Need to Know

Extreme Photography

FYI: The Rundown

Lights, Camera, Action

Action cameras let you capture all your jumps, dives, and other stunts without fear of breaking your equipment—even letting you shoot hands-free. Which is best for you? We tested four sports-centric cameras to get the lay of this ultrarugged land.

Looxcie 2 Image

Looxcie 2

If portability is key, check out Looxcie. This 1 oz. camera slips over your ear much like a Bluetooth headset—and it can actually take calls for you, too. The gimmick here is that the Looxcie is always recording. You don’t have to turn it on and off. Instead you push a button on the camera to have it store the last 30 seconds it shot, so you don’t have to guess when something cool is about to go down. It’s like TiVo for your life. The newest model stores 10 hours of video (which should get you through the high points of your day) and can be controlled via an app on your Android or iOS device. Resolution is just 480p—so it’s not well equipped for shooting a documentary—but for casual users it should be plenty. US$180

Sony Cyber-shot TX20 Image

Sony Cyber-shot TX20

At first glance the Sony Cyber-shot TX20 looks like any old portable digicam, and you wouldn’t expect it’s ready for serious action. It’s waterproof to 16 feet and shockproof to 5 feet, so fret not if your ATV adventure requires a river crossing. You can’t readily mount a camera like this to your helmet, of course, but what you gain might make up for that: a 16.2-megapixel still camera sensor; full 1,080p video recording at 60 frames per second; four times optical zoom; and a vast, touch screen LCD that makes fiddling with settings easy. This is a pro-grade camera that will handle outdoor duty with aplomb. US$330

ION Air Pro Image

ION Air Pro

Arguably the top of the line in action cams, the ION Air Pro has just about everything: 1,080p HD recording, a tough-as-nails design, and mounting attachments galore. It’s even waterproof to 30 feet and includes 8 GB of cloud-based storage for your video creations—which are easy to produce with its no-look controls. Want Wi-Fi? An optional “Podz” attachment lets you convert the camera instantly to wireless. The Air Pro is on the heavy side (5.2 oz.), there’s no built-in storage (bring your own microSD card), and we had trouble getting videos off an early version of the camera, but the truly adventurous aren’t likely to find a more full-featured device. US$230

Liquid Image Impact Series Image

Liquid Image Impact Series

Instead of adding on extra gear, why not just embed a video camera into a piece of equipment you’re already wearing? Liquid Image offers a range of goggles—including scuba-ready models—with the camera built into the frame. We tested a version designed for off-roading, capable of recording 1,080p video at 30 frames per second, 720p at 60 frames per second, or 12-megapixel still shots. It’s all controlled via two buttons on the front of the goggles. A 4 GB microSD card is included, or you can add your own for more storage. US$400

Photography by Shutterstock