The best helmet cameras for 2019

The best helmet cameras let you relive your ride without taking your hands — or your focus — away from the action. But helmet cams are typically used for bumpy, unpredictable scenarios — which is why the stabilization, durability, and GPS of the GoPro Hero7 Black makes it the best option for attaching to your helmet.

As excellent as the GoPro Hero7 Black is, it’s not the helmet camera to end all helmet cameras. If you want to simultaneously record how fast you were going and how high you jumped, you want to capture the ride in every direction, or you simply don’t want to spend that much, there may be an even better option for capturing the ride. After reviewing dozens of action cams and 360 cameras, we’ve gathered the best options to enlist when you need a hands-free helmet camera.

At a glance

The best helmet camera: GoPro Hero7 Black

GoPro Hero7 Black Action Shot

Why you should buy this: Buttery smooth image stabilization for great footage on the bumpiest rides

Who’s it for: Athletes, adventurers, and anyone looking for steady hands-free shots

Why we picked the GoPro Hero7 Black:

Long the king of action cameras, the GoPro Hero7 Black introduces a feature that was sorely lacking in the action camera and helmet camera category: electronic image stabilization that actually works. The Hero7 Black’s HyperSmooth stabilization is among the best we’ve seen from the category, making it possible to rewatch that mountain bike ride without feeling nauseous. 

While HyperSmooth is one of the best features on the GoPro7 Black, the action camera leaves little to be desired. The 4K video is excellent considering the tiny camera it comes from, and stills are solid too. For even more control, toggle the ProTune options to select a manual white balance, exposure compensation, and flat color profile. The camera even has built-in livestreaming capabilities.

Ever try accessing the controls for a camera that’s literally sitting on top of your head? No worries, the Hero7 Black uses voice control, allowing you to just ask the camera to start and stop the recording. If the environment isn’t quiet enough for the camera to pick up your voice, the GoPro app allows for easy access to features without taking your helmet off. In fact, one of our favorite aspects of the GoPro Hero7 Black is the easy-to-use control scheme, whether using the on-camera controls or the excellently designed mobile app.

Those features are wrapped up into a body that you’ll hardly notice mounted on a helmet. The Hero7 line is also waterproof without needing extra accessories, in case your adventures include rain, dust, or mud. Because the GoPro has been around for so long, there are also plenty of different types of mounts — so you can easily mount the camera on the chin piece of a helmet, the side or the top.

Read more about the GoPro Hero7 Black

The best dual screen helmet camera: DJI Osmo Action

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Why you should buy this: High-end features for a (slightly) lower price point

Who’s it for: Adventurers, athletes, and vloggers

Why we picked the DJI Osmo Action:

DJI may be new to stand-alone action cameras, but the drone manufacturer got a lot right with the DJI Osmo Action. The GoPro lookalike packs in several features that compete with the best action cameras on the market, including 4K/60 fps video and RockSteady image stabilization that rivals GoPro’s HyperSmooth. The video quality drops slightly behind GoPro, but the Osmo Action does have some advantages.

First, the the dual screens allow for more versatility when the mount blocks the main back screen. The rear screen is sharp with a 16:9 wide aspect ratio — wider and better looking than the GoPro’s. Second, another unique feature is the option to use filters on the front of the lens, with a simple screw mount that lets you easily add neutral density, polarizing, or underwater filters. GoPros can technically use filters, too, but the process of removing the stock lens protector is much more difficult.

Those features are wrapped up in a compact camera that doesn’t need an extra housing to go underwater. The touchscreen interface is also easy to use for adventurers new to action cameras, and voice control is included. DJI still has a lot of catching up to do when it comes to its mobile app, however, which simply isn’t in the same league as GoPro’s right now.

