Top 10 Features When Shopping for HD Cameras (for Aviation Use)

Looking for a great gift for the family member that is impossible to shop for? HD cameras are the cool new toy everyone needs to have. Being able to capture HD video and photos with today's small cameras allows us limitless camera angles. Now we can share an amazing flight with anyone from the cockpit or even the wingtip with an unrestricted view.

Ever since the first Gopro this technology has exploded with brands, options, and accessories. So how do you narrow the field when shopping for cameras? I have been recording video on all types of aircraft in all conditions for years. Here are my top 10 features I look for in a camera.

1. Battery Life
Battery life is one of the most important features to seek out. Even the best camera is worthless when half way through your flight the battery dies. The camera settings selected such as resolution, frame rate, and other options affect the battery consumption too. When the manufacturer advertises a run time it may not be at the cameras highest settings. My recommendation is to shop for a camera that will record at least 3 hours at 1080p resolution and 30 fps (frames per second).

2. Field of View
Many cameras are targeted towards extreme sports where the camera is mounted or held only a few feet from the target or person. To capture video from a short distance requires a wide FOV (field of view). This is great if you are recording yourself sky diving, surfing, or mountain biking. The down side is the wide fish eye lens is not good for aviation. I hear a common frustration from pilots using cameras with wide FOV that their video is distorted and how far away objects look. Any FOV over 130 degrees starts to distort the picture. Many sports cameras use 160 degrees FOV. This works well capturing inside the cockpit, but everything outside will look smaller and further away. To capture video that looks similar to the natural eye requires a 120 to 130 degree FOV.

3. Mounting
For years the standard for attaching to a camera has been a common 1/4-20 thread. Because of this there are countless mounting options available for any application using a 1/4-20 thread. A few camera manufacturers have designed their cameras to only work with their mounts. Before you buy one of these it is worth looking into available mounts and pricing. I personally recommend buying a camera with a 1/4-20 socket.
When choosing a mount I also warn people to never use a sticky mount or suction cup outside your aircraft. Also, use caution with plastic mounts failing. Many people loose cameras this way. Loosing the camera only sets you back a few 100 dollars. Striking property or a person with a camera is bad on many levels.

4. Menu
Changing camera settings in the field can be frustrating if the cameras menu system is not user friendly. Cameras with larger LCD screens I have found typically have better menus due to the amount of space the manufacturer has to work with when building the menu.

5. Water Resistant
Any camera is water proof with a Skeleton or case. One thing to consider when using a cased camera is the fact that you loose your audio recording. A few cameras on the market are water proof without a case and have audio recording. This is a nice feature making menu access, size, and weight better.

6. Resolution
This is one feature I personally feel people get to hung up on. I think it is safe to say that any decent camera available today records at least 1080p. This is all you need. 90 percent of televised programs are no where near this definition. Most people find recording in res as high as 4k is more data than most of today's memory cards and computers can handle. More data also means more battery power required for your camera.

7.  Frames per second
Simple, the more fps (frames per second) the better. I prefer 60 fps or higher.

8. Rotating Lens
Mounting cameras on aircraft can be challenging. Sometimes the easiest and most streamlined camera orientation is sideways or up side down. Many cameras are now designed with a rotating lens. This makes mount quick and easy. Simply rotate the lens to the level flight attitude and you are good to go.

9. Removable Battery
Having the option to change batteries is a must. I always carry a charged second set of batteries just in case.

10. Two way control (feedback)
Being able to start and stop recording during your flight saves battery and space on your computers hard drive. Just recording the segments of the flight you want with a remote control makes life a lot easier. Archiving and sorting through 30 Gb's of video versus the 4 Gb's you want makes starting and stopping your camera a must have feature. I recommend making sure that your controller has positive record feedback. This means when you hit the record button you get a positive indication on your controller that the camera is recording.  Not knowing if you are recording makes a cheap camera cost you dearly considering the cost of operating your aircraft.

What cameras do I use? I carry two cameras with me. The FlightCam360 and the Drift Ghost-S. Both of these cameras have excellent features for aviation.

The only way to make a great video is numerous camera angles. Operating more than one camera can be challenging unless you are using a FlightCam system. The only way to operate numerous cameras is with a FlightCam system. These wireless cameras use the most powerful controller on the market that turns on and starts recording all of your cameras with the push of a button. The transceiver dependably controls all of the cameras through objects, and is less susceptible to interference than wifi controlled cameras.
With 4.5 hour record time and 12 hour standby you will never worry about battery power. FlightCam systems include everything you need from the start verses trying to piece together a system.
FlightCam cameras can be purchased through

Drift Ghost-S
For the person that just wants one camera with all of the features the Drift Ghost-S is priced to sell. Just like the FlightCam, the drift is built with a 1/4-20 mounting socket, rotating lens, streamlined shape, and is water proof. The drift battery is good for 3.5 hours record time.
Learn more and buy yours at

If you have any questions, or have an idea for a future article please e-mail me at

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