How To Choose The Best Action Camera
Action cameras differ greatly from all other types of cameras. Compact and easy-to-use they can be mounted on any surface, capture high-resolution video and photos with an incredibly wide angle of view. Many travel gurus and fans of active rest mount the camera on a monopod and tell us about their adventures, those who love extreme sports capture first person tricks and for divers, these waterproof cameras are the best. Video industry professionals also like to use them as such small cameras can be mounted even in hard-to-reach places.
Before you decide to buy one of them, it's better to choose the key parameters, which will influence the price of your action camera. In this article, apart from the basic recommendations, we will review the most interesting models that are now on the market, the best cameras of 2017 and explain which model will match your needs better. But first of all a little bit of theory.
Characteristics of action cameras
1. HD, Full HD or 4K?
If you want to experience those thrilling emotions again while viewing your videos, then it's better to buy a high-resolution camera. HD (High Definition) means you will be able to record at the resolution of 1024x720 pixels – not so great according to modern standards. Full HD allows recording at the resolution of 1920x1080 pixels which is a kind of standard nowadays. However, 4K format wich has resolution 3840x2160 pixels is still used mainly in the professional field only. Cameras that can record in this format cost much more and require rather pricey USB drives, and not every TV or monitor will be able to play your video. However, the 4K format is becoming more and more popular; the quality of the video is just amazing!
2. The number of frames per second (FPS)
This parameter is very important for comfort viewing of action scenes. If the FPS number is low, the videos will be choppy when viewing on TV or monitor. The higher the FPS is, the smoother the picture will be. Usually, 25 fps is enough, but if you shoot action scenes, the recommended speed is 50 fps. The speed of 120 fps allows creating a slow motion effect when making video montage.
3. Image stabilization
Since videos captured with action camera will be full of action, stabilization is required to get the pictures of higher quality. This technology allows compensating camera's vibration when shooting, removing the jitter of the picture and reducing the time required for video processing. There are several types of stabilization in action cameras: digital and optical.
4. Memory card
The majority of action cameras work with memory cards MicroSD and SD formats. Full HD camera requires a memory card no less than 32 GB, and if you want to shoot 4K videos — at least 128 GB memory card is required since one minute video can take around 400 MB. Usually, the manufacturer gives recommendations on the memory card you need, but you can choose it on your own after reading our article that explains how to choose a memory card.
5. Wireless technology
More and more action cameras models are equipped with wireless Wi-Fi, NFC and Bluetooth modules. Remember that due to the small size and complex design, action cameras rarely have a built-in LCD display. But with the help of free apps, you can use your tablet or smartphone as a display to view and record videos. It is also easier to change the parameter settings using the app. And you won't need to remove the memory card whenever you want to upload your photos and videos on a computer. Therefore, we have chosen only wireless models for our review.
The ability to be fixed on different surfaces and dive extremely deep requires the appropriate accessories. Before buying we recommend you to examine the technical specifications of the models you are interested in. Some of them can be damaged by liquids or bad weather conditions, so it's better to hide them in special compatible protective cases (often they are also included and go with the camera). Others have such protection and allow you to capture videos even underwater without an extra accessory. You should specify how many mounts is included in the set with the camera: the more - the better.
The best action cameras 2017
To be the leader in your field, you should constantly improve your product. GoPro HERO5 is a vivid example. A camera has a voice control, a large, 2-inch screen with touch-screen and GPS module. The following video recording formats are available: 4K video: 30/25/24 fps, Full HD up to 120 fps and HD up to 240 fps. With a 12-megapixel sensor, you can save photos in RAW format and use HDR function.
For the first time, the camera needs no additional protective case and is able to dive as deep as 10 meters. The company is proud the of the image stabilization the camera has that is very useful while capturing videos. An additional GoPro bonus is two brand applications Capture and Quick. With their help, you are able to view, record and edit your own videos and share them with the whole world. It also offers a free video editing software for your desktop computer. We highly recommend GoPro HERO5, the only thing that may stop you from buying it is its high price.
Availability and high performance - SJCAM SJ6 Legend has both of these characteristics. Half the price of GoPro, this action camera has a 16-megapixel sensor from Panasonic and can capture 4K resolution video at a speed of 24 fps. In addition the following formats are available: 1080p 60 fps, 720p 120 fps and 480p with the speed up to 240 FPM. Photos can be saved in RAW format or with the help of the Time Lapse function you can compress hours-long videos to several seconds.
It supports external microphone connection to improve the quality of the recorded sound. To provide good image stabilization, SJCAM SJ6 Legend is equipped with a gyro-sensor. The camera can be controlled using a 2 inch LCD touch-screen or via Wi-Fi and Bluetooth modules. To be able to enjoy the full potential of the wireless connection you can use the app SJCAM ZONE. The body of the camera is not waterproof, but it comes with a protective waterproof case. A good solution from the Chinese manufacturers!
Sony FDR-X3000R is a flagship among action Sony cameras and its extended shape allows to mount the camera on the helmet even better. A set that goes with the camera also includes a wireless remote controller - a camera screen, that looks like a watch. With its help you can quickly change the shooting parameters, crop images turn the camera on and off.
Optical stabilization that has proved to work good for traditional cameras, 8.2-megapixel back-illuminated sensor, high aperture f/2.8 ZEISS® Tessar lens are able to provide the best image in its class. The maximum resolution supported is 4K. In Full HD Sony FDR-X3000R records video at 120 fps to create slow motion effects.
There are also such advanced settings as white balance, exposure, brightness and contrast of the picture. The set also includes a protective case that can survive a 60 meters depth dive. The mobile application Action Cam provides additional settings that allow to make video montage, apply various effects, time-tape shooting and remote camera control.
Xiaomi YI 4K+ has become the first action camera that can record video in ultra-high resolution with the frequency up to 60 fps due to the new generation video processing chip. To make the picture even smoother, Xiaomi YI 4K+ is equipped with an electronic image stabilizer. The camera can be controlled with the 2.2 inches LCD screen as well as voice commands and with the Type-C USB port data transfer became much faster. It is very necessary for 4K video.
If you like to stream live, the Xiaomi YI 4K+ will provide access to the most popular streaming platforms. Photos made with Sony 12 megapixel sensor can be saved in RAW-format. Moreover, the model is equipped with wireless technologies. Using Wi-Fi connection and the mobile app YI Action Camera you can view, edit and upload videos and photos to the Internet.
Action camera Nixon has entered the market not long ago but already has three models with entirely different characteristics. We have chosen Nikon KeyMission 170 for our review. The angle of view of its lens is 170 degrees, as you can notice from the name of the camera. It is also equipped with electronic image stabilization, and the video is recorded at a maximum 4K resolution.
Nikon KeyMission 170 also offers such shooting modes as slow motion, time-lapse, continuous shooting. Using Wi-Fi module you can control the camera while capturing video, upload and edit videos. Also, Nikon KeyMission 170 has a Bluetooth module. It helps to save battery power while being continuously connected to your mobile device. A good solution from a well-known manufacturer.