of you skiing/biking/base-jumping/taunting great white sharks from within a relatively flimsy cage off the coast of South Africa. One thing you will need to keep in mind is that the higher resolution modes will dramatically affect the length of the clips you can record.
Waterproof down to a nicely deep 4-metres, storage capacity is up to 64GB, and image stabilisation is excellent. Your field of view options cover UltraWide, ActionView, Linear and Narrow, while aspect ratios of 16:9, 9:16 or 1:1 can be chosen in post-production to ensure your videos look perfect wherever you post.
The teensy GO 2 also comes with a cunningly designed Charge Case which can not only expand recording time to 150-minutes at 1080p 30fps Basic stabilisation video settings but can also fully charge the camera in just 35-minutes. It even unfurls as an extremely handy tripod stand.
And the handiness flows almost ceaselessly on from that point, as the GO 2 in its standalone format, firstly, comes supplied with all you need to just, well, go, including 1x Lens Guard (pre-installed on the lens by default), 1x Magnet Pendant, 1x Pivot Stand, 1x Easy Clip and 1x Type-C Charge Cable. But then comes a raft of available add-on kits to help you equip you for pretty much any eventuality. There is a Selfie Stick Kit, a Pet Mount Kit (if that’s your thing), a Bike Kit and a Snow Kit, all making the Insta360 GO 2 a literal go-anywhere action camera for go-anywhere people (and pets).
Okay, on the downside, there’s no preview display, meaning you need to link to your phone over Wi-Fi to set up pre-planned shots, something which may be a deal-breaker for some, but overall, for the price, the Insta360 GO 2 is a seriously cool camera capable of capturing almost all of your endless extreme adventures for posterity.
GoPro HERO10 BLACK
Best for: the budding vlog billionaire
If there’s something that has been made abundantly clear by my kids of late, it’s that I should have sought my fortune by becoming some manner of affluent online attraction, as opposed to throwing in my lot with the more often impoverishing world of the written word. However, my ‘face for radio’ discounting my chances of making it as a YouTube sensation any time soon, I’m happy to leave the task of filling the internet with watch-worthy content to the ever-amassing camera-armed elite. But, if I were young enough and interesting enough to earn a crust online, I’d want to be doing it with the help of the GoPro HERO10 Black.
Why? Well, it’s practical, for one. Not only does it have a 2.27-inch touchscreen display to the rear, but in a move that makes a massive amount of sense, it also features a 1.14-inch screen on its face, allowing you to see exactly how you’re framed in your shot. I mean, for those well-versed in the pain of taking half-head selfies, this seems such an obvious idea.
It’s practical yet flexible too, capable of being attached to your helmet, your bike, your surfboard or, indeed, pretty much any other form of ‘extreme’ activity enabler you can think of. Boasting features like HyperSmooth 4.0 video stabilisation, you can ensure your online-audience-pleasing footage comes across as cool as possible and not akin to first-person AR of a pensioner tumbling tragically down a staircase.
Packing performance power too, under the hood sits GoPro’s new GP2 processor to let you shoot video at a whopping 5.3K resolution and 60 frames per second, 4K video at 120 frames per second and 2.7K video at 240 frames per second. And on the stills side of things, here you can snap away with a colossal 23-megapixels at your disposal, making all photos of you and any trace of terror on your face as vividly sharp and obvious to the observer as though they were examining you under a microscope.
Cloud-connected for extra convenience, the HERO10 Black automatically uploads your fresh antics when charging, albeit at an additional cost of just £4.99 per month (or £49.99 per year). This also includes unlimited backup of all images and videos at their original quality, so a pretty sweet deal. Plus, with your epic internet fan-following now-guaranteed, your money worries will soon equal those of Elon Musk.
VTech Kidizoom Action Cam HD
Best for: getting creative with the kids
What we’ve learned so far is that most helmet/action cameras aimed at adults are expensive. Of course, if you want pro-level quality, you expect to pay for it. But what if all you actually need is an HD option that offers all manner of exciting effects at an incredibly affordable price because it’s aimed at kids? Yes, the Kidizoom Action Cam HD from children’s tech toys specialist VTech lets your little ones record their own life adventures in high-definition (720p), while also utilising a range of video trickery options including both slow- and fast-motion modes for hilariously prolonged crash footage at one extreme and, one presumes, slapstick chases at the other.
Designed to be able to withstand the savage battering most kids stuff generally receives, the Action Cam HD comes fully shock-proofed, and a selection of bundled mounts makes it the ideal optical option for helmets, bikes, scooters and skateboards alike, while the in-built memory (expandable via microSB card) and USB-rechargeable battery allows for an ample 2.5-hours of recording.
