It was 2002 when Nick Woodman changed the audio/video arena with his action camera — the GoPro. Now, 15 years later, action cameras have gone from being a fad to a mainstay in the world of every serious camera enthusiast. From 4K video recording quality to WiFi capability, action cameras have evolved in a big way over the years. Listed below you’ll find 10 of the top models on the market.
We’re going to start off with the ‘little brother’ brand of the action camera world: Garmin. The Garmin VIRB Ultra 30 is Garmin’s finest entry into the action camera genre yet. The VIRB Ultra 30 compares favorably with the more popular GoPro Hero 4 Black. The VIRB Ultra 30 features a 12 MP sensor to capture hi-res images and does so with aplomb. The VIRB also features 4K video recording at both 30 and 24 FPS. We love that the VIRB features its own full color touchscreen, something most comparable GoPro models do not have. Finally the VIRB can connect to WiFi for seamless broadcasting of your video to YouTube or other monitor devices that you may have.
GoPro dropped their flagship model with the GoPro Hero 5 Black and action camera fans everywhere couldn’t be more delighted. This sturdy little camera opted for simplicity by moving away from their three button set up in earlier models. Added voice commands, connectivity to WiFi, and a streamlined recording process makes this the most intuitive camera on the market. The GoPro Hero 5 Black shoots video at 4K up to 30 FPS which has now become the standard for quality action cameras. The Hero 5 has a 12 megapixel sensor that captures up to 170 degrees at a time. With no polycarbonate coating you will also find that your recorded audio is cleaner than ever before.
When you need a full function action camera on the cheap, the Hero Session series are the way to go. The GoPro Hero 5 Session is a nice pivot off of the aforementioned Hero 5 Black. The Hero 5 Session can record in 4K quality at 25 and 30 FPS while maintaining flexibility at lower resolutions. The lack of a touchscreen may put some people off but the affordable price is hard to beat. For still photos you can expect 10 megapixel quality while capturing 3 to 30 photos per second, depending on your settings.
If you want to opt for an older GoPro then check out the GoPro Hero 4 Black. This camera has a lot to like in a tiny package. Released almost two years ago, the GoPro Hero 4 Black ages well thanks to its 4K video recording quality at up to 30 FPS. The Hero 4 Black features a 10 MP sensor that can be used for still photos that capture an angle of up to 170 degrees. The most notable absentees on the Hero 4 Black include the lack of image stabilization, GPS, and touchscreen — or any screen for that matter. Still, the 1/2.3-inch sensor holds up and the video image quality is excellent.
The GoPro Hero 4 Session is power in the palm of your hand — literally. This is one of the smallest action cameras around but it is still sturdy and fully featured. The Hero 4 Session is waterproof up to 30 feet and completely dust proof when in its case. The Hero 4 Session features a more limited sensor, 1.23″, that captures at just 8 MP. You’ll be maxing out your video quality here at 1440p at 30FPS. Now considered almost a dinosaur, the GoPro Hero 4 Session should be more affordable than ever.
If you want to get away from the GoPro name then consider the SJCAM SJ4000+ action camera. The SJ4000+ looks and behaves like a budget GoPro with many similar features. You have WiFi connectivity and a handy little screen that measures out to 1.5 inches. The SJ4000+ also features heightened video quality at 2K resolution captured via a 1/3″ sensor. For under $200 you really can’t beat this quality for this price. Still shot photographs are captured at 12 MP in size — great quality.
Take your footage to the next level with the coveted SJCAM SJ5000x Elite Gyro. This is SJCAM’s response to the newer GoPro models and, we’ve found, that it answers rather convincingly. The SJ5000x features 4K footage at up to 24 FPS for crisp and beautifl recording. You have a 12 MP sensor with a 2″ screen to monitor all of your work. The biggest knock against the SJCAM models is the lack of third party support. You are pretty much limited in the additional gear that you want to use.
Though the TomTom Bandit doesn’t have the conventional action camera ‘look’ it still manages to knock the ball out of the park. Capture your extreme moments with this sturdy, affordable alternative to the higher end GoPro models. We dig that the Bandit has a built in GPS and motion sensors and the automatic image adjustments are great. The TomTom Bandit records at an impressive 4K with a 1/2.3″ sensor. The Bandit has trouble in a few key areas: it lacks the basic waterproof case that most other action cameras come with and the odd shape of the camera can create mounting problems. The onboard editing feature is a cool gimmick but not one that camera enthusiasts will use often.
Comparable to the GoPro Hero 4 Black, the FDR-X1000V is as much muscle as it is hustle. This little beast captures 4K video all the way up to 30 FPS. Digging deeper into the specs will reveal that the FDR-X1000V actually records video at a higher bit rate, 100 megabits, compared to the GoPro. The three button approach works wonders and the small LCD monitor is useful enough though the menu can be fickle. The FDR-X1000V features a 12.8 MP sensor but even with this high quality component the still shots you capture won’t be as good as some of the other options on our list.
Our final spot belongs to the Xiamoi 4K Yi and boy does it earn the slot. The Xiamoi 4K Yi films in 4K at up to 30 FPS. You’re shooting with a 12 MP sensor that is sized at 1/2.3″. What we love about the Xiamoi is that it is +- half the price of the GoPro Hero 4 Black but offers similar specs. A retina color touchscreen allows you to operate the camera with ease, moving into slow motion, time lapse, or photography mode. In photography mode you’ll be capturing still shots at 12 MP of quality. All in all the Xiamoi 4K Yi may lack in name recognition but it more than makes up for it with raw power.
[Read: Xiaomi Yi 2 4K camera review]
Below we’ve summed up all their features in one handy table.
Although we made every effort to ensure the details are correct, errors can occur. If you spot an inaccuracy, please leave a comment and we’ll verify and update.
|Camera||Image||Released||Sensor size||Video up to||Water proof to ft||Angle Degrees||MP stills size||Screen "|
|Garmin VIRB Ultra 30||2016, Sep||12 Mp (1/2.3")||4K @ 30fps||131||123||12||1.75|
|GoPro Hero 5 Black||2016, Oct||12 Mp (1/2.3")||4K @ 30fps||032 (196 w/Supersuit)||170||12||2|
|GoPro Hero 5 Session||2016, Oct||10 Mp||4K @ 30fps||?||170||10||2|
|GoPro Hero 4 Black||2015, July||10 Mp (1/2.3")||4K @ 30fps||131||170||12||Optional|
|GoPro Hero 4 Session||2015, July||08 Mp (1.23")||1440p @ 30fps||030||170||08||None|
|SJCAM SJ4000 Plus||2015||04 Mp (1/3")||2K @ 30fps||098||170||12||1.5|
|SJCAM SJ5000x Elite Gyro||2015||12 Mp||4K @ 24fps||098||170||12||2|
|TomTom Bandit||2015||16 Mp (1/2.3")||4K @ 15fps||164||124||16||None|
|Sony FDR-X1000V||2015||12.8 (1/2.3")||4K @ 30fps||033||170||08.8||None|
|Xiaomi 4K Yi||2016, August||12 Mp (1/2.3")||4K @ 30fps||132||155||12||2.19|