A Guide to the Best Body Worn Cameras on the Market Today
How useful would a Body Cam at Work be?
If you still think of Body Worn Cameras as big, clunky things with lots of straps, think again. Gone are the days of trying to man your door dressed like Robocop. Today’s body cams are small, portable, weatherproof and rugged; perfect for door supervisors and security patrols worldwide.
Using a security camera acts as a deterrent, It will also offer an easy way to photograph people and identify potential troublemakers. Capturing incidents on camera can also provide inadmissible testimony in court.
For some, however, body camera technology is still a mixed bag – and it would be remiss of us not to touch upon that. Body cams have clear applications for good, not least of which is the potential they have to truly revolutionise police and security work worldwide. However, critics suggest that, even as they save lives, these little cameras are adding to an Orwellian culture of surveillance and control.
Of course, we take the view that Body Worn Cameras are a positive development overall. They can challenge, even completely overrule, the ‘my word against his’ nature of so many court cases and police investigations. They can provide undeniable evidence to corroborate (or challenge) a persons official account of events.
So by now we’ve hopefully established that we like body-cameras – and if you do too, read on…
What Use is a Body Camera?
Body Camera Technology has many Practical Applications, Body Cameras Can be used:
- To take ‘first person’ photos and videos of people, places or significant events.
- By Security Personnel and Door Supervisors to capture incidents or suspicious people.
- As a Deterrent to anyone looking to cause trouble.
- To time stamp and date events of a shift.
- By police to ensure an increased level of fairness and professionalism.
- As a portable, ‘ready to go’ camera with superior picture quality to many smartphones.
- As a funky, cutting edge gadget that’s sure to impress your mates at work.
Hints and Tips (How to Get the Most from your Body Camera)
- First, you should ask yourself if a body camera best suits your purposes.
- Most body cameras can be easily mounted, either to the body or to another surface. They should all fasten securely (most even come with a harness). So, if you’re worried about dropping your phone as you take THAT magic photo, you needn’t worry so much about your body camera.
- Always check the angle of your camera before filming – it’s no use setting out to film a first person perspective of of an incident, if you end up instead making a thought provoking art-house piece about your chin!
- Once properly achieved, it should be difficult to displace the correct pointing position.
- That said, it is important to ensure that loose clothing such as jackets, ties and other gear is not in a position to obscure the lens.
- Different lenses (such as ‘fish eye’ or ‘wide angle’) do not negate the need to first ensure a clear, unobstructed picture of the person, place or event you wish to photograph or film.
- Poor quality video capture should only arise from human error (these things are pretty well designed, after all).
- Read up on GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) regulations and familiarise yourself with the Data Protection Act (DPA). Legislation is of particular importance to fields such as law enforcement and private security, so it pays to know what you can and can’t do as well as what is and isn’t admissible in court.
Here are all of the Questions you should be asking before you look to purchase a body camera, and luckily we have answered them all…
Q: How easy will my body camera be to operate?
A: Pretty easy. Many body-cams record via a simple ‘double tap’ method, which stops the camera getting shut off accidentally and also makes it remarkably easy to use. In most cases, ‘point and shoot’ is the order of the day.
Q: What’s the battery life? Will it last a full shift?
A: This really depends on how much you use it (as well as how long your shifts are). Just like your phone, if the body camera is on continuously, you can expect the battery to expire that much sooner. Using only the internal battery, you could get a battery life (per charge) of anything between 2 and 12 hours, depending on the model you’re using. With the addition of an external battery, you could be looking at as much as another 12 hours, so 24 hours or more is certainly plausible.
Q: How much memory does it have?
A: 32GB internal memory is about average. This amounts to around 4 hours’ recording time (depending on the resolution selected). Some models come bundled with an SD card as an addition to their existing memory, while others only have internal memory. Some will use an SD card, and have no internal memory. For perspective, a ten-minute video will use up anywhere between 100 and 300MB. For HD, however, this could go as high as 1500MB, so check the quality settings.
Q: Will it work at night?
A: Yes. Most security models are capable of either night-vision or infrared. This is often an automatic process, so there’s usually no need to wasted time setting it up.
Q: What’s the difference between night vision and infrared?
A: Night vision works by amplifying any available light until the human eye can observe it adequately. Infrared picks up infrared waves (emitted by anything warm) and these are identified by the contrast between them and the colder objects all around.
Q: Does it record continually?
A: It doesn’t need to, but it can. Once the ‘record’ function is enabled, the camera will keep filming for as long as it can, until either the user stops the recording, the memory is full or the battery runs out. A ‘pre-record buffer’ (included on some models) also offers the user the option to record on a continuous 30-second loop.
