Comparison waterproof video cameras - BEST dog harness/ collar camera HD 1080P 2014The best dog video camera has many specs on its wish list. I have researched this purchase issue thoroughly from a dog walker point of view and from a camera quality/ technical direction (using my engineering background).
Be happy in the knowledge that in 2014 you can buy a good very compact video camera for fitting to your dog's harness to film their adventures for less than $100 in Australia (delivered)! This is for a well made, 1080P (HD) waterproof miniature Video camera! Since I am interested in uploading my finished dog videos to Youtube, this camera was required to have the optimum specs for youtube too. In 2014 there is no reason that you would not want the minimum standard of HD video 1080p (1920x1080) for your films. I am also searching for traditional box camera shapes (rather than barrel cameras) as they will have the best fitting options on dog harnesses (under their chin).
You will also note that camera's that are placed in a plastic shell for waterproofing then to a more rugged design that can take bumps and scratches better than a waterproof camera (that doesnt use a clear plastic protective shell). I selected the colour RED for my camera since dogs see the red part of the colour spectrum. The colour red is in fact blurred into the other colours of light yellow at that end of the spectrum. This means that the camera wont be an obtrusive object that other dogs see, and the camera will be easier to find if it is dropped onto grass.
My first searches were generic ones on Google. You will find random cameras from random sites, mostly nothing to do with a suitable application for dog collars and most 720p resolution at best. The prices were also invariably over $150 (excluding postage)
Then I considered researching buying a cheap dog collar camera from overseas. My research led me to alibaba dot com which is an Indian website that seems to mostly be selling Chinese products. For many non technical products, this site seems like an ideal very cheap solution.
But I quickly found that there was very little supporting technical information about dog collar cameras, and most of them were a maximum resolution of 720P. You will find that most of these cameras also have a smaller sensor, cheaper lens and cheaper build. Many are not even waterproof, a vital thing when you are considering letting your dog run off with them (unless you live in the dessert!).
The alibaba process is that you type a long and very descriptive search sting into the search bar and the directory comes up with all the product matches. Once you have refined the search string and made your tentative selections, you will invariably find the same jpg or cut and paste information and images from the manufacturer. There are usually many images and many accessories, but they are VERY short on detailed specs (like sensors, dimensions, etc) and definitely no video footage of what you might expect the units to create. And you will usually find that they can not supply any more detail than they already show.
Because the manufacturer cameras are OEM (the sellers expect to sell in bulk quantites), and the resellers make up their own product codes, it is virtually impossible to search google or youtube specifically for most of these cameras. Some of the 720P cameras are as cheap as $30- $60 but postage can cost up to as much as $50. The cameras are usually plastic and very cheap housings, no waterproofing, poor lens quality, small batteries and potentially poor video quality. It seems that they think that dog people will put up with anything. They have very much misjudged the market as you will see.
The best dog video harness cameras in the worldWhen I checked back on google, I realised that the ebay Australia site has matured in the last few years and might have decent video cameras and cheaper postage. it turns out that I was 100% correct.
You will also see that by removing 'dog collar' or any reference to dogs you will get a good human quality camera. it turns out that these 'action or sport cameras' are designed for helmets or similar and are small enough and light enough for the use on dog harnesses. My intention is to use the action cameras on dog harnesses (under the dogs chin), since training a dog to feel natural with a camera strapped on-top of its head may take longer than you expect.
Again when you put in a long search string into ebay Australia such as : "New HD 1080 p Waterproof Mini Sport DV camera" you will be provided with a lot of selections, however many of the are the same product repeated.
I actually tried many search string variations, copied the results that I liked and then sorted through the pages of products I found.
The result is that there are currently TWO afforrdable quality major models that fit the dog video requirements, see table).
The baseline action HD video camera standard.
