Best Action Sports Cameras for Adventure Kit

Review & Comparison, Last Update August 24, 2017
If you adore extreme sports or you want to shoot videos of your activities, you need to use an action camera. Thanks to this gadget, you will be able to shoot anything all daredevil stunts you are making. We've decided to help you out and compared the best sports cameras for you! ...Read more ...Read less
BEST 2017
PROS
CONS
OUR VERDICT
Resolution
Video Formats
Max Still Resolution
Battery Life
Viewing Angle
Protection
Interface
Mounts and Accessories
 
PROS
Smooth video recording in 4K Ultra-HD, voice commands control, touchscreen, single-button operation, integral digital stabilization, and more.
CONS
Battery drains quickly while recording in Ultra-HD.
OUR VERDICT

The Hero5 Black is an ultimate GoPro camera that will capture most dynamic actions in the incredible, smooth 4K video. It also supports shooting photos in RAW format, so you can leave your photo camera at home.

detailed parameters
Resolution
3840x2160 - 30 FPS, 2704x1520 - 60 FPS, 1920x1080 - 120 FPS, 1280x720 - 240 FPS
Video Formats
H.264 MPEG4
Max Still Resolution
12 MP, CMOS sensor
Battery Life
Up to 2 hours, 1220 mAh Li-Ion
Viewing Angle
170°
Protection

Shock-proof, dust- and waterproof up to 33 ft

Interface
Supports up to 64 GB microSD, SDHC, SDXC cards, Micro HDMI, Micro-USB, 3.5mm mic input, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi
Mounts and Accessories
Frame (HERO5 Black), Rechargeable Battery (HERO5 Black), Curved Adhesive Mount, Flat Adhesive Mount, Mounting Buckle, USB-C Cable
PROS
Has an option to broadcast live events online via YouTube in HD quality, 3-axis image stabilization, decent recorded sound quality inside the waterproof case.
CONS
4K videos might require post-processing due to the low image stabilization.
OUR VERDICT
Garmin VIRB Ultra 30 is an ideal choice for shooting 4K videos and photos under most severe weather conditions. It has a lof of different sensors for you to easily track your progression.
detailed parameters
Resolution
3840x2160 - 30 FPS, 2704x1520 - 60 FPS, 1920x1080 - 120 FPS, 1280x720 - 240 FPS
Video Formats
H.264 MPEG4
Max Still Resolution
12 MP, CMOS sensor
Battery Life
Up to 2 hours, 1250 mAh Li-Ion
Viewing Angle
123°
Protection

Waterproof up to 131 ft in a special case (included)

Interface
Supports up to 128 GB SDHC cards, HDMI, Micro-USB, 3.5mm mic input, ANT+, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi
Mounts and Accessories
Waterproof case, Lithium-ion battery, Charging/data cable, Flat and curved adhesive mounts, Standard and vertical mount adapters, Short and long screws, Short and long extension arms, Wrench, Anti-fog kit, Garmin VIRB sticker
PROS

The intelligent SteadyShot image stabilization system reduces blur and noise even if the footage is taken on the move. 

CONS

Limited additional accessories set.

OUR VERDICT

The Sony Action Cam offers great functionality at an affordable price. The option to download additional apps significantly improves its performance. 

detailed parameters
Resolution

1920x1080 - 60 FPS, 1280x720 - 120 FPS

Video Formats

H.264 MPEG4

Max Still Resolution

~11.1 MP, CMOS Sensor

Battery Life

2 hours 30 minutes, NP-BX1 rechargeable battery

Viewing Angle

170°

Protection

Waterproof up to 197 ft in a protective case (included)

Interface

Supports Stick Micro and MicroSD/SDHC/SDXC class 10 or better

Mounts and Accessories

Waterproof case (MPK-UWH1), Rechargeable battery, MicroUSB Cable, Clamp

PROS

branded free app allows you to control this GoPro camera from a smartphone or tablet. Moreover, you can watch videos and share them with your friends online.

