Best Action Cameras 2019 – Updated
After several hours of research, I established my selection of the best action cams among all the models currently available on the market.
In my opinion, the best value at the moment is the YI 4K+, but if you are looking for an Action Camera bluffing in terms of image quality, my preference goes to the GoPro Hero7 Black.
But I invite you to consult my buying guide at the end of the article, to determine your own needs for an action camera.
The best cheap Action Cameras
GoPro takes almost all the space on the Action Camera market. And for a good reason, they practically invented the concept. But no need to ruin to get an Action Camera that holds up.
Yi Lite – The best & Cheap Action Camera
Pros & Cons
- Light Weight
- Excellent photo & video Quality
- Compatible with accessories from other cameras in the Yi range
- 4K not really usable
- Poorly placed microphones
Do you know Chinese giant Xiaomi? The one who is currently invading us with his cheap smartphones? Well, they are also active in the field of action cameras.
The Yi Lite, as its name suggests, is the light model of the range. With its dimensions of 6.5 x 4.2 x 3 cm, it is the same width as the Yi 4K, which allows it to be compatible with some of its accessories such as the waterproof cover (which helps immersion to 30 meters). It is however much lighter with only 72 grams on the scale. This makes it an easily transportable asset.
On the design side, we have a uniformly gray rectangular camera with the logo on the front. The two-inch screen is smaller than that of the YI 4K (which also explains its lower weight). This touch screen, 320 x 240p resolution, is very responsive and easy to use. Nothing wrong with this level. And if you do not like working on the screen, it is possible to install an application on GSM that allows a remote setting.
The power button on the camera is on the top, as well as the two microphone ports. It’s quite amazing to find these here because that’s where fingers are naturally placed while filming, which prevents any capture of sound. Apart from that, there is no lack of ergonomics. Everything seems solid and well made.
But behind its compact and lightweight design, it embeds a series of more than correct components.
With its Sony Exmor 16 Mpx sensor, and its 150° lens, we already have exciting features and good shooting options.
It is possible to film in 4K, but this can only be done at 20 IPS. However, to obtain a smooth image, it takes at least 25 IPS. The 4K will be the only accessory. On the other hand, one can film in Full HD (1920 x 1080) in 30 and even in 60 FPS. But the most impressive result, in my opinion, will still be obtained in 2K (1920 x 1440) 30 FPS.
An effective electronic stabilizer is involved, but it does not work beyond the 2K IPS mode (hence the fact that it is in this mode that the most satisfactory results are obtained). It ensures crisp and good quality shots. Besides that, this action cam embeds some excellent features like a distortion corrector, accelerated and slowed modes, and an automatic trigger.
Connectivity level, we have something pretty basic: the Yi Lite is equipped with Bluetooth and a USB 2.0 port. On the other hand, its memory is extensible by Micro-SD up to 128 GB.
And autonomy in all this? This is one of the good points of this model! With a 1400 mAh battery, it works for about 2 hours in Full HD 60 FPS recording. A defect, however, is to emphasize it: once in charge, it is impossible to access its screen.
In the end, this Yi Lite, despite its small price, small weight and small size, has very nice features. It allows to capture with high video quality and charming photo quality and has the advantage of being compatible with accessories of other models of the range Yi. Some functions do not find any real usefulness, like the 4K which does not give much with a low IPS, but it is also not a sales argument put forward by the brand, It is just a bonus.
WiMius L2: The Action Camera that challenges all prices
With WiMius, I propose this time a super compact model, which is rare enough for action cams small budget. With only 57 grams on the scale.
On receipt of the WiMius L2, we receive an impressive number of accessories. Two 1000mAh batteries at 3.7Wh, a waterproof shell, no less than 6 mounting accessories for various GoPro-friendly mounts, a charger and even a small microfiber cloth to clean the screen. The battery life of these two batteries is approximately 1:30, which is enough for a little fun, but it is possible to buy drum kits separately for longer sessions.
The WiMius proudly displays “4K” on its hull, soberly silver and black in a plastic that looks good. Under the lens, there is a small speaker and WiFi activation button. On the other hand, the lens of the camera is not bad (about 1.2 cm). It is, therefore, better to mount it directly with the protection delivered, to avoid shocks.
The LCD screen 2 inches, this time, is non-touch (it would have been fantastic for the price). Date, time, access to settings: everything is done via buttons, the old way. On the other hand, the menu is a little clutter, and the access to the different options could have been a little better conceived: one ends up being in submenus of memory and parameters video without one understood how one there arrives…
What about the video?
The manufacturer proudly announces 4K (going, contrary to its Chinese counterpart, to register it on the hull). Really? It is equipped with a Novatek chip, which allows a digital 4K adaptation. The 24 IPS promised are also very unstable, and the fluidity of the image is not at the rendezvous. As with the Yi Lite, it will be better to upgrade to Full HD 60 IPS or even HD 60 IPS.
Digital stabilization, it is correct. It does not compete with that of the Yi Lite but allows for good quality shots. The sound is not its strong point, with crackling noises, but it is not a tool highlighted by WiMius.
Photo point of view, the sensor 12 Mpx offers a somewhat surprising image quality: the colorimetry is not perfect, but the necessary settings in daylight provide a sharp and contrasting capture.