Q: Is it waterproof?
A: Body cameras usually come with a minimum IP rating of IP54; this means that they are protected from water spray in any direction (we call it ‘the IP freely’ standard). Any of the cameras on this list can be used in heavy rainfall, but only one can survive being submerged.
Q: What is 160 Degree viewing angle?
A: 160 Degree FOV (Field of View) describes the extent to which the camera can see at any given moment. In this case, it will see 160 Degrees in any direction from the position in which it is set. 140 Degrees is a more common FOV though.
Q: Is there a status indicator?
A: On most, but not all models. Sadly, at least one model that made our list has no ‘low battery’ or ‘storage almost full’ warnings. This can be frustrating to say the least.
Q: Can the footage I take be used as evidence in court
A: Yes, in the event that you happen to record any criminal activity. It should also be noted that footage is often not nearly as conclusive in a court of law as one might expect or perhaps hope, but it will also be better than having to rely on eye witness accounts or CCTV footage.
Q: Does it have date/time stamping?
A: This is useful for submitting evidence in court and It usually appears on the playback, although on some models it appears throughout filming.
Q: Does it have GPS?
A: In most cases, yes (double check the individual product specs to be sure).
Q: Can an SIA-licensed person replay footage from a body cam?
A: A person with an SIA (Security Industry Authority) license may record footage, but in order to replay it, he or she would require a CCTV operator’s license.
Q: Can I use an SD card with it?
A: Some you can, some you can’t, But Individuals who view footage recorded by headcams/bodycams are likely to fall within the definition of public space surveillance (CCTV) activity.
Q: Is it really a deterrent?
A: Evidence from the 2016 the London metropolitan police body camera trial convicted several people that wouldn’t have been imprisoned otherwise, However, the Body Camera has been heavily criticised in some quarters, particularly in the US. The 18-month study of more than 2,000 police officers in Washington found that officers equipped with cameras used force and prompted civilian complaints at about the same rate as those who did not have them. Published results of trials by Hampshire police on the Isle of Wight, Essex police, and Scotland Yard suggest that the cameras are particularly effective for capturing evidence in domestic abuse cases.
Q: What’s the picture/recording quality like?
A: Generally very good. A body-cam’s minimum resolution is standard definition. A lot of cameras have the option to improve frame rates and resolution, but the negative effects of this are diminished battery life and the faster usage of memory space.
Q: What about sound quality?
A: In close proximity, you can expect decent, even good, sound quality. For example, if an unruly customer is getting in a Door Supervisors face and making threats, this will come through clearly enough that a person viewing the footage should be able to hear every word that was said. However, if the person is hurling verbal abuse from further away, this may not prove to be the case. Another negative is that an in-built microphone can (and does) pick up a loud ‘rustling’ noise if improperly attached to clothing, or interfered with during a scuffle. As a plus point, however, most devices offer an ‘audio only’ option as well as audio & video.
Q: Will I need to connect it to a computer?
A: Almost certainly, there may be some software included with the camera itself. In some cases (in order to comply with certain regulations), footage cannot be deleted from the camera, meaning that it can only be done so when connected to a computer (in order to avoid tampering).
Q: Can it take still images?
A: Yes, very useful when you need to take a quick image of an incident or person.
Transcend DrivePro 10 Clip-on Camera
At first glance, this neat, affordable model looks to tick all the boxes. Indeed, this camera’s sturdy casing houses a pretty impressive array of features. The 360 Degree-rotation of the clip makes it very easy to attach to anyone or anything you like, while the large, easy-to-find ‘record’ button also adds to this camera’s user-friendliness.
The DrivePro 10 is also relatively small (dimensions: 5.2 x 2 x 8.8 cm) and only weighs 109g, which makes it easy to handle, as well as carry around and perhaps travel with.
In addition, the Transcend DrivePro 10 is water resistant (read: splash proof), automatically switches to infrared when used in the dark and features a 160Degree field of view (the widest on this list).
Playback resolution is 1080p, so you can usually be assured of clear, high quality footage (especially useful if said footage is to be used in a court of law).
The DrivePro 10 even comes bundled with a free 32GB MicroSD card and can also be configured to erase old data when the SD card becomes full, a function that makes it much more customisable than some models (but falls perilously short of GDPR standards)
This, however, is where the drawbacks begin. The 32GB SD is very welcome as a freebie, but sadly, 32GB is the maximum size card that the DrivePro 10 will accept. A 32GB card will offer around 4 hours of recording time, so for longer shifts/excursions, more cards may need to be purchased, adding to the overall expense.
