When this COVID-19 stuff gives us a little break — admit it — you are going to have to get out of the house and go make some history. The best way to make history is with a fantastic camera. Here are the eight best action cameras.
Like your smartphone, action cameras can shoot high-quality 4K videos and images, but can you can mount them on your phone, your helmet, surfboard, or handlebars? It would not be an easy task to use your smartphone in this manner. Our phones are not built for that.
Action cameras, on the other hand, are made for adventure.
An action camera allows you to capture your experiences right from the center of the action. They have a robust, compact design–making them portable (most fit into the palm of your hand) and extremely durable. Unlike your smartphone, an action camera lacks the delicacy that makes it difficult to record. No smartphone can stick with you while you’re scaling the side of a mountain or riding a big wave.
Action cams allow you to shoot epic content detailing each moment.
The good news is, there are plenty of advanced action cams to choose from. While GoPro is the most recognizable name, there are some fantastic cameras out there you may not be familiar with.
To help you pick a camera with all the features you are looking for, here are eight of the best action cameras of 2020. We’ve also included 8 practical tips to take the guesswork out of shopping for your next action cam.
|Best Action Camera of 2020: OCLU Action Camera
OCLU may not be a household name just yet, but this advanced action camera should be on every thrill-seeker’s radar. It has an amazing low-profile design that allows it to attach seamlessly to all of your favorite gear. Plus, it comes with a one of a kind LiveCut feature which lets you quickly remove unwanted content from the camera, immediately freeing up space on your SD card. It’s affordable, easy to use, and captures stunning images and videos. Read on to find out what else the OCLU has to offer.
- Specs: 4K video resolution up to 30fps, 1080p up to 120fps, 12MP still image resolution, water resistance: IPX7 (1 meter up to 30 minutes), battery life: 1000mAh, weight: 101g
- Pros: Customizable side toggle, one of a kind LiveCut feature, compact, low-profile design, universal tripod mount, magnetic charging and data transfer cable, removable battery, wide range of accessories and mounts, smartphone app available for Apple iOS, and Android Google Play, affordable price ($199.00 with promo)
- Cons: Water resistance doesn’t go below 1 meter without a protective case, no touch screen, 4K only up to 30fps
OCLU is a new action camera brand that is sure to catch everyone’s attention. They are making major strides not just in camera technology, but also in functionality. Every detail of the OCLU exists to make the filming experience as seamless as possible. From the one-of-kind LiveCut feature, customizable toggles, and the magnetic charging and data transfer connection, this camera is for those who don’t want to waste one minute of their adventure fiddling with a complicated camera.
The OCLU action camera has a sleek, low profile design. Unlike some action cameras, it sits horizontally, allowing it to fit almost flush to your equipment. It has a small, aerodynamic body that won’t slow you down or get in the way. Some might see the absence of a touch screen as a drawback, but because the OCLU is so easy to use, you don’t miss it at all.
The quick toggle feature on the side is super intuitive and lets you seamlessly jump between 4 preset filming modes. Your current filming mode is also easy to monitor on the camera’s convenient top display, which you can see even when it’s securely mounted. Shooting modes include LiveCut, Motion Record, Time Lapse, Loop Record, Video, Photo, Multiphoto, and Burst, which covers everything you might find on a more expensive action camera and more.
OCLU’s LiveCut feature is something you won’t find on any other cameras from this list, including GoPro. It is a unique feature which lets you delete content and free up space on your camera while you are shooting. OCLU understands it takes several attempts to get the perfect shot–why be bogged down with unwanted footage?
The OCLU allows you to edit your clips and save only your best content. With the OCLU smartphone app, you can preset filming modes, track GPS locations, trim, edit, review, and share your videos to social media.
The OCLU has native water resistance up to 1 meter for 30 minutes. Plus, the range of accessories available with this camera are truly impressive. The OcSnap quick-connect magnetic charger is easy and simple to attach; you never have to open charging ports with this camera. The OcShell waterproof case allows for underwater shooting up to 50 meters. The hydrophobic coated lens repels water, so the footage is always detailed and precise, even at 50 meters.
The OcYou is their adjustable chest mount which allows you to shoot hands-free–perfect for biking, hiking, or sailing. This accessory also grants you a full view of the screen even when mounted. In addition to these popular accessories, OCLU offers an extendable grip mount, a coupling mount, floating grip mount, suction mount, an adhesive mount with FirmFlex technology, and a handlebar mount with a shock-absorbing grip.
The OCLU also comes with a stunning 4K resolution at 30fps. Electronic image stabilization with 1080p at 30/60fps ensures your content is smooth and polished. You might think all of these features would come with a hefty price tag, but the OCLU costs just under $200 with their current promo. The affordable price, user-friendly features, and excellent image quality make this the best action camera of 2020.
