common action cam settings

Today, we’ll be going through all kinds of settings parameters found in action cams so you can better learn and use your action cam to its fullest ability.

The good news is that there isn’t as many as you think because after testing and reviewing about 30 action cams, I found that the settings are largely similar and can be classified into 3 types of settings: Photo, Video & System/General.


Video settings

Resolution

resolution chart and its relative sizes 4k 2.5k 1080p 1920x1080p

This is essentially how many pixels are in a single frame of video.

The higher, the resolution, the shaper the video.

However, that’s not necessarily the case because ‘fake resolution’ exists.

This is when the resolution it outputs doesn’t necessarily mean the resolution it is shooting in.

Still Confused? Learn all about fake res here!

Frame Rate

what are frame rates?

Frame rate, which is oftentimes together in the same settings as resolutions, is how many frames there are per second, hence it’s measured in frames per second (FPS).

The higher the smoother the video.

Unfortunately, fake frame rate do exists, though it’s not as prevalent as fake res (above).

Learn more about fake frame rate here!

Time Lapse Video

A timelapse video is made by taking a sequence of frames at a long interval (may be seconds or even minutes) and playing it back at normal speed, so it appears to move faster.

The duration in this settings is the interval between successive frames, ie. if you set it to 5s, it will take a shot every 5 seconds and combine it into a video.

Learn all about timelapse and making your own timelapse here!

Auto Low Light
auto low light t5e comparison
Auto Low Light Comparison in T5e

Setting: On/Off

Some cams has low light feature which allows it to shoot in darker environments by lowering the frame rate and increasing the exposure.

I’d always recommend this to be enabled since the threshold is high so the low light feature won’t be enabled accidentally.

Encoding
h265 h264 difference compatibility
Basis of H265 Encoding. Credits: learncctv.com

Setting: H264/H265

By default, most action cams use H264 as their default video encoding method since that’s what most phones and computers are compatible with.

However, as technology advances, thus action cams, a new encoding technique, H265 or High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC), are used by some action cams (usually on the higher end).

What H265 does over H264 encoding is that the video that is shot takes up lesser space, despite having the same quality. Thus, you’ll be able to film a lot more and not compromising any quality, with the same storage space.

However, the caveat of using H265 is that it takes a little more power, hence slightly shorter battery life, and also because it’s a relatively new technology, only newer devices are compatible and be able to process it.

Thus, as a general guideline, you should be using H265 all the times unless your computer or phone is unable to process H265 videos.

Oh and if you’re interested in the tech behind it, feel free to take a look at this!

Auto DVR/Quick Capture / Drive Mode

When this is enabled, this essentially transform your action cam into a dash cam so if you’re interested in using your action cam for your car, this is going to make recording way easier.

Upon enabling it, your cam will automatically turn on and start recording once it is being charged.

Likewise it’ll switch off and stop recording once power is disconnected or stopped.

Loop Record

Although this is mostly used for dash cams or surveillance cams, it is also available as an option for most action cams.

What this does is it record videos in chunks of a preset duration.

So for example, if I set the time-loop recording to 1 min, and record a video that is longer than the duration (1 min), the camera would automatically create a new file and record without disrupting the main footage. Therefore, a 4 mins video will be cut into 4 clips, each of duration 1 min.

So why is it useful?

When the storage is full, the camera will delete the oldest video clip and start another one so that it will potentially never run out of memory. Hence, if you were to use it for say, dash cameras, you would not have to continuously remove and clear your footage manually!

Image Stabilization/ EIS
Different Kinds of Stabilisation Optical anti shake gyro eis ois
The Different Types of Stabilization

Setting: On/Off

Turns on/off stabilization when shooting a video.

Distortion Correction (DC) / Adjust Lens Distortion
fisheye barrel distortion correction in t5 edge
Notice field of view decreases as edges are lost at the side

As most action cams use a fisheye len in order to capture an immersive, wide angled footage, it too produces a fisheye distortion that’s not favourable in many types of shots.

Therefore, many action cams have a built-in distortion correction feature which straightens out, though compromising the field of view of the shot.

Field of View

field of view action camera

Field of view is basically the wideness of the shot.

Generally, for wider FOV, there will be distortion (fisheye effect) around the image and it will seem to bend a little around the edge. Also, as more details are captured, it creates a more immersive experience for the viewers. It is mostly used for action events such as skydiving, mountain biking, or diving.

As for narrower FOV, there is little to no distortion but the detail they capture is very limited. They are mostly used for filming a particular thing as there are fewer distractions. Some examples are webcams, vlogging and social media.

Find out how it works here!


Photo Settings

Resolution
image resolution
Note how field of view is the same but the pixel density differs

It’s the number of pixels in each photo that you choose.

However, though generally the higher the resolution, the clearer the picture, there’s also some exception where they interpolate or stretch the photo, which I call ‘fake resolution’.

Learn more about fake res here.

