Recording my rides is something that I very much like doing. It allows me to study my own efforts an see (or confirm) where I can improve, but it also allows me to share my experiences with others.
However, as with most gadgets nowadays, finding one that sits in your price range and does the things you want it to do isn’t always straight forward.
With what can seem like a mountain of brands, prices, options, features and qualities, picking the best one for you can sometimes feel like a bit of a chore.
In this article I have compiled a list of the top 5 currently available action cam options that I feel track day riders should be most interested in.
Prices vary, but we’re going to start with easily the most well-known brand in this space.
GoPro have been sitting at the top of the action cam tree for a good number of years now, and for good reason.
Their flagship models tend to be that one step ahead in terms of quality and features, and coupled with their accessory options this is why the company tends to enjoy most of the attention in this space.
The Hero4 Black Edition is GoPro’s latest flagship model, boasting the highest quality images and recording options.
This newest model offers 4K resolutions (at 30fps), slow motion full HD 1080p at 120fps, and then your more typical 1080p HD options.
For some they will see this option as overkill, but while it sits at the top end of the price scale, if you want the very best quality and features you’ll be hard pressed to find a better alternative right now.
Biggest benefits: Video quality and features.
For some time Drift have been the main contenders to GoPro’s crown. As such they are no strangers to releasing quality products.
Coming a little shy of the Hero4 Black in terms of price, what the Drift HD Ghost-S loses to the Hero4 Black in terms of video quality, it makes up for in design and ease of use.
The Ghost-S records at 1080p full HD at 60fps, or at 720p at 120fps. This quality will be fine for most individuals, but it’s still a clear step behind the Hero4 Black in terms of top end resolutions.
The plus points come from the incredibly solid and sturdy design, simple and easy to use side controls, and lovely 2” screen to help shot setup or watch back your recordings.
The Ghost-S is also waterproof without the need for an external case.
Biggest Benefits: Design and ease of use.
Probably not a name you would expect to see getting involved in the action cam space, but the Garmin Virb Elite has very much put itself in the frame.
At its lower price point, it’s understandable that recording options aren’t up to the same level as the above two options, but even with an option of 1080p at 30fps, that will be enough for many track day riders.
What I like about the Virb Elite is its huge record slider and the huge light that indicates that recording has started. This means starting the recording with gloves on is a piece of cake, and you’re never unsure whether recording has started.
Like the Ghost-S the Virb Elite also has a screen to set up your shots and to watch back videos. You can also set it to show navigation data, which leads me onto its ace in the hole.
True to form, Garmin have included in this action cam what they are most famous for. A GPS tracking device.
This means that you can log and store all the GPS data captured during a ride, and then use the supplied editing software (Virb Edit) to overlay that data onto your video.
This can be things like speed and track position, or even your heart rate with the use of a compatible device connected to the Virb Elite via Wi-Fi.
It also makes the Virb Elite a great option for those considering its use for other sports too.
Biggest Benefit: GPS data logging for video overlay
The Air Pro 3 comes in as another less likely candidate compared to the big names in the space, but I wanted to include it nonetheless because what it brings to the table in terms of design.
It comes with simple shooting modes. 1080p at 30fps/60ps, or 720p at 30/60/120fps.
Once selected, it really is just a case of attach the camera, press on the record slider and away you go.
If you’re after an out and out point and shoot experience inside a very simple design, the iON Air Pro 3 is it.
Biggest Benefits: Incredibly simple, discreet design
It becomes immediately apparent where the SJ4000 got its design cues from, and they wouldn’t be the first company to use the GoPro design for inspiration.
If you’re shopping at the lower end of the market however, I’d recommend you don’t go running off into the distance at the thought of something that could be mistaken for a cheap knock off.
It is cheap (under £50 at the time of writing) but for those that are after a less expensive option to recorder their track day jaunts, the SJ4000 is probably the best you’ll find right now.
In terms of video quality, we’re looking at the same 1080p at 30fps and 720p at 60fps recording options as some of the above. And again, don’t assume the video quality would be horrendous because it’s not – as this video shows.
It’s not going to be as solidly built as some of the higher priced and well known options, and you’ll be lacking features too, but outside of that it is a very good alternative for your track day needs if you don’t want to spend big bucks.
Two big plus points come from the fact it features a removable battery (so spares can be carried around) and that it comes with a plethora of mounts supplied. All for an astonishingly low price.
Biggest Benefits: Price. Removable battery. Supplied mounts.
If you’re not willing to take a chance on a less than well known manufacturer of action cam, it’s well worth looking at some of the previous generation cameras from the big brand names.
Like almost all consumer electronics, being older models these cameras can be had considerably cheaper than the latest model, but they’ll still have high quality construction and the video quality will be more than adequate too.
When looking for an action cam for track days in particular, it’s wise to check with the track you are attending what types of camera and camera mount are allowed.
For example, here in the UK many tracks do not allow suction mounts placed on the tank or fairings. I have been caught out by this myself where I was told to head back to the garage and remove it, and I was then left unable to use my shiny new camera.
Check with the circuit (or riders with experience of it) what you’re allowed to use so hopefully you can dodge any issues at the track.