The Best Airplane Cameras and Accessories for Pilots in 2024
6 July 2021 | Updated on February 05, 2024
In the age of social media, the skies have never seemed closer. Platforms like Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube are brimming with breathtaking aerial footage, showcasing the beauty of flight from unique perspectives. Many pilots and aviation enthusiasts have taken to these platforms, sharing their passion and adventures with the world.
With such a surge in aviation content, having the right camera and accessories has become essential for pilots looking to document their journeys.
For those eager to join the ranks of popular pilot accounts or simply wanting to capture memories from the cockpit, choosing the right equipment is crucial. This article delves into the best airplane cameras and accessories available in 2024, ensuring you’re equipped to capture every moment, from takeoff to touchdown.
Whether you’re a seasoned aviator or just starting out, we’ve got you covered. Let’s dive in!
Why Quality Matters in Aviation Photography
Taking clear photos of the wide skies and detailed landscapes can be tricky, so using good-quality equipment is crucial. Here’s why:
- Dynamic environments: When you’re thousands of feet in the air, conditions can change rapidly. From varying light conditions to sudden turbulence, the environment is constantly shifting. A high-quality camera can adapt to these changes, ensuring that your shots remain clear and vibrant.
- Motion and vibration: The motion of the aircraft, combined with engine vibrations, can easily blur images. Cameras with superior stabilization features can counteract these effects, delivering sharp images even at high altitudes.
- Detail and clarity: Whether you’re capturing the detailed patterns of cityscapes or the beauty of cloud formations, details is everything. High-resolution cameras can pick up these nuances, allowing viewers to feel as if they’re right there with you.
- Wide angles and zoom: The vastness of the sky and the earth below requires a range of focal lengths. From wide-angle shots of horizons to zoomed-in views of landmarks, a quality camera provides the flexibility to capture it all. This is why action cameras with wide-angle lenses are such a popular choice among pilots.
In essence, aviation photography isn’t just about taking pictures from the sky; it’s about conveying the majesty and wonder of flight. Investing in quality equipment ensures that every moment you capture truly does justice to the beauty of aviation!
The Best Action Cameras for Pilots in 2024
In the fast-paced world of aviation, capturing every thrilling moment requires a camera that can keep up. Action cameras, with their compact design and robust features, have emerged as the go-to choice for pilots seeking to document their flights without the hassle of bulky equipment. Designed to withstand the rigors of dynamic environments, these cameras promise high-quality footage even in the most challenging conditions.
1. GoPro HERO12 Black
GoPro recently announced its newest flagship camera, the GoPro HERO12 Black.
The GoPro HERO 12 Black sets a new benchmark in the realm of action cameras, especially for pilots seeking impeccable quality. This model boasts unparalleled image clarity, ensuring that every frame captured is nothing short of spectacular. One of its standout features is the enhanced HyperSmooth video stabilization, ensuring that even the most turbulent flights result in buttery-smooth footage.
Diving into its specifications, the HERO 12 Black offers best-in-class 5.3K video recording, further enriched with High Dynamic Range (HDR). This ensures that both once-in-a-lifetime journeys and everyday moments are captured with an extraordinary level of detail. A significant improvement from its predecessor, the HERO 12 Black promises a whopping 70 minutes of continuous recording at 5.3K60, which is double the recording time of the GoPro HERO12 Black Black under similar conditions.
2. GoPro HERO10 Black
If you’re not quite ready to splurge on the latest model but still want top-tier performance, the GoPro HERO 10 Black is a fantastic alternative. This model, while preceding the HERO 12 Black, is no slouch when it comes to delivering high-quality footage. The HERO 10 Black is powered by the revolutionary GP2 chip, allowing it to shoot impressive 5.3K videos with double the frame rate and capture stunning 23MP photos. Its enhanced low-light performance ensures clarity even in dim conditions, and the HyperSmooth 4.0 video stabilization guarantees steady footage across all modes.
3. Drift Ghost 4K+ Action Camera
For those seeking a powerful alternative to the mainstream action cameras, the Drift Ghost 4K+ stands out as a formidable contender. As the most potent camera in the Drift lineup, the Ghost 4K+ is designed to capture the world in mesmerizing 4K Ultra-HD at 30fps. Moreover, for those keen on sharing their adventures in real-time, this model offers the added advantage of live streaming directly from your smartphone.
