Capturing every precious experience in our lives is truly lovely; be it underwater or on a mountaintop. Cameras allow it by immortalizing them through stills and videos. The thing is, these devices are too vulnerable to breakage due to their sensitive optics and electronics. Well, that is where action cameras come in handy.
Action cameras are specifically built and designed to adapt to all sorts of extreme activities of users. If you are someone who enjoys the outdoors and into all those sorts of extreme activities like biking, skydiving, cliff jumping, diving, or hiking, action cameras are a good choice. They often come with a compact design and great build with extreme resistance to water, dust, and damages from falls. With this, you can be sure that you’ll have a camera unit that can last years.
The durability of action cameras, nonetheless, depends on their quality. Finding one that offers it is no picnic. This is where you need our help.
Together with the aid of Evangeline Summers, SolidSmack’s camera editor and former NatGeo photographer, we will explore the best options on the market. Join us as we underscore the best qualities of the following action cameras we rounded up for your convenience. And by the end of this helpful review, we hope you find the best one that could serve as your very own adventure buddy!
1. GoPro Hero9 Black
5K (30 FPS)
GoPro Hero9 offers the latest features of the camera brand that you previously missed in the older models of the cam. Compared to Hero8 and Hero7, it boasts of a front LCD screen that allows easy framing for selfie shots.
“When it comes to the appearance of the Hero9, it is undeniable that GoPro has really created big upgrades on this model,” Summers said. “However, there are still lots of things to praise about Hero9 such as the improved resolution of videos and photos which now come at 5K and 20 MP, respectively. Not just that, it offers great flexibility since you can also capture videos in 4K resolution at 60 FPS which is very, very amazing!”
According to Summers, Hero9 has also improved some of its other features such as the HyperSmooth and TimeWarp by upgrading them to the 3.0 version. It also comes with additional features like scheduled and duration capture and HindSight, with the last one enabling you to capture 30 seconds of the scene before pushing the shutter button.
“The upgraded versions of Hero9’s features are very flattering,” Summers said, “Especially the Hypersmooth 3.0 which gives you stabilized videos in any resolution you fancy. This is very exciting, not to mention that its Boost feature helps a lot to get more even shots.”
Besides delivering images with richer colors and great contrast and shadow details, the in-camera auto-correct horizon leveling is very helpful if you are obsessed with videos with leveled horizons.
“GoPro has also done a great job improving the capabilities of this model in capturing stills,” Summers stated, “Due to the enhanced sensor it comes with, the camera is now capable of providing images in higher resolutions and videos with sufficient detail.”
That being said, Hero9 - being the latest model of GoPro cameras - is the best option you can have if you want the best features and updates available. And although it is not as budget-friendly as other choices on the list, it is a sure investment that can give you satisfying results even in the most extreme activities that often come with very shaky, unstable movements.
2. DJI Osmo Action
4K (60 FPS)
DJI Osmo Action is a good option for people who are looking to get a camera model that is quite similar to the feature of GoPro Hero9 but still comes at a more affordable price. According to Summers, it comes with almost the same quality that you can expect from GoPro cameras.
“If you would compare it to GoPro cameras, DJI Osmo Action can also compete when it comes to the great build of the unit. The waterproof metal frame of the camera seems sturdy and the rubber seal protecting the USB-C port and microSD card slot of the cam feels tight and reliable,” she said.
On the other hand, it offers an ultra-wide-angle lens and a 12 MP sensor. This gives you a 148-degree field-of-view and an f/2.8 aperture which can be compared to the performance of the famous GoPro cams.
“It can give you very impressive videos from 720 P to 4K,” Summers added, “It also supports an image stabilization system called RockSteady which makes the shots appear as if you’ve taken it using a gimbal. Not just that, it also comes with manual exposure control for photos and 8X slow-mo and timelapse video.”
However, according to her, JI Osmo Action is specifically designed for vlogging purposes due to its features. First off, it gives livelier skin tones that are perfect when your subjects are people. Overall, in the exposure POV, the camera makes the human faces stand out and be the main focal point of view.
Nonetheless, Summers reiterated that the EIS of the camera deactivates when you use it for HDR mode. Despite this, the dynamic range of the cam delivers favorable results in the best possible way which means it is still a winning option.
3. GoPro Hero8 Black
4K (60 FPS)
Hero8 still offers the notable design of GoPro cams. It has folding feet at the base which can be folded nicely when not in use. On the left are the micro SD card and battery slot that is protected by a waterproof cover. On the right is the power button while the record button is found at the top. The screen also still has the right brightness that can combat the bright daylight.
It greatly looks similar to the Hero7 but it is generally thinner and it offers new updates and features that will definitely benefit you.
“Compared to Hero7,” Summers started, ”Hero8 move to a fixed lens for a very important reason and that is to improve the audio of the videos. Upon testing it, it didn’t disappoint and comparing it to the older models, it really does deliver clearer sounds and more distinctive.”
Despite this fact, Hero8 comes with a more durable and scratch-free lens. It has added a coat for protection which makes it smash resistant. Furthermore, despite having just one optical field of view, it offers up to 4 focal lengths which are truly impressive.