The DrivePro10 also lacks a charge cradle and, frustratingly, gives no ‘low battery’ warnings when it needs charging. Despite manufacturer’s claims of 3 hours+ battery life, the actual figure appears to be closer to 2, so it is probably quite easy to be caught off-guard by this. There is also no screen for playback, no stabilisation and no option to disable the audio, all of which marks the DrivePro out as possibly better suited for personal projects rather than professional security.
Overall, this one could be an option for those in search of an adequate, affordable body cam, but if you’re looking to outfit a professional security team, this probably won’t be your first choice.
ONETHINGCAM Friendly Body Camera
Design-wise, OTC’s ‘Friendly’ body camera definitely looks the part. It seems almost like a piece of futuristic security equipment, with hard, angular edges and lots of flashy design features. Overall, we like the design quite a bit.
Generally speaking, this one is slightly better than the DrivePro 10, but perhaps because of this, it actually loses out to it in a couple of areas. For starters, like every other camera on this list, it only features 140Degrees’ FOV. Also, the ‘record’ button must be pressed (and held) for 3 seconds before recording actually starts, which increases the risk of footage not actually being taken.
Once the recording is set, there is simply no way to ‘lock’ the button in place (a feature that most other models on this list have as-standard), this means that this camera could easily be knocked into the ‘off’ position, or even deliberately switched off.
The OTC does have a lot of positives, however, and in most other areas easily trumps the DrivePro 10. For starters, the OTC comes with a chest and shoulder harness. Secondly, in addition to taking anywhere from 32GB to 128GB MicroSD cards, this body cam also has 32GB of internal memory (although the SD card option does recreate the same problems that the DrivePro has vis-à-vis GDPR regulations).
On the plus side, this camera’s 3 strong LED lights can be used, if needs-be, as a torch. It also has an infrared function for use at night.
With an IP rating of IP65, this camera is also more water-resistant than some of the other models featured here, as it can withstand strong jets of water in any direction.
The battery is also quite long lasting, with an estimated 10 hours’ recording time at the camera’s lowest resolution (480p). Even at top resolution (1296p), the user can expect around 4 hours use time. Faces captured at top resolution are recognisable from up to 15 metres away.
Other notable ‘plus’ points include a GPS set-up that automatically records the latitude and longitude of the camera (very useful if the footage is being used to corroborate any eyewitness testimony), an integrated watermark, a 5CM LCD screen for video playback and the option to create an ‘admin password’ to prevent video tampering.
In our estimation, this is a fine bit of kit, with only a couple of nagging flaws preventing it from being rated higher on our list. The OTC is a good, reliable camera with bags of memory, a strong battery and tonnes of extra features.
Guardian G1 Body Camera
Another cool looking device, this one comes with a similar outer shell as the ONETHINGCAM, but with the notable addition of a written warning which says ‘WARNING. VIDEO/AUDIO RECORDING’ on the front. If you’re hoping to use body cams as a deterrent, this is a useful design feature.
In fact, the Guardian G1 has a large amount of useful features. Buyers can expect GPS, 32GB internal memory (with no option for an SD card), a 5CM LCD playback screen for reviewing footage, 140Degree FOV, a chest and shoulder harness and even a charge cradle.
On a lesser model, these would all be prime features, but on the Guardian G1, they merely serve to whet the appetite for the enormously diverse array of features and functions that this camera actually has.
Let’s see, where do we start? In addition to a body camera, the G1 also functions as a dashcam (it even comes with a specialised dashboard mount) and can shoot time-lapse footage. It can also act as a motion sensor if need be.
A red laser can be used to show exactly what the camera is pointing at, needless to say, this is an incredibly useful feature. This camera also switches automatically from light to dark (the ‘night mode’ will pick up clear images of faces from as much as 10 metres away, even in pitch dark).
The 1296p, full HD camera is capable of capturing details such as faces and license plates from a considerable distance. It even has a headphone socket so audio can be reviewed with video playback.
Like the ONETHINGCAM, battery life is around 4 hours at full resolution and around 10 at the lowest resolution (480p).
This camera also benefits from particularly meticulous security settings. Not only can video not be deleted from the device once it has been shot, but the entire device is password protected, effectively disbarring anybody but the user from doing anything besides recording (even reviewing video). There is also an ID stamp on the screen at all times, which can be customised for individual members of staff.
Negative points include the fact that the camera cannot rotate when attached to the clip (a curious oversight, considering how otherwise well-designed this camera is) and the fact that it is not quite as water resistant as we might have hoped.
BOBLOV Ambarella A7L50
Bundled with two batteries as well as a charging base (which is VERY useful indeed), the BOBLOV A7L50 will arrive in your life fully prepared for, well, anything. Compatible with car chargers, SD cards and yes, even radios; it sometimes feels as if BOBLOV has been designed with a zombie apocalypse in mind.
