If one of your goals for 2015 is to shoot better riding videos, you're in luck.
This year's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas was chock full of new gear designed to help you collect your best footage ever.
Drones, drones and more drones
Aerial drones are such a hot segment of the consumer electronics market that the show had an entire area dedicated just to them. Many of the options catered to the extremes of the spectrum, with huge six- and eight-rotor models packing enough power to haul full-blown dSLR movie cameras at one end, and pint-sized versions, aimed at casual users who just want to play around, at the other.
Two of the most interesting, were the Hexo+ and Zano – fully autonomous drones that don't require any training to operate. Both got their initial funding via crowdsourcing campaigns and, notably, both absolutely shattered their original goals.
The Hexo+ autonomous drone is impressive in terms of specs, but more so in terms of how easy it supposedly is to operate
The Hexo+ is more visually impressive, with a substantial 62cm (24in) length, six-rotor layout, and sleek black plastic body, beneath which a GoPro Hero 4 (not included) is mounted on a three-axis gimbel to give a steady image capture.
Hexo+ CEO Antoine Level says the drone has a ripping top speed of 70km/h (45mph) with a flight time of around 15 minutes, which would theoretically make it suitable even for downhill action footage of road descents.
The most clever thing about the Hexo+ is the slick control interface. Instead of having to continuously control the drone manually, Hexo+ is fully autonomous – just frame the shot using the associated smartphone app, adjust a few parameters (such as follow distance, programmed movements, and so on), and launch the drone. Hexo+'s software takes over from there, adjusting the drone's flight as needed in order to keep the shot framed as intended.
Hexo+'s control interface looks especially slick and straightforward to use with no in-flight manual operation required
Hexo+ is quite expensive – US$1,150 – though, and that price doesn't even include the camera – which makes the somewhat similar Zano drone all that much more appealing. Its US$230 asking price makes it much more accessible.
That price gets you a much smaller four-rotor drone that fits neatly on a CD (remember those?) with similar flight time to the Hexo+ and a still-reasonable 40km/h (25mph) top speed. Whereas the Hexo+'s programming is visually based, however, Zano operates on more of a 'virtual tether', honing in and maintaining a prescribed distance to the smartphone to which it's paired.
The Zano autonomous drone is comparatively tiny but no less feature-packed
Despite its diminutive size, the Zano packs in a remarkable amount of hardware, including as a GPS guidance chip, a 5-megapixel camera, an on-board LED flash, WiFi server, and sensors for collision avoidance. The modular design also makes for easy upgrades down the road.
Both drones are still in the final development phase but should be available within the next few months.
Video: We're dying to try the Hexo+ drone for ourselves
Video: The zano autonomous drone looks to be similarly slick in operation – and it's way cheaper
New action cams and lots of GoPro accessories
We lost track of the number of action cameras on display at CES but a few definitely caught our attention more than others.
Consumer electronics giant Sony showed off a new flagship with 4K resolution for ultra-sharp images, Replay XD's Prime X packs an all-glass, AR-coated aspherical lens and a bigger-than-average CMOS sensor into its slick waterproof aluminium body, and companies such as Optrix were capitalising on the creative potential of newer Apple iPhones with weather- and impact-resistant cases and mounts designed to help you make better use of the video camera you probably already have in your pack.
Get up to 12 hours of run time on a GoPro camera when it's fitted with Digipower's biggest Refuel battery pack
That said, GoPro is still the dominant player in this area, and there was no shortage of new accessories on hand to support the format.
Among the most appealing were extended-life battery packs from Digipower with claimed run times up to 12 hours (the standard run time is 2.5 hours), well thought-out new storage cases from Thule, and simple – but effective – stabilised handheld mounts from Tiffen for smoother footage.
Shoot smoother GoPro footage with Tiffen's Steadicam
If you were already proficient shooter, some of these bits might be just what you need to take things to the next level – and if you haven't gotten into it yet but want to, there have never been better options to help get you going.
For more information on all the products above, visit www.hexoplus.com, www.flyzano.com, www.sony.com, www.optrix.com, www.gopro.com, www.thule.com, www.digipowersolutions.com, www.replayxd.com and www.tiffen.com.