Shown below are the images for the two sub $100 action cameras, and the gopro hero3 white models
|SportsCam||Mini Sport DV||Go Pro Hero3 WHITE|
For several years now the GoPro series has been the default accepted USA action camera standard. It does have its objectors, however solid construction, leading edge video quality and range of mount accessories has kept it at the top for a while now, and with the release of the HERO3 series it seems like it might be there for a year or two yet.
There are mainstream Japanese competitors who are trying to edge into this market, however for our purposes the specs of these cameras are a good way to gauge the value you are getting for your dog camera. Also the gopro shape (box like) is more suited to our dog harness purpose than the other handycam or barrel camera shapes out there.
Of course the main downside of the gopro for these purposes, for most people is the price. There are three gopro models, the white, silver and black (in ascending quality order). Since the gopro white is a single field of view and the cheapest (usually between $300 and $400 (ex postage), I will use the specs for this model as comparison.
The good thing about the gopro too is that there is a lot of youtube footage of it out there, and some objective analysis of its performance
Comparison of HD action cameras specifications: Go Pro, SportsCam & Min Sport DV
||Mini Sport DV
||Go Pro Hero3 WHITE
|Price incl Post
|Sensor size||5.0 Mega Pixels CMOS||5.0 Mega Pixels CMOS||1/2.5-inch - 5.75 × 4.28 mm|
|Angle (fov deg)
(127 deg est)
||3.7V Li-ion built-in
New battery $12
||Micro SD (TF card)
||MicroSD Class 4
|Size (no waterproof case)||74 * 52 * 33 mm||70*45*35mm||59 x 40 x 21 mm|
What makes 1080p HD Action Video camera Quality?
The quick answer is the sensor size, the lens, and the electronics (chip) that processes the video image. I will quickly review the specs in the columns above and explain what makes quality.
Action Camera Sensor sizeMost sports cameras say: "5.0 Mega Pixels CMOS Sensor" and that is the only sensor information. Below is a comparison of the standard sensor sizes in current digital cameras. The larger the better.
In compact cameras many are still using the two smallest sensor sizes above. Cameras that use a 2/3 " camera sensor size often start at $500 plus.
On alibaba I quickly found that their action cameras liked to compare themselves to gopro by saying they used the "Ambarella" chip set - the same as gopro". However of course there are many versions of the ambarella sensor so unless you can find the actual sensor version of the camera analysing, you will never really know the likely quality.
The reason that camera sensor size is VERY important in cameras in general is that the bigger the sensor area, the more light and image that falls on the sensor, so the camera can operate in many extreme conditions, especially darker conditions. However since most resellers do not have this information for cheaper action cameras, you will probably never find out.
frames per second (fps)This spec is to do with how many individual frames or pictures make up one second of video footage. Because of the different phases of our power supplies: Australian TV (pal) runs at 50 fps and American (NTSC ) at 60 fps. This was to reduce flicker on screens and interference of the power supply phase with the TV picture. When TV used to use the interlace method (rather than progressive scans) it would essentially run 25 odd frames in half a second and interlace 25 even row frames to make up 50 fps.
This has led to the analog video cameras being either 25 fps or 30 fps. In the digital world you don't necessarily have to sync the frame rate up with the power supply. The reason that 24/ 25 fps is used is that if you go much slower the eye can start detecting individual frames and see annoying flicker. Most of the PAL video digital compact cameras that I have used have been 30 fps. Generally the higher fps the better, as they provide a smoother image (but take up a more memory).
The goPro black uses multiples of the 30 fps such as 60 fps and 120 fps so that if you want to slow action down it will be super smooth. If you have a camera that only records at 30 fps and you want to slow it down by half in editing, then the software will have to guess at what the frames look like in-between the 30 frames. If you record at 60 fps, you can use the actual frames that were recorded, in a 50% slow motion video.