One of the standout features, especially convenient for pilots, is the 330° rotatable lens. This design innovation ensures that regardless of how or where you mount the camera in or on the airplane, you can effortlessly adjust the lens to achieve perfectly level shots. This means your footage will always have the horizon parallel to the recording frame, eliminating any skewed or tilted perspectives. Additionally, the Ghost 4K+ comes equipped with a Drift external microphone, ensuring that whether you’re vlogging or simply recording your flights, the audio quality remains crisp and clear. With such features, the Drift Ghost 4K+ proves to be a reliable companion for capturing aviation adventures with precision and ease.
4. GoPro Hero Session
The GoPro Hero Session stands out in the action camera market, particularly for those who prioritize a compact design without compromising on quality. Weighing in at a mere 2.6oz (74g), the Hero Session is the epitome of portability, making it perfect for pilots who need a lightweight yet powerful camera to document their flights. Its minimalist design is complemented by an easy one-button control, streamlining the process of powering on and automatically capturing videos or photos.
The smaller GoPro Session cameras are perfect to use as extra cameras for some additional cool angles!
5. AKASO EK7000 4K WiFi Sports Action Camera
If you’re on a tighter budget and don’t want to spend hundreds of $$ on an expensive action camera (that you might lose), this Chinese knock-off could be worth a try. It captures 4K video, has WIFI and costs about 1/4th of a new GoPro.
The cool thing about this camera is that it uses the same mounting options as the GoPro cameras, so you can use all your GoPro mounts to mount the Akaso EK7000!
The Best 360-degree Action Cameras for Pilots in 2024
A 360-degree VR (virtual reality) camera offers some amazing possibilities. The camera’s software digitally removes the mount from the video, making it look like the camera is not even attached to the plane at all! The editing software also allows you to pan around during the shots to create a cinematic look with an infinite amount of possible camera angles. Here’s a great example by YouTuber Trent Palmer, who used the Insta360 ONE X 360 Action Camera to capture this amazing video:
Watch this video on YouTube
1. GoPro MAX Waterproof 360-degree camera
he GoPro MAX 360-degree camera revolutionizes the way pilots and adventurers capture their surroundings. Unlike traditional cameras that have a limited field of view, the GoPro MAX offers a comprehensive 360-degree perspective, ensuring that no moment or angle is missed. This expansive view is particularly beneficial for pilots, as it captures the vastness of the skies and the beauty of landscapes from every conceivable angle, providing viewers with an immersive experience as if they’re right there in the cockpit.
2. Insta360 ONE X 360
The Insta360 One X is a 5.7K 360 camera that incorporates almost all of the best features of its competitors, and adds some features that have never been seen before in consumer 360 cameras, at an aggressive price point.
The Best Drones for Aerial Photography in 2024
Drones have opened up a new world of possibilities for aerial photography. They allow pilots and enthusiasts to capture angles and perspectives that were previously challenging to achieve. Equipped with high-resolution cameras, drones can film breathtaking panoramic views and follow automated flight paths for consistent and captivating footage. However, it’s crucial for users to be aware of local regulations and no-fly zones to ensure safe and legal drone operations.
1. DJI Mavic 3
The DJI Mavic 3 is a powerful tool for pilots keen on capturing professional-grade aerial footage. It boasts a 4/3 CMOS Hasselblad camera, a testament to its Swedish design heritage, packed into a compact frame for ease of transport. With the ability to shoot 5.1K HD video, the Mavic 3 captures incredibly sharp details, and its oversampling technology ensures 4K/60fps images are of the highest quality. The drone’s battery life is impressive, offering up to 46 minutes of flight time, reducing the need for frequent landings. Safety is enhanced by the omnidirectional obstacle sensing, which continuously protects the drone during flight. Moreover, the 15km HD video transmission expands your horizons, allowing for distant flights with a stable and clear video feed, making it a solid choice for serious content creators in the skies.
2. DJI Mini 3
DJI’s newest ‘Mini’ product line features the same exceptional drone performance, but in a lighter and more convenient form. All DJI Mini drones weigh less than 249 grams, allowing you to fly them without the need for a drone/UAV license or registration.
