The action camera market, previously dominated by GoPro now has new products pouring in from Sony, Contour, and JVC that are smaller in size and action-ready than ever before. The film industry has recently discovered the value of the smaller, more convenient DSLR cameras, which enable shooting from small cramped spaces or compromising locations – for the action camera crowd, however, size has always been a non-negotiable. When free-skiing powder in Utah, snowboarding in Verbier, or rock-climbing in Australia, one does not have a free hand or moment to hold steady their new Canon EOS 5D Mark II. While many DSLR cameras come with all the bells and whistles and a two-hundred-page user guide one must read in order to take full advantage of what the camera has to offer, action cameras are specifically designed for speed and convenience – an aspect that allows the action camera to appeal to the masses.
In addition to its convenient size and user-friendly design, the action camera allows for the capture of footage from more extreme angles, and adds a unique stylistic dimension to its subject. Sean White, the professional snowboarder who joined the GoPro team this year, stated “I’m looking forward to seeing my riding in a different light, with new angles that only GoPro cameras can capture."
In previous years, GoPro monopolized the market with their small action cameras, perfect for the top of a helmet or the inside of a pocket. However, Sony recently announced the coming debut of their first action camera, with a few differences that will hopefully improve on the original prototype fathered by GoPro. While Sony has produced small cameras in the past, this is their first specific attempt at an action camera. GoPro has always included professional filmmaking features in their action cameras Cinestyle colour profiles, 24p, and higher bit rates, Sony has made a big splash with image stabilization abilities and their Carl Zeiss lens.
The action sports community does not expect meaningful differences between products from the two brands but the Sony camera will lend itself to being worn on the side of your head, while the GoPro works better on the top of a helmet. JVC has also released an action camera (Adixxion), but their model includes more extensive tech features that make it more expensive than even the high-end GoPro models. While the price has not been released, the public expects it to match the other semi-disposable wearable cameras currently on the market so as to be in any way competitive.
Extreme sportsmen looking to record their latest hang-gliding adventure, TV show contestants (such as those on the game show Wipeout), and the professional film-makers of box office hits such as The Smurfs all use action cameras. Are these little cameras the way of the future for film? While the industry is still undoubtedly dominated by the larger, more sophisticated DSLR cameras, action cameras are picking up momentum with their lethal combination of size, ease, and style. Once feedback for the new models released by Sony and Contour reaches the public, we will know more about where this trend is headed: for now, happy filming to action-crazed athletes and innovation-seeking filmmakers everywhere.