What are the best action and sports cameras?
Action and sports cameras revolutionized the way we capture footage of our activities. No longer do you need someone else holding a camera in a safe location to record your adventures. Instead, you can strap the camera to your body, board, helmet, handlebars or anything else. Thanks to rugged and waterproof builds, you won’t have to worry about them getting damaged.
GoPro has always been a leader in this field, and the GoPro HERO9 Black reinforces why. It has unrivaled electronic image stabilization that eliminates the need for a gimbal in all but the most extreme situations, and it is capable of capturing stunning 5K footage. It also boasts many cool shooting modes.
What to know before you buy an action and sports camera
Image and video quality
Image and video quality should be a top concern no matter what kind of camera you are buying. To determine the quality before purchasing a camera, look at the megapixels for better-quality images and resolution for video. The larger numbers mean better quality. For example, an action camera with 20 megapixels and 4K resolution will be capable of better-quality images and videos than a model with 10 megapixels and 1080p resolution.
Water-resistant vs. waterproof
You can use water-resistant action cameras in light rain and around the water for a random splash or two. In contrast, you can fully submerge waterproof cameras for periods of underwater shots. Most action cameras come with a protective housing that enables them underwater, while premium models are often waterproof without the case to a certain depth.
Battery life on action and sports cameras can range from as little as 30 minutes and up to 3 hours. How long the battery lasts in a particular camera is affected by the settings. For example, an action camera may have a 120-minute battery life while recording in 720p, but only a 60-minute battery life when recording in 4K. If you expect to record several hours of footage on any given day, you’ll most likely need to buy a couple of backup batteries.
Features to look for in a quality action and sports camera
These days, most action cameras feature a touchscreen that you use to change between shooting modes, delete videos and adjust settings manually. They also feature physical buttons to perform basic actions, such as starting and stopping recording and taking photos.
If you will not be using your action camera with a gimbal, electronic image stabilization is necessary. While nearly all action and sports cameras have this in some form or another, it is usually notably more effective in higher-end models. On some, you can also turn this off when you want shaky footage for cinematic purposes.
Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity
Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity come in handy for sharing files and live streaming videos to a smartphone or other device, or sharing them on social media. It also enables some action and sports cameras to be controlled remotely, which is very convenient if they are mounted in a place that isn’t quickly and easily accessible while shooting.
Action and sports cameras have various shooting modes. These may include slow-motion or time-lapse, or modes that allow for better performance in certain conditions, such as low-light. The more shooting modes an action camera has, the more versatile it will be.
Some action cameras have recently taken to adding a display on the front. Just like when using your smartphone to take selfies, having a forward-facing display makes it easier to frame shots when recording yourself.
Mounts and other accessories make an action and sports camera more versatile and easier to use for various activities. Often, premium action cams may only come with a single mount or two, while bargain-priced models tend to include accessories. You can purchase them separately as needed, and they are often interchangeable, so you may be able to use your mounts for multiple action cams from different companies.
How much can you expect to spend on an action and sports camera
If you are looking for a quality action camera, you should expect to spend a minimum of $50. Anything less than that and the image quality and durability will be highly questionable. If you look for an action camera with the highest resolution, best image stabilization software and overall top-of-the-line performance, you’ll need to spend between $250-$400.
Action and sports camera FAQ
Is it better to mount an action camera to a helmet or handlebars?
A. There is a lot of debate over the best place to mount an action camera, and there really is no definitive answer. Those looking to record footage from the same viewpoint as the wearer will want to mount their action cam to their helmet. However, suppose you often move your head around while riding, you may be better off mounting your action cam on your handlebars, as long as it has effective image stabilization to counteract the vibrations.
Do I need to put my action camera inside the protective case?
A. It is always a good idea to use the included case to protect your action camera. While many have a rugged build, they can still get damaged in extreme situations. The lens is also susceptible to being scratched. When it comes to underwater use, some action cameras are not actually waterproof without the case, so make sure you are aware of your camera’s limitations if you plan on using it without protection.
What is the best action and sports camera to buy?
Top action and sports camera
What you need to know: From the undisputed leader in the industry, the HERO9 offers unrivaled electronic image stabilization and the ability to take impressive 5K footage.
What you’ll love: It has a front display that makes it easy to frame shots when recording yourself, and it is packed with smart software that allows beginners to create stunning cinematic videos.
What you should consider: Some may find the sheer range of settings and features intimidating.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Top action and sports camera for the money
What you need to know: This budget-friendly option may not come from a well-known brand, but it has the specs and features to rival cameras twice the price.
What you’ll love: It includes a wrist remote for wireless control, comes with a nice variety of mounts and has better battery life than some premium models.
What you should consider: The camera itself isn’t waterproof and requires the use of the included case.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Worth checking out
What you need to know: This mid-range offering is a good choice for those not yet ready to spend the money on a top-of-the-line model but who want something better than the many no-name knockoffs on the market.
What you’ll love: It has Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity for streaming live footage or controlling it via your smartphone, and its physical quick-switch button lets you change shooting modes without having to rely on the touchscreen.
What you should consider: The battery life is lackluster.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
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Brett Dvoretz writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
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