Moreover, it can capture bright shots at night and in low light conditions without much grain. The video capability of Hero8 is also upgraded by allowing to record 100 Mbps 4K video. Its photo capabilities, on the other hand, can deliver improved dynamic range with more pop. So, with these features and the great stabilization ability of its camera, GoPro Hero8 is still a darling worth choosing.
4. Akaso Brave 7 LE Action Camera
4K (30 FPS)
Akaso Brave 7 is one of the most affordable action cameras with a front screen that can is useful for vlogging and selfie purposes.
“Akaso is not as big as GoPro but it offers great features that can give you reliable results for an action cam,” Summers said, “Yes, its 4K videos only come at 30 FPS, but this model excels in other ways due to its unique offerings. The first is that it has 6-axis stabilization available on all resolutions. Second, it is capable of getting still shots using a 20 MP sensor.”
Furthermore, Summers specifically mentioned that it uses a fixed focus which needs at least a good distance of 20 feet to get a great shot. It also provides sufficient and pleasing colors, tones, and contrast which result in detailed stills and footage. You can even create few adjustments on the shots using the white balance and exposure compensation settings available. With these things, Akaso Brave 7 is also a pretty great choice that can compete with bigger brands of action cams.
5. Campark ACT74A Action Camera
4K (30 FPS)
Just like Akaso Brave 7, Campark ACT74A is a great affordable alternative for GoPro cams. It is armed with time-lapse and burst photo functions and most of all, can deliver 4K videos. However, the physical design of the camera, especially the placement of the buttons is much different from other models. Compared to others that have their power and menu buttons front toward at the top of the camera, ACT74A’s are located on front at the bottom right. There is also a huge LED light source that you can spot easily under the lens of the cam which can be handy at night.
The colors of the camera and the details are fairly detailed to give you just the right quality of stills and videos. However, it is important to mention that it is not as vibrant as the images being projected by GoPro cams.
“For an affordable price, Campark ACT74A is fairly great,” Summers said, “However, be reminded that at 4K video resolution, you’ll only have 30 FPS. This affects the stability of the footage, so it would be much better to use it for 1080 P which comes at 60 FPS if you want a smoother video. Nonetheless, for a totally cheap unit, this one is a monster.”
Best Action Cameras - Buyer's Guide
The size of the cation camera has always been an important factor to consider since you need one that is light and small. It should not hinder your actions and should feel almost as light as air if possible. However, getting light cameras can be a challenge if you want them to contain everything you need. For instance, the GoPro Hero9 is comparatively bigger than other models since it has updates including a front LCD screen. So, if you are willing to sacrifice a little for the sake of having a high-performing action camera, getting bigger models won’t be a problem.
While most people would just judge action cams over the number of their megapixels, it is important to know that there much more crucial sections to look for in this kind of camera. Besides the stills, video resolutions should also be checked. Most action cameras can offer you a max video resolution of 4K and if you can afford models that offer that resolution, go for it. There are also models like GoPro Hero9 that can deliver 5K videos which is another option for you. Nonetheless, before that, make sure to also check the frame rate of the video. Keep in mind that the higher the FPS, the better. In this section, we really admire the fact that Hero9 stands out not just by allowing 5K video resolution at 30 FPS, but so as in giving you the option to record in 4K at stunning 60 FPS! This means smoother playback of videos for you and that is a huge point you need to consider.
The accessories that come with the cameras are also a great consideration to have. Akaso is known for this as its camera models often come with complete sets of tools, accessories, and other add-ons. If you want the best out of your purchase, this section should be on the top of your priority.
However, if you don’t mind this, you could go for bigger brands like GoPro that is offering separate accessories for the camera units. While they seem to be an additional expense to you, having these upgrades is a good investment if you really want the best quality for your videos and stills.
The build of the camera will determine how long it could last, especially that action cameras are often used underwater and are exposed non-stop to various elements. With this, it is great to check the weatherproof rating of the cam (or the case) before purchasing one. The seals found around the cover of the battery and SD card slots should also be present to assure the unit could withstand the presence of liquids.
There are camera models like Campark ACT74A that come with a protective case. This is a great additional layer of protection if you want to secure your unit. However, since protective cases are meant to be tightly sealed, they could affect the audio quality of the cam which could be a slight disadvantage.
Best Action Cameras - FAQs
You can enjoy the full value of a sports camera if you appreciate quality videos and stills. While typical mirrorless and DLSR cameras can perform better, they offer limited flexibility and convenience, unlike action cams that can be attached to a helmet, gimbals, and jackets. So, if you need flexibility and considerable resolutions and quality footage and photos, action cams are a worthy investment.
Yes, you can use action cameras just like any other normal camera. However, they offer fewer features and functions. With this, it is better to opt for point-and-shoot cams, DLSR, or mirrorless cameras if you are just planning them for typical occasions and reasons.
Yes, you can. Some action cameras won’t require a protective casing and can still be used as deep as 10 meters. If you intend to use them deeper than the said capacity, you can encase them with protective casings.
GoPro cameras are known for their great quality and exemplary stills, videos, and overall software. The cams offer the leading features and functions that are often absent in most cams. This makes GoPro the leading brand in the race of action cameras. So, if you are into the quality, the price of GoPro cams would be the last of your concerns.