In the cheaper action video cameras you will rarely find any over 30 fps at full resolution (1080p)
Dog video Action camera lensThis is rightly a very important part of picture quality and distortion. In SLR cameras, the lens can cost far more than the camera body. In smart phones many brag about have a Carl Zeiss lens
If a lens is ground to the perfect shape, and uses perfect silica and lens coatings, it will portray the reality of what you shoot perfectly. The cheaper the camera, often the cheaper the lens, and currently very few (none I found) actually want to give you any more information about lenses except the f number and focus distance. GoPro Hero3 use ƒ/2.8
Suffice to say, the smaller the f number, the lower light conditions that the video can be shot in. Note, you need both a large sensor, and a low f number to really shoot non grainy videos in dark conditions.
Field of View Dog video Action cameraThis is a very important spec for many reasons. Note most cheap action cameras do not have optical zoom on their lens, and can't use digital zoom while filming video (some claim x4 digital zoom but this degrades still image quality and can't be used on HD video). So whatever view you see through your action camera, is the view that you will record at.
To give you an idea of what the baseline should be, Gopro do not even state their fov. Their Hero3 model range says that the White model has MEDIUM fov, while silver and black have Ultra Wide, Medium, Narrow FOV. I have found other people who have analysed the gopro HERO3 cameras, and from image tests, suggest that on the black model: black = Narrow (90°), Medium (127°), and Ultra Wide (170°)
If we assume that the gopro white uses the same Medium fov, then it would be 127 degrees.
You will note that all the action cameras I have seen (besides high end models like the gopro) tend to use one fov. Some actually use the extreme fov such as 90 or 170.
The sportscam model I am comparing in this article has a fov is 120 degree and the Mini Sport DV model is 140 degree.
And here is the reason that this is the sweet-spot on action cameras fov.
If you research human eye fov equivalents you will find that " On a 35mm full frame camera, a 43mm lens provides an angle of view of 55 degrees, so that focal length provides exactly the same angle of view that we humans have." And the fstop is considered to be f/3.2 to f/3.5
HOWEVER the magnification of a seen as compared to a human eye is more like 104 mm on a 35 mm SLR camera. These things are tempered by sensor size, lens related issues etc.
What is the relative differences in video quality caused by different fov between two action cameras with assumed similar sensor size & lens?
If you have an SLR camera and you start shooting at 100mm on the lens zoom, it will have a similar field of view to the human eye. If you zoom out (reduce the camera lens to 30 mm) you will find that objects become smaller, field of view increases and camera image shake (handheld) becomes less.
Conversely starting at 100mm zoom, if you twist the lens to 180 mm you will find that you have zoomed in on objects, but you have narrowed the field of view considerably, and you are getting more camera shake, meaning that video taken at this zoom may appear blurry or at least very irritating.
Because the 120 and 140 degree fov are relatively close together you may not notice a lot of difference between them. However for a dog application, where a LOT of camera shake is likely it is probably better to have a slightly higher FOV. Yes there will be less zoom, and slightly wider scenes but the big advantage is less video picture shake. ALSO in extreme close ups (such as when a dog meets another dog or smells something, you are more likely to have the close in object in focus).
Action Camera REMOTE CONTROL
Currently there are very few cameras that come with a discrete remote control (like a car alarm remote). They have minimal functions - some of them (like the one shown here) don't even turn the camera on, and you need to be within 10m of your camera anyway.
There is a new trend for action cameras to come with wifi and smart phone applications that can both view footage, store footage and have some control over the camera (again with single fov, this usually means turning the video on or off. You need an android or iphone OS for many of these applications.
Action Camera Rear Display
The gopro hero3 white version does not have a rear display screen. You can buy one of these as an accessory for near the cost of a whole cheaper action camera.
Most cheap 720p dog collar cameras have no display or function menu screens.
This is the BIG advantage of these two 1080p action camera models I am reviewing here. They both come with colour displays. The sportscam 1080p model has a 2.4" touch screen, and I have seen youtube video of the other Mini Sport DV camera and it is fairly high quality, plus easy to menu navigate.
Of course while the camera is strapped to your dog you will not see any of the video on the camera display, but you could review it in-between runs.
Camera Waterproof level
Again for a dog this is a vital value. The gopro white has a value of about 50m plus.
