There’s a big battle among on-board motorcycle cameras nowadays. Action sports camera technology has been available for quite a while and brands are becoming more numerous.
There is a large variety of cameras on the market, but only a few are able to float above the rest: GoPro, with its Hero models, is certainly the queen of all action cameras, thanks to its long history of making this type of device.
One of the “cheaper” versions of action camera is made by YI, a security camera company that also started to produce action and dash cameras, and which came out with a revolutionary 4k action camera capable of recording at 60fps (like the latest GoPro Hero 7), with great image stabilization algorithm.
A third player came onto the market when Sena, the famous bluetooth intercom company, started to produce cameras integrated with its communication devices. These are not quite action cameras per se, and not entirely dash cameras either, but they are specifically designed for use on two wheels. In this sense, they deserve a place in the category, even though the quality of the recording doesn’t reach the latest 4k resolutions.
Not familiar with what resolution really means? Resolution is the number of pixels per square inch that a camera is able to record; the more pixels per square inch, the more detail you are able to see in an image.
It doesn’t, however, really make any difference whether you record at 2k, 4k or even 8k if the display with which you are viewing the recorded footage does not support such a resolution. In short, if your camera records in 4k but your TV, laptop or cellphone is only 1080p, you are still going to see 1080p.
In terms of fps (frame per seconds) instead, there is a difference in the sense that the more frames, the smoother the image will look, especially if you decide to play back things in slow motion. To clarify this point, when you see on TV actors running in “slowmo” on the beach, that is usually 60fps; when instead you see things exploding in movies in SUPER slow motion, that is typically 1000 fps.
When you view a video clip on your device, the player usually runs at 25 or 30 fps, so it doesn’t really matter if it’s 60 or more unless, as I said, you are looking at the footage in slow motion.
What actually matters nowadays in action cameras is Video Stabilization, which is an algorithm that is implemented during the recording process, and which makes your video look really smooth and not shaky.
With stabilization, GoPro is still the winner in this game.
Post Processing and Config:
Both GoPro and YI have quite impressive apps to manage both camera and footage. You can see the clips, access camera settings and even create little videos and edit photos, straight from your phone.They both also have a pretty intuitive touch screen at the back, which works fine unless you have big fingers.
Sena is completely out of the game, not having invested much (for weird reasons) in developing a good enough user interface for the post processing of the collected footage.
Recorded images and clips are also not accessible from the apps but, recording at “only” 2k, it does increase the duration of your SD card before it’s full, allowing a 32GB or 64GB memory Micro SD to store a lot more content than the competitors.
Also, Sena doesn’t really allow you to see how much recording space and how much battery you have left, which is kind of annoying.
The battery life of all of the above is poor, giving the user only a few hours of recording and playback.
GoPro and YI both have touchscreens at the back, which play a big role in battery drainage; Sena seems to last a bit longer but it does have the disadvantage of not being able to exchange battery, if you need to. I would recommend you carry at least one spare battery for GoPro and YI.
What Sena offers that GoPro and YI obviously don’t is the speaker/microphone set which has to be fitted into your helmet.
The installation is fairly simple but requires a bit of fiddling around, because each helmet design and shape is unique, but at the end the mic and speaker kit seem to be compatible with any helmet.The speakers are loud and oriented towards the mid-high sounds range, so don’t expect Bose or Dr Dre headphones quality, but the clarity is great and actually listening to what is happening on your device its quite handy.
Hearing “recording on”, “camera off”, and so on in your helmet, instead of simply guessing what your helmet mounted camera is doing, is a great feature in my opinion.The voice recording, on top of the video, is quite good at low speed; perfect for vlogging while riding or singing along to your favourite song.
In case you have multiple Sena device it is possible to have a Bluetooth connection with these, so you can use the device as an intercom with other riders (within 10-15m range) or your passenger.
The charging speeds of the devices is quite low and the batteries require a good hour before they are fully replenished.
GoPro and YI are equipped with USB-C while Sena is still on the old Micro USB.
Pricewise, GoPro now offers its 7th and entirely waterproof model for around 350 euros (the black version). YI offers its action camera (not waterproof, so you have to buy the waterproof case if you want it to be) for 200 euros. Sena is selling its 10c pro (showerproof) for around 320 euro.
Mounting an action camera on your helmet is always a bit tricky. GoPro and YI have to be mounted on top or on the front part of your helmet; there are some people who decide to mount it on the side, but the cameras protrudesquite a bit and it could have some wind resistance issue.Sena on the other hand is pretty slim, sitting on the left side of your helmet; definitely the winner in this particular category, also offering two options to attach the camera to your helmet. One is a clamp that can be removed, and the other is the standard 3M adhesive mount, adopted by GoPro and YI as well.