I hope you’ll agree with me when I say:
An action camera can help you capture the adventure better than a smartphone when it comes to outdoor exercise
Finding the right camera for your needs and budget can be challenging with all the different models on the market, so we’ve created a list of the Best Action Cameras to Buy in 2017 to help.
Why I need an action camera？
Sometimes people insist on one thing not only from love, but also the attention from sharing. And the appearance of action cameras meets people’s requirements: to get clearer materials to share and an easier way to share. Whether you’re traveling, doing sports or under any circumstances; if you want to take a picture or video, the action camera may be a good choice for you. Not only because the camera can get high-quality video and pictures, but also because they are small, portable, and durable.
Things you MUST KNOW before choosing your action camera
Well, our Top 6 list is based on what features we like. These might not suit you, so we prefer you to have a look at the details below. I believe that will help you to choose your new action camera.
These are the two main numbers that will be used to explain the quality of the camera’s video.
Frames per second – The frame rate, measured in frames per second (fps) is the number of still images used every second to make up a video. Normal TV is at 24fps, and so is a normal movie.
High-end action cameras can shoot at higher than 60fps, and videos at high fps can be used to create slow-motion shots. For example, 120fps can be played at a half speed at 60fps or a quarter speed at 30fps while still staying high quality. This means your videos can be slowed down without looking jerky.
Resolution – The resolution is the number of pixels in each frame taken by the camera, and the amount of detail in the shots. 4K is Ultra HD, 1080p is full HD (like an HD TV channel), 720p is HD. High-end cameras capture video at resolutions as high as 4K for amazing detail and picture quality.
The right video resolution for you depends on what camera you’ll use and on what devices you’ll use to view your footage. If you don’t have a 4K TV or monitor to view the footage, 4K means nothing and should not be a standard for you to choose an action camera.
In order to meet different requirements, there is a wide variety of mounts and accessories for you to choose from to mount the action camera to different surfaces and objects.
To avoid buying a camera and later finding out that you can’t mount it properly for the sport or activity you’ll use it for, you should check the official website of the camera brand or the store you’ll buy from to see what accessories and mounting options are included.
Most action cameras use microSD cards. Buying a card that has a fast write speed is important, as a card that isn’t fast enough will cause jerky video. Thus, a Class 10 card is the minimum you’ll likely need. The ‘class’ of the card tells you how fast it can save a video.
Cards with more memory are better in general, because they will hold more videos. But some cameras on the market don’t support a large memory card, so you’d better check the largest memory card the camera supports before buying a new SD card.
Best overall – GoPro Hero 5 Black
Despite the numerous kinds of action cameras now on the market (and GoPro is not by any means the only brand to choose from), we still found that the HERO5 Black is one of the best action cameras we have tested for the following reasons:
The HERO5 is wrapped in rubber for durability, increasing its volume and weight but still light at 4.2oz, and has dimensions of 2.4 x 1.7 x 1.3 inches (the protruding lens included). The protection around the lens and gasket-sealed doors for the battery compartment make it dustproof and waterproof up to 33 feet (10 meters), so you don’t need to worry about snow, mud, sand, rain, or anything short of a flood. And the GoPro Dive Housing case keeps the camera dry at depths up to 196 feet (40 meters).
There is also a built-in touch screen on the HERO5, which means you can record footage without using your smartphone or the physical button. You can also use 12 voice commands to control it, a fantastic feature especially for activities where your hands are not free, such as surfing, riding, and fishing.
The HERO5 Black can shoot at up to 4K at 30 frames per second as well as 1080p at 120fps, and also takes 12-megapixel photos in RAW format. The Electronic Image Stabilization (EIS) works well at 1080p, but is not available when shooting in 4K. Overall, the video and photo quality is great for the camera’s price.
The camera has a battery life of 1 hour and 55 minutes at 1080p/60fps, but decreases to 1 hour and 32 minutes at 4K/30FPS (but only with the Wi-Fi and GPS off). An extra battery (reasonably priced at $20) is highly recommended if you’re going for a long trip.
Best Video Quality – Sony FDR-X3000
The next up on our list is the Sony FDR-x3000. If you really care about the quality of the video, this one will not disappoint you.
Sony, a worldwide leader in digital imaging, released the FDR-X3000R, which is the first action camera featured the Balanced Optical SteadyShot (BOSS) image stabilization technology, to prove it knows more about the video quality than GoPro, actually the traditional leader in action cameras. As supposed to the normal action camera, which provides the EIS just not in 4K, the FDR-X3000 provides BOSS at every resolution, including 4K. That makes its footage immensely stable and the image quality excellent, which means you don’t need to do as much post-processing after shooting.
