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Last updated: 03/04/2020

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Action cameras have become a worldwide phenomenon in recent years. These compact, durable camcorders were created for use in the most extreme conditions, and they were initially used most commonly for first-person video recording. However, action cams are increasingly used for recording in any setting where professional equipment may be unpractical or impossible to have on hand.

In the last few years, the arrival of a number of new action camera brands on the market (most of them Chinese) has contributed to a rise in available supply. Simultaneously, we’ve seen a steady drop in prices, making these handy cameras more accessible to the general public. You no longer need to be a professional cameraperson or athlete to justify getting your very own action camera.

Key Facts

  • Action cameras were initially designed for shooting in extreme situations and conditions. Their primary use has been for first-person video recording.
  • Action cams make a great partner for any and all adventures. GoPro was the first prominent action cam brand, but recent years have seen many additional brands appear on the market.
  • The cost of action cams has dropped lately, making them more accessible to everyday users. Some current models are able to record 4K resolutions at 30 fps.

Our Selection: The Best Action Cameras on the U.S. Market

In this section, we will share with you our very own selection of the best action cams available on the US market. We’ve tried to include cameras for different kinds of users, so that you can pick one that’s just right for you.

Best Action Camera Under $100

If you’re shopping on a budget, then this affordable, best selling action camera from AKASO is a superb option. It’s Amazon’s Choice and is packed with great features such as 4K Ultra HD, 12 megapixels and up to 30 frames per second. It comes with a wireless wrist remote to make controlling the camera and getting perfect shots a piece of cake.

The AKASO EK7000 action camera comes with 2 rechargeable 1050mAh batteries, each giving you the capacity to record for up to 90 minutes. When you’re done filming, use the built-in Wi-Fi and HDMI to edit and share your material in just minutes. This camera is also waterproof up to 100 feet. It’s designed for the harshest  conditions so that you can take it anywhere!

Best Action Camera for Professionals

American multinational company Garmin is a global leader in GPS technology, and its VIRB Ultra 30 action camera is only their latest amazing product to feature that tech. Film crystal clear 4K/30fps footage or slow motion shots at 720p/240fps while this powerful device also records performance data like speed, elevation, heart rate and G-force. Now you can see just how far, how fast or how high you went on your last adventure.

The VIRB Ultra 30 features 3-axis image stabilization for smooth and steady shots, regardless of the conditions. It also comes with hands-free voice control that can be used to start recording, take still shots or tag footage while on the move. The 1.75-inch display lets you clearly see what you’re recording, even from inside a waterproof casing. Lastly, you can use the VIRB app for one-touch live streaming with Youtube, making this an ideal camera for vloggers and athletes.

Best Action Camera for Image Stabilization

GoPro is the original maker of the action cam and, since its founding in 2002, has continued to design amazing products for every thrill-seeker and adventurer out there. The HERO 7 is known to be among the best cameras out there, especially because it features HyperSmooth Video Stabilization so you can get gimbal-like video, without the gimbal. This camera can predict your movements and correct for camera shake to give you stunning, clear results.

The GoPro HERO is also extremely rugged. It can even be submerged up to 33 feet without special housing! Other features include 4K60 video and 12 megapixel photos that capture your wildest moments, voice control and live streaming with Facebook Live. You can’t go wrong with this classic action cam brand.

Best Underwater Action Cam

Underwater housing is standard with the Sony FDRX3000, a solid camera from a reliable, world-renowned brand. The body is splash proof, and the included waterproof housing allows you to take the camera down to a whopping 197 feet. Choose from a range of viewing angles to capture 12 megapixel stills and 4K video with the unbeatable ZEISS lens and back-illuminated Exmor R CMOS sensor.

This camera isn’t only great underwater; it’s also freezeproof, dustproof and shockproof. So whether you’re hiking a mountain, riding a wave or parachuting, it won’t let you down. It also comes with built-in Wi-Fi, bluetooth, NFC and a GPS feature that will will track your location and speed data.

Shopping Guide: Everything You Should Know About Action Cameras

Before purchasing your action cam, there are a handful of key criteria that you should be familiar with. Remember that each model offers its own unique functions and features. This section will go through some of the most frequently asked questions about action cams from buyers like you.

Attractive Traveler vith GoPrO camera on his forehead

Check sample shots from an action cam before picking one to buy.
(Source: Boyarkina: 52819507/ 123rf.com)

What exactly is an action camera?

