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Best action cameras for 2019

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GoPro Hero6 Black action camera

GoPro Hero6 Black action camera (Image credit: Courtesy)
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DJI Osmo Action camera

DJI Osmo Action camera (Image credit: Courtesy)
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GoPro Hero7 White action camera

GoPro Hero7 White action camera (Image credit: Courtesy)
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GoPro Hero7 Silver action camera

GoPro Hero7 Silver action camera (Image credit: Courtesy)
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GoPro Hero7 Black action camera

GoPro Hero7 Black action camera (Image credit: Courtesy)
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GoPro Hero5 Session action camera

GoPro Hero5 Session action camera (Image credit: Courtesy)
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GoPro Hero4 Black action camera

GoPro Hero4 Black action camera (Image credit: Courtesy)
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GoPro Fusion 360 action camera

GoPro Fusion 360 action camera (Image credit: Courtesy)
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DJI Osmo Pocket action camera

DJI Osmo Pocket action camera (Image credit: Courtesy)
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Sony FDR X3000R action camera

Sony FDR X3000R action camera (Image credit: Courtesy)

Action cameras have become a huge industry and now in 2019, they offer a wealth of features beyond simply being a small, waterproof and crash-proof camera that can be mounted to anything.

Pre-2006, filming action sports was very different. Bulky camcorders weren’t waterproof or tough enough and if you wanted a point of view (POV) action shot it would involve an element of DIY'ing to make mounts or harnesses. Now action cameras can be easily mounted to almost anything, record your adventures in 4K video with built-in stabilisation and be shared straight to social media.

Not simply video, action cameras feature a wealth of photo and time-lapse features as well as live streaming and GPS features so that whether you are on a family holiday or shooting a tv show you have everything required to capture amazing moments. There is a lot to consider when choosing the right action camera so we have a look at some of the best options available in 2019.

What to look for in an action camera?

The most important consideration when buying a new action camera is what you plan on using it for. While most cameras can record high-quality video and take photos, it is important to consider what other features are a priority. A wealth of video, photo, time-lapse and connectivity options as well as stabilisation, waterproofing and build quality make this decision more complicated.

Action cameras have been capable of shooting in full HD for a while now and many are now able to record 4k plus everything in between. If you want to record slow-motion action look for cameras with high frames per second (FPS) settings, 240fps will allow footage to be slowed down by 8x and even budget cameras will allow at least 2x.

With the rise in popularity of vlogging and producing video edits, high-end cameras offer advanced features to achieve the highest quality. Higher quality optics, stabilisation and audio make a huge difference to a video’s quality as well as the ability to record in advance log format. Log formats such as GoPro’s Protune or DJI’s D-LOG settings capture more data and allows greater flexibility when editing in post-production.

There have been several big advancements in stabilisation recently as camera manufactures try to smooth footage to make the content shot in bumpy environments more watchable. Optical stabilisation offers the best results however electronic stabilisation such as GoPro’s HyperSmooth are very capable of removing the camera shake effectively. Even budget cameras are starting to see the benefit of image stabilisation although do not expect the same results as the top of the range models.

A touchscreen is the most popular method of control and allows easier shot framing, menu navigation and video replay. However, touch screens are useless in environments that are very wet or require gloves so it is important to check that important shooting modes are still accessible through buttons.

Most camera manufacturers offer a mobile phone app that allows remote camera control, video playback and uploads to social media. Some apps have editing features to combine clips and add music before uploading.

Scroll down for Cyclingnews’ look at the best action cameras for 2019.

The 10 best action cameras you can buy today

GoPro Hero 7 Black

The feature-rich range topping model from the long-term market leader.

  • Video quality: 4k/60fps, 1080p/240fps, 720p/240fps
  • Photo quality: 12mp
  • Image stabilisation: Electronic
  • Waterproof: 10m
  • Battery life: Up to 3 hours (estimated)
  • Dimensions: 62.3mm x 44.9mm x 33mm
  • Weight: 116g

+ Fantastic 4K quality, HyperSmooth
- Expensive

GoPro is synonymous with action cameras, the new GoPro Hero 7 Black is their most powerful camera ever. Packed with features, it is at the forefront of what is possible from an action camera.

The headline feature of the Hero 7 Black is Hypersmooth, previous GoPro models have featured image stabilisation but the Hero 7 Black is the first GoPro that performs well enough to ditch the gimbal. Not only this but Hypersmooth is even available when recording 4k footage at 60fps.

The Hero 7 Black also boasts TimeWarp stabilised time lapses, 12mp HDR photos and live streaming features. This is all controlled by a high-quality touch screen that uses swipe gestures to navigate modes and settings quickly.

GoPro Hero 7 Silver

An action camera suitable for those looking to create stunning footage with a less complex interface.