The DJI Mini 3 stands out as a great companion for pilots aiming to capture their flying experiences. Its lightweight design, tipping the scales at less than 249 grams, makes it a breeze to carry on any adventure. You’ll appreciate the extended battery life of up to 38 minutes, allowing for lengthy flight sessions with fewer interruptions. Plus, its 4K HDR video capability ensures your aerial footage is crystal clear, with rich details in both daylight and nighttime conditions. Whether it’s a scenic hike or a day at the beach, the Mini 3 is equipped to document your journey from the skies.
3. DJI Mini 3 Pro
The enhanced version of the Mini 3, featuring 4K/60FPS video, a 48MP photo resolution and up to 34 minutes of flight time! The redesigned Mini 3 Pro also offers true vertical shooting for portrait shots, ideal for social media.
4. DJI Mini 4 Pro Fly More Combo
Capture the beauty of sunrises, sunsets, and city lights with stunning 4K/60fps HDR vertical videos, ready to share with no extra editing required. Fly with peace of mind thanks to the omnidirectional obstacle sensing that enhances safety for even novice pilots. Extended battery life means you can enjoy prolonged flights, exploring more without the worry of a quick return.
The 20km FHD video transmission provides real-time, crystal-clear aerial views, adding to the immersive experience.
Three long endurance batteries are included, allowing you to fly freely for up to 135 minutes total flight time！
The Best Airplane Camera Mounts for Pilots in 2024
In a later guide, we will dive deeper into the different mounting options and camera angles. For now, we will just focus on some of the best mounts you can buy to attach your camera in the cockpit or on the exterior of your aircraft. Below are a few great options offered by GoPro, Nflightcam and MyPilotPro:
The Best Camera Audio Adapters in 2024
And not just for fun videomaking; using an audio adapter to capture your intercom and ATC conversations can be a great learning tool.
Buy now on Amazon
The Best GoPro Propeller Filters for Pilots in 2024
To filter out any unwanted propeller noise on your footage, we recommend you use a propeller filter that you can place over de lens of your camera. Depending on the camera model and whether you want to use it inside or outside the aircraft, you will need a slightly different model. The company Nflightcam offers some great solutions!
1. Nflightcam 43mm Propeller Filter for GoPro Hero
This is the standard propeller filter and adapter from Nflightcam, designed to fit the GoPro Hero3, Hero3+, and Hero4. Designed for use INSIDE the aircraft only, this filter removes the propeller in 90% of the conditions encountered on a typical VFR flight.
2. Nflightcam 58mm Propeller Filter for GoPro Hero5, Hero6, and Hero7
This standard propeller filter and adapter designed to fit the GoPro Hero5, Hero6, and Hero7 BLACK can be used for external or internal mounting. Just like the 43mm one above, it will remove the propeller in 90% of the conditions encountered on a typical VFR flight.
3. Nflightcam Metal Cage and Propeller Filter for GoPro Hero Session
If you plan to exceed 150 KIAS or use our certified mounting options, this cage is a must. Designed for high-speed and high-impact environments where failure is not an option, this metal cage will endure the harshest environments. It is intended for use both in the cockpit or mounted externally on your aircraft. The metal cage is designed to accept threaded 52mm lenses.
The package includes a Neutral Density (ND8) filter for removing the propeller, and you can use your own polarizers or other filters for other activities.
It is compatible with the GoPro Hero4 Session and Hero5 Session.
When it comes to mounting stuff in or on an airplane, there are always certain risks involved. Apart from the risk of damages, there’s also the legal aspect of mounting something non-certified on your aircraft. We will not cover this legal aspect more in-depth, as this depends on local/national legislation, aircraft types, etc. Always make sure to consult an A&P when making any modifications on your airplane if you’re planning to permanently attach a camera mount to an airplane.
Apart from this legal risk, there’s, of course, the safety aspect in case a camera gets detached from the airplane in-flight. You might want to protect your expensive cameras buy securing them with a tether wire attached to your aircraft, but keep in mind this could cause even more damage when the camera starts swinging around in the wind once if it would get detached. Again, when in doubt, consult an A&P. Better safe than sorry!