CONS
No image stabilization.
OUR VERDICT

This best GoPro camera supports 4K resolution, so you can enjoy an extra-wide image. Lots of mounts and durable case allow you to enjoy shooting awesome extreme videos and take amazing quality photos.

detailed parameters
Resolution
3840x2160 - 15 FPS, 2704x1520 - 30 FPS, 1920x1080 - 60 FPS, 1280x720 - 120 FPS
Video Formats
H.264 MPEG4
Max Still Resolution
12 MP, CMOS sensor
Battery Life
47 minutes, 1160 mAh Li-Ion
Viewing Angle
170°
Protection

Waterproof up to 131 ft in a special case (included)

Interface
MicroSD (class 10 or UHS-1 up to 64GB), HDMI, USB
Mounts and Accessories
Standard waterproof casing (40 meters), Skeleton + Touch Backdoors, Li-ion battery, Curved adhesive mount, Flat adhesive mount, Quick release buckles, 3-Way pivot arm, USB cable
PROS
Crystal Clear technology for improved photo clarity. The 8-point G-sensor stabilizer effectively reduces vibrations for a smooth video shooting.
CONS
Requires a special app to reset the configurations.
OUR VERDICT
If you want an inexpensive, yet reliable action camera for different occasions, iON Camera Air Pro 3 Wi-Fi is exactly what you need. It has all the proper functionality, and on a calm day, it can simply use it as a dashcam inside your car.
detailed parameters
Resolution
1920x1080 - 60 FPS, 1280x720 - 120 FPS
Video Formats
H.264 MPEG4
Max Still Resolution
12 MP, CMOS sensor
Battery Life
2 hours 30 minutes, 1220 mAh Li-Ion
Viewing Angle
160°
Protection

Waterproof up to 49 ft

Interface
Supports up to 64 GB microSD, SDHC class 10 or better cards, HDMI, 3.5mm mic input, Micro-USB, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi
Mounts and Accessories
Wi-Fi PODZ, CamLock, Short Ball Joint, USB Cable, Helmet Mount and Adhesive Strips, Tripod, Storage Tin

What is an Action Camera

Nowadays, video shooting technologies are developing very quickly, allowing millions of people all over the world to capture any activities. No need to say, lots of us want to shoot videos while doing some sports, but it's difficult to control a camera - it vibrates so much that the video is usually very poor. That's why action cameras have been developed - they are compact and have a sophisticated stabilization mechanism in order to provide stunning videos. Most sports cameras are fully protected against dust, moisture, and shock, so that you can even dive and capture the underwater world. Equally, any sports camera can shoot a video of your crazy bike ride or, for example, a daredevil parachute jump. Any person practicing extreme sports should have such a camera! Everybody has probably heard about GoPro cameras, but there are more HD action cameras on the market. That's why we picked the best devices and compared them by the most important features only. Now, go ahead and read our sports camera review!

However, if you want to get a camera for recording the road conditions when you're driving, we recommend you to read our comparison of the best car cameras.

Also, make sure to read our new review of waterproof cameras. These devices allow making stunning photos even underwater without any cases or accessories.

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What Features to Compare

Design

An action camera isn’t similar to a regular gadget designed for capturing still images and thus, becomes a spotlight of all those personalities who are engaged in extreme sports. Sports cameras are usually attached to bikes, cars, clothing and equipment and therefore, designed to be lightweight, compact and impact-resistant. Consider different shapes and dimensions to find the camera that would fit your setting. They aren’t made to be equal so you better go along with your own needs, while choosing among multiple models.

If you don’t want to be limited to shooting capabilities, it’d be better if you choose a waterproof cam. With one of those attached to your diving suit, capturing videos and photos of the underwater world would be a breeze. Some action cameras are wrapped in protective cases (removable and not) to allow immersion in the water up to 60 meters in depth. That’s quite impressive properties most of us could only dream about even a few years ago. For users’ convenience, a lot of cameras are equipped with displays using which in some situations is absolutely invaluable help. From there you’ll also find information on battery life.

