Best Helmet Cameras For Skydiving

The GoPro Is One Of The Best Skydiving Cameras

Skydiving is an awesome activity that only a few people dare to do on a regular basis. Recording your jump and showing it to your friends is an incredibly fun way to share your skydiving passion. This leads to the question: what is the best skydiving camera for skydiving? 

Recording your skydives and showing them to your friends is not only impressive for them but you will also learn a lot about your jump technique. Seeing how you maneuver in the air and steer the canopy will help you become a better skydiver. 

Before diving into details about the best skydiving camera, I want to remind you that the USPA recommends skydivers have at least 200 jumps before attaching a camera to their helmets. 

Skydiving involves a lot of equipment that people need to take care of. If someone uses a camera without having the necessary experience, he might be distracted from his jump by focusing on shooting good video footage. A cause of this is often inattention and mistakes that can end in fatal or in severe injuries. 

The Top Three Helmet Cameras for Skydiving for 2023

GoPro Hero 11 Black Edition (click here to check the current price on Amazon)

GoPro is known for delivering top-quality action cameras for years now and the Hero 11 edition is no exception. A friend of mine uses this camera for skydiving and he is happy every time he puts it on. It delivers high-quality images and videos and is extremely user-friendly. If branding is important to you, the GoPro is the choice to go. Everyone will recognize it immediately. 

Sony FDR-X3000 Action Cam (click to check the current price on Amazon)

Sony FDR is my personal choice. While GoPro still has the brand of “the action camera”, it has fallen behind Sony in terms of quality and features. The Sony FDR shoots amazing video footage not only because of its high resolution but also because it has a great automatic image stabilization function – something that is crucial for skydiving videos if you do not want to have blurry videos. I explain in more detail below, why I prefer Sony over GoPro. Unfortunately, production of the FDR has paused – I hope that Sony will soon release a succession model.

Yi 4K Action and Sports Camera (click to check the current price on Amazon

The Yi 4k Action Camera is a great option for everyone who is on a budget. Being produced in China, this camera offers almost the same quality as the GoPro (it even beats the GoPro in some areas such as battery life). It again comes down to how important the brand is to you – I personally would not spend $100 more for a GoPro only because it has a better brand (while not having a higher quality).

Why I Chose the Sony FDR-X3000 

When choosing the right action camera there are many aspects that one needs to take into account. However, before going through all of them, there are a few reasons why I chose Sony over GoPro and have not regretted it yet. To keep it short, Sony is better in every aspect in comparison to GoPro. However, there are four features that stand out in particular: 

Image stabilization 

The GoPro stabilization from the Hero 7 to Hero 8 model has improved significantly but still lags behind the Sony. It almost does not matter how much you turn around in the air or how much you shake your head around, the Sony will still produce watchable clips with incredible quality. It still amazes me whenever I see the difference in quality when watching the recordings of my friend and comparing them to those of my camera. Even he (and he is a GoPro fanboy) admits that the image of the Sony is much more stable.

Audio quality

Being equipped with a wind noise reduction, the Sony offers a much higher and less distorted audio quality than the GoPro 8. While this might not matter as much when being in the air (because you are likely to add music to the video anyway), it does matter if you want to say a few words in the airplane before the jump. I personally like this option a lot because it adds more flavor to the videos. 

Battery life 

The GoPro 8 has around 50 minutes of recording time whereas the Sony has 150 minutes before running out of charge. While this might be enough if you want to record multiple short sequences, it can be quite annoying when recording a full skydive from take-off to landing or when recording multiple jumps in a row. My friend tackles this issue by charging the GoPro during the airplane ride with a power bank. This approach works – if he does not forget to bring the power bank. 

That being said, the Sony overheats sometimes which will make it run out of charge faster than the 150 minutes. If you turn on its Wi-Fi option it will also drain the battery faster. 

Looks of the camera

Some people might disagree with this but the Sony looks much leaner and less bulky than the GoPro specifically when being attached to the helmet.  However, some people think that GoPros belong to extreme sports and love the look of the GoPro when being attached to their helmets. 

What to Look for in a Skydiving Camera 

While the Sony is easily the best option from my experience, you will be with either of the three cameras. However, there are many more action cameras on the market (which are good as well but I have found those three to be the best ones). If you decide to buy another camera make sure that they meet the following requirements: 

  • High-resolution – The camera should have at least a 4k video camera (otherwise it might be outdated too soon)
  • Image stabilization – Many cameras offer their own image stabilization technology which is measured in stops (i.e. 6 stops mean that the shutter speed can be 6 times slower and still capture good footage) 
  • Durability and waterproofness – If the camera falls from your helmet it is probably going to break anyway, so why care? Falling off your helmet is not the only risk that the camera is exposed to. You might also hit the fuselage of the airplane or a robe might hit the camera. Having a durable camera does not only mean being protected against bumps but also that it is resilient against strong air pressure differences and fast-changing temperatures. 
  • Anti-fog lens – Nothing is worse than believing to have recorded an awesome video only to discover that the camera got fogged up 
  • Size and weight – The camera should be quite handy and lean. It should also not put any more unnecessary weight on your head
  • Control – Make sure that the camera is easy to use and can be connected to your phone 
  • Mounting options – Having a camera that can also be attached to the wrist will give the option to record videos from a different angle 
  • A microphone system that eliminates wind and other background noises 
  • Rechargeable batteries and long battery life 
  • Fast-adjusting lens sensors – When turning around in the sky, you will face different light conditions. Your camera should, therefore, be equipped with sensors that can regulate how much light is captured by the lens. This will prevent the video from being over- or underexposed

Three Tips to Make the Best of Your Purchase

Buying a good camera is essential for recording great videos. However, it is not the only factor that determines the video quality and your experience with the action camera. In order to have the best experience possible, there are three tips that helped me a lot. 

Tip 1: Do not buy cheap accessories for the camera 

As aforementioned, each of the top three cameras does a great job of recording video footage and you will be happy with either of them. If you spend a couple of hundred dollars on a camera, you should not save money and buy cheap accessories such as cheap SD cards. Even though they work in the beginning, they will mess up the software of your camera. 

To make sure that your camera continues running smoothly, I recommend buying the equipment from the same brand as the camera. This equipment will be 100% compatible and contribute to a longer lifetime of your camera. It will also make the camera much easier to use and it will be easier for you to get help from the brand if you have any problems. 

Tip 2: How to increase battery life 

One slight disadvantage of action cameras is the comparable short battery life of between 50 – 150 minutes. One common way to increase battery life is adding a power bank – something that is not really advisable in skydiving. 

In order to save energy, you can refrain from watching the video footage on your camera directly. It is better to transfer the footage to your laptop and watch it there. While watching the videos, you can also charge the camera. Using an SD card from the same brand will also increase battery life. 

If you have only little memory on your camera and need to delete footage before you can record a new one, I would invest some money in a better SD card. 

Tip 3: Put your phone on flight mode 

It can be quite distracting when you receive many notifications on your smartphone while being at the dropzone and preparing for your jump. If any apps run on your phone in the background, it also messes up the connection with your camera device. 

An easy way around this is to stop all unnecessary apps and put your phone on flight mode. Then turn on the Wi-Fi and connect it to the camera device. This will help your camera to stay connected without any turbulence and it helps you stay focused. It will also boost the battery life of your phone and camera a little bit. 

I am sure that you will find a good camera if you follow the tips above. 

Enjoy your free fall!