The Mini Sport DV has 30m (and the new waterproof case as 3 buttons instead of 5 to protect the camera more).
The Sportcam is listed as about 10m, which is probably adequate, but factoring in the extra rough play that the camera may receive, you want to ensure that the waterproof enclosure lock is very secure.
Action Camera BATTERY Capacity
Another vital component if you want to have the reliability of taking many videos between charges. The cheaper 720 p cameras often have batteries around 700 mAh. Decent compact cameras have batteries around 1100 mAh.
The gopro White as a 1050mAh battery, the Mini Sport DV a 1100 mAh, the sportcam has only an 870 mAh battery. The biggest issue for the Sportcam battery is that it is built in.
This means that you don't have an easy option of replacing it if it fails, and you cannot charge it outside of the camera or have multiple charged batteries standing by. The Mini Sport DV camera from one seller has the option of buying a spare battery for only $11.
Action Camera Memory storageMost action cameras including the Gopro white use the microSD memory card. Both the comparison models require micro SD cards. Very few (none I saw) come pre-packed with the cards. One ebay member sells the cards as an accessory.
The maximum storage for the gopro is 64 Gb, but most action cameras have a limited at 32 GB which for dog videos is probably excessive. The class 4, 16 GB microSD memory is only $16 from them (considerably more in most Australia retail shops),
Note, Gopro recommends using Class 4 technology or greater. The higher the class number, the faster the card (and data transfer) class 4 SD card is about 4 Mb/s. For full HD recording either class 4 or 6 cards are recommended. The next level up is Class 10 and is considerably more expensive at time of writing.
Audio - is usually mono and has very few specifications given. Again youtube clips may provide some answers.
Action Camera File format and bit rate
This is really where the rubber hits the road. Most decent action cameras record in mpg4 or avi and have the H.264 video file format.
My Fuji 550 exr compact camera had an overall bit rate of around 14 Mbps. My newer Canon s120 has an overall bit rate closer to 23 Mbps. It is assumed that the class 4 memory cards are adequate for 1080p recording.
Action camera size & weight
Two more critical specs for a dog harness video camera. You want as small and light as possible, with good attachment options.
The Gopro 59 x 40 x 21 mm 74g is smaller than the sportscam camera size is 74 * 52 * 33 mm and 72g. The Mini Sport DV 70*45*35mm 102 g.
Action Camera VIDEO EXAMPLES
Mini Sport DV http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QppW_0_DuiE 42 minutes very descriptive and good night time footage
The gopro white edition was only included as a baseline. There are Hero2, Hero3 and Hero3+ versions in the market place. The one constant complaint I have read on forums about the gopro series is the short video time. (while that might still be around 90 minutes), a few customers were expecting longer. They probaby chose not to have a rear display to save battery life further.
Originally I was leaning towards to sportscam model because of the remote control and bigger display, but then realised that these bells and whistles have nothing to do with video quality. The real downside of the sportscam is that it is only waterproof to ten metres (meaning maybe not dog ready) and its battery is not removable and only 870 mAh.
I bought the RED Mini Sport DV + 16 GB of memory after seeing the good quality video (including night timeshots). It has a wider field of view (less potential video shake), much deeper waterproof level and high capacity and removable battery. Note I have no affiliation or financial gain from this product, this is purely an objective review to assist you in making better choices.
While the action camera dimensions are comparable, the Mini Sport DV is 30g heavier. The cases should be similar weights and both come with similar accessory attachments.
You will note that anything over 100 degrees fov starts having noticeable rounding distortion of the image. A fisheye lens on 35 mm cameras can almost see 180 degrees field of view, but all vertical and horizontal lines become massively bowed around towards the centre.
Image curve distortion will happen to 120 and 140 degree fov video images to some extent (see videos), with the 140 degree fov having slightly more distortion than the 120 fov. There is however some filters that you can apply in some more advanced video editing software programs that can 'straighten' out the curved distortions to some extent.
Good luck with buying your dog video cameras!