  • Video quality: 4k/30fps, 1080p/60fps, 720p/60fps
  • Photo quality: 10mp
  • Image stabilisation: Electronic
  • Waterproof: 10m
  • Battery life: Up to 3 hours (estimated)
  • Dimensions: 62.3mm x 44.9mm x 28.3mm
  • Weight: 94.4g

+ Decent 4K video quality, simple to use
- Image stabilisation, non-removable battery, a significant downgrade from the Black

For most, the professional features of the Hero 7 Black will be overkill, this is where the GoPro Hero 7 Silver comes in.

Stripped of features such as Hypersmooth, ProTune and the myriad of recording modes that feature on the higher tier model, the slimmed-down Hero 7 Silver still produces beautiful stabilised 4k footage at 30fps and Wide Dynamic Range (WDR) photos.

The Hero 7 Silver offers the same rugged waterproof exterior and intuitive touch user interface as GoPro’s flagship model. The classic GoPro front status screen has been dropped instead relying on the rear touch screen, a range of beeps and LED flashes to let you know when it is recording.

GoPro Hero 7 White

Great for individuals who want to create quality home footage for social media.

  • Video quality: 1080p/60fps, 720p/60fps
  • Photo quality: 10mp
  • Image stabilisation: Electronic
  • Waterproof: 10m
  • Battery life: Up to 3 hours (estimated)
  • Dimensions: 62.3mm x 44.9mm x 28.3mm
  • Weight: 92.4g

+ GoPro build quality at a budget price, video stabilisation
- No 4K, non-removable battery

The entry-level GoPro Hero 7 White is aimed at those looking for a cheap robust camera to share holiday snaps and outdoor adventures.

The Hero 7 White doesn’t feature 4K, only shooting in a wide field of view at 1440p/60fps or 1080p/60fps. Stabilisation is handled by the same electronic system as the Hero 7 Silver. Video clips can be shared straight to social media such as Instagram Stories using the GoPro smartphone app.

The Hero 7 White features the same waterproofing, same great touch screen and same soft-touch finish as the other more expensive Hero 7 models. It is this solid design that separates the Hero 7 White from other budget options available on the market.

GoPro Hero 6 Black

The former range-topping model now sits between the Hero7 Silver and Hero7 Black in terms of both features and price.

  • Video quality: 4k/60fps, 1080p/240fps, 720p/60fps
  • Photo quality: 12mp
  • Image stabilisation: Electronic
  • Waterproof: 10m
  • Battery life: Up to 3 hours (estimated)
  • Dimensions: 62.3 x 44.9 x 33
  • Weight: 118g

+ High-quality video, Protune
- Price

No longer at the top of GoPro’s range, the older GoPro Hero 6 Black may get a second life as a budget professional model if prices continue to fall. Combine Protune with its fantastic 4k/60fps video, low light capability and image stabilisation the Hero 6 Black can still produce high-quality video content whether you are sharing clips with friends or making documentaries.

The GoPro Hero 7 Black is certainly a significant upgrade over the Hero 6 Black and currently, it is hard not to justify spending a little extra for the Hero 7 Black and its HyperSmooth image stabilisation, Timewarp and SuperPhoto features. But if pricing continues to drop and you are looking for an alternative to the Hero 7 Silver then the Hero 6 Black is worth considering.

GoPro Hero 5 Session

The GoPro Hero 5 Session was the last of the short-lived Session camera range but for its small size still packs a punch.

  • Video quality: 4k/30fps, 1080p/90fps, 720p/120fps
  • Photo quality: 10mp
  • Image stabilisation: Electronic
  • Waterproof: 10m
  • Battery life: Up to 2 hours (estimated)
  • Dimensions: 38 x 38 x 36
  • Weight: 74g

+ Protune, price, size
- Controls are difficult, short battery life

The Hero 5 Session is both tiny and lightweight so even more portable and mountable than the rest of GoPro’s cameras. Combine this with high quality, stabilised 4k video capabilities and a 10mp camera the Session still produces great video and photos. It even has GoPro’s Protune feature, usually reserved for the Black models Protune allows you full control of exposure and colours in post-shoot processing.

Changing modes and settings are fiddly due to the basic button controls and small screen but if point and shoot is your style, the QuikCapture feature combines the power and shutter button to turn on and begin recording with a single press.

GoPro Hero 4 Black

While slightly dated, the Hero4 Black is still a heavyweight in the action camera field

  • Video quality: 4k/30fps, 1080p/120fps, 720p/120fps
  • Photo quality: 12mp
  • Image stabilisation: None
  • Waterproof: 10m
  • Battery life: Up to 3 hours (estimated)
  • Dimensions: 41 x 59 x 29.6
  • Weight: 88g

+ Best for sound
- Lacking modern features

The GoPro Hero Black 4 looks its age when compared to the Hero 5/6/7 with their new case-less design and touchscreens. However the Hero 4 Black is still holding on as a viable option if you wish to capture high-quality 4k footage.

