The Best GoPro and Action Cameras for 2018
Action cameras are ideal for capturing outdoor adventures. If you spend a lot of time outside and enjoy hiking, water sports, skydiving, or any other type of activity or excursion you would like to relive in all of its glory, consider getting an action camera. These cameras are designed to be mounted to you to capture unique footage in video format. They typically have small, compact designs that can be attached to a helmet or other gear such as a skateboard. They can withstand more than your typical point and shoot camera, capture wide views so no detail gets left out, and many of them are waterproof or at least available with waterproof housing, enabling you to document even the wettest conditions.
Any action camera you want to spend money on should record vibrant, detailed video in a variety of environments and lighting conditions. Full HD or 4K resolution is a must. The camera and any associated app should be easy to operate, edit videos, and of course, share with the world. They should be small, durable, and capable of more than one mounting option for multiple points of view. We prefer waterproof cameras to needing to rely on a waterproof case, but this may not be important to you if you don't play watersports or plan to use your camera in wet and rainy circumstances. Battery life tends not to be overwhelmingly good with action cameras, however we don't want it to be overwhelmingly bad either. Finally, of course, we'd like to see a good warranty and a fair price.
Top Choice: GoPro Hero6 Black
The GoPro Hero6 Black is a 12MP action camera capable of 4K 60 fps video with a GP1 processor that gives it a lot of improvements over the GoPro Hero5. It measures 2.45 inches by 1.76 inches by 1.29 inches. It is lightweight, weighing just over 4 ounces. The GoPro Hero6 Black has a Micro-HDMI port as well as USB-C port. The 2-inch LCD display is a touchscreen that allows you to zoom in while filming. Reviewers found the touchscreen worked great and was responsive. Because things can get shaky when you're in the middle of action-packed adventures, the electronic image stabilizer helps to minimize jolting and shaking for smoother footage. Remember that the longer the video is, the longer it takes to transfer to your phone. After transfer and editing, you can then share your documented footage with friends online. Keep in mind that because 4K isn't completely standard yet, certain devices may struggle with playing it back in that format. Voice commands are a nice touch, allowing you to start recording without needing to press a button. If you're planning a nighttime outing, the GoPro Hero6 has a Night Mode capable of documenting in low-light with performance you'll be pleased with. Overall, reviewers love the video footage quality achieved with the GoPro Hero6 Black!
Almost as Good: GoPro Hero5 Black
The GoPro Hero5 Black is a cheaper option for those who want a GoPro but without shelling out the cash for the amount that a GoPro Hero6 costs. You can use this action camera both for taking video as well as still shots. It measures 2.45 inches by 1.76 inches by 1.29 inches. It weighs just over 4 ounces, so you won't feel it weighing you down during your travels. The 2-inch LCD color display is a touchscreen from which you can change settings and cut footage, though reviewers noted occasionally having responsiveness issues with the touchscreen. You can also utilize voice controls to manage recording hands-free while on the go. Video stabilization technology helps to reduce shaking but it isn't as advanced as in the GoPro Hero6. It has a Micro-HDMI port and USB-C port. The QuikStories does the work for you with automatically creating a video for you with music and cuts, which you can then share. The GoPro Hero6 offers better video and image quality and features the GP1 chip, however the GoPro Hero5 offers a lot of similar benefits for $150 less. GoPro offers a 1-year warranty on their products.
Bullet-Shape Action Cam: TomTom Bandit 4K
The TomTom Bandit 4K might not have the shape we're used to seeing lately in action cameras, but that doesn't mean it can't capture great 4K video. This bullet-shaped camera measures 3.7 inches by 1.5 inches by 2 inches and weighs a heftier 6.7 ounces. The display is 0.87 x 1 inch. It is easy to mount and the rotating clip system allows you to achieve the position you desire. It comes with a splashproof lens cover. This data can also be used to automatically identify major action moments for easy highlighting and video editing later. You don't even need to download the footage to your phone first for editing, instead uploading your final video straight to Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, or WhatsApp, complete with music and overlaid stats. You can even just shake your phone for the app to pick out the highlights on its own based on collected data and create a video on its own. It can't get easier than that!
Budget-Pick: Yi 4K Action Camera
The Yi 4K Action Camera is a Chinese camera that has been picking up decent reviews across the web and that we've chosen as our favorite budget pick. It measures 2.55 inches by 1.65 inches by 1.18 inches. This 12MP camera is capable of 4K video recording. Electronic Image Stabilization technology helps to compensate for movement and shaking and reviewers found it decent, though not as high quality as GoPro. 360-degree dual microphones and built-in speaker capture audio action but not well. The Yi 4K isn't waterproof, so you'll need to buy a separate case if you want to use it for watersports and the like. Changing the settings while in water would need to involve removing the case first which could get annoying. There aren't any voice-activated controls or GPS, however these aren't absolutely necessary features for many people. The app has some basic editing options but isn't the best so you may want to consider some other photo/video editing apps or software. Overall, this camera is easy to operate, produces good quality images and video, and comes at a price that is much easier on the pocketbook than some other action cameras.
Convenient Voice Commands: Garmin Virb Ultra 30
The Garmin Virb Ultra 30 offers convenient voice control to manage your 4K shooting. This action camera measures 2.3 inches by 1.8 inches by 1.2 inches and weighs just 3.1 ounces. It has a 1.75-inch color touchscreen display. Battery life lasted up to two hours for our testers. It uses a microSD card which is not included with purchase, so make sure that you get a compatible one. You can use the user-friendly VIRB Mobile App to edit and share your videos. Overlay the data on top of the video for more detail. It isn't waterproof without using a case, so keep that in mind. Luckily, it does come with the waterproof case so you won't have to purchase it separately. Reviewers were very impressed with HD and 4K video quality. Electronic image stabilization helps to handle bumps in the road. It does well in lowlight so you don't have to feel restricted to daytime jaunts.
Also Good: Sony FDR-X3000
The Sony FDR-X3000 is a white action camera that offers sharp 4K footage. It measures 1.18 inches by 1.87 inches by 3.37 inches and weighs 4.1 ounces, so it is bigger than other picks. It has as memory card slot, micro HDMI output, USB terminal, and stereo minijack. The memory card slot can accept Memory Stick Duo and Micro SD memory cards. Zoom in and out of shots and selected wide, medium, or narrow frames. If you feel confident with your camera skills, feel free to manually adjust white balance settings and brightness. The Sony FDR-X3000 isn't waterproof on its own but is splashproof, and you can choose to get it with waterproof housing if that better suits your needs. Reviewers loved the bright colors and felt the white balance was good. There is also an exciting option to livestream via Ustream so people can live the action with you in the moment, even if they aren't present. The audio quality is good thanks to the built-in stereo microphone with wind noise reduction. Battery life is about 1.5 hours according to our testers. Sony offers a 1-year limited warranty.
If you can afford it, are a major adrenaline junkie, or a professional photographer, shell out for the GoPro Hero6. The video and image quality is top notch, the app is better than most, and we love that it is waterproof. For slightly lower quality and a $150 savings, go for the GoPro Hero5 which offers many of the same benefits of the Hero6 (such as waterproof) but the image quality and electronic image stabilizer aren't quite as good. The TomTom Bandit 4K had our favorite video editing app and reivewers loved the livestreaming option. We found the Yi 4K Action Camera to offer amazing value for its price, especially if you don't plan to use it underwater. You'll need another app to achieve the best edits, but many people would likely be happy with this action camera. The Garmin Virb Ultra 30 is great at collecting stats and offers convenient verbal commands. Finally, the Sony FDR-X3000 offers bight vibrant images, live-streamining, and shake-control for clearer images.