Firefighter helmet cams have become more and more popular lately thanks to the advent of inexpensive small high quality rugged cameras. Fire departments across the world are deploying fire helmet cameras as a part of their efforts to improve safety training, advance investigations and educate the public. (Of course before you jump in and get a firefighter helmet camera yourself, be sure to check with your department to see what their official policy on body cams is.)
In this guide, we’ll run down the list of the best helmet mounted cameras for firefighters. Before we begin, here are a few key metrics to look out for when selecting a helmet camera for firefighting use:
- Size & weight: Every pound of gear counts and when you’re dealing with head-mounted equipment, lightness and size are key. Luckily many new cameras are featherweight compared to the weight of your fire helmet itself.
- Durability/ruggedness: Any type of camera is naturally going to be somewhat fragile but you’ll want to make sure you pick a model that’s designed to take a beating. Being heatproof/waterproof is also a must.
- Ease of use: The last thing you want to be doing is fiddling with a helmet camera while you’re in the middle of an emergency situation. Helmet cameras need to be easy to operate in all conditions.
- Quality of video: Getting good quality video in low light high contrast situations is notoriously difficult but many newer cameras have improved at this even in just the last few years.
The best fire helmet cameras & firefighter cameras
This appropriately named camera for firefighters is shaped like, well, a bullet. It’s marked specifically towards firefighters and it’s heat tested up to 950 degrees Fahrenheit. Like all the fire cameras listed in this article, the Bullet HD Pro 4 has audio recording built in. Although we couldn’t find a fire-specific test video, here’s an example of the video quality in the camera’s 720p widescreen (wide field of view) mode, which distorts things with a slight fisheye look:
Bullet HD Key Specs:
Video quality: Up to 1080p, 30 frames per second
Battery Life: 2 hours of recording time
Waterproof? Yes, up to 30 feet
Special Features? Various mounts included in kit including a BlackJack mount
This fire helmet camera records on micro SDHC memory cards, sold separately. Here is the model of memory card we suggest if you don’t already have some.
The Fire Cam Mini is another camera marketed squarely at fire helmet use. This kit includes both the firefighter helmet cam itself as well as a BlackJack helmet mount. It records on standard micro SDHC memory cards (not included but here‘s the one we suggest). This firefighter camera is also specially heat tested for temperatures up to 900 degrees for short periods of time.
Here’s a video demonstrating the Fire Cam Mini quality in real life use:
FireCam Mini Key Specs:
Video quality: Up to 1080p at 30 frames per second
Battery Life: 1 Hour per battery (comes with 2 rechargeable batteries)
Waterproof? Yes, up to 33 ft
Special Features? One of the lightest helmet cameras on the market
The bigger brother of the Fire Cam Mini, this model provides sharper video quality. Like its litter brother model it comes with a BlackJack helmet side mount. This larger and slightly more expensive firefighter helmet camera however offers better battery life (up to 2 hours). It records on standard micro SDHC memory cards and a 16 gigabyte card is included. Additional mounting options are available but sold separately. Comes with a Fire Cam warranty and an AC charger to recharge the 2 included batteries.
Here’s a video of the Fire Cam in use:
GoPro Key Specs:
Video quality: Up to 1080p at 30 fps
Weight: 4 oz
Battery Life: Over 1 hour
Waterproof? Yes, up to 33 feet
Special Features? Has an option to record date & timestamp on video
The Fire Cam Wifi model introduces a new element to their product line of firefighter helmet cams: the ability to wirelessly share video and photos with your cell phone. This model comes with a 16gb micro SDHC card although you could of course upgrade to a larger card for increased memory storage. This premium model also has better low-light recording than the smaller versions. Like the other Fire Cam models it is tested up to 900 degrees for short periods of time and quite durable. Comes with a USB cable to connect to your computer. Note that the Wifi feature is most useful when reviewing footage after the fact, not as a live view during an active situation because the range of Wifi is not very far.
Here’s a video explaining the features of the Fire Cam Wifi model:
GoPro Key Specs:
Video quality: Up to 1080p at 30 frames per second
Weight: 3.8 oz
Battery Life: Up to 90 minutes (1.5 hrs)
Waterproof? Yes up to 33 feet when using the included waterproof cap
Special Features? Can wirelessly video footage on your cell phone after shooting
If you’re looking for the absolute best quality helmet mounted camera, that award almost certainly goes to GoPro. Although they don’t specifically make cameras for firefighters, their quality is unmatched and they are often rugged enough for general use. The cube-shaped GoPro Session is an extremely light and small camera which you can pair with a detachable helmet mount. The GoPro Hero Session also features one button control which allows you to start recording extremely quickly.
Here’s a sample video from a firefighter using a GoPro camera in 2013. Keep in mind that GoPro’s visual quality has improved substantially in the past few years since this video was shot, but even back then it looked pretty good!
Although the company behind GoPro cameras does not offer official extreme temperature ratings (high or low), they warn that their cameras “will automatically shut off if operational temperatures exceed 125 F.” Having said that, there are still plenty of folks using GoPro cameras at extremely hot temperatures without issues (example).
GoPro Key Specs:
Video quality: Up to 4K, 30 frames per second or 1080p, 90 frames per second
Weight: 4.48 oz
Battery Life: Over 2 hours of continuous recording
Waterproof? Yes, up to 33 feet without a case
Special Features? Advanced video stabilization, works with phone app to watch videos anywhere, super wide field of view modes
Frequently asked questions about firefighter helmet cameras
Do these fire helmet cams take photos or just video?
All of these cameras for firefighters are capable of recording both video and still photos in different modes. Although the still resolution varies slightly, they’re all around 12 megapixels. Because of its larger sensor and lens size, the GoPro gets the best photo quality but the others are all fairly similar and comparable to each other.
Do these cameras for firefighters record audio too or just video with no sound?
All of these cameras record video with sound, which is useful to pick up what’s being said and also radio traffic if it’s loud enough. However it’s worth keeping in mind that in loud environments the tiny microphones on these cameras may not be able to pick up exactly what’s being said 100% of the time. In the case of the Fire Cams, your camera’s microphone may be muted if you choose to ues it with the included waterproof caps.
Do these firefighter cameras record in color or just black & white?
All of the cameras listed in this guide record in color, not black and white.
What is the point of high frame rate recording?
Several of the cameras on this list have the ability to record in high frame rates. High frame rate recording is generally defined as anything over 30 frames per second. For instance, many of these cameras record at 60 frames per second when they’re in 720p mode and the GoPro can record at a jaw-dropping 90 frames per second in 1080p mode. These high frame rate modes allow you to slow down the footage later on a computer and watch them to analyze exactly what is happening in silky smooth slow motion. This may be useful to fire departments in cases where actions were taken very quickly– too quickly to catch at a normal speed.
How do these cameras mount to a firefighter’s helmet?
Several of these cameras include the well-known BlackJack mount solution that is compatible with many firefighter helmets. Many of these cameras also have additional mounting options. The GoPro Session action camera also has quite a variety of additional mounting options and configurations.
Do these cameras come with memory cards?
Check each individual camera’s product page to see what’s included with it; some of these fire cameras include memory cards, others do not. All of the cameras for firefighters on this list record on standard micro SDHC memory cards. If you don’t already have some of these and your camera doesn’t come with one, here’s the model we recommend.