Action cameras are small, lightweight, compact and rugged cameras that usually record video with a very wide-angle lens. These cameras are designed for use in particularly extreme conditions, and they often come with waterproof housing for shooting in or under water. The compact size of an action cam makes it ideal for wearing on the body.

The fixed wide-angle lens offers the peripheral vision sensation of a human eye, and it allows you get the full scene every time. Outdoor adventurers, travelers and athletes are all big fans of action cameras.

Because they’re lightweight, action cams are also suitable for use with drones.

What are the primary uses of action cameras?

Action cameras are most commonly used for first-person video recording, often in extreme situations. Their size makes them perfect for reaching places that standard cameras can’t reach. Action cams are also great for filming aerial and bird’s-eye-view shots.

What are the pros and cons of action cameras?

Action cams are very easy to transport. There are many accessories available for carrying your camera on your body, be it on your chest, head or arm. Most models also come with protective casing designed for underwater use.

The price of an action cam has dropped significantly in recent years, so they’re more widely available. One particular disadvantage of this product is that the built-in microphones usually don’t record the highest quality audio.

GoPro HERO4 Black Edition camera

The sharpness of the lens depends on the camera’s quality.
(Source: Gilmanshin: 49316934/ 123rf.com)

What kinds of action cameras are available?

We usually identify two primary kinds of action cams: the more affordable, lower-end models, and high-end cameras that provide significantly higher-quality performance. The arrival of many low-cost Chinese brands on the market is what made this distinction.

Type Features
Low-end More affordable, but also has fewer features. They generally don’t include as many accessories. They are designed for amateur users.
High-end These cameras are targeted at people with larger budgets. They are made for professional use. They offer the possibility of recording in 4K.

How do I use an action camera?

There are countless ways in which you can use this amazing product. Your individual activities will influence how you use your action cam, but we do have some basic tips that are applicable in most situations. Our first recommendation is that you practice and familiarize yourself with you new toy before you begin recording.

You’ll definitely want to make the most of your camera’s accessories. Placing a physical filter in front of your lens can help correct the light that reaches it. Also be sure to keep sufficient memory cards and extra batteries on hand, so that you won’t have to stop filming in the middle of an adventure.

What are the most common accessories for action cameras?

The tripod is a very common accessory for use with an action cam. Extension poles, similar to selfie sticks, are another accessory that lets you use your action cam to film in new ways and different directions.

Head mounts and helmet fastening systems are very popular for achieving a first-person perspective.

Chest harnesses are also frequently used to avoid the strain of having a camera on your head. A shorter, more ergonomic version of the pole is often used by divers. Finally, suction pads are useful for attaching your action camera to a window or vehicle.

Who should get an action cam?

These days, the profile of people who are interested in action cameras has broadened. First of all, athletes who would like to record their performances or training sessions are very common action cam users, just like surfers who want to film their rides without worrying about potential damage from water.

Many bikers use action cams, and skiers often link them to their helmet or a chest strap. Other target groups include skaters, vloggers and street performers. Action cameras are also great for any kind of adventure lover and other adrenaline junkies.

Advantages
  • Light
  • Shock resistant
  • Easy to transport
  • Versatile
  • Water resistant
  • Moderate price
Disadvantages
  • Average audio quality
  • You won”t want to leave home without it

Shopping Criteria

The following section reviews several key factors to keep in mind when shopping for an action camera. Shop wisely so that you’ll be happy with your action cam!

Personal Use

If you’re a professional, you’ll want to look for top quality, but that’s not really necessary if you just want one for personal use. How often you plan to use your camera is also something to consider. The conditions in which you want to shoot and the places you want to use your action camera are also important to keep in mind.

Think about which accessories you plan to use.

Resolution

Do you need an action cam that can handle 4K resolution, or would Full HD (1080p) be sufficient for your needs? These days, most of the video content we watch is in Full HD. Still, there are many advantages from recording in 4K and scaling down the image to 1080p.

This way, you’ll get a much sharper image, and you can apply software stabilization and zoom while in the editing process. On the other hand, using 4k video requires more professional and complex editing equipment in terms of power and storage capacity, not to mention the time needed for editing your footage.

