Take great action shots wherever you are with these awesome connected cameras
Wearable action cams and head-mounted cameras are big business, and with 4K video, underwater recording and some of the best frame rates on the market, you can see why.
Whether you’re snowboarding down Mount Fuji, swimming with dolphins in the Caribbean or just spending quality time with the kids on your holiday in the Med, the first-person videos created by wearable cameras capture the most natural memories when they matter most.
Their diminutive proportions, robust design, simple mechanics, ultra-wide fields of view and ability to be worn on the body and used from almost any vantage point help give video footage and stills a real sense of drama.
Here’s our pick of the top wearable action cameras on the market…
GoPro Hero5 Black
GoPro’s latest dinky contender, the Hero5 Black, is the one we called “the best action camera ever made.” So yeah, it’s still the manufacturer to beat.
The Hero5 builds on an already-solid foundation, bringing integrated GPS and video stabilisation (which we tested by strapping the camera to a dog) to an impressive 4K offering. The 5 also adds a 2-inch touchscreen to the back of the device, and it’s easy to use with the camera no longer needing an external waterproof housing. It’d be nice if the battery was a little better, but it’s a small niggle in an otherwise stellar action cam.
If it’s a little too expensive for you, the Hero4 Black is still a strong option that still delivers superb video quality, despite missing out on some of the successor’s new features. And if you want something cheaper, the original GoPro Hero delivers 1080p video at 30fps, 720p at 60fps, and is waterproof to 40m – and can be picked up at a bargain price.
$399, gopro.com | Amazon
Garmin Virb Ultra 30
We were impressed with Garmin’s Virb X and XE cams, but it’s now given them an overhaul with the Virb Ultra 30. With built-in GPS, 3-axis optical stabilisation, livestreaming capabilities and a waterproof case, Gamin’s offering up the works.
You’ve also got voice controls to play with, but note that, while the Ultra 30 captures 4K video, its 3-axis stabilisation doesn’t work when shooting in this resolution. Shooting 1080p at 30fps will get you about 2 hours 15 minutes of power from the battery, while 4K capture knocks that down by an hour.
Overall you’re looking at a pretty robust action camera that also pairs with a list of Garmin’s other sensors for capturing even more data in those high-octane moments.
$399, garmin.com| Amazon
The Bandit’s 16MP sensor shoots 4K videos as well as 1080p footage at up to 60fps and 720p at up to 120fps. It rocks slow mo (1080p/720p), timelapse (4K/1080p) and burst modes, as well as Bluetooth Smart and Wi-Fi connectivity.
What sets it apart is a built-in media server, processing and auto-editing on the camera itself. That means the footage stays on the camera and you can review your mini movie on a smartphone companion app before shaking it to get an edited highlights reel.
$224, tomtom.com| Amazon
Olympus Stylus Tough TG-Tracker
This action cam from Olympus is mid range in price but impressive on features. First up, there’s a 1.5-inch LCD that tilts out, which you don’t get on most rivals. The 8MP CMOS sensor shoots 4K video at 30fps and has a 204 degree wide angle lens and 5-axis image stabilisation.
As for the TG-Tracker’s action capabilities, it’s waterproof to 30m, shockproof to 2.1m, dustproof, freezeproof to -10 celsius and even crushproof up to 220 pounds of force. There’s GPS/GLONASS for geo-tagging, Wi-Fi to connect to your phone and a separate housing accessory available. Look for a review on the site very soon.
$279, getolympus.com | Amazon
Nikon KeyMission 360
Nikon is one of the few traditional camera giants to try its hand at action cameras. The KeyMission is capable of 360 degree video capture, which means it has one (fish)eye on the upcoming VR revolution.
It boasts 4K resolution even during 360 capture, is waterproof to 30m and will withstand drops of up to 2m. If the idea of playing back your adventures on a Google Cardboard or Oculus Rift appeals, this is an easy 360-degree camera to get to grips with, even if the battery life leaves a little to be desired.
$499, nikon.com | Amazon
Garmin VIRB 360
If you need something a little bolder for recording your adventures in 360, there’s Garmin’s new action cam. It does 5.7K at 30fps with four built-in mics and a rugged design capable of withstanding water up to 30 feet and high temperatures. There’s also GPS and GLONASS, you can stream to Facebook and Twitter if you’re paired to your phone, and there’s Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and NFC.
Everything stitches right on the camera too, so you don’t have to waste time putting it all together yourself. You can spend that time jumping off a mountain, if you wish. What’s really cool is that it has some light AR features, and can display your speed, distance and GPS info over your footage.
$799, gamin.com | Amazon
The HX-A1 weighs just 45g, coming in a tiny cylindrical form factor to maximise shooting situations. It’s a rugged little machine, too – waterproof to 1.5m without the need for extra housing, shockproof, dustproof and even freezeproof down to 10 degrees below.
It captures footage up to Full HD and has a slo-mo mode that shoots 60fps at 720p or 120fps at 480p. It also has a Lux Night Mode and includes an IR filter, which can be used with an infrared light source.
$119, panasonic.com| Amazon
GoPro Hero5 Session
The Hero5 Black is joined by a smaller sibling in the form of the Session, an incredibly durable camera that also benefits from waterproofing without the need for any additional armour.
Like the Black, it shoots 4K at 30 fps but lacks the built-in GPS, while images are limited to 10MP. It also doesn’t shoot RAW – but for these limits you get reduced price, obviously.
$299, gopro.com| Amazon
Drift Stealth 2
Drift’s newest Stealth camera has a lot to recommend, and it doubles as a less expensive alternative to the GoPro range. The design is solid and rugged, so it should survive all of the weather conditions you can throw at it, and the simple integrated display lets you know what mode you’re in. It’s also tiny and light, built to be “stealthy” so you barely notice it while doing your thing.
High-definition video, photos, time lapses — the Stealth 2 can handle it all. There’s even a dedicated car dashcam mode that you can make use of, where new footage is recorded over old as you motor down the road. There’s an app for controlling the camera via your smartphone as well.
$99, driftinnovation.com| Amazon
Sony’s line of action cameras have slowly but surely been growing in quality, and the X3000R is its best effort yet. It can easily do 4K video recording – and comes with SteadyShot camera-shake compensation to make up for your not-still hands. It’s also in a compact bullet-shaped case, and offers extras such as GPS, NFC and Wi-Fi (for remote control).
There are also two little accessories that come bundled in, a live-view remote so you can see what you’re shooting. You can even get a little finger holster to make it easier to grasp as you go on your adventure. As with its rivals, there’s a free mobile app available, and GoPro executives will be looking over their shoulders with concern.
$399, sony.com| Amazon