There are two reasons for this, the first is that since GoPro has added built-in electronic stabilisation no GoPro has worked well with wearable gimbals and the second is that by building waterproofing into the actual GoPro the sound quality has suffered.

The Hero 4 isn’t without its negatives, though, as to use a gimbal and optimise the sound you do need to run it without its waterproof case, plus with the release of Hypersmooth there is less need for a bulky gimbal. But for best-in-class sound quality, the Hero 4 still holds it own in the GoPro range.

GoPro Fusion

A 360-degree camera that offers a range of post-processing options to make professional-looking video accessible to all.

  • Video quality: 5.2k/30fps, 3k/60fps
  • Photo quality: 18mp
  • Image stabilisation: Post-production
  • Waterproof: 5m
  • Battery life: Up to 80 minutes (estimated)
  • Dimensions: 74mm x 75mm x 40mm
  • Weight: 220g

+ Overcapture, stabilisation, GoPro build quality
- Size and weight, file management, standard view quality

While creating 360-degree content can offer both immersive virtual reality content or super abstract angles its actually the GoPro Fusion’s Overcapture and stabilisation features that are the real selling points.

Recording full 360-degree video, you can reframe in post-production using the GoPro app to get the perfect shot. Gone are the days of poor framing and missed moments behind the camera. The footage is automatically stabilised in post-production using the Fusion Studio app and produces unrivalled gimbal like footage.

GoPro isn’t alone in the 360-degree camera market but the Fusion manages to pack a bunch of features, extra sensors and voice control into a classically rugged waterproof GoPro design making it appealing for hectic action sports and creative filmmakers.

DJI Osmo Action

A two-screened alternative to GoPro, with great features and a simple-to-use interface.

  • Video quality: 4k/60fps, 1080p/240fps, 720p/240fps
  • Photo quality: 12mp
  • Image stabilisation: Electronic
  • Waterproof: 11m
  • Battery life: Up to 2 hours (estimated)
  • Dimensions: 65mm x 42mm x 35mm
  • Weight: 134g

+ Dual screen
- Can’t stabilise 4k/60fps video, battery life

DJI are a big player in the drone market and are now making waves in the action camera market, vying for top spot with their feature-packed Osmo Action.

A robust exterior features a unique front colour screen which is makes framing simple when setting up shots, taking selfies or vlogging. This is combined with a video mode that will automatically detect faces to base exposure metering, which will make the Osmo Action an appealing option for those that frequently turn the camera on themselves.

The Osmo Action can shoot sharp colourful HDR footage up to 4k/60fps and DJI’s own RockSteady stabilisation technology does a great job of smoothing out vibrations. A responsive rear touch screen allows easy navigation of settings or video playback.

DJI Osmo Pocket

Designed for less extreme conditions, the three-axis gimbal and face tracking technology make it a vlogger’s best friend.

  • Video quality: 4k/60, 1080p/120fps
  • Photo quality: 12mp
  • Image stabilisation: Mechanical three-axis gimbal
  • Waterproof: No
  • Battery life: Up to 1.5 hours (estimated)
  • Dimensions: 121.9mm x 36.9mm x 28.6mm
  • Weight: 116g

+ Mechanical gimbal stabilisation
- Delicate, poor audio

Although the DJI Osmo Pocket doesn’t offer the rugged exterior of an action camera, if you're looking for a camera to simply record the action rather than being a part of it the Osmo Pocket has a unique feature.

The Osmo Pocket is built around a three-axis mechanical gimbal that promises to put all electronic stabilisation to shame and produce smooth professional-looking footage. The gimbal has further party tricks in the form of ActiveTrack which follows a selected subject keeping them in frame and Motionlapse to create perfect panning time-lapses.

Unsurprisingly this spinning gimbal mechanism is not very robust and isn’t designed to be strapped to a helmet and ridden down a mountain in the rain. However, if you are looking for a pocket-friendly camera that can produce professional shots for vlogging then the Osmo Pocket is going to fair well.

Sony FDR-X3000R

A more traditional camcorder shape, with a built-in mechanical gimbal that is equally efficient in low-light.

  • Video quality: 4k/30fps, 1080p/120fps, 720p/240fps
  • Photo quality: 12mp
  • Image stabilisation: Optical
  • Waterproof: IPX4 splash-proof (60m with additional supplied housing)
  • Battery life: Up to 2 hours estimated
  • Dimensions: 47mm x 29.4mm x 83mm
  • Weight: 114g

+ Optical stabilisation
- Price, unconventional shape

The Sony FDR-X3000R may have an unconventional action camera shape but this allows Sony to bring its Optical Steady Shot technology to the action camera world.

Optical Steady Shot counteracts camera shake using a gimbal mechanism that moves the whole lens and sensor to stabilise footage. This means that full 4k or 240fps slow-motion stabilisation is unaffected by difficult or low light, unlike electronic stabilisation.

Although only IPX4 splash and dust proof, Sony does include an additional housing that adds waterproofing up to 60 metres.

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