Tech Specifications

Among the most important tech specifications that cannot go unnoticed are resolution and frame rate per second. If you seek for a sports camera to set off down true breath-taking adventures, you surely need to opt for the highest available 3840 x 2160 resolution (also known as 4K). For most average users who plan to use it only now and then, Full HD would suffice the needs. Consider the frame rate if you’d like to shoot professional video clips. 60 fps for motion capture will be good for most users while for those who’d love to dive and do extreme cycling taking pictures on the go there’s no other way rather than get a cam with the yield of 120 frames per second. Check out a viewing angle to know how much scenery it’s possible to capture. A small angle, by the way, isn’t necessary a bad specification for it allows video shooters to put smaller objects in the forefront.

Usability

Action cameras support a number of modes and options to enhance users’ experience and provide them with the right tools to make shooting much more exciting and pro-like. So, make sure that you consider all available options and find them suitable for your activities and needs. Like being mentioned above, a sports camera is used mostly by extreme personalities who practice jumping, climbing, driving and other sports activities, willing to capture slow motion of their tricks. Therefore, it’s got to be simple to use and control. Most models on the market have only one or two buttons to navigate through modes and settings, and that’s pretty handy.

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GoPro HERO5 Black

Absolute Leader

The GoPro HERO5 Black is the top-of-the-line model that has replaced the sensational GoPro HERO4 camera. The new generation is even more functional and versatile! As compared to the previous models, a touchscreen display added 0.3’’ and now has a diagonal of 2’’. The GoPro HERO5 has a rugged casing that is shock- and dust-proof. Also, you can use this camera down to 33 feet underwater! However, you will need to use protective accessories for more extreme conditions, particularly if you are a keen diver who wishes to shoot stunning videos of the underwater world. The hardware of the HERO5 has also been upgraded. A new stabilization system boasts an advanced processing algorithm, allowing you to make even sharper videos under extreme conditions. We’d also like to draw your attention to the incredible quality of photos this GoPro camera can make. Actually, you can even do without a camera! The HERO5 can take pictures in RAW and, moreover, offers a manual exposure control. Thanks to the WDR mode, you will be able to make high-contrast and sharp photos of your adventures. Since this device can be used without a protective housing, the sound recording quality is fantastic, particularly thanks to the cutting-edge stereo microphone.

Review of GoPro HERO5 Black

Long-awaited Upgrades

The key novelty in the GoPro HERO5 is the voice recognition that allows users to control the basic functions of the camera simply by voice. Now, you can turn on the camera right before the exciting part of your adventure, saving the battery charge, keep your hands free and skip unnecessary preparations on taking videos. A video and photo shooting can be controlled with the help of a single button. In addition, you can use the GoPro Plus service, upload your footage to the cloud storage and access it from your computer or mobile devices. We would like to mention an easy control of the GoPro camera: the menu is straightforward and intuitive, hence you can quickly find the right setting and adjust it. No matter what adventure you embark on, you will always be able to make a stunning video!

GoPro HERO5 Black in the use

For Those Who Choose Active Leisure

Divers need to keep track of the time they spend underwater in order to avoid running out of oxygen. Therefore, make sure to choose a dive watch that will make your scuba diving experience safe.

Detailed review of GoPro HERO5 Black

Always Accurate Geolocation

The HERO5 GoPro camera is fitted with a GPS module. Hence, you will always know the exact location where the picture and photos have been taken.

GoPro HERO5 Black application

Additional Info

User Manual     Manufacturer


GoPro HERO5 Black
GoPro HERO5 Black
 

Garmin VIRB Ultra 30

A Worthy Camera!