Outwardly, the design is a little clunky, but despite this, BOBLOV’s features are many and numerous. This camera features infrared which, like the Guardian G1, is capable of showing a person’s facial features in detail from up to 10 metres away, even in pitch darkness.
There’s also a 30-second pre-recording loop (which automatically records over itself if the memory becomes full), as well as 32GB internal memory and an un-mistakable ‘beep alert’ when the battery is low.
Speaking of battery life, this model has an average recording time of 8 hours, with a stand-by battery life of 24 hours, which makes it a good choice for mobile security patrols as well as the door supervisors of the world.
…Basically, BOBLOV likes the nightlife. BOBLOV likes to boogie.
In compliance with GDPR regulations, it also features full password protection and a small display screen.
In addition to all that good stuff, the BOBLOV is the most waterproof camera on this list, being able to withstand total immersion in up to a metre of water
The only real drawback to BOBLOV as far as we can see lies with the fact that some users have complained about things like the charge cradle not working properly, which could be interpreted as a sign of corner-cutting during production.
BRIFIELD X1 BODY CAMERA
As is the case with some of the others reviewed here, the Brifield X1 has been designed in full compliance with GDPR regulations (which state that body-worn video cameras should be protected by a pin or passcode in order to prevent the inadvertent release or loss of data). It also complies with GDPR guidance in that footage can’t be deleted from the camera unit itself, requiring connection to a computer to do so.
Although this is true for the Guardian G1 (amongst others) the Brifield’s security settings don’t end there. For example, the settings and USB transfer are both protected by a 6-digit passcode, which can be comprised of any numbers or letters, giving just under 2 million possible combinations.
The X1 has so many user-friendly features. To list a few, there’s automatic infrared (no need to fumble about in the dark looking for the right buttons), customisable timers, of 3, 5, 10, 15, 30 and 45 second buffer and the ability to manually switch off or adjust many other functions (including stand-by mode, the built-in LED lights, screen brightness, vibrations and even the background noise picked up by the mic). The X1 has clearly been designed with high performance and ease of use in mind.
With this body camera, you can record video without audio, or audio without video (another area that complies fully with GDPR rules). In fact, you can take your photographs, videos and audio recordings via a whopping 28 settings overall.
Although there are many different uses for this camera, it is in the field of security where the Brifield truly excels. For example, there is an option to have an automated voice loudly announce that “video recording has started” when the ‘record’ button is first pushed. This is clearly designed as a deterrent and is, we think, a very welcome feature (don’t worry, non-security staff – it can be turned off! This is, after all, one of the most customisable body cameras on the market right now).
The Brifield X1 also seems to have a superb sensor, which gives bright, high definition footage even in darkness or drab artificial lighting. Even in the pitch dark, this camera can clearly capture facial features, clothing and even details such as license plates.
For added security, the footage taken is recorded to MP4 video files, which are stored in a “logs” folder in the camera. This folder contains standard TXT files that provide an exact time and date-stamped log for evidential purposes. The automatically created logs clearly show the precise moment when the camera was turned on or off and also when it began and ended recording, as well as other data that can provide support documentation.
We won’t mince words; this is a fantastic camera, although there are two negatives. For one, there is no option to add a spare battery, although it should be noted that the X1’s single battery is one of the best on the market, with a standby time of 240 hours. For two, the customisable ‘screen brightness’ option only offers the user two choices, bright or dim.
We’ve cast our expert eyes over 5 of the best body cams on the market right now. We’ve praised their strengths, even as we’ve ruthlessly picked apart their weaknesses. Now, before we announce the name of the camera that we feel is best, here’s a quick overview of everything we’ve seen so far.
The Transcend DrivePro 10 is a nice little camera, with lots of nice features. However it is reliant on an external source for memory and your choices for that source are limited to the smaller SD cards.
The ONETHINGCAM Friendly Body Camera is exceptionally well designed, with options for latitude and longitude readings and GPS – and a veritable ton of other useful features. Whilst this is all extremely impressive (especially for the asking price), the OTC is hampered by a ‘record’ setting that can easily be switched off by accident and takes a full three seconds to actually begin.
The Guardian G1, for its part, is super-versatile, as well as really well designed. As if possessing laser lights wasn’t enough, this camera is absolutely loaded with usability and potential. It is, however, not heavy weather proof.
BOBLOV’s Ambarella A7L50 comes with an extra battery (cool) and is fully password protected, but some users have complained about the charge cradle being a bit naff.
In the case of the Brifield X1, however, the plus points far outweigh any minuses, making the X1 the best choice for the security-minded buyer.