ISO
action cam iso brightness comparison
Credits: photographylife.com

ISO is a measure of the sensitivity of the image sensor to your light.

In other words, the higher the ISO, the more sensitive your sensor is to light, hence the better it is in darker situations.

However, it also makes the shot grainer/noisier, thus experimenting is key.

The ISO setting most often times does not need to be meddled with because the auto setting does a pretty good job at deciding the right ISO.

Learn more about ISO here!

Time Lapse Photo

When enabled, your camera will take a photo at a set interval.

These photos, unlike in timelapse video (above) will not be stitched automatically, thus you’ll need to use external softwares to stitch, which, luckily, is really simple to do!

Also, in timelapse photo, you generally get better quality shots than if you were to use timelapse video to shoot.

Click here to learn how to get started.

Long Exposure

long exposure photography

Setting: Duration of Shutter Speed

Long exposure photography is a type of photographic technique which involves a long duration shutter speed (10s – 5 mins) that’s capture stationary elements while smudging moving elements to create a unique yet cool photo.

Though mostly used for night or low light shots, it’s still possible to do it in the day, though you will need a ND filter for that, to prevent the camera from overexposing.

Learn more about long exposure photography here!

Delay/Self Timer

Setting: duration of delay between pressing the shutter and photo being taken

Similar to the setting that can be found on smartphones, this is basically delaying the photo to get that perfect selfie or wefie.

Burst
stitched burst photo ice skiing
Stitched Burst Photo. Credits: Digital Photo Secrets

Setting: 3 – 30 Pictures Per Second

Contrasting to long exposure, this involves taking a series of successive photos at a short duration of time, which is nice for jump shots or any kind of fast action scenes!

Learn how to create a burst shot like the one above here!

RAW
raw image sample mijia 4k
Mijia 4K Raw Sample

Though this was originally used only for professional photographers with big DSLRs, it has slowly shifted into more casual users and action cams (mid-high range ones).

By enabling RAW, your action cam will take RAW photos which are those that capture all the image data directly from the image sensor.

As a result, the colour and quality of RAW photos are much, much better than normal JPEG photos.

Find out all the advantages of shooting RAW here.

Distortion Correction
fisheye barrel distortion correction in t5 edge
Notice field of view decreases as edges are lost at the side

Setting: On/Off

As most action cams use a fisheye lens in order to capture an immersive, wide angled footage, it too produces a fisheye distortion that’s not favourable in many types of shots.

Therefore, many action cams have a built-in distortion correction feature which straightens out, though compromising the field of view of the shot.

White Balance
white balance settings
Examples of white balance

For white balance, it is a software filter that adjusts the temperature and colour (tint) of the image so that it is most accurate and natural depiction of the actual object.

Most of the times, pictures of videos look a little tinted due to the incorrect white balance being used.


System/General Settings

Power Frequency/TV Mode/Light Frequency/Video Standard
pal vs ntsc worldmap
Credits: untamedscience.com

Setting: PAL/NTSC

Different places have different electrical frequency, though all of them fall into 2 categories: 50Hz (PAL) and 60Hz (NTSC).

Though this mostly affects indoor or shots that contain artificial, if set incorrectly, you’ll see some flickering because your frame rate isn’t in sync with the freq of the light.

Auto-Record/Power On Record

imars h9+ auto record

Setting: On/Off

When enabled, your action cam will immediately start recording once it’s turned on.

Sound/Beep
Setting: On/Off

 

Enables or disables the sound feedback whenever you press a button or screen (touchscreen ones).

TV Out

gopro tv out

This feature is useful if you’re thinking of sharing your footage with your friends and family on an external screen via a HDMI adapter.

OSD

thieye t5e on screen display setting

Setting: On/Off

Enables/disables the on screen display.

Image Rotate/Flip
Setting: On/Off

Sometimes it’s useful to flip the screen vertically when your action cam is mounted the other way round such as in a dash cam or other mounting setups

WiFi Frequency
sj8 5ghz wifi band
SJ8 Pro‘s Dual WiFi Band

Setting: 2.4/5 GHz

This decides what frequency band your action cam uses to transfer data to your smartphone.

The main difference between the 5GHz band and the 2.4GHz band is the range and the transfer rate.

5GHz provides faster data transfer rate at a shorter distance whereas 2.4GHz could offer wider coverage but at the expense of transfer speed.

Thus, it made sense to use 5GHz WiFi throughout since it’s not like we’ll ever be far away from our camera when we want to transfer some footage.

Metering
metering mode
Credits: DPReview

Setting: Center/ Multi (Average) / Spot

This is a rather technical setting because this decides your cam’s technique in deciding how it wants to adjust its exposure of its image sensor.

As it’s quite an intricate topic to deal with, I’ll not dwell on it here now but if you’re interested, learn more about metering modes here.


That’s all for now!
If I’ve missed out anything or if you’ve got any questions, please feel free to leave a comment down below!

Till next time, thanks for reading and have a great day! 🙂

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