Buying Guides

What’s the Best Action Camera or GoPro?

Mihir Patkar 22-07-2016

Ever since GoPro launched, the action camera market has heated up. GoPro still rules, but Sony, Polaroid, JVC, Xiaomi, and many others produce competitors now. It’s not surprising. Come on; everyone wants an action camera after watching breath-taking GoPro videos 7 Videos That Will Make You Want a GoPro Camera [Stuff to Watch] Clever marketing goes beyond memorable advertising when it demonstrates exactly what you are missing out on by not owning a product. I'm not usually a sucker for advertising, preferring instead to make my own mind... Read More .


From adventure sports like deep-sea diving and paragliding to regular activities like mountain biking and snowboarding, these devices are brilliant for capturing any action. But with all these choices, you need to figure out which gizmo is best for your needs. Heck, Shay thinks you don’t need a new GoPro at all! You Shouldn't Waste Your Money on a New GoPro - Here's Why Should you upgrade your live action camera, or is GoPro doomed to failure? We investigate. Read More

So whether you’re new to the world of action cameras or have already owned a few, let’s figure out what you should buy.

Under $100 (For First-Timers)

If this is the first time you are going to buy an action camera, don’t go all out and buy a top-of-the-line GoPro. Instead, start with a budget device and figure out how you use it. Then later, once you have a handle on your needs, purchase the right GoPro. Remember, action cams aren’t just about extreme sports 6 Ways To Use GoPro Cameras That Don't Involve Extreme Sports GoPro cameras can be used in plenty of ways other than shooting extreme sports, six of which we'll be exploring in this article. Read More .

For starters, know that none of the cameras in this range are waterproof. At best, they’re splash proof — which means they can take a spill of liquid or light rain. But forget about using these in heavy rain or underwater.



SJCAM SJ4000: SJCAM isn’t a big brand, but it gives you a taste of the GoPro lifestyle on a budget. It can record 1080p Full HD video at 30fps (frames per second) or 720p HD video at 60fps, which you can transfer to other devices via Wi-Fi.
SJCAM Action Camera SJ4000 WiFi Wireless Chipset Novatek 96655 4x Digital Zoom Full HD 1080P Sport Waterproof 30m Extra 2 BatterieS SJCAM Action Camera SJ4000 WiFi Wireless Chipset Novatek 96655 4x Digital Zoom Full HD 1080P Sport Waterproof 30m Extra 2 BatterieS Buy Now On Amazon

For less than $90, you also get a waterproof casing for the action cam, as well as two extra batteries.


Yi Action Camera: Yi is made by Xiaomi, which makes smartphones with fantastic hardware for cheap Xiaomi Mi3 Review and Giveaway How about a $450 smartphone with a 5-inch screen? Or actually, how about a $450 smartphone that knocks the socks off $600 handsets? If that sounds like a compelling notion, you should meet the Xiaomi... Read More . And the same philosophy translates to Yi, an action camera with a 16MP sensor that records 1080p Full HD video at 60fps, 720p HD video at 120fps, or WVGA video at 240fps.
YI Action Camera (US Edition) White YI Action Camera (US Edition) White Buy Now On Amazon $54.99


And you know what that means? You can shoot slow-motion videos How to Shoot Slow-Motion Video: 3 Tips to Get You Started Everyone wants to walk away from an explosion in slow motion. Fortunately, with today's phones, it's easier than ever. Read More on this! Unfortunately, the price does not include a waterproof case, and you’ll have to shell out an additional $30 for that.

Under $200 (For a Balanced Purchase)

If your budget extends above $100, then your options narrow to either the Sony HDR AS15 or the two tiny cute action cams, Polaroid Cube+ and GoPro Hero Session.


Sony HDR AS15: This action cam is pretty old, which is why it’s available at this price now. You get Full HD video at 30fps or HD video at 120fps.
Sony HDR-AS15 Action Video Camera (Black) (Discontinued by Manufacturer) Sony HDR-AS15 Action Video Camera (Black) (Discontinued by Manufacturer) Buy Now On Amazon $117.95


Since it’s a Sony, you get a Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar lens, known for its clarity and focus. Plus, at 90 grams, it’s super light too. It’s a good “POV” camera, for action sports enthusiasts who want to mount it on their bike or snowboard. You’ll need to get a separate waterproof housing (about $30) if you’re going underwater, though.

GoPro Hero Session: There isn’t a huge difference between the Polaroid Cube+ and the GoPro Hero Session, with one exception: the Hero Session is waterproof up to 10 meters, while the Cube requires a housing.

But almost every reviewer agrees that the GoPro is the way to go. The reasoning is that since it’s a GoPro, you’ll be able to use other GoPro or standardized action mounts and peripherals for it, unlike with the Polaroid that needs proprietary Polaroid accessories. Also, the Hero’s casing makes it waterproof to many further depths. Overall, the Hero is a great first step into the GoPro world. Read our full Hero4 Session review GoPro HERO4 Session Review If you're going to jump out of a plane or fly down a mountain on the back of a bike; I'd guess that you'll be doing it with a GoPro. Read More to know more.

Since this article was published, GoPro has released a new version, the GoPro Hero 6 Black.
GoPro HERO6 Black — Waterproof Digital Action Camera for Travel with Touch Screen 4K HD Video 12MP Photos GoPro HERO6 Black — Waterproof Digital Action Camera for Travel with Touch Screen 4K HD Video 12MP Photos Buy Now On Amazon $174.99


Under $300 (The First Step Into GoPro)

At a budget of $300, it’s safe to assume that this is your second action camera. There are cheaper options for your first camera, as you can see above, so this level isn’t advisable for someone who has never had an action cam before.