In terms of connectivity, a pleasant surprise! A micro-SD port (memory this time expandable up to 64 GB), a mini USB and, especially, an HDMI. And, of course, we can also export the content by plugging it into WiFi.
Among the excellent little features, we have three angles of view (up to 170 degrees, which is correct, and more comprehensive, even, than the Yi Lite), but also time-lapse, slow-motion and detection modes movement (for automatic triggering).
What fun, so for a reduced budget!
The best mid-range Action Cameras
How to choose your Action Camera?
Since 2010, Action Cameras have invaded several areas. It’s straightforward, and Youtube is full of videos taken with these small machines.
And even if their sales tend to decrease in recent years, I predict that they will not disappear anytime soon.
Also Read: The best cheap Drone for Beginners
Types of Action Cameras
Overall, there are two types of templates for an Action Camera, the rectangular GoPro type, or bullet-shaped.
The rectangular shape
The advantage of this type of action camera is that it can be fixed on any surface in a reasonably stable way. Whether for use on the dashboard of a car, on the shoulder, head or torso, they usually do not lack attachment accessories.
The bullet shaped
It looks like a flashlight. Its advantage is its aerodynamics, compared to rectangular action-cams that offer more grip to the wind. It is a must for high-level cyclists; for example, it is attached to the handlebar and offers (almost) no resistance.
We are here facing the first trap. In front of a series of action-cams, we are tempted to jump on a 4K version. But in fact, the majority of action-cams are stabilized via digital software that does not work in 4K.
Also, if you do not have a computer screen or a UHD tingling, it’s useless.
In reality, what to watch, together with the resolution of the camera, is the IPS – (or FPS, Frame per second ). This one allows a better fluidity of the movements.
So, better a 2K image at 60 IPS than a 4K that does not fulfill its promises and caps at 20 IPS.
The number of IPS can allow you, moreover, to play more with the image, for example by performing slow-motion fluid effects.
The FOV – the Field of View – is what gives GoPro images their bubble effect.
The presence of peripheral vision can be significant, but you must also have the choice. Beyond 160 degrees, the deforming effect can be troublesome. Ideally, it’s a setting mode 90 (natural), 110 (peripheral), or 160 degrees (wide), so you can choose what is best for each situation.
Post-production is good. Pre-setting options that allow you to calibrate your image directly is better! Brands from photography such as Nikon or Olympus are generally the best equipped from this point of view.
At present, it is almost unthinkable to see an action camera come out on the market without being equipped with the waterproof function or without being at least compatible with a waterproof case.
Also, if you want to shoot in extreme conditions, always check the minimum and maximum temperatures it can withstand, as well as its impact resistance.
The maximum autonomy of the action-cams generally turns around 3 hours. But the multiplication of options (WiFi, Bluetooth, 4K, GPS, video return) can drain the battery much faster.
The actual autonomy recorded on mid-range and high-end products often runs around 1h 30. A model with a removable battery allows to always have spare parts on oneself.
Generally, all the action cameras are equipped with a USB port, which makes it possible to transfer the sequences filmed on the computer.
Nevertheless, some also include other options, such as an HDMI port, which allows viewing images directly on TV.
The WiFi or Bluetooth functions are often only used to connect the camera to a specific smartphone application.
In conclusion, which action cam to choose?
The choice of your action cam will depend on several criteria: your level of expertise in the field, the image quality and options you need and, of course, your budget.
But a model like the Yi Lite will probably prove more satisfactory in the long term, with a general quality (and a price) a little higher.
If you need superior video quality, as well as more options, older models like the GoPro Hero 5 and Olympus TG-Tracker can be smart choices. They now benefit from a price reduction that makes them very affordable despite the components that these action cams embark.
But real picture quality will be offered by the Yi 4K + or GoPro Hero7 Black, both capable of recording in 4K at 60 FPS. The second, a bit more expensive, has the merit of being also more complete, if only at the level of its very design, since it is useless to integrate it into a protective box, which allows a more direct, more “organic” use of your cam action.
Anyway, do not hesitate to bring your various “gadgets” to optimize the performance of your action cam. While they may sometimes seem futile, they may change your view of what you can record, like a stabilizer or an external microphone.
GoPro Hero 2018: This is the “affordable” version of GoPro. If it does not have a 4K recording, it allows quality Full HD 60 IPS recordings and is waterproof up to 10 meters. Value for money fascinating!
Olympus Tough TG-5: If this camera is primarily classified in the category of compact cameras, it is no less action cam action of quality, with its resistance to any test, with, among other things, a tightness at 15 meters, resistance to temperatures down to -10 ° C, and anti-fog double glazing. The 4K recording is allowed up to 30 IPS.
GoPro Hero6 Black: Unlike the Hero 2018 above, the version 6 Black is currently suffering from its value for money less attractive, since it is, at the time of writing, offered at a higher price than the 7, without possessing all the small innovations of the latter which justify precisely its higher price compared to the competition.
Sony FDR-X3000R: If you have the means, this Sony camera, a little older (2016), is also a great option, in that it incorporates an optical stabilization, mechanical and electronic, which makes its catch of success on any occasion. The image quality is merely irreproachable.