Garmin sports cameras are considered to be the main competitors to the GoPros in the market. Just like the top-tier GoPros, the VIRB Ultra 30 boasts the 4K video recording capability, delivering the FPS rate of 30. Also, there is a cutting-edge Sensory TrulyHandsFree voice control technology, thanks to which you can control the device without even touching it. The voice control system recognizes several simple commands, such as ‘Start recording’ and ‘Take a picture’. If you wish to know where are going to shoot a video or take a pic, just say ‘Remember that’ and the camera will add a GPS tag to the file. We’d also like to highlight a bright and handy 1.75’’ touchscreen display and a user-friendly menu that will help you configure the settings in no time. You will be able to use the touch screen even after you put the camera in a waterproof case. Therefore, you won’t need to remove the device if you need to change some settings. The Garmin engineers have done their best to make this device convenient no matter under what conditions you use it.

Review of Garmin VIRB Ultra 30 Action Camera

Share Your Emotions

This top-tier camera provides an excellent picture quality and has a 3-axis image stabilization system, so it shoots sharp and smooth videos you will truly enjoy. The Garmin Ultra 30 will help you capture your adventures, whereas a GPS module will tell you where each video has been shot, at what speed, altitude, etc. Useful proofs if your friends doubt your achievements, right? The camera can be used with a free VIRB mobile app for viewing and editing the videos you make. For professional editing, we recommend you to install the VIRB Edit software on your computer. This program will help you add the sound you wish, cut some frames out, etc. If you are a YouTube blogger, these apps can stream your videos to YouTube so that you could share them with your friends and other users online. No need to wait! That’s one of the reasons why this camera has become so popular among fans of extreme sports and bloggers.

Garmin VIRB Ultra 30 Action Camera in the use

Ride Any Waves

If you are an avid surfer who can’t live without riding the waves, don’t miss out on our review on the best surfboards. Ride the waves and shoot breath-taking videos!

Detailed review of Garmin VIRB Ultra 30 Action Camera

High-sensitivity Microphone

This device has a highly sensitive microphone that ensures a great sound quality even if you use a waterproof case.

Garmin VIRB Ultra 30 Action Camera application

Additional Info

User Manual     Manufacturer


Garmin VIRB Ultra 30
Garmin VIRB Ultra 30
 

Sony HDRAS50/B Full HD

Outstanding Model

Looking for an action camera to buy, you will certainly notice the Sony HDR-AS50R which can be rightfully regarded as a serious competitor to a well-known GoPro due to its rich functionality and general specs. You will surely like that the camera can take very crisp and quality footage. The SteadyShot image stabilization system reduces noise and blur, even if you shoot video on the move. As the camera's equipped with Exmor R sensor and uses a high-performance BIONZ X processor with a ZEISS lens, it will also work for taking pictures in poorly lit conditions. Drifting a bit further into details, the camera can record amazing footage of underwater in Full HD with a stream rate of 50 MB/s and 60 FPS. For this purpose, though, you will also need to make sure that you use a waterproof housing that comes with the set. The ZEISS lens provides 170° viewing angles, which makes the cam perfect for creating panoramic pictures.

Review of Sony HDRAS50/B Full HD Action Cam

Enhance Functionality of Your Camera

If you'd like to increase camera capacity and get enriched functionality, there are certain apps that can help you do this. The Highlight Movie Maker is one of such applications in which you can quickly and easily edit and improve the recorded footage, add background music, rearrange the order of fragments, and then, when you're done, share it with your friends over the Internet. The Action Cam Movie is one more application that can be used to create unique videos from photos. It is available for all OSes and free for downloading.

Sony HDRAS50/B Full HD Action Cam in the use

Handy Control

It is good to know that manufacturer produces this action cam in several modifications, offering users to choose the set of features and options they need. So, you can get the improved version of the HDRAS50 that besides enriched functionality also has a handy Life-View remote to wear on hand and control the camera remotely. Your own smartphone can also serve as a remote control if you download a PlayMemories Mobile application.

Detailed review of Sony HDRAS50/B Full HD Action Cam

Additional Protection

The camera includes a waterproof housing which allows you to record footage at the depth of 197 feet underwater and keeps the device protected from scratches, shocks, and dust. All controls are easy to access, even when the camera is placed inside this housing. 

