Action cameras aren’t just ruggedized and protected against the elements, they offer ultrawide viewing angles to capture the full experience of ski runs, skateboard tricks, snorkeling adventures or just pet antics (several companies make harnesses for your dog). And after testing a number of action cameras in a variety of conditions, including a mountain biking trip and a rafting adventure, we have action cam recommendations for every budget.
The GoPro Hero5 ($399) is our pick for the best action camera overall, because it offers the best video quality, is waterproof to 33 feet without requiring a protective shell, has a built-in touch screen and responds to voice commands. If you're looking for something a bit less expensive, the Kodak PixPro SP1 is our current favorite budget action cam. For half the price of the Hero5, the PixPro SP1 features full HD video recording, the ability to shoot 14-MP stills, and the same 33-feet of water resistance.
Action Cam News
- GoPro's newest camera, the Hero6 ($499), looks similar to its predecessor, but its new GP1 processor allows you to capture 4K video at 60 frames per second. And, you can also capture 1080p video at a rate of 240 fps, giving you lots of detail in your slow-motion clips. Other enhancements include a new digital image-stabilization system, and improved dynamic range and low-light performance. We are currently reviewing the Hero6, and will update this page accordingly.
- Sony's DSC-RX0 combines the features of its RX-series cameras (a 15.3 MP6 Exmor RS CMOS image sensor, BIONZ X processor and a wide-angle ZEISS Tessar T 24mm F4 fixed lens) in a compact (2.4 x 1.6 x 1.2) case that weighs 3.9 ounces. The camera can record super slow motion (up to 960 fps), and can capture images in RAW format. It's waterproof to up to 33 feet, and can be dropped from as much as 6.5 feet. But it won't be cheap: The RX0 costs $700.
- The Revl Arc uses a combination of both electronic and mechanical image stabilization to help ensure that your footage isn't overly shaky. This $400 camera records in 4K, and is waterproof to 33 feet. More importantly, the accompanying app automatically finds the best parts of your videos, so you don't have to sift through hours of footage yourself.
What GoPro Hero5 Session Owners Are Saying
Likes: Amazon customers liked the Hero5 Session's video quality, which they found was a significant improvement over the Hero Session, and were impressed with the image stabilization. There were some owners that also liked the variety of shooting options and settings, and that it's rugged and waterproof. They also liked that it's very easy to use. Others found wind and noise cancellation to be very good, as well.
Dislikes: Like many action cams, performance in low light is not great. Other owner cons included problems with the GoPro's auto upload cloud feature, microSD card compatibility, and having issues with connecting the mobile app to the action cam. Some were also disappointed with the quality of customer service support.
How We Test Action Cams
We review action cameras based on a number of factors, including video and image quality, ease of use, features (including waterproofing) and value. In order to provide the most meaningful comparisons, we test cameras side-by-side, shooting at 1080p resolution and 60fps, when possible (some cameras can do only 30fps). We also shoot 4K videos from the cameras that support that resolution. We take the cameras biking, canoeing and running (among others), and see how they hold up in the elements.
What to Look for When Buying an Action Cam
Your choice of camera depends mostly on the kind of activities you want to shoot. Love the water? Most action cameras are waterproof, but some can only survive just a few feet underwater, which is fine for surfing or boating, while others can withstand depths of up to 160 feet meters, which is makes those much better for SCUBA divers.
Size and heft matter, especially if you will be mounting the camera on helmet. Weights vary from 2.6 to more than five ounces. Another feature you want to consider is mounting options. The most versatile action cams, such as those from GoPro, will have accessory mounts for just about any situation, from surfing to skiing.
Image quality, especially in daylight, is the most important consideration. However, ease of use is also critical, as confusing controls can cause you to miss that killer clip or shoot it on the wrong settings. Some cameras can even be paired with a smartphone for wireless shooting and image sharing.
See Also : 23 of the Best GoPro Accessories
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