- Specs: 4K video resolution up to 60fps, 1080p up to 120fps, 12MP still image resolution, water resistance: only with the optional case, battery life: 1 to 2 hours, weight: 93g
- Pros: Sensitive touch screen, 4K up to 60fps, voice command abilities, USB-C connection, affordable price (around $250.00 on Amazon)
- Cons: No native waterproofing, no removable battery, no GPS tracking
Another affordable action camera on our list is the Yi 4K+ Action Camera. This camera features 4K resolution up to 60fps and 1080p video up to 120fps. It has a rear 2.2-inch color touch screen coated in Corning Gorilla Glass for extra durability. Users love the sensitivity of this touch screen and its easy user interface. Whether you’re snapping pictures or filming a video, the screen displays the current shooting mode, resolution, and battery life.
Despite not having native waterproofing, it does come with a universal tripod mount, allowing you to connect it to third party attachments. You can use the YI waterproofing house for underwater protection up to 132 feet. The YI handheld gimbal allows you to pan, tilt, and roll the camera 320º.
It also features voice control software and a free smartphone app to link the camera to your smartphone via a 2.4GHz or 5GHz connection. You can use the app to adjust settings on the camera, transfer, and upload your images and videos.
- Specs: 4K video resolution up to 60fps, 1080p up to 240fps, 12MP still image resolution, water resistance: 10 meters, battery life: 1220mAh, weight: 126g
- Pros: TimeWarp 2.0, HyperSmooth 2.0, live streaming, voice control, remote control
- Cons: Expensive ($399.00), no universal tripod mount, accessories, and Mods can only be used on Hero 8 Black
Touted as the best GoPro, the Hero 8 Black does offer some new features. The HyperSmooth technology and Time Warp technology have been upgraded to the 2.0 version. The new HyperSmooth 2.0 allows for better video stabilization across all resolutions and frame rates, including slow-motion at up to 120fps.
Time Warp photograph feature lets you snap images while shooting in slow-motion. The Hero 8 Black also has 4 digital lenses that allow you to change the field of view (FOV)–Super view, wide, linear, and narrow.
Like GoPro Hero 7 Black, Hero 8 has 4K video resolution up to 60fps and electronic image stabilization. A 12MP still image quality, live streaming, voice control, and a removable battery are also still part of the GoPro Hero design. In terms of accessories, the Hero 8 has 3 different “Mods” being released periodically.
January saw the release of the Light Mod–a powerful LED light attachment. The Media Mod–a 3.5mm mic and 2 cold shoe mounts in one–released in February. The Display Mod–a flippable screen attachment for vlogging is set to be released in March. The GoPro Hero 8 Black Mods cost between $50 and $80 each and can only be used on this camera.
- Specs: 4K video resolution up to 60fps, 1080p up to 240fps, 12MP still image resolution, water resistance: 11 meters, battery life: 1300mAh, weight: 124g
- Pros: Front-facing, color LCD screen, removable battery, RockSteady EIS
- Cons: Expensive ($379.00), camera accessories are limited, no live streaming
Although DJI may be well known amongst drone users, they are new to the action camera space. This action cam has 4K HDR video at 60fps and their RockSteady EIS for clear, smooth video quality. If you are a surfer or a snowboarder, you’ll love the dual front and back screens. These screens give you the ability to quickly switch from filming yourself to shooting the action around you.
The camera’s lens features 3 aspherical layers to protect the camera and your content from fingerprints, dirt, water, and oils. It also has native waterproofing up to 11 meters and cold resistance down to 14º Fahrenheit.
The DJI Osmo Action camera is easy to use and even includes voice control, a one-touch record button that begins filming in less than 2 seconds, plus customizable filming modes and exposure settings to make your favorites easy to access. Using the DJI Mino smartphone app, you can edit clips and get creative with preset story templates.
- Specs: 4K video resolution up to 60fps, 1080p up to 120fps, 12MP still image resolution, water resistance: only with the optional case, battery life: 1200mAh, weight: 85g
- Pros: 8x zoom, IPS retina display, large touch screen, moderately priced ($219.00)
- Cons: Limited accessory options, no native waterproofing
The SJCam SJ8 Pro has an impressive 2.33-inch color UHD touch screen with an easy to use customizable user interface. The lens of the SJ8 features 7 layers of glass and gives you a 170º FOV. For videos, it shoots 4K up to 60fps with a 6-axis image stabilization.
