The views from the cockpit are magnificent, and no matter how well we describe them to our friends and family back on the ground, it is hard to paint the picture. But now, picture this: the opportunity to take them all along for the breathtaking ride. Thanks to the marvels of technology, this dream can become a reality as we venture into the world of aviation filming with the help of an aircraft camera.
Cameras are small, portable and more affordable than ever. They pair with a wide range of mounts and accessories to set us up to capture incredible footage that used to cost professionals thousands of dollars to shoot.
Today we will walk you through the types of cameras to choose from, your mounting options and some great accessories that will enhance your filming and viewing experience. We will even throw in some tips and tricks to find the perfect aircraft camera and get your aviation filming adventure off to a strong start.
Ready? Lights – camera – action!
Best Airplane Cameras
As you plan the look and feel you want your in-flight footage to have, you will be choosing from two categories of cameras or – more likely – investing in at least one of each. This multi-camera route gives you an advantage because you can incorporate multiple vantage points in your footage.
The first type of camera (and one that you are probably already familiar with) is an action camera. Action cameras are the type that you see skateboarders, skiers, airsoft players, skydivers and other athletes and adventurers use to capture first person footage of their adventures.
The most well-known brand in the action camera family is GoPro, although others have begun to gain traction as well.
The 3 best cameras currently on the market are:
(image source: GoPro )
Of course, there was going to be some model of GoPro hanging out on the top of our best action camera list. Which one do we currently recommend for pilots? That would be the brand-new GoPro HERO11 Black.
The upgraded HERO11 Black has a larger image sensor that captures higher quality images than the previous HERO models. The vertical framing allows you to upload and share shots to social media.
One of the most pilot-friendly features of the HERO11 Black is the proprietary HyperSmooth electronic image stabilization (EIS) system and GoPro has taken it to the next level on the HERO11 Black with HyperSmooth 5.0. The 5.0 version works across all shooting modes and resolutions. If you are unfamiliar with HyperSmooth, think of it as creating the smooth, stable footage of a gimbaled camera, but without the need for an actual gimbal.
The best feature is the new Night Effects, which lets you find creative ways to film after dark. This is the most powerful GoPro yet!
Pro Tip: If you are unfamiliar with GoPro’s naming conventions for their HERO product line, keep in mind that the models are named by their housing color. This means that you aren’t just choosing your favorite color when you select between a GoPro HERO8 white, silver or black – you are actually deciding which features you want, so choose carefully. White has the fewest features and black the most with silver in between.
(image source: Akasotech )
The next action camera on our list is the Akaso Brave 4. If you’re looking for an affordable Ultra HD 4k camera with a smart gyroscope and anti-shaking, look no further!
This camera might cost less than the other cameras on our list, but it can be very powerful. Let your viewers feel the magic you experience above 1000-ft with 20 MegaPixel quality and an adjustable 170-degree field of view. All-in-all, the Akaso captures the majesty of the sky in tandem with you.
(image source: GoPro )
What’s better than one GoPro? Two GoPros! Introducing the Hero11 Black Mini, your companion for capturing those jaw-dropping moments with unparalleled performance and ease. Enjoy and experience all of the HERO11’s incredible video capabilities packed in a smaller, lighter, and simpler design.
The tough outer shell takes GoPros durability to new heights ensuring your adventures never stop. Share your thrill with a larger image sensor that effortlessly delivers stunning vertical shots to social media, and get ready for automatically generating highlight videos sent straight to your phone!
With all of the technology and benefits of the larger Hero11 Black, the mini will help make your memories unforgettable.
360 Degree / Virtual Reality (VR) Cameras
Now that you have your standard cockpit view covered, it’s time to get creative. A 360-degree camera will deliver stunning professional quality footage. View your flight from an entirely new perspective and splice this one-of-a-kind footage in with the standard cockpit view for a fully immersive experience.
The best 360/VR cameras currently available are:
(image source: Insta360 )
Get ready to step into the future of videography with the Insta360 X3. This small device captures every moment in breathtaking 5.7K 360 Active HDR video. Thanks to the AI-powered reframing tools in the Insta360 app, you can let your imagination run wild and choose your perfect angle after the action unfolds.
The Dual ½” 48MP sensors delivers unparalleled clarity and detail, even in challenging lighting conditions, giving you the power to snap 72 MP photos and mesmerizing 8K timelapses. The Insta360 is your window to extraordinary possibilities!
