In the past few years, several companies have started selling tiny, rugged, inexpensive “action” video cameras designed to be mounted on wild-n-crazy vantage points such as mountain bike helmets, hang-gliders or even model rockets (yes, it’s been done). Up until recently, however, a common complaint about these cameras was that their lenses weren’t wide enough to capture all the action. That problem was squarely addressed with the autumn 2008 release of a new camera, the GoPro HERO Wide. Now, GoPro has gone one better by introducing a High-Definition version of that same model.

The water/shockproof HD HERO Wide sports a 170-degree lens, which is over three times wider than its popular competitor, the Standard-Definition Oregon Scientific ATC5K. The wider lens definitely smoothes out the shakes and takes in more scenery, but it also allows for more inclusion of what the camera is mounted on. Being able to see things like the user’s hands on their handlebars, for example, really make viewers feel like they’re part of the action.

GoPro offers a wide variety of mounting systems, which will let you put the camera on your helmet, handlebar, RC model, automobile, surfboard, chest or wrist. A peephole-type viewfinder allows you to roughly line up your shots, although on future models it would be nice to see a built-in LCD screen, so you can review your footage on location - apparently an add-on screen for the current model is coming soon. If worn on a helmet, some users might find the camera’s boxy shape to be a little more obtrusive than traditional cylindrical helmetcams, such as the HD VholdR Contour.

The simple little HERO is good on power, being able to shoot for up to two and a half hours on its rechargeable lithium-ion battery. Over four hours of video can be recorded at a maximum resolution of 1080p on a 32GB SD memory card (not included). There’s certainly a fish eye-ish look to the picture, but it’s appropriate for the subject matter. The image quality survives being uploaded to YouTube, and is excellent when viewed in its native format on your computer or TV. Starting at $US300, or just $190 for the Standard-Def version, you can’t go wrong.

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