Young man on the top of mountain taking picture with camera on s

Action cams are perfect for travel and outdoor adventures.
(Source: Kumtanom: 66078412/ 123rf.com)

Frames Per Second

A higher number of frames per second (fps) produces sharper images and better captures motion in the scene. For context, know that 24 fps is usually standard in cinema; this produces what what is known as the motion blur effect. This style is especially pleasing to the human eye.

If you record at 60 fps, meanwhile, you’ll get a more realistic image and clarity of movement, so it’s often used for documentaries or sporting events. Filming with a higher frame rate gives you the option of applying slow motion effects later on, during the editing process.

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The opposite of slow motion is called time-lapse photography.

Bit Rate

The bit rate value indicates the amount of video information recorded by your camera, and it provides an idea of how much compressed video data passes through the camera. Remember, though, that these cameras cannot actually transmit all of the data generated.

That means that the action cam will either compress or discard the data it can’t transmit. Of course you usually want as much data as possible for editing your video, so you should aim for a camera with a high bit rate. Still, bear in mind that more data also means more resources and time, so try to find the right balance for you.

Optics

Optics are essential to any camera. The sharpness of your lens depends on its quality. Here is some data about action cameras that may be helpful: the maximum aperture usually hovers around the value of f/2.8, while the focal length ranges between angles of 150° to 170°.

Go pro on a hand

The quality of your camera is likely reflected by its price.
(Source: Gargantilla: 43260193/ 123rf.com)

Image Stabilization

We imagine that you plan to move around a lot if you get an action camera, so you certainly don’t want a lot of vibrations while recording. Optical stabilization is particularly efficient for correcting vibrations, but not many cameras feature this characteristic.

You can also look for internal electronic stabilization, which is quite effective; however, this sometimes comes at the expense of quality.

Sensor

The sensor of an action cam also determines the quality of the video. This component captures the light, which then passes through the lens and the diaphragm prior to being converted into a digital image. A larger sensor offers greater image quality, since it captures more light.

Connectivity

Action cameras usually feature a USB connection so that you can easily connect it to your computer or another electronic device. These days, technological advances have led to many models also offering the possibility of connection via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, and the most high-end cameras even allow connection through NFC (near-field communication) technology.

Mobile Application

Many camera manufacturers have mobile apps to accompany their cameras. These can help speed up the process of transferring content from the camera to a phone.

Accessories

Action cams can be used with many different kinds of cases, anchors and other great accessories. You’ll certainly save money if the camera comes with accessories.

When it comes to having a wide range of accessories available, GoPro remains the industry leader. We certainly recommend buying a model that has a lot of accessory options.

Battery

If you’re getting an action cam, you’ll probably find yourself in situations where charging a battery is impossible, maybe because you’re up high in the sky or riding a wave. One option is to keep a number of spare batteries on hand, but this is also extra weight to carry.

Many current action cameras feature lithium ion batteries, which are very lightweight. Milliamperes hour (mAh) is the technical unit used to measure the autonomy of batteries, but most manufacturers will also provide the battery life in hours in the product’s specifications.

Audio quality

As we mentioned above, most action cameras have relatively limited sound quality. If you need high quality audio, you’ll probably want to use an external microphone or a digital recorder.

Some kits come with an external mic, but if not, you’ll need to invest in one.

Size

Size and weight determine how easily you can carry your action camera on all of your adventures, and we don’t just mean transporting it from point A to point B during a trip. We’re talking about having it on you while you’re sky diving, surfing or biking through the mountains.

Brand

The most widely known action cam brand is GoPro, which basically created the concept of action cams. Sony and YI also offer very high quality options.

Summary

An action camera makes a perfect companion for all of life’s adventures, and the rise of affordable models means more people can use them to capture their favorite moments.

But it’s true that the popularity of action cams has also made choosing the right one more difficult. Being familiar with the key specifications and your specific needs is essential, so make sure you take into account factors like resolution, bit rate, frames per second and battery life.

We hope you found this guide interesting and helpful. Please feel free to share it with your friends and family via social media. You can also leave us a comment with your thoughts in the section below!

(Source of Featured Image: Vasilev: 114210766/ 123rf.com)

Why you can trust me?

After a lot of work and studying, Jaiden has achieved his dream of building his own home cinema. Through his profession as a cameraman, he knows his way around technology very well. Meanwhile he regularly gives advice to his friends and family and writes about his technical hobby.