Lights...camera...action!

Lights...camera...action!
The Straits Times Digital Life correspondent Trevor Tan trying out five action cameras at Wave House Sentosa. He is holding on to a bicycle helmet mounted with all five while he surfs and flow board in the fast flowing waters.

Small and light, these cameras with wide-angle lenses can be mounted almost anywhere, including on a user's helmet, a moving vehicle or just strapped to the body.

Typically, these cameras come with a waterproof casing and mounts that can be easily clipped or attached to bicycle handle bars or helmets.

Many extreme sports athletes mount these action cameras on their helmets while they skydive, windsurf or ride to record their exploits.

At around $500 each, these action cameras are much cheaper than professional camcorders used by production houses, which can cost tens of thousands of dollars.

Said Mr Gerald Tan, digital technology account director of research firm GfK Asia Pacific: "Action cameras offer great ease of use at affordable prices and quality. Most of the usual cameras would not be able to handle the extreme conditions or be mounted easily."

Lifestyle blogger Dennis Seow, 35, said action cameras are very easy to use. "Even if you pass them to a granny who knows nothing about videography, the videos she shoots will turn out fine and usable," he said.

He uses his GoPro Hero3+ to record his travels in a "selfie" fashion. "It is great for capturing moments when you are not in control because the angle is so wide it will capture almost everything in front of it," he said.

Action cameras have lenses that provide a point of view of up to 170 degrees. In comparison, even a 14mm lens of a DSLR camera or a camcorder can give a point of view of up to only 114 degrees.

Sales of action cameras here have jumped from a mere 660 units in 2011 to 5,900 units last year, according to GfK.

Worldwide shipments of action cameras have gone from 1.7 million units in 2011 to 5 million units last year, reports London-based market research firm Futuresource Consulting.

It estimates that 6.8 million units will ship this year, an increase of 36 per cent. It expects the pace to keep growing beyond 2017, with annual shipments topping 10 million units.

Experiences, captured

Said Mr Arun Gill, Futuresource Consulting's market analyst: "They fill sports enthusiasts' latent desire to capture their experiences hands-free, and demand is further accelerated by the boom in video-based social networking services, such as Facebook and YouTube."

Leisure cyclists and other consumers make up 85 per cent of the market, while TV production houses and professional athletes make up 15 per cent.

Mr Lawrence Ku, 33, a leather craftsman, used a GoPro Hero2 to record his 507km motorcycle trip from Los Angeles in Southern California to scenic Big Sur on the Central Coast, and uploaded the video to YouTube.

"I wanted to document my ride because there are so many beautiful scenes that I would like to relive vicariously one day, by rewatching the old footage," he said.

At home, he uses the camera on his daily commute by motorcycle.

Why? "It's just in case I don't get to go home in one piece. At least there is proof of what really happened," he said.

Digital Life checks out five action cameras that are available here.

I mounted all five on a bicycle helmet with their own adhesive mounts (above, main photo), then secured them with gaffer tape over the mounts.

That was for extra protection while I learnt to surf and flow board for the first time in the fast flowing waters at Wave House Sentosa, which can create artificial waves as high as 3m.

The helmet, cameras and I also went down a winding downslope track in the luge at the Skyline Luge Sentosa.

After that, riding a bicycle on a park connector at night seemed like child's play.

trevtan@sph.com.sg

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