Would you like to record your next MTB ride and share it with your friends? If so, this article is for you! Whether you want to record your favorite tricks or the steepest descents, a mountain bike action camera will allow you to capture every detail in high definition. Then, you just need to do some editing and … ta-dah! Everyone will love your videos!
Since the launching of the first GoPro more than 15 years ago, these little cameras have changed the way we see extreme sports. With so many new brands, models, and advanced features, making a choice isn’t easy. In this article, I’ll talk about resolution, dynamic range, lens types, stabilization systems, and other important factors to consider before you choose your action cam. In addition, I’ll review the best models of the year, so you can find the one that best suits your needs.
THE BEST MOUNTAIN BIKE CAMERAS
GOPRO HERO 10 BLACK
PHOTO: 23 MP
VIDEO: 5.3K 60 fps
WEIGHT: 5.6 oz
SCREEN: 2.27’’ touchscreen
STABILIZATION: HyperSmooth 4.0
PROS: Great optical quality, solid design, horizon-leveling stabilizer.
CONS: Bigger and heavier than the previous version.
The GoPro Hero 10 Black is the latest GoPro model, and I’m sure you’ll love it. The camera’s sensor can take 23MP photos and record video in 5.3K 60 fps. If you record in 4K, you can set it to a maximum of 120 fps. If you prefer to record in 2.7K or 1080p, you can increase it up to 240 fps, which is great for recording high-quality slow motion videos.
This model features a superview mode, a wide mode, a narrow mode, and a linear mode (just like the previous model). However, it now introduces the new linear mode with horizon alignment, which uses the horizon as a reference to stabilize the image. To me, this is one of the most revolutionary upgrades of recent years. Also, GoPro has improved its stabilization system (which was already great) and introduced the Hypersmooth 4.0, which produces clean, stable videos.
This model offers other interesting features, like the new TimeWarp 3.0, which allows you to change the speed of your footage in real time. It’s a cool function, although you can get the same effect when editing. It comes with a rear touchscreen (like the previous model) and a front screen, which is ideal for videos in which you are the main character. You can see exactly what you are recording when the camera is pointed at you.
Keep in mind that you can adjust the sharpness setting to your liking, which greatly affects the quality of the footage. I recommend that you play with these adjustments until you find the right settings for your videos. Something I especially love about this camera is how sturdy and shock-resistant it feels, which is essential for practicing sports such as mountain biking. However, some people prefer more compact models.
INSTA360 GO 2
PHOTO: 9 MP
WEIGHT: 1 oz
STABILIZATION: Flowstate stabilization
PROS: Incredibly small and lightweight.
CONS: No 4K video, short battery life, doesn’t take memory cards.
The Insta360 GO 2 is the most powerful camera in the world of super tiny cameras. This model is smaller than your thumb, and yet it has amazing features. It uses a magnetic system, so you can attach it to any metal parts of your bike, or even to your T-shirt (using the magnetic pendant accessory).
It comes with a charging case (which also works as a tripod) that extends the battery autonomy. You won’t use the case while mountain biking, but you can carry it in your backpack, then use it to charge the camera when it’s running out of battery life.
This camera has all the classic features too, such as HDR mode, Timelapse, Hyperlapse, and SlowMotion. In addition, it’s waterproof down to 13 feet deep without a housing (in case you bring it on a snorkeling trip). It can’t record in 4K, but the quality of the videos is just as amazing thanks to the Flowstate six-axis stabilization system, which makes up for the slight lack of resolution.
Another downside is that it comes with a 32GB internal memory card, which can’t be expanded. Also, due to its tiny size, it has a fairly short battery life (although it can be quickly charged in the carry case). Overall, this camera features great video quality and a fantastic stabilization system in a surprisingly small size.
INSTA360 ONE X2
PHOTO: 18.4 MP
WEIGHT: 5.25 oz
SCREEN: 1.5” touchscreen
STABILIZATION: FlowState stabilization
PROS: Creative options, high optical quality.