Sony HDRAS50/B Full HD Action Cam application

Additional Info

User Manual     Manufacturer


Sony HDRAS50/B Full HD
Sony HDRAS50/B Full HD
 

GoPro HERO4 Silver

Anytime Within 24 Hours

These cameras allow us to shoot videos so that we could watch them afterwards and recall the best moments of our lives. And you will certainly agree that it's necessary to have a camera capable of shooting quality videos at a daytime and at night. The GoPro HERO4 Silver is the right choice! With the help of this GoPro camera, you will be able to take a stunning image of a night starry sky while being on a backpacking tour with your friends. You just need to attach the camera to one of the mounts, choose the right mode, and leave the rest to the GoPro HERO4 Silver. You can use Night Lapse and Time Lapse modes at the FPS rate of 30. Moreover, this best GoPro camera automatically adjusts the settings to the light conditions. Thanks to the ultra-fast wireless Wi-Fi (50% faster than on previous versions) and Bluetooth connections, you can control the camera remotely. Just download and install the GoPro app on your mobile device. Thus, you can view each picture or watch videos right from your smartphone or tablet!

Review of GoPro HERO4 Silver

Best Moments

You can use the Highlight Tag function to mark the most important moments of any video so that you could find them quickly later. Moreover, you can edit your videos in GoPro Studio which is a part of the GoPro app. We would also like to draw your attention to the 4K resolution this GoPro camera supports. GoPro HERO4 Silver really creates the effect of presence!

If you wish to download the GoPro app, it's available for iOS and Android devices.

GoPro HERO4 Silver in the use

Interesting Fact

GoPro tested the durability of its HERO4model  by capturing the launch of the SL-10 missile. UP Aerospace Inc. launched the missile on November 6, 2015. The missile flew as high as 120.7 kilometers and the speed reached mind-blowing 6,000 km/h. Then, the missile released a test capsule which got back to the ground on a special parachute. Several GoPro HERO4 action cameras were shooting the whole process and each of them bore this challenging test.

Detailed review of GoPro HERO4 Silver

More Products to Consider

If you wish to shoot high-res videos on the HERO4 GoPro camera, make sure to use a high-capacity and super-fast micro SD card.

GoPro HERO4 Silver application

Additional Info

User Manual     Manufacturer


VIDEO
GoPro Hero 4 Silver Edition Review
GoPro HERO4 Silver
GoPro HERO4 Silver
 

iON Camera Air Pro 3

Ready for the Most Extreme Tests

Speaking about such devices as action cameras, customers are usually interested in a couple of features: how practical each model is and what image quality it provides. Taking these features into account, we should say the Air Pro 3 is worth every dollar it costs! The first thing that catches your attention is the unusual form factor of this device; it looks like a flashlight. Therefore, it’s easy to carry the item in a pocket of your jacket or in a small bag. The aluminum casing is rugged and durable, so this small device needs no protective case. The fixation system allows attaching the device to tripods and various surfaces. The camera can shoot as deep as 49 feet underwater without a waterproof case since the housing is waterproof itself. As for the battery, it gives up to 2.5 hours of continuous shooting time, which is enough to make lots of stunning videos before it runs out of charge.

Review of iON Camera Air Pro 3 Waterproof Camera

Simplicity and Quality

The iON Air Pro 3 boasts a decent image quality when shooting videos and taking photos. The lens of the camera has an ultra-wide viewing angle (160°) with an automatic shutter adjustment. Thus, the picture quality remains really high even under the low light conditions. The Air Pro 3 is very convenient to use. A single button starts and stops a video recording, as well as takes photos. There is no need to browse the menu, looking for the right settings (as on the cameras with a display). Instead, you can set the resolution with a single move of a finger. There are two options: Full HD at 60 FPS and 720p at 120 FPS. If you wish to share your videos or photos with your friends, you can upload them to the cloud storage with the help of a special mobile app for your tablet or smartphone.

iON Camera Air Pro 3 Waterproof Camera in the use

Use Protective Gear!

