The Best Action Cams At A Glance :
After a very good period a few years ago, the enthusiasm for action cams has subsided a bit. The market is not dead, however, but it is clearly less diverse than before. A leader in strong competition at the time, GoPro managed to maintain its position and only DJI remained who dared to offer alternatives.
This US dominance of the market is not without advantages, especially when it comes to accessories. A large ecosystem of bindings, cases and other batteries has grown up around the brand’s products and you no longer need to sell a kidney for an extra battery. DJI even benefits from it since its mounting system is compatible with that of GoPro.
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Before investing, ask yourself how you will use your camera. If it only comes out once a year for the holidays or if it accompanies you on all your extreme hikes, it might not be the same features that are important to you.
Take a look at the best action cameras on the market.
GoPro Hero 9 Black :
Although no longer really a competitor, GoPro religiously continues to update its cameras every year. First observation: this Hero 9 is much more impressive than the previous model. In addition to revised upward measurements, it also gains 32 grams on the scale. As on the Hero 8, the mounting rods are now integrated and retractable (and easily replaced in case of damage).
On the video side, the main novelty is the appearance of a 5K mode at 30 fps. A function that will especially interest the pros who can crop while keeping a 4K result. The 20 Mp sensor also allows for much better quality photos, although a smartphone will always do better. The expansion module system is still present and in particular with a very interesting ultra wide angle of 155 °. Too bad it costs the tidy sum of 100 dollars.
The software stabilization “Hypersmooth” is here in version 3.0 and gains without surprise in efficiency. The horizon remains perfectly stable in all situations and regardless of the resolution. In some cases, the stabilization is a little too powerful, transforming a frenzied mountain bike descent into a peaceful Sunday ride. So don’t hesitate to reduce it in the settings to keep the intensity in your sequences.
The Hero 9 also adopts new batteries offering 30% more capacity. It’s nice, but in return your old batteries will no longer be compatible. However, we gain in passing a rigid transport case and compatibility with the gigantic ecosystem of accessories, official or not. Note that GoPro offers a reduction of 150 dollars and accessories if you subscribe to its online storage service. So no reason to buy it alone. Head to our test for a complete overview and videos!
If your budget is smaller, GoPro has the good taste to keep its previous vintages in the catalog while lowering their price. The Hero 7 Black, released in 2018, remains very relevant. It is indeed capable of filming in 4K at 60 fps and producing Full HD slow motion at 240 fps.
Unlike the Hero 9, HyperSmooth stabilization is here only in version 1. For amateur use, however, this is more than enough.
Main weakness of this model: its autonomy, which barely reaches an hour in 4K 60 fps. In other words, buying several additional batteries so as not to get stranded during the outing is essential. On this generation, the manufacturer has also added the possibility of making Facebook Live. The result is quite unconvincing since the resolution is limited to 720p and any broadcast will simultaneously melt the battery of the camera and your phone.
Note that its age means that many props manufacturers offer a full range of products to go with it. Enough to save a lot of money if you don’t want to pay the full price for official accessories. The Hero 7 Black will therefore be the choice of reason for the vast majority of users. For the full test accompanied by example videos, it goes this way.
DJI Osmo Action :
Best known for its drones, DJI has also entered the action camera market with Osmo Action. It is very clearly aimed at the Hero 8 Black with its similar characteristics: 12 Mpx sensor, 4K at 60 images per second, waterproof to 11 meters, etc. Originally marketed in the same price bracket as GoPro, it is now available at 249 dollars, which makes it the best value for money on the market, by far.
If the screen on the front is no longer exclusive, the Hero 9 is now equipped, the latter still greatly facilitates the framing. This screen is not touch sensitive, however. It also displays some practical information. The camera is also electronically stabilized with Rocksteady technology seen on the brand’s drones. It can therefore be trusted, even if the GoPro Hypersmooth is still more efficient.
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In the image, DJI’s know-how is there, but we especially appreciate the “Dewarp” mode which eliminates the deformations inherent in the use of a wide-angle sensor. This one is actually quite effective. For sound DJI only offers two microphones, so it will do slightly worse than the Hero 8 Black. In addition, it is compatible with GoPro accessories.
To know everything about the camera, head to our test of the DJI Osmo Action.
GoPro Max :
GoPro again to finish with a rather special proposal: the GoPro Max. This has the particularity of filming at 360 °. This is especially popular for trick sports like skateboarding or snowboarding, but the possibilities are endless. Because in addition to the 360 ° video as such, it allows you to frame exactly what you want during editing.
It is based on the GoPro Hero 8 Black, with in particular the two mounting brackets always practical. What sets it apart is the presence of two ultra-wide-angle lenses which allow 360 ° filming: the two videos are automatically glued together to offer the complete sphere… minus the camera itself, removed from the field by the software.
In practice, the camera films in 5.6 k at 360 ° in 30 images per second. Be careful, however, this definition is not comparable to classic 4K in 16:9 since it results from the assembly of two video streams. In classic mode, you will be able to shoot in 1440p at 60 fps or less. For sound, GoPro relies on 6 microphones, again in order to capture it at 360°.
For Further :
Why Are There No Action Camera Less Than 100 dollars?
There was a time when there were entry-level action cameras, including the Yi Lite. Unfortunately, the latter is no longer sold. So let’s face it, there is no “cheap” action camera that we can recommend today.
Of course, you will surely find great promises of 4K cameras for less than 100 dollars on more or less opaque marketplaces, but we do not recommend them. You might be disappointed. However, if you know of a model that we have missed, you can tell us in the comments. We will try to test it before including it in this guide, if it deserves it.
Which Definition To Choose?
While most models today handle Full HD (1080p) at 60 frames per second without any problem, handling 4K is a bit more hit and miss. The high-end models are capable of filming in 4K at 60 frames per second, but the average is more around 30 frames per second in this definition. A detail that we forget, but which should not be overlooked: the size of the files swells very quickly. So remember to equip yourself with an SD card of at least 64 GB, 128 or more preferably, if you plan to film for a long time.
Do I Must Have Accessories?
With some models selling for several hundred dollars, the price of an action cam remains a factor to be seriously considered. Especially since it is not uncommon for a single camera to require a number of accessories, often sold separately, in order to fully use it. We think, for example, of the various fasteners that allow it to be hung on a helmet or a wetsuit, or of the possible protective cases that will prevent scratches and make your camera waterproof if it is not already. Purchasing these accessories may inflate the initial price, but the cost can still be spread out.
Thank you for your time