CONS: Requires some editing.
The Insta360 One X2 is like the older brother of the previous model. This camera is serious competition for the GoPro; for many people, it’s an even better option because it can record 360-degree video. The 360 video mode uses two lenses, located on the front and the back, to capture the action in all directions. This is a great advantage because you don’t have to worry about framing, positions and points of view; all you have to do is pedal. Afterward, you can use the advanced editing features to pick your favorite angle.
In addition, the two-lens design allows for the “invisible selfie stick” effect, so the stick disappears in the footage. I know, you’re not going to be holding a selfie stick while mountain biking, but it can be helpful in other situations. You can also shoot traditional flat videos.
The camera features a stabilization mode that aligns with the horizon, so your videos always look horizontal. If you want to experience a new way of recording videos, you’ll love that this camera features a 360 mode, incredible 5K quality, a reasonable weight, good battery life (1.5 hours at full resolution), and endless editing possibilities.
GARMIN VIRB ULTRA 30
PHOTO: 12 MP
VIDEO: 4K 30 fps
WEIGHT: 3.14 oz
SCREEN: 1.75’’ touchscreen
STABILIZATION: 3-axis stabilizer
PROS: Tracks helpful data, lightweight.
CONS: No stabilization at 4K.
With a design similar to that of a GoPro, the Garmin Virb Ultra 30 deserves to be on the list for several reasons. The touchscreen is smaller than that of a GoPro, but it’s really easy to navigate. It also has voice control, so you don’t even have to touch it. Just say, “OK Garmin, start recording.” It’s that simple.
The camera features a Wi-Fi button that creates a network for your devices. (You can use the app to see what the camera sees on your smartphone, change the resolution, etc.) This button is quite large and easy to find, so you won’t have to go into the menu every time you need to turn Wi-Fi on and off.
As it couldn’t be otherwise in a Garmin device, this cam features the G-Metrix technology that uses GPS positioning to track lots of helpful data, such as distance traveled, altitude, speed, location, etc. When it comes to resolution, this baby shoots excellent, sharp 4K 30fps video.
Among the main disadvantages, it should be mentioned that although the camera is water-resistant, it’s not totally waterproof. (You have to use a housing.) Also, the image stabilizer is pretty good, but it can’t be activated when you’re recording 4K video. Overall, it’s a great camera, but it has been on the market for a few years, and I honestly think it has been outmatched by the newer GoPro models in terms of video quality and stabilization.
DJI OSMO ACTION
PHOTO: 12 MP
VIDEO: 4K 60 fps
WEIGHT: 4.7 oz
SCREEN: 2.25” (rear) and 1.4” (front)
PROS: Front screen.
CONS: It doesn’t feature horizon leveling.
The DJI Osmo Action is an action cam made by the famous brand DJI, which is one of the largest manufacturers of recreational drones. When it was launched, this cam was revolutionary because it had a front screen, so you could see exactly what you were recording (perfect for selfie videos).
Although most of today’s cameras also have front screens, the Osmo Action continues to stand out for its optical quality and high resolution. This device is waterproof down to 11 meters, withstands drops from up to 5 feet, and can work in extreme climates, withstanding temperatures from -10º C to 40º C.
This model has many features, including 4K 60fps video, HDR mode, Timelapse, SlowMotion, Burst mode, self-timer, voice control, etc. The stabilization system is amazing – seemingly on par with GoPro’s famous Hypersmooth stabilizer. Stabilized 4K videos look sharp and stable. While there is some loss of quality in low light conditions, this happens to all action cams (due to the small size of the sensor).
Overall, it’s a fantastic camera. However, keep in mind that this model was launched in 2019. I’ve heard that the new DJI Osmo Action 2 will be released soon and is supposed to have a bunch of new features. UPDATE: the new DJI Action 2 is now available on Amazon.
SONY RXO II
PHOTO: 15 MP
VIDEO: 4K 30 fps
WEIGHT: 4.6 oz
SCREEN: 1.5” tiltable LCD
PROS: Flip-up screen, excellent photo quality.