(image source: GoPro )
Get ready to unlock the power of three cameras in one with the GoPro MAX camera! This ultimate 360-degree wonder offers you versatility and provides access to unreal spherical footage. Enjoy HERO-style videos, and mind-boggling photos. Take vlogging to a whole new level with panoramic photos and captivating 360 timlapses, this camera does it all.
The GoPro MAX has the same functionality of the HEO models, with unbreakable stabilization powered by Max HyperSmooth, premium audio captured by 6 mics, and a rugged waterproof design. This is the camera that is capable of capturing shots that provide the “WOW” factor you’re looking for.
(image source: Insta360 )
Not sure where the next great camera angle will be? Take a look at the Insta360 ONE RS for the ultimate fusion of versatility, giving you the power of two cameras in one compact, affordable design. With the new 4k Boost Lens, dive right into a world of stunningly detailed wide-angle videos that will leave you in awe.
The Insta360 has buttery smooth image stabilization in-camera, eliminating the need for post-editing. Crisp 48MP photos, ultra-detailed 6K widescreen videos, and colorful HDR action footage, all made possible by the cutting-edge sensor technology.
(image source: Kodak )
Last, but not least on our list is the Kodak PixPro SP360! It’s never been easier to capture and share your sky-based adventures, especially with YouTube compatibility for uploading and sharing your mind-blowing 360-degree virtual reality videos.
With multiple viewing modes like Ring, Dome, Front Degree/Rear 180-degree, 360-degree Panorama, and Globe, every angle of your adventure will come to life. As a cherry on top, you’ll receive FREE desktop editing software for your Mac or PC, allowing you to add your personal flair to your epic 360-degree VR videos.
Best Airplane Camera Mounts
You have your camera – or cameras – all picked out. Now it’s time to decide how best to mount them.
Mounts are important for 2 key reasons:
- They keep your camera safe and secure.
- They allow you to position your camera to capture the angle you are looking for.
Camera mounts come in 3 main types: suction, flat surface and clamp. They can often be purchased as a full kit with a base, arm and adapter or as individual components.
Pro Tip: You may want to invest in different types of mounts for different areas of your cockpit. Keep in mind that RAM’s ball-based mounting systems are universal, so the arm and adapter from one mount can easily be moved to another mount in most cases.
Suction mounts are easy to move around, allowing you to reposition your camera and shoot from different viewpoints. Suction mounts work well on smooth, non-porous cockpit surfaces like glass and plastic.
The best suction mounts are:
This suction cup mount by RAM is engineered for compatibility with most action cameras. The universal adapter attaches to the underside of cameras like the GoPro HERO series and Gamin VIRB lineup. The short arm design allows this mount to fit into tighter spaces.
If you have an camera and want to ensure it stays steady, this is the solution. RAM Mount amplifies that by giving you three 3.3" D locking suction cups with which to attach any camera or video kit securely.
If you decide to take your standard digital camera in the cockpit with you, there are mounts designed for it. Basic suction mounts limit the recording angle possibilities, but RAM is different. The twist lock base ensures that the suction cup is secure to your glass, plastic or other smooth surface.
Flat surface mounts are permanent mounts that are very secure. They usually have a built-in ball feature that is great for allowing you to easily swivel the camera. They come in drill-down or adhesive styles depending on your cockpit set-up and your willingness to drill into your aircraft. Because of how they are mounted, these types of mounts work well on just about any flat surface. They are also the most secure mount style.
The best flat mounts are:
This kit comes with a GoPro adapter for attaching any of your GoPro HERO cameras. If you have other action cameras as well, no worries. Just attach your action camera to a ball adapter and insert it into the top of a double socket arm. The rubber balls on both ends of the arm give nearly unlimited positioning options. The 2-1/2” round base has 4 pre-drilled holes for you to secure the mount to nearly any flat surface.
This mount kit is also available in a 6” long arm version.
For the freedom to piece together your own perfect flat mount setup, start with a sturdy RAM ball base. Add on a standard double socket arm and whatever 1” ball-based camera adapter works with your camera. You will have an easy, secure system that is always ready to use. For extra versatility, opt for the RAM double socket swivel arm. That provides additional rotation points for the best camera angles.