As skilled at taking stills as it is video, the Kidizoom’s wide angle lens lets young snappers learn to take some truly exceptional shots, while the included waterproof case takes the Action Cam HD’s considerable talents up to 1.8-metres under water.
Overall, then, the VTech Kidizoom Action Cam HD is a kids’ camera, aimed at those aged 5-12, on sale at a fittingly kiddish price; and yet, for the life of me, I cannot find one single reason why this wouldn’t work equally well serving the day-to-day helmet cam demands of the majority of ‘big kids’ too.
Garmin ViRB Ultra 30
Best for: completely hands-free handling
Upping both the outlay and the attributes now, while 450 notes may seem a little steep for a digital snapper, the ViRB Ultra 30 from Garmin offers an array of features above and beyond most of its rivals.
Aimed pretty squarely at the most extreme of extreme sports nuts, the Garmin not only shoots in beautifully crisp Ultra 4K resolution at 30fps, it also comes blessed with built-in sensors and GPS capture G-Metrix™ data which work together to add irrefutable evidence of exactly how far, how high and how fast you went to rub in the face any extremely envious sceptics.
An IPX7-rated weather-resistant powered cradle keeps your camera safe from the elements while 3-axis image stabilisation captures smooth and steady video, no matter the terrain you find yourself tumbling down.
But my favourite feature by far, the ViRB Ultra 30’s ultimate USP is that alongside a high-sensitivity microphone that will pick up your every utterance, you can also go completely hands-free thanks to the inclusion of voice control. Yep, whether strapped to your head, handlebars or the bow of a rapids beating boat, simply shouting “start recording” or “take a picture” sends your Garmin straight into action. And if the hot slice of insane sport you just ordered it to record was particularly ‘sick’, you can have your Garmin tag it for later with a simple “remember that”.
With an average battery life of up to 2-hours 15-minutes at 1080p/30fps and up to 1-hour 15-minutes at 4K/30fps, stills can be taken at 12- or 8-megapixels, with burst frames of up to 60fps, and both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi to keep you connected, the ViRB Ultra 30 also features a free mobile app that lets you live-stream to YouTube with just the touch of a button or view and edit your pics and video prior to posting.
Finally, a nicely sharp 1.75-inch LCD display round the back lets you precision-compose less animated images and, of course, review your action antics as they happen. All of which adds up to a very impressive spec list that justifies its price tag and, ultimately, makes the act of recording and sharing your high-octane adventures as rad and gnarly as the adventures themselves, dude.
Kaiser Baas X230
Best for: the extreme action hero on a budget
Let’s face it, not everyone will need all the – albeit awesome – myriad features of the more-pricey helmet cameras I’ve looked at here. Indeed, some people will just want a video-capable camera they can strap to their head, safe in the knowledge that it will function fine as a way to record their two-wheeled transport to work and back as they weave around four-wheeled motorists still adapting to the latest changes to the Highway Code.
Also, they’ll also be those whose adventures don’t extend into the extreme, but who want footage of gentle bike rides with the kids, attempts at surfing and other stuff that comes under the banner of ‘fun’ just as much. For these people there is the X230 from Kaiser Baas.
Coming in at just £80, even if you lose all interest in your new leisure pursuit almost instantly, you’re still not going to break the bank. So, what exactly does that paltry amount provide? Well, a surprisingly sprightly high-def 1080p resolution at 60fps, with an impressive 150° field of vision for nicely wide shots, the ability to snap 5-megapixel stills, a 2-inch LCD display, Wi-Fi and its own smartphone app.
What’s more, the X230 is also waterproof to a whopping 40m, so even if your day out paddleboarding down the waterways of Great Britain goes horribly sideways, you’ll always have fun footage of your brush with Weil’s Disease to cherish, share and look back upon fondly for years to come.
Using a microSD card for storage and featuring a Self Timer at 3-, 5- and 10-seconds, the Kaiser Bass X230 may seem a little basic in comparison with the likes of the GoPro Max or Garmin, but it covers all the bases for most people’s needs and does so at a fraction of the price.
In my past I have raced Lamborghinis around the Hungaroring and provided passenger ballast in aerobatic air racers on more than one occasion. If such helmet cameras as these had been widely available back when I was at the height of my health and young enough to get away with wildly reckless behaviour, then the GoPro Max would easily have been the camera of choice to document my automotive and airborne adventures.
The sheer breadth of stunning features it offers, plus the ability to chuck in some time-lapse makes for footage of a truly epic nature… that I would undoubtedly whip out to bore everyone within eye-shot to death with each and every day. So, for past me and all those out there now planning to base jump out of a building, kite surf the length of the shark-infested Cape of Good Hope, or merely abseil down the side of an active volcano, take it to the MAX! Sorry, got a bit excited again then. Time for a sit down.