CONS: No continuous autofocus while recording.
The Sony RXO II is the most expensive action camera on the list. You may be wondering, “Why?” Well, theoretically, because it’s not just an action camera. This beauty is compact and impact-resistant, and it can record high-quality 4K video (just like most action cams).
However, it also takes high-quality photos (something most action cams don’t do). Based on the popular RXO, the RXO II includes interesting new features, such as a flip-up screen, which helps in recording selfie videos. In addition, it has a sturdy design: It withstands drops from up to 6.5 feet, it’s submersible to 33 feet without a housing, and it’s crushproof up to 440 pounds.
It has both great video and photo quality. The Eye AF function automatically focuses on the subject’s eyes, creating a slight bokeh effect (the subject is in focus while the background is out of focus), which looks great in portraits. However, it’s not the best option for those looking for a 100% action camera.
I see two drawbacks: 1) The view angle is not as open as that of a GoPro, which means a smaller part of the scene is captured; and 2) The continuous autofocus doesn’t work while recording, which means the focus locks when you start recording, and it doesn’t change. If the subject moves closer to or farther away from the camera, the subject may be out of focus – in other words, blurry.
AKASO BRAVE 7 LE
PHOTO: 20 MP
VIDEO: 4K 30 fps
WEIGHT: 4.5 oz
SCREEN: 2” touchscreen
STABILIZATION: 6-axis stabilizer
PROS: Price, good video quality.
CONS: The mic isn’t very good.
The Akaso Brave 7 LE is becoming quite popular among outdoor enthusiasts. The secret of its success is great performance at an attractive price. With a design similar to that of the DJI Osmo Action, this camera features two full-color screens (one on the front and one on the back), 4K video, a 6-axis stabilization system, water resistance down to one meter, an adjustable view angle, Wi-Fi connectivity, remote control, and a two-hour battery. Like most models on the list, it features various recording modes, including Timelapse, SlowMotion, and Burst Photo.
This is probably the best “inexpensive” cam of the year. I put that in quotes because it’s not very cheap, but it definitely performs well for its price. (It’s half the price of a GoPro.) The resolution and stabilization system are great, so it can record high-quality videos.
It doesn’t provide the same video quality as the latest GoPro, but it’s pretty close. I miss the horizon leveling stabilizer, though. If money is not an issue, I recommend the GoPro or the Insta360 ONE X2 instead. Otherwise, the Akaso Brave 7 LE is a great, affordable option.
IMPORTANT FEATURES OF MOUNTAIN BIKE CAMERAS
KNOWN vs UNKNOWN BRANDS
Action cameras have become incredibly popular, so new brands are showing up every day. Although GoPro is the market leader, other attractive options are worth a try.
On the one hand are its more direct opponents, like Insta360, Sony, and Garmin – all excellent options with great features. On the other hand are a lot of Chinese manufacturers selling cameras at very low prices.
In this group of inexpensive cameras are some terrible options as well as some pretty good cams, such as the Akaso Brave 7 LE. My advice: Don’t buy a $50 Chinese camera. Most can record in 4K and have decent video quality, but the overall performance is nowhere near that of a GoPro.
Every year, new models feature higher and higher resolution (which translates into better photo and video quality). Although this is an important factor, you shouldn’t obsess over resolution. Unless you want to print poster-size photos or watch your videos on a big screen, you’ll hardly notice the difference.
Today, virtually all models can record in 4K 60fps, which is great quality. The new GoPro records 5K Ultra HD video. This is fantastic, but 95% of users won’t need such high quality. In fact, many TVs and laptops can’t play at 4K, so you won’t be able to appreciate the quality of the video.
The advantage of having a high-resolution video with many frames per second is that it provides more flexibility. For instance, many models can record video at 60 fps instead of 30 fps. The human eye won’t notice the difference, but it allows you to edit parts of the video in slow motion.