Read our DJI Osmo Action review

The best helmet camera for data junkies: Garmin Virb 360

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Hillary Grigonis/Digital Trends

Why you should buy this: This camera doesn’t just record everything around you, but also your speed, altitude, and more

Who’s it for: Athletes and data junkies

Why we picked the Garmin Virb 360:

Sure, any action camera can record a ride from atop a helmet mount, but can you camera tell you how fast you went, how high that jump was, or the route you took? Designed from a company known for GPS, the Garmin Virb 360 is packed with on-board sensors that record your ride. Then, using the software or mobile app, you can add overlays to your footage that make it look like you’re in a racing video game. The ability to see — and share — how high you jumped or how fast you went makes the Virb 360 an excellent choice as a helmet camera.

While the extra data is the reason for choosing a Virb over a GoPro or another brand, image quality is pretty good too. The immersive 360-degree footage saw few stitching errors, and it can be stabilized later in software with very impressive results, making rough rides easier to watch. (And if you don’t want the immersive footage, you can find similar data tracking and overlays in the non-360 Garmin Virb 30).

While the Virb 360 is an immersive camera, it’s still pretty easy to use thanks to simple on-body controls as well as voice control. The app also isn’t bad, though live-streaming options are limited to iOS. The battery life isn’t the best and the mics tend to pick up a lot of wind noise, but for capturing the ride and all the data that goes with it, the Garmin Virb 360 is an excellent option.

Read our Garmin Virb 360 review

The best 360 helmet camera: Rylo

rylo 360 camera announced featured

Why you should buy this: Controls that allow you to leave the Rylo mounted on a helmet — and still get footage that looks like you personally manned the camera

Who’s it for: Any consumer that wants to capture action without manning the camera

Why we picked the Rylo:

The Rylo is a solid 360 camera in itself, but the camera’s best feature is its ability to output a standard fixed-frame video. You can start off with front-facing view, then quickly pan 180 degrees to look behind you. Or look straight up or down to reveal new angles, or even have the software automatically track another subject. Using the suite of editing controls, you can get great results by just leaving the camera on your helmet and pushing record, reframing your shot after the fact.

The camera’s two lenses and stitching software creates 5.7K immersive videos as well as 6K still photos. A built-in gyroscope tells the software exactly how the camera is moving in order to create excellent image stabilization results — and since it’s a 360 view, stabilization is achieved without throwing away any pixels.

Those features won’t do any good in a camera that’s not small enough to mount — thankfully, the Rylo is pretty tiny. The camera also uses GoPro mounts, so there’s no shortage of options there. There’s no waterproofing, however, so you’ll have to pick up the extra case if you plan to get the camera wet or muddy. As a 360 camera, image quality is not as good as what you get with a standard action camera, but the added wow factor of being able to pan and zoom after the fact makes up for it.

Read our Rylo review

The best budget helmet camera: GoPro Hero7 White

best cheap cameras gopro hero7 white 1

Why you should buy this: GoPro quality, without the GoPro price

Who’s it for: Budget-conscious adventurers

Why we picked the GoPro Hero7 White:

The Hero7 White may not be GoPro’s best camera, but it packs a lot of features into a budget action cam. Video is just standard definition 1080p, but still at the 60 fps that’s ideal for capturing fast action. The biggest downside is that the stabilization is GoPro’s old version instead of the impressively steady HyperSmooth of the Hero7 Black. The White also doesn’t use a built-in GPS.

But the Hero7 White has a few surprises for being a budget option — mainly, the user experience is nearly identical. Voice control is still included, and while the front information display is missing, the rear screen is still touch-enabled. The camera also uses GoPro’s excellent app, including the option to automatically offload files to your phone and QuikStories for quickly assembling an edited video of your adventures. Time-lapse mode is still included, along with a 2x slow motion option.

Despite being half the cost of the Hero7 Black, the White can still head underwater without housing, and with a similar body, works with all the GoPro mounts for versatile mounting options. While not the best option out there, the Hero7 White does a lot with a little cash.

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Photography – Digital Trends

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