Don’t have anywhere you can screw in a mount or don’t want to make holes in your aircraft? There’s a flat mount solution for you too. RAM had you in mind when they designed their flex adhesive ball base. It has the same 1” ball as the other flat mount kits, so your double socket arms and camera adapters will work with it. Just peel and stick.
Clamp mounts are repositionable like a suction mount, but secure like a flat surface mount. They are designed to clamp around a strut, support bar or yoke. Most clamp mounts have a long arm that swivels on a ball allowing for easy manipulation of the camera position and angle.
The best clamp mounts are:
Set yourself up for success with a clamp-on base that can be fitted with a double socket arm and adapter for your camera. If you already have an arm and adapter for a suction or flat mount kit, they can transfer over and work with this base as well.
The clamp is adjustable, thanks to protective rubber pads that line the inside of the grip and expand and retract to fit around various widths and shapes of surfaces. Once you have the clamp in position, simply tighten the knob to apply tension until the mount is secure.
This clamp fits cylindrical surfaces from 5/8” to 1-1/2” in diameter. It can also mount to flat surfaces that are up to 1.14” thick.
GoPro HERO owners who haven’t started building out their mounting kit yet will be interested in this bundle pack deal. Not only do you get the small tough claw mount we just talked about, but you also get a double socket arm and the GoPro HERO adapter that attaches directly to the underside of your camera. (Remember that the adapter is needed for all GoPro cameras other than the new HERO8.)
Wouldn’t it be nice if someone would come up with a mount that works for both standard digital cameras and for all types of action cameras? Yes, it would, and RAM already did.
This clamp base fastens to yokes, struts, rails and other cylindrical items between 5/8” and 1-1/4” in diameter. It also works on flat surfaces up to 1-1/4” thick.
It has the standard 1” RAM ball mount for you to attach to, and it also has a delightfully unexpected ¼”- - 20 tap threaded insert that is a perfect fit for standard digital cameras and camcorders.
Best Airplane Camera Accessories
The camera and the mount are the 2 must-have components. Now we get into all the extras that improve the function of your camera and enhance the quality of your footage.
Don’t let temperature and humidity changes get in the way of capturing the perfect shot. Slip a GoPro Anti-Fog insert into your camera and the moisture will be absorbed away before it ever fogs up the lens. Use each insert up to 4 times by drying it out in a 300-degree oven after each use, then storing in an airtight bag.
For those times when your arms just aren’t long enough or you need to get really creative to achieve the perfect camera angle, the GoPro El Grande delivers. Its sturdy aluminum handle extends to 38”, then collapses back down to just 15” for easy stowage.
Unleash your creativity with the integrated ball-and-socket design! Swivel your GoPro 360° on the fly without stopping to un-mount. Capture every angle seamlessly.
Digital Video Recorder Adapter
While your action cameras are great for capturing visual footage of your flights, that doesn’t give you the full experience. Imagine overlaying bits of your in-flight audio transmissions as well. A digital video recorder adapter lets you do just that.
Available in configurations for either GA or helicopters, the adapter allows you to record your audio directly without interference from cabin noise.
The most exciting way to watch your 360-degree flight footage is on a virtual reality (VR) headset. The VR SHINECON headset takes the video from your 360-action camera and creates a breathtakingly immersive viewing experience.
The headset is compatible with both iPhones and Android smartphones.
Bonus: Tips for Recording & Putting Together the Best Quality Footage
You have the camera, the mount, the accessories – you are all set to go up and record some amazing footage. Before you take off, here are a few tips, tricks and reminders to help you get the most out of your footage.
- Make sure your battery is fully charged.
- Have a second battery (and maybe even a third) that is also fully charged.
- Help extend your battery life by turning off any battery draining features like WiFi if you aren’t using them.
- Bring 2 cleared out SD cards with plenty of space for your footage.
- Practice and experiment around with different settings at home, so you know how each works and what type of quality and effects they will produce.
- When mounting your cameras, think about unique angles. How can you get an unexpected perspective that will make the footage that much more interesting to watch?
- If you have a GoPro, check out their free video editing templates in the free GoPro Studio. It can shave a lot of time off editing.
Capturing memories of your flights and sharing them with your loved ones is priceless. All you need to do to get started is pick up an action camera, mount and accessories, then start practicing and learning. Your footage will evolve over time and soon you will be proudly screening cinematic masterpieces for your family and friends.