Interior vs exterior
The first thing to consider when it comes to buying camera mounts is whether you want to mount the camera inside or on the exterior of the airplane. If you wish to mount your action camera inside the cockpit, a simple suction cup mount with a flexible arm will do the job just fine. If you want to mount your camera on the airplane’s exterior, you will have to experiment with different mounting spots, mounts and angles. Below, we will list a few mounts for both options, inside and outside.
It’s incredible what kind of footage small action cameras can produce today. With hundreds of different makes and models on the market, it could be hard to decide which cameras to get. 4k video quality has become the rule rather than the exception with most newer camera models. Besides the world-famous GoPro cameras, there are also a few different options you can consider. We will list them all later on in this guide.
Video is cool, but if you really want to tell a story, you will need to capture some audio one way or another. The built-in mic of action cameras will give you nothing but wind (mostly when mounted outside) and/or engine noise (mostly when mounted inside). Recording your intercom or ATC audio can give a great extra dimension to your videos. This is both great to relive the flight, share it with the world or just learn from your ATC calls or flight instructor’s pointers.
FAA regulations concerning action camera’s
Something to always keep in mind when recording your flights is the applicable regulations, be it by the FAA in the US or EASE in Europe.
The following excerpt comes from an FAA safety briefing from 2014:
As with every other piece of equipment used in connection with flying, it is important to preflight your devices. A foundational question is whether the device you plan to use is, or is required to be, FAA-approved in terms of installation. Generally speaking, regulations prohibit the attachment of non-approved devices to a type-certificated aircraft. However, Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR) section 21.93 permits a minor change to type design, defined as “one that has no appreciable effect of weight, balance, structural strength, reliability, operating characteristics, or other characteristics affecting airworthiness.” A minor alteration can be approved through a simple logbook entry or the issuance of a supplemental type certificate (STC).
The method of installation matters in terms of whether FAA approval is required. If the camera is a secondary portable unit hand-carried onboard (inside the aircraft), the FAA typically will not get involved. Most cameras used by GA pilots are self-contained, portable, and sufficiently lightweight to have no appreciable impact. The method of mounting the camera, however, still has to be evaluated and installed or attached using a method acceptable to the FAA. For example, a yoke-mounted iPad holder has no appreciable effect on handling the aircraft, and these devices do not affect airworthiness.
If, on the other hand, the installation is attached to the aircraft by hard-point methods such as bolts and screws, or if it interfaces with aircraft navigation or electrical systems, it becomes a major alteration because it may appreciably affect airworthiness. This kind of installation requires use of other FAA-approved data or a field approval evaluation. Methods such as glue, suction cups, or duct tape are typically not acceptable, in part because their failure could cause harm to the aircraft or persons on the ground or in the aircraft.
The bottom line is that all installations require some sort of approval. Each must be evaluated for its application and complexity to ensure safety. If you have a question, start by calling your local Flight Standards District Office (FSDO).
Once you’ve ensured the proper installation, the next step is to ensure that all devices used for in-flight photography are safely secured. Never place a camera, GPS, or any other mobile device in a location where it could literally be a flying hazard (e.g., freely flying around the cockpit in the event of turbulence). Even if an unsecured device doesn’t hit anything, it inevitably creates a distraction from flying duties.
Some more interesting reading material covering this topic can be found on Flightflix’s website in their FAA Guide to Camera Mounts.
Additional tips for using a camera while flying
- Experiment with different camera angles. An exterior view under the wing towards the cockpit is cool, but have you tried mounting a camera under the tail facing forward? Keep experimenting to find cooler angles!
- Video is cool, but audio really enhances the story you want to tell. Use of the previously mentioned audio adapters to record your Intercom/ATC audio
- Safety is always priority number one. Make sure everything is safe and legal when flying with your camera mounted in or on the aircraft
- We recommend you use a propeller filter for better results
- More tips about mounting will be covered in a future guide!
In the ever-evolving world of aviation photography, having the right camera can make all the difference. From the expansive views offered by 360-degree cameras to the compact convenience of action cams, there’s a tool for every pilot’s need.
Depending on the aircraft type and your desired camera angles, different gear will better suit your needs. GoPro cameras are always a great idea and they offer incredible flexibility when it comes to mounting, audio capturing and control.
Good luck and fly safe!