Even true thrill-seekers who can’t live without a rush of adrenaline in their veins should remember about safety. Those who like winter kinds of sports should certainly purchase a decent ski helmet and sports sunglasses.

Detailed review of iON Camera Air Pro 3 Waterproof Camera

WiFi PODZ

If you want to watch videos on your mobile device, use a WiFi PODZ.

iON Camera Air Pro 3 Waterproof Camera application

Additional Info

User Manual     Manufacturer


iON Camera Air Pro 3
iON Camera Air Pro 3
 

Infographics

Comparison of Action Sports Cameras for Adventure Kit

FAQ:

Q: What’s the difference between an ordinary camera and an action camera? 
A: Action cameras are designed for sports. Therefore, these devices are usually lightweight, compact, and easy to configure. Sports cameras are equipped with an image stabilization system which is responsible for focusing and image sharpness. Also, they have a rugged casing that withstands heavy bumps and falls. Many action cameras can shoot underwater as well.

Q: How good are these cameras at shooting videos?
A: Well, it all depends on the model you choose but generally these cameras deliver a great video quality. You can assess how good each particular model is by checking what FPS (frames per second) rate it provides at a certain resolution. For a smooth and artifact-free picture, the FPS rate should be at least 60 regardless of the resolution you choose.

Q: What’s the maximum resolution an action camera can provide?
A: This parameter depends on the model you choose. The top-of-the-line sports cameras can shoot videos at 3840x2160 pixels (Ultra HD). However, the higher the resolution, the lower the FPS rate.

Q: What viewing angle do action cameras have?
A: They have wide-angle lenses but the viewing angles may differ. The best models deliver a viewing angle of 170°, though affordable models may have a smaller angle.

Q: Do sports cameras have a zoom?
A: No, they don’t support a zoom function.

Q: Can action cameras record sound?
A: Yes, most sports cameras don’t just shoot videos but record sound as well. The best models even have a sophisticated sound processing system and record stereo sound.

Q: Do they support memory cards?
A: Yes, they do. Sports cameras don’t provide a lot of internal storage space. That’s why they require memory cards of different types. As usual, they are microSD or SDXC/SDHC cards. Don’t forget to check the maximum capacity that a camera supports, though.

Q: Can these devices be used underwater?
A: Yes, most of them can. However, some devices have a waterproof casing, while others need a special waterproof case (it’s either included in the package or sold separately). If the model you choose requires a waterproof case, don’t try using the camera underwater without one.

Q: What’s the maximum depth I can dive with my GoPro camera?
A: It depends on the model. However, the models in waterproof cases can be used deeper than those that don’t have one.

Q: Can I mount a GoPro camera on my bike helmet?
A: You can if you have a special mount. Some extreme sports cameras come with a pretty rich accessory kit including a bike helmet mount. However, for some devices, these mounts should be purchased separately.

Q: Can I take photos with an action camera?
A: You surely can! Apart from shooting videos, such devices can make brilliant photos. However, the sensors used on such cameras usually have a much smaller resolution than those used on DSLR cameras.


Sources:

1. Eric Angevine How to Choose an Action Camcorder, Crutchfield.

2. How to Choose an Action Camera, Eastern Mountain Sports.

3. Ryan Shaw How to Buy the Best Action Camera, Which?

4. Action Camera Buying Guide, Boys' Life.

5. How to Choose a Great Underwater Camera, SwimOutlet.

6. David Nield The Best Wearable Action Cameras for Extreme Sports and More, Wareable. June 7, 2016.

7. Dan Havlik Camera Buying Guide, Tom's Guide. April 28, 2016.

8. Brent Rose, Mike Perlman The Best Action Camera, The Wirecutter. August 1, 2016.

9. Richard Easton How to choose an SD card - class and speed ratings explained, Expert Reviews. February 11, 2016.

10. W. H. Bourne Action cam accessories buying guide, Videomaker Inc. April 20, 2015.

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