I recommend getting a 4K camera (because today most record in 4K), so you can try different resolutions, editing processes, etc. Then, you can use the resolution that best suits your needs.
For example, I record many videos at 1080p because they take up less space on the memory card while still offering good quality. However, when I want to record an important activity, or when I think that I’m going to edit the video afterward, I record in 4K 60 fps.
Dynamic range is an important factor (more important than resolution). It measures the difference in brightness between the darkest and brightest parts of the scene, so the final image features a full range of detail in both parts (the highlights and the shadows).
The human eye is much better than a camera at doing this. That’s why, when you go from a thick forest to a sunny canyon, your eyes will automatically and quickly adapt to the difference in light. For a camera, however, it’s not so easy. You may have noticed that some parts of the scene can be overexposed or underexposed when a scene has significant light differences.
Get an MTB camera with a good dynamic range. This (and not so much the resolution) will make a difference in your videos’ quality.
Most action cameras have poor or, at best, decent audio quality, but certainly not impressive. However, there’s a solution. If sound quality is a priority, I recommend that you buy a good external microphone. Hundreds of microphones are available on the market at affordable prices.
Most mountain bikers don’t care much about sound quality because they edit virtually all their videos and often play background music. However, a good mic can help on some occasions.
By the way, remember to remove the underwater housing before you start recording, as the housing often covers the camera microphones, resulting in poorer audio quality.
In terms of lenses, there are several things to consider. Maximum aperture indicates the amount of light that the lens lets through. In these types of cameras, it’s usually around f / 2.8. On the other hand, the focal length indicates the angle of view that the camera offers.
Most action cameras use a wide-angle lens, also known as “fisheye.” This means it has a very open angle of view. In other words, the camera captures a large part of the scene.
In fact, the lens is so wide-angled that it usually distorts the image a little (and sometimes a lot). This is why many cameras feature adjustable lenses that can record in linear mode too.
If there’s any sport for which you’ll need an efficient stabilization system, it’s mountain biking. Make sure your camera has a good stabilizer that can absorb all vibrations, tremors, and sudden movements on the bike.
Generally, this is accomplished by an electronic stabilization technique that uses a cropped image as a floating frame to minimize camera shake. If you take a look at GoPro’s HyperSmooth stabilizer, you’ll see its spectacular results.
Most models have lots of extra features, such as touch screens, live streaming, TimeWarp, Burst Mode, and Slow Motion. Although not essential, some of these functions can help you create incredible, good-looking videos.
SIZE AND WEIGHT
Generally, the smaller and lighter the camera, the more comfortable it is to carry. Today, most models weigh around 150 grams, although the lightest cams can weigh less than 30 grams.
Because most mountain bike cameras have equal sizes and weights, I wouldn’t assign much importance to this factor. If your model is 50 grams heavier or lighter than other models, you won’t notice much difference. Just make sure your camera includes all the features you need.
Virtually all action cameras are water-resistant, or even waterproof down to 10 meters without a housing. Because you are looking for a camera for mountain biking, you probably aren’t very concerned about the depth that it can withstand. As long as it’s waterproof, that will work if you get caught in the rain.
With such a compact size, these cameras don’t have long-lasting batteries. Generally, you can expect a battery life of about 1.5 hours, although this will depend on the recording settings.
For instance, recording in 4K consumes more battery power than recording in 1080p does. Other factors can significantly reduce battery life, such as connecting to Wi-Fi and turning on an LCD screen.
There are lots of different mounts and straps for carrying an action cam. Some mounts can be attached to different parts of the bike.
The most popular mounts for mountain biking are the classic handlebar mount (keep in mind that it gets a lot of vibrations), the helmet front mount (the footage is more stable, but you can hit the cam with a branch), and the chest mount (the favorite of many mountain bikers, although it is more dangerous in the event of a fall).
Hi, I’m Miguel; Adventure traveler, scuba diver and hiking lover. I have been traveling the world for the last 10 years and I hope my experiences, photos and hiking routes inspire you to travel the world too.