The FDR-X3000 features the new Zeiss lens design, and when paired with a 1/2.5-inch 16:9 Exmor R CMOS sensor with an 8.2-megapixel resolution, records video at up to 4K at 30fps and 1080p at 120fps. It also can take 12-megapixel photos in RAW format. And you can shoot at up to a 100Mbps bitrate if you’re using Sony’s XAVC format.
You can view your shots via your smartphone (with Wi-Fi) and with the live-view remote (Bluetooth). But it does not have a touchscreen, and the remote costs another $150.
We got a battery life of 1 hour at 4K/30fps and 2 hours and 5 minutes at 1080p/60FPS. Well, we must say that the battery life at 4K isn’t excellent, but pretty good at 1080p.
Best For Sports/Data Enthusiasts – Garmin VIRB Ultra 30
The next up on our list is the Garmin VIRB Ultra 30. If you are a sports or outdoors enthusiast, you’ll find that it’s a solid option.
The Garmin VIRB Ultra 30 has five sensors that allow the VIRB Ultra 30 to record data such as speed, height, position and more. Through the app available for PC, Mac, iOS and Android, you can display the data on your videos. Then, you can share the videos to show your friends exactly how fast you rode, how high you jumped, what the elevation was, how many rotations you did in the air, and so on.
Videos can be recorded at up to 4K at 30 fps and 1080p at 120fps. Same as with the normal action cameras, the Electronic Image Stabilization is limited under the 1080p resolution. There is a built-in screen on the camera, which makes review and settings easy. Voice control works well (except when underwater). You can even stream your videos live on YouTube.
The battery life of the camera we tested was 1 hour and 50 mins when shooting at 1080p at 60fps, and 1 hour and 15 mins at 4K at 30fps.
Best Cheap Action Camera – Yi action camera
The next on our list is the Yi action camera, the best budget action camera. Although it can’t shoot videos at 4K and there is no monitor to check the video when shooting, it’s still a good action camera for its value at this price range (under $100).
The lens is an f2.8 wide-angle with a 155-degree range of view, and a 16-megapixel backside illuminated CMOS sensor, a Broadcom wireless module, and an Ambarella A7LS system are build inside the teal box; together they run the show. The Yi action camera can capture 2K videos at 30 frames per second; 1080p at 60fps and 720p at 120fps. And the video quality is decent.
The battery life is almost 1 hour at 1080p at 60fps and 1 hour and 40 min at 1080p at 30fps. We recommend buying an extra battery for continuous recording.
There is no screen on the camera, which is inconvenient. And you need an Android or iOS device connected to the camera via Wi-Fi, then run the Yi app to change the camera settings. It’s compatible with most GoPro accessories, except the waterproof and normal casings because the shape of the camera is different from the GoPro. The batteries must be from Yi. It’s waterproof up to 131 feet with the waterproof housing case.
In addition, the US-edition Yi action camera is available now, which is another reason for us to have it on our list.
Best 4k Action Camera Under $200 – Yi 4k
If you like the Yi action camera, but still want to try a better one (but not too expensive), then the Yi 4K might be the one you’re looking for.
The Yi 4K is the upgraded version of Yi action camera. Both of them can shoot videos at 1080p at 120 frames per second, however, the Yi 4K can capture a video at 4K at 30 fps that the Yi can’t. There is a built-in touch screen on Yi 4K, which is a big improvement from than the regular Yi. With this touch screen, you can change all the camera settings and view the live feed.
The Electric Image Stabilization (EIS) technology is available in Yi at 2K, 1080p, 960p, 720p, but not at 4K. The angel of the camera is locked at 155 degrees, so you can’t change the field of view. The Yi is not waterproof without the waterproof case, but that only costs $12. The video quality is good overall.
The battery life worked well during our test, 2 hours and 30 min at 1080p at 30 fps and 1 hour and 30 min at 4K at 30fps. It’s impressive, but you can buy extra batteries if you want more shooting time.
Runner-up, Best Overall – Yi 4k+
I just heard that the Yi 4K+ defeated the GoPro Hero 5 to be the best action camera on the market. Is that true?
As the upgraded version of the Yi 4K, Yi 4K+ achieves huge progress in capturing videos at 4K. First, the Yi 4K can’t shoot a movie at 4K at 60fps but the 4K+ can. Second, the EIS is available at 4K 30fps. The video quality is excellent at all resolution.
There is a built-in touchscreen on the back, so it’s easy to change settings and aim your shots, too. The screen is not clear when you wear polarized sunglasses, but that’s not a concern unless it bothers you. The voice command is a new feature, but it’s not available now and will be enabled via a software update in the future. The same applies to shooting in RAW format.
If you do care about if your camera can shoot 4K 60p video, as the first action camera that achieves that, the Yi 4K+ is a solid option for you. But it’s not the best action camera as some features are not available now.