Sony HDR AS100V: The Sony HDR AS100V looks exactly like the AS15, but it is renowned for capturing audio better than any other action cam out there. So if you’re looking to shoot video while giving running commentary (literally), or record videos with music (like at a concert), then the AS100V will probably serve you better than any other action cam.

Sony has since launched an updated version, the AS200V, which has pretty much the same specs except for better image stabilization.
Sony HDR-AS200V/W Action Cam with Wi-Fi & GPS Sony HDR-AS200V/W Action Cam with Wi-Fi & GPS Buy Now On Amazon $298.00


GoPro Hero3+ Silver Edition: For my money, the GoPro Hero3+ Silver Edition is the perfect action cam for anyone with a budget of $300. Yes, the Hero3+ is last year’s model, but it’s still fantastic.
GoPro HERO3+: Silver Edition GoPro HERO3+: Silver Edition Buy Now On Amazon $119.00

The standard housing is waterproof up to 40 meters, so feel free to go diving with this one. It’s compatible with all GoPro mounts and accessories, records 1080p Full HD video at 60fps, and has better low-light video capture than any other camera except for the GoPro Hero4 series.

Above $300 (The Best You Can Buy)

Let’s not kid ourselves. The GoPro is the most rugged action camera around and used almost exclusively by most adventure sports professionals. Heck, it has been used to record everything from Felix Baumgartner’s historic stratosphere jump 10 Life-Changing Moments Captured on Instagram Whether its documenting natural disasters, hundreds of thousands taking to the street in protest, or a crash landing of an airplane, Instagram users have been there to snap some of the first shots. Read More to this underwater GoPro torpedo. If you’re spending anything more than $300, get yourself a GoPro.

GoPro Hero4 Silver: Every single tech publication (including Wirecutter, Engadget, Gizmodo, TechRadar, Recode, CNET, and more) agrees that this is the best action camera you can buy. It records the sharpest videos and has the best color reproduction. The touchscreen makes a big difference in how you check what you’ve shot.
GoPro Hero4 Silver GoPro Hero4 Silver Buy Now On Amazon $146.92

Still image photography is excellent while moving, while in cold climates, and while underwater. And the built-in “SuperView” tech gives a much wider field of view, by stretching a 4:3 capture to the size of a 16:9 image on playback (megapixels explained What Is A Megapixel? Megapixels are one of the most common ways of advertising the quality of cameras, especially relatively low-end cameras aimed at the mass market likes the ones in typical smartphones. Read More ). The only flaw, if any, is its audio recording where it is beaten only by the Sony AS100/AS200.

Other Options to Consider

GoPro Hero4 Black: The big brother of the Hero4 Silver edition, the big upgrade here is that you get 4K video recording at 30fps and 720p video at 240fps for awesome slow-motion shots Working With Slow-Motion Video: Tips For The Editing Time Lord So you've shot some video at a high frame rate... what exactly should you do with it now? Read More . But there’s no touchscreen, which many consider a deal-breaker.
GoPro Hero4 Black GoPro Hero4 Black Buy Now On Amazon $99.99

360Fly: The 360Fly is the first (and so far the only) 360-degree video action camera. It’s waterproof up to 10 meters, dustproof, shockproof, and records a full 360 degrees of video around it.
360fly 360° HD Video Camera 360fly 360° HD Video Camera Buy Now On Amazon $81.99

You could use that for YouTube or Facebook’s 360-degree videos What Are Facebook's 360-Degree Videos and How Do You Upload Your Own? Mark Zuckerberg recently unveiled something new coming to your News Feed. It's called 360 Videos, and Zuckerberg thinks it's the future of watching videos. Read More and impress your friends! The $399 version shoots Full HD, while the $499 version shoots up to 4K.

Yi 4K Action Camera: The Yi 4K action camera just launched, so there aren’t many reviews from credible organizations. But it does pack all of the features of the Hero4 Black at a fraction of the price and throws in a touchscreen too. Super tempting, isn’t it? If you try it out, do let us know what you think about it in the comments below.
YI 4K Action and Sports Camera Selfie Stick Bundle, 4K/30fps Video 12MP Raw Image with EIS, Voice Control - Black YI 4K Action and Sports Camera Selfie Stick Bundle, 4K/30fps Video 12MP Raw Image with EIS, Voice Control - Black Buy Now On Amazon $210.99

Which Action Cam Do You Like?

Modern smartphones are fantastic cameras. Before you plonk down your hard-earned cash for an action cam, know that based on their needs, some people can even use an iPhone as a GoPro action cam How to Use Your iPhone as a GoPro Action Camera Do you really need to spend more money on action cam when you probably already have a fantastic camera in your pocket? Read More .

That said, it would be disingenuous to call a smartphone as a replacement for an action cam.

So after looking at the above options, which model are you likely to buy and why? Do you already use a GoPro or something else? Let’s talk action cams in the comments!

Related topics: Action Camera, Buying Tips, Digital Camera, GoPro, Record Video.

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  1. Ben Bezuidenhout
    July 26, 2016 at 7:28 am

    Hi there. I would like the same article but on 360 video cameras. I think these one sided cameras days are numbered. 360 Video action cameras are the future.

  2. Anonymous
    July 22, 2016 at 1:27 pm

    Hands down the Xiaomi Yi 4k is the best option if you want all the best features and has a reasonable price!!there a lot of samples in youtube and reviews its a no brainer if you want to buy a high end camera instead of a go pro.

    • Mihir Patkar
      July 23, 2016 at 3:10 pm

      Have you tried it yet, Mike? I'm really intrigued by that one, but haven't seen any detailed reviews of it. Would love to know your take if you've got it.