For additional image stability, you can attach SJCam’s handheld gimbal stabilizer with built-in charging. Although the SJCam SJ8 is not natively waterproof, the optional waterproof housing allows for protection at up to 30 meters.
The SJ8 offers still image resolution at 12MP and a unique digital zoom feature that allows you to magnify up to 8x with no image distortion. The USB Type-C 40Mb/s connection allows for faster data transfer, or you can upload your content straight to the camera’s app using WiFi at 2.4GHz or 5GHz. The smartphone app allows you to adjust settings, track GPS, and review your content.
- Specs: 4K video resolution up to 30fps, 1080p up to 120fps, 15.3MP still image resolution, water resistance: 10 meters, battery life: 60 mins, weight: 110g
- Pros: Super slow-motion, 15.3MP still image resolution, crush, shock, and freeze resistances, flippable front-facing screen perfect for vlogging
- Cons: Extremely expensive ($698.00), 4K only up to 30fps, no removable battery
The Sony RXO II comes with a higher price, though the features it offers may be worth the extra cost for some users. This item is essentially a top of the line still image camera, and an action cam rolled into one. The higher still image resolution of 15.3MP, plus the Eye AF and Soft Skin Effect, create beautiful pictures. A wide-angle lens lets you shoot panorama landscapes without peripheral blurring.
Perhaps its most impressive feature is the super smooth, detailed slow-motion video at up to 1000fps. The slow-motion abilities, in combination with the 1.0-type sensor, create stunning videos and still images. Vloggers will also love the 180º 1.5-inch flippable front-facing screen. All of this technology also comes in a very durable design. It includes 10-meter water resistance with no waterproof housing, plus crush, shock, and freeze-resistance.
- Specs: 4K video resolution up to 30fps, 1080p up to 60fps, 8MP still image resolution, water resistance: 30 meters, battery life: 1350mAh, weight: 180g
- Pros: Durable, 204º Extreme Angle Lens, tilt-out LCD screen
- Cons: Expensive ($349), 4K video only up to 30fps, low-resolution still images (8MP), heavier and larger than most action cameras
The Olympus TG-Tracker is one of the largest cameras on our list and it does have a clunkier, camcorder look and feel. With that, it also has some durability features that make it an excellent camera for those who plan to film in extreme conditions.
It is waterproof up to 30 meters (100 feet), crushproof up to 220 pounds, freezeproof down to 14º Fahrenheit, shockproof at 7 feet, and dustproof, all without any protective housing. The camera’s Action Track Sensors monitor temperature, barometric pressure, accelerometer, and GPS location.
The 204º lens allows you to snap panoramic images, and the narrow-angle view helps you zoom in on every detail, even underwater. It features 5-Axis electronic image stabilization, which is ideal for skiing, mountain biking, and skateboarding. The tiltable LCD screen flips out so you can see what you are filming, and the optional LED headlight allows you to shoot at night. The Olympus smartphone app lets you connect and upload to social media through WiFi or Bluetooth.
- Specs: 4K video resolution up to 15fps, 1080p up to 60fps, 16MP still image resolution, water resistance: splashproof with lens, battery life: 3 hours, weight: 190g
- Pros: Auto editing feature in-app, durable design, longer battery life, moderately priced (around $250.00 on Amazon)
- Cons: 4K only up to 15fps, heavy, no removable battery
The TomTom Bandit Camera has a built-in media server that lets you transfer content to your smartphone by simply shaking the camera. Using the app, you can edit and share your content in just minutes. Although the 4K setting only has a frame rate of 15fps, it does have a 1080p up to 60fps filming option and a still image resolution of 16MP. Plus, the built-in tagging and sensor tracking make it easy and fun to share your content and stats online.
The in-camera GPS and motion sensors tag your videos and images with speed, G-force, altitude, heart rate, and acceleration. The camera will automatically highlight your best videos and most impressive stats. The editing mode within the app lets you create epic movies that include overlays of your metrics, such as speed and altitude. Although it weighs more than most action cameras, the low profile design fits well on most helmets and handlebar mounts.
8 Tips For Choosing the Best Action Camera
The action cameras outlined above are some of the best on the market. But how do you know which is right for you? Not every feature is worth investing in. In fact, some features can make the camera clunky and harder to use. To help you pick the best action cam (one that is affordable, high-quality, and functional), we’ve included some tips below. These tips outline the most useful features among top-tier action cameras and how to tell which ones are worth the extra money.
Tip #1: Budget
When it comes to budget, each person will have to decide what they feel comfortable spending on a new action camera. It may not be worth it for everyday users to pay extra for touch screen features, freeze-resistance, voice control abilities, or super slow-motion. Additionally, a faster frame rate may not create enough of a difference to warrant the premium cost.
