The best body camera

Camera & Photo

Before using your body camera in real-world situations, try it out in several placements on your body to determine which one produces the best results.

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Why to get a body camera

Body cameras offer hands-free video recording, which is something that can come in handy in a variety of situations. In the past, they were mostly used by police and military personnel, though they’ve become increasingly popular with civilians and private security firms.

If you’re unsure which model to buy, this handy guide is for you. It breaks down everything you need to know before choosing a body camera. If you’re simply interested in top picks, you can check out the GoPro Hero9 Black. It offers impressive resolution and image stabilization, and it can stand up to all types of extreme situations. 

What to know before purchasing a body camera

Why wear a body camera?

Body cameras are used by police officers, security guards and military personnel in a range of situations. Because they record everything that happens, they provide a factual and unbiased accounting of events that took place. This serves many purposes: it increases the public’s trust in law enforcement and military personnel, improves the wearer’s safety and helps bring quicker resolution to disputed cases.

There are many practical reasons why a civilian might need a body camera as well. You may want to record meetings or activities without having an obtrusive camera causing unnatural behavior, or maybe you want your own recordings of encounters with law enforcement personnel. Some people may want to capture footage of protests they’re involved in while leaving their hands free to hold a sign. A body camera can be helpful in all of these situations and many more.

What to look for in a quality body camera

Operation

One of the main reasons for using a body camera is so your hands are free for other activities. Choosing a model that’s easy to start and stop with minimal button pressing ensures that will be the case. If you buy a very complicated model, you run the risk of completely negating this benefit of a body cam.

Image quality

Not everyone has the same image quality needs. If using your body cam simply for evidence, the highest image quality often isn’t necessary. However, if the recordings will be edited into a video for later viewing on big screens, having high-resolution stills and video is important.  

Durability

Depending on your intended use, your body camera may be subject to extreme conditions. If there’s a chance you’ll be caught in the rain while wearing it, make sure to choose a waterproof model. There’s also always a chance of it falling to the ground, so buying a wearable camera with a rugged body can be a smart idea. If you’re expecting your camera to undergo a lot of abuse, look for a model that meets military specifications.

Wearability

Wearability is a major factor when buying any body cam. If it needs to be discreet, the physical size should be considered. You should also look at how it’s secured in place. Do you leave it sticking out of a shirt pocket, or does it feature a clamp of some kind to hold it in place?

Audio

Not all body cams record audio, so if you need it, make sure to check the specs of models you’re considering. Be aware that in some states, it’s illegal to record audio using a body camera.

Battery life

When researching battery life, look at both standby time and recording time, as these are usually drastically different. It’s not uncommon to find body cams that offer up to 20 hours of standby time, but just 5 or 8 hours of actual recording time before they need to be recharged.

Memory card support

Most body cameras support memory cards of at least 32GB, though some may support cards as large as 128GB or even 256GB. If you plan on recording a lot of high-resolution videos, it’s a smart idea to choose a camera that can support memory cards with a larger storage capacity.

Data transfer

Depending on the model, you may have the option to transfer data wirelessly or via a USB cable. However, some may require you to physically remove the memory card and insert it into another device. The more options you have for transferring data, the better.

How much can you expect to spend on a body camera

Low-resolution cameras with minimal features start as low as $40. Premium models with better specs can cost upwards of $300 or more. Most people can find a quality body camera that suits their needs in the $100-$200 price range.

Body camera FAQ

Are body cams legal?

A. Civilians can legally use a body camera in any situation they can use a handheld camera. Many states have privacy laws that may prohibit recording audio or video of people without their permission, so make sure you’re familiar with these and don’t break them. 

What’s the difference between an action camera and a body camera?

A. Technically there is no difference between an action camera and a body camera. Any camera that can be mounted to the body can be considered a body cam. However, those sold as action cameras tend to come in higher resolutions with a greater frame rate, have shorter battery life and a bulkier and more rugged build.

What’s the best body camera to buy?

Top body cam

GoPro Hero9 Black

GoPro Hero9 Black

What you need to know: With a rugged, waterproof and compact build and the ability to shoot video in 5K, the Hero9 can record all your adventures in vivid detail. 

What you’ll love: Its HyperSmooth 3.0 electronic image stabilization is nearly as effective as a commercial gimbal.

What you should consider: There’s no ability to record without sound.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon 

Top body cam for the money

Rexing P1 Body Cam

Rexing P1 Body Cam

What you need to know: The lightweight Rexing P1 offers the perfect balance of performance and affordability for many users.

What you’ll love: A 10-hour battery life and shock-proof and waterproof build ensure it’s always ready to record when you need it.

What you should consider: The video transfer speed is slow.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

myGEKOgear Aegis 100 Body Cam

myGEKOgear Aegis 100 Body Cam

What you need to know: Those looking for a durable model with all-day battery life will be well-served by the Aegis 100.

What you’ll love: It allows you to record happenings up to 30 feet away in pitch blackness and features a password protection system to ensure your video files can’t be accessed by other people.

What you should consider: The audio recording quality is lackluster.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

 

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Brett Dvoretz writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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