How Helmet Cameras Work

Other Uses for Helmet Cams

This skier will get some great shots of his descent thanks to his helmet camera.
This skier will get some great shots of his descent thanks to his helmet camera.
Cultura RM/Ross Woodhall

Three types of professionals seem to get first dibs on all the cool tech toys before anyone else: the military, law enforcement/emergency responders and Batman. The good news for people using such a tool in a work capacity is that it can capture everything on irrefutable video. Unfortunately, that's also the bad news.

Why the wishy-washiness? Well, helmet cams can take away any doubt surrounding how an event went down, as evidenced by the footage of a deadly SWAT raid in Arizona [source: Echavarri]. No more relying on shaky witness testimony -- it's all there on video for the world to see, which takes a lot of pressure off of people under fire for questionable tactics. That's also a big part of the problem that many agencies and employers have with helmet cams. As much as it can protect them in cases involving suspected wrongdoing, it can also do exactly the opposite if everything wasn't followed to the letter of the law, leaving them open for criticism, lawsuits and other punishment.

Just ask Pfc. Ted Daniels, a soldier who captured terrifying battle footage while serving in Afghanistan. His helmet cam video was never meant to be widely viewed, but ended up on a YouTube channel and quickly garnered more than 29 million views by early 2015. People were split between regarding his actions as heroic (he drew attention to himself to allow his fellow soldiers to make a getaway from Taliban shooters), or idiotic. Daniels himself said that "it wasn't the most tactically brilliant thing to do." Army higher-ups also note that the video can actually be spun by the Taliban into propaganda to further support their cause [source: Ortiz]. A similar risk is also apparent for law enforcement officials, since criminals can easily view and analyze videos to learn tricks of the trade once they become public record.

On a less terrifying level, urban bicyclists are also donning helmet cameras to both protect themselves and prove the wrongdoing of others. Everyone knows there's a lot of hearsay involved in automobile accidents, and cyclists are often blamed outright if involved. A rising number of bicycle enthusiasts are outfitting their helmets with cameras as an insurance policy of sorts, so that the actual insurance company won't give them so much grief in the event of a collision [course: Coldwell].

Some are taking it a step further, including Dave Sherry, a London cyclist who passes video footage of poor drivers onto police for prosecution [source: Spillett]. His intentions might be good, but he's been attacked by many an angry motorist.

OK, enough about the camera uses. Here's how to buy one and shoot.