The faster frame rate decision largely depends on what you plan to use your new camera for. For most adventure seekers, a camera between $200 and $300 will include everything you need. In fact, the best action cam doesn’t necessarily need to be the most expensive. The rest of our tips outlined below will clue you in to the features we think are essential.
Tip #2: Video Resolution
For video resolution, you’ll want a 4K action camera, the best on the market. Because 4K resolution is so detailed, you’ll have to consider frame rate. Most 4K action cams will offer either 30, 60, or 90fps (frames per second).
The frame rate of at least 30 will enable you to shoot smooth 4K content, even in slow-motion and time-lapse mode. 60 and 90fps will increase the sharpness of the video; however, it will also increase the price. For most users, 30fps is the perfect frame rate to capture high-quality videos without breaking your budget.
Tip #3: Still Image Quality
All of the action cameras on our list come with the ability to shoot still images. This feature is convenient when you are on vacation and want to capture a quick group picture or selfie. A still resolution at 12MP is ideal for this. This is the resolution of most smartphone cameras; even the iPhone 11 Pro Max has a 12MP still image resolution.
The res works so well in small devices because it requires so little storage space. It also shoots brilliant low light images and has a lightning-fast processing time. Some cameras, like the Sony RXO II, have a still image res higher than 12MP, but again, it comes with a higher price tag. 15.3MP still resolution is only necessary if you’re looking for a professional-grade still image camera.
Tip #4: Functionality
As we mentioned above, some newer features can make the camera harder to use. If you are out skiing and want to change filming modes, a touch screen can make this difficult to do without taking off your gloves or warming up your hands first. Quick toggles and side buttons are much faster and help you stay in the moment. Often, the more “advanced” the feature, the more time it requires. More intuitive, streamlined features let you relax and have fun with the camera without overthinking it.
Tip #5: Design
The most significant advantage of an action camera is its small, portable size. You want something that can easily slip into your pocket or backpack and go everywhere with you. There are some heavier, taller action cams on the market, and these tend to get knocked around quite a bit. Something sleeker and smaller will sit lower on your equipment, minimizing the chances of it getting lost or damaged.
Also, be mindful of how easily accessories, mounts, and charging cables attach to the camera. Some of the best action cameras of 2020 come with a universal tripod mount so you can easily attach your favorite accessories. But if you have to open ports or remove pieces from the camera to connect a waterproof case or charge the camera, this will start to feel like a nuisance over time.
Some ports can be challenging to close, making it easier for water or sand to get inside the camera. Action cameras with quick, magnetic connections are much simpler. They make charging the camera easy and fast.
Tip #6: Durability
As you shop, you will notice that some cameras come with water, crush, freeze, and shock-resistance. Whether each of these features is important to you will largely depend on your hobbies and where you plan to take your new cam. Water-resistance is typically the most useful feature in terms of durability.
It allows you to film comfortably around water, without worrying about dropping, splashing, and damaging the camera. Since most of the action cams on our list come with optional waterproof cases that allow for more depth, a 1-meter water-resistance is all that’s necessary.
Tip #7: Battery/Charging
All the sports cameras on our list have a relatively short battery life; most are between 1 to 2 hours. The reason for this is primarily due to the 4K video resolution. This resolution tends to drain battery life pretty quickly. For this reason, it is best to get an action cam with a removable battery. This allows you to take along a backup battery so you never miss a minute of the action.
Tip #8: Accessories and Mounts
No matter how durable the camera is, it will require some heavy-duty mounts to attach to your gear. Therefore, be sure your new camera offers a wide variety of accessories and mounts. The most popular and useful add-ons are waterproof cases, dashboard mounts, helmet mounts, and chest mounts. Be sure to also keep in mind the functionality of the mount. Those that attach using an adhesive, magnetic, or suction connection are often easier to use and tend to be the most secure.
A camera with the ability to attach to other branded accessories will also be useful. When you are restricted to using only one set of accessories, it can limit you on pricing and variety. Also, if you already have some high-quality accessories at home, it would be great to put those to use with your new action camera.
Choosing the best action cam may take a little bit of research, but with many great options available at affordable prices, you’re sure you find one that works. Overall, you want a high-quality action camera that creates crystal clear video and images, is quick and easy to use, durable, and fun!
Don’t fall into the trap of buying something simply because it’s well known. Shop around and see what else is available to you. There are several new brands creating some of the best action cameras with cutting-edge features and sleek designs that take everything into account, including functionality.
These action cameras really go above and beyond to help you capture every epic moment without having to step away from the action.
Image Credit: Arindam Raha; Pexels