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First-Person Obsession: Action Cameras Better, More Affordable in 2015

Action cameras — tiny, durable, personal cameras that shoot high-speed, low light action scenes — are not just for X-treme sports types anymore. The current cultural fascination with selfies, lifeblogging, and first-person perspectives creates a market for these tiny wonders that is expected to grow 22 percent between 2014 and 2019. [pullquote]Ask yourself — when was the last time you left your home without some sort of camera on your person? From exposing police brutality to filtering every sunset lo-fi through Instagram, the near ubiquity of tiny cameras is changing the way we see the world. And it’s been a long time coming. Brian Heater, in “A History of Wearable Cameras”[/pullquote]Currently, the action camera market is worth more than three million dollars. There are “bullet” models for the top of a helmet, or box models to attach to a bike, skateboard, stroller or whatever.

Beyond sports and entertainment, reporters and citizen journalists use these cameras to report from civil disturbances, war zones, refugee camps and many other news sites. The cameras can shoot underwater, in low light, and they don’t break easily. Being durable, they can be a bit awkward to use, but newer models, like Activeon’s CX, have  view screen and touch screen controls on the back of the camera.

Activeon CX action camera
Activeon CX action camera

Since the introduction of the first action camera, the Go-Pro Hero, in 2004, the cameras have evolved. More than 30 vendors offer action cameras. The Go-Pro Hero, retailing for more than $450, features an LCD screen on the back with touch controls, so that you can see what you are shooting. The Activeon CX is new to the market but comes with a 2″ view screen and touch controls but retails for less than $120.

If you aren’t winning surfing contests or marathons, and simply wish to capture a leisurely ride around Northerly Island, share a boating or swimming adventure, or capture somebody’s first steps or bike ride, the Activeon CX or one of Activeon’s other products, may fit the budget. The Activeon CX includes a mobile app, a built-in LED screen, and produces images as good or better than Go-Pro, but it retails for closer to $100. (See side by side comparison of Activeon and GoPro video.)

CEO Jyun Lee, Activeon execs, Kurios actors at Cirque de Soleil in Chicago
CEO Jyun Lee, Activeon execs, & Kurios actors at Cirque de Soleil in Chicago in September, 2015.

Activeon’s CEO Jyun Lee, told me that the company’s offices are in San Diego and on Jeju Island, south of the Korean mainland. Jeju hosts several high tech startups like Daum, as well as Activeon. The company is “very Americanized” says Lee, and is looking to expand in San Diego.

Patrick Deighan, VP of Sales, explained that the development and design of the cameras is done in Korea and the cameras are produced in China. He and Lee say the latest version of the Activeon adds touch screen control that will set it apart from other action cameras, even ones that cost more than the CX.

Activeon executives were in Chicago at a recent promotional event at Cirque de Soleils’ Kurios show because Activeon is the official camera partner of Cirque de Soleil. Perhaps someday, Cirque’s performers will document their amazing performances from the first-person point of view.

For now, you will have to settle for a video of a bike ride, taken on Northerly Island, without the roll-bar mount, which would have made it look more professional.

The video is about five minutes, though the battery will record for about two hours. It documents a ride on the weekend Northerly Island reopened to the public. It was easy and fun, and much less frustrating than other cameras like it that I’ve tried, because you can see if you are in fact recording on the LCD screen. No chance of disappointing yourself with the great ride that didn’t really get recorded. You can check it out here.




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