What is the best body camera to choose – and why might you need a body cam in the first place? Drive on the main roads of any major city and you’ll find cyclists armed with helmet cameras, and motorists with dash cams. Increasingly, on the same streets, you’ll also find police, emergency services and anyone involved in security wearing a body camera or 'body cam’.
Are body cameras the next stage or level in personal security and surveillance? It seems so, with their increased visibility and a rise in the number of companies producing them and bringing them to market. Wearing your own body camera may seem like overkill to some, but for others there will be very practical uses and advantages – and not all of them will involve personal security or snooping. You might want to record a meeting or interview for example, without the off-putting practice of shoving a camera lens in a colleague’s face.
In terms of what to base your buying decision on, choosing a body camera that is compact, unobtrusive and easily attached to clothing – while boasting a lens with a wide angle of view – seems key. You’ll also want something that’s robust and, ideally, can be worn out in all weathers and conditions. A long battery life, decent camera resolution and large (and possibly expandable) data storage capacity, so you don’t run out of juice or memory at that crucial moment, are additional musts – as are night vision functions. Infrared capture can be particularly useful, as those involved in the profession of security are typically working into the wee small hours.
Keeping things bang up to date, the more expensive body camera options typically include Wi-Fi and the ability to easily transfer images, either wirelessly to a smartphone, via removable media card, and/or connection to your PC via USB. While the majority of examples don’t feature a built-in screen for composing and reviewing images some do, so if the latter feature is important to you, be prepared to shop around as well as pay a little extra for the privilege.
With the above advice in mind, let’s take a look at a selection of the best body cameras available right now…
With a brand name straight out of Soviet era Russia, this no-nonsense extremely-capable body camera pares operation back to a few simple well-sized buttons, offering a generous 24-megapixel photo resolution. There's a infrared night vision mode that activates automatically in the dark that can pick out faces at 30 feet, and the lens has a generous 170° angle of view. Attachment to clothing is via a rotatable clip – while video (1296P, 1080P or 720P) from the device can be streamed to your smartphone. This updated model even features a built-in screen, giving the choice of how and where you review footage. The integral rechargeable lithium ion battery is good for five hours of constant use in 1080P video mode or it can be stretched to 16 hours if the unit is placed in standby mode. A brilliant body cam package at this price.
This slender, ultra lightweight version of the body camera with built-in back-clip enables it be worn by cyclists as well as unobtrusively by security services, office workers wishing to record business meetings, emergency services and more. Video recording here is a choice of video resolutions with a maximum of 1728x1296 pixels (1296P), with a loop recording function kicking in when data is exhausted. The model can be found sold with 32GB or 64GB of memory. The phone only has an OLED info screen, so you can't review footage on the device itself. However, it can link to your smartphone via wifi - a feature that is unusual to find at this price. A full charge enables up to four hours of video.
Discretion is the name of the game when it comes to this personal security device or, cough, spy cam. It’s a small and lightweight body camera option that also comes supplied with a clip, or, alternatively, can be worn about the neck, pendant-style. Chief among its enticing features is Full HD video up to 30fps, for which you’ll want to make use of the 32GB card supplied out of the box. Alternatively, a 64GB microSD card is offered. If there’s a compromise due to its diminutiveness, it’s that battery life can’t match others here at a comparatively paltry 180 minutes from a full charge. What some may find useful here, however, is that the device features a built-in USB port for connecting directly to a laptop of PC for transferring footage. If you want simplicity, then this device delivers.
Though not the cheapest option in our round up, this Transcend product features a robust construction built to withstand extreme weather and shock, that recalls a miniaturised trail camera thanks to its boxy looks. With built-in Wi-Fi, a 160° field of view, f/2.8 aperture lens and the ability to take snapshots while recording video, it ticks the necessary boxes. We also get Full HD video capture, a fixed aperture 2.8mm lens, battery lasting three-and-a-half hours, plus a useful 32GB internal memory to get you started out of the box. Operation is one touch, though the loud activation bleep and recording light may not be ideal if what you’re looking for is a device for discrete filming. It can be attached to clothing via a clip that has the ability to rotate 360°, while the Velcro holder is similarly easily attached. If it’s a heavy-duty device you’re looking for, the Transcend DrivePro is worthy of your focus.
A premium priced body camera option that brings a weightier list of specifications to bear than most – including space for two SIM cards and the ability to transmit visuals via 4G networks and Wi-Fi, plus infrared capture that purports to be able to record subjects in total darkness that are up to seven metres away. As well as a robust body construction and large buttons aiding ease of use, unusually we’re also provided with a touchscreen here, plus the ability to record 1920x1080 pixels video at 30fps or up to five megapixel stills. With built-in GPS and remote monitoring option via a wireless network, this is a one size – or rather ‘one thing’ – fits all body cam option.
When is a body camera not a body cam? When it’s a ‘micro camcorder’ of course. Mere semantics, obviously, as this item can be worn ‘hands free’ thanks to a handy back clip and is one of the smallest options on the market. If it’s simplicity of operation you’re after, this one offers the core essentials of 1920x1080 pixels video capture at 30fps, removable 8GB microSD card for storing up to four hours of HD quality footage, plus easy plug ‘n’ play operation via USB. OK, so there’s no Wi-Fi connectivity, view screen, GPS, personal alarm or other ‘frills’, but those looking for an affordable and discrete solution – or simply wanting something to clip to their lapel or cycling helmet – will want to investigate further.
Another splash-proof water resistant robust unit for those looking for a personal security or surveillance device, this one comes with infrared shooting, Full HD video or 8 megapixel stills capture, 16GB internal capacity to allow for up to 8 hours of video to be recorded, a microSD card slot to provide data expansion plus a useful LCD display. Once again recording is a simple one-button procedure, while, to make sure that a crucial moment isn’t missed, there is a loop recording facility of either two or five minutes duration. The remaining video recording time is also displayed. If it’s a given you don’t also need Wi-Fi connectivity, what more could you want for the asking price?
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