GoPro has led the action camera field for well over a decade, but with all of this year’s great releases is GoPro still the market leader? We take a look at the year in review and mark out the Action camera top 10.
2016 was a thrilling ride of year with more changes and unpredictable results than any one could have imagined.
Action cameras have bought us footage from war zones, inside campaign head quarters, shown us parts of our planet in ways that would have otherwise never been possible, and of course shown us the impressive stunts of the worlds elite extreme sports stars.
More than anything this year has truely shown that action cameras are for everyone.
They may be small but they are now being recognised as a photographic medium with merit, and this has been reenforced by Nikon launch of the KeyMission series, showing the action camera format is one that all photographers should invest.
As the world has changed so have action cameras. New enhanced features have arrived that push the abilities and the use well beyond what has previously been possible.
The big features include voice activation, sensors, GPS, touch screens, improved connectivity and design. Before we look at the top ten here’s a brief break down of the latest features.
Action camera voice activation
Voice activation leads the new features list with both the Garmin Virb Ultra 30 and GoPro Hero5 Black being the first to launch the new technology. If you think it’s a gimmick, think again, voice activation revolutionises the ease of use of these small cameras.
Compact touch screens
Touch screens have been around for a while but now they’ve taken a leap forward, the Yi 4K, Veho K2Pro4K and GoPro Hero5 Black all feature responsive and easy to use interfaces. These screens not only make it easy to navigate but are also of a good enough quality to be used for composing your shots.
Sensors started to emerge a couple of years ago, but now the sensor revolution is in full swing and once again the Hero5 Black, Gamrin Virb Ultra 30 pack in GPS and motion sensors. These cameras are joined by Olympus with their new action camera the TG-Tracker.
The shedding of waterproof housings has also featured on several cameras this year, and this design change was led by the Hero5. New models including the Olympus TG-Tracker, Nikon KeyMission 170 arrived housing free.
360 video capture
360 also took a leap forward as the Nikon KeyMission 360 and 360 Fly 4K finally gave a simple all in one VR solution with decent quality.
Away from the premium action cameras we also saw a steady stream of decent mid range cameras with serious features and image quality, top of the list was the Olfi one.five.
This year has seen a bigger shift in the market than ever before and as 2016 comes to a close it’s been announced that Khang & Khang LLP is to take a securities class action lawsuit against GoPro, Inc.
Who knows what will happen in 2017, it will no doubt be full of intrigue, turbulent and again packed with the unpredictable, but what ever happens make sure you have an action camera ready to go and prepare to capture your view of the world and what ever happens in what looks to be an eventful 2017.
Action camera top 10 2016
- GoPro Hero5 Black
- Yi 4K Action Camera
- Garmin Virb Ultra 30
- Nikon KeyMission 360
- GoPro Hero5 Session
- Nikon KeyMission 170
- Olympus TG-Tracker
- Olfi one.five
- Wasp 4K
- Muvi K2Pro4K
01 GoPro Hero5 Black
There’s no doubt that the GoPro Hero5 was the biggest action camera release of the year. It was also well over due with the old Hero4 really looking tired.
The late release gave cheaper lesser known models the chance to challenge the market leaders number one spot, at least for a short time.
When the Hero5 finally arrived it didn’t just meet expectations it smashed them, even the features I thought we’re going to be pure gimmick proved effective.
Of all the features that appeared on the Hero5, the ability to finally select shutter speeds and manually set the exposure was a huge boost in the quality and usability of the camera.
02 Yi 4K Action Camera
Like the Yi Action Camera the 4K arrived in a small-understated box that gave little hint of what lay within.
The 4K is slightly larger than your average action camera and it isn’t water proof, unless you pay extra for a waterproof housing, but the quality of footage and ease of use makes this camera exceptional.
It may not pack in GPS, motion sensors or voice activation features but for the price there really is little to touch it for out right quality.
03 Garmin Virb Ultra 30
Garmin have been in the action camera market for a few years and the quality of their cameras has been consistently good, both in build and video quality.
The Garmin cameras also have the advantage that they are fully compatible with the majority of the Garmin fitness range so you can not only capture the action but record you heart rate and calorie burn at the same time.
The Ultra 30 was also the first camera on the market with voice activation.
04 Nikon KeyMission 360
360 video is set to be the next big thing and the KeyMission although by no means that first to offer 360 really set the bar when it was released earlier this year.
Featuring forward and back facing lenses and two sensors the camera automatically stitches the footage captured together into one file.
Although that footage still needs to be completed in the KeyMission 360/170 app before it can be uploaded to YouTube. If you want to give 360 a go then the KeyMission 360 is a great investment for the year ahead.
05 GoPro Hero5 Session
The GoPro family has dramatically reduced in size with the latest round of updates cutting the line to just the the Hero5 Black and Session.
The good news however is that both come in at the lowest price ever for any fresh GoPro.
The Session is the GoPro simplified, so if you just want to get out there and film your antics then the Session is ideal.
It also now features voice activation as with the Black and being GoPro the quality of the footage is exceptional.
06 Nikon KeyMission 170
Shadowed by the release of the KeyMission 360 the KeyMission 170 is an understated action camera from one of the world leading imaging experts.
It may be their first true venture into the ultra compact tough camera market but there’s a lot to like about the new camera.
Operation as with the entire range is simple one button affair to start and stop recording.
The small screen and navigation buttons on the back make it all quick and easy to use and it also features a series of interchangeable filter covers in the box, which is handy as the standard one is seemingly designed to catch mud.
07 Olympus TG-Tracker
It looks like a camcorder from the early ’90s but the ease of use and slightly overly industrial design soon softens the most sceptical critic.
Available in a perfectly acceptable black or outrageous vivid green the TG-Tracker is quite unlike any other action camera on the market.
It packs in features such as GPS and motion sensors yet few are as yet used to their full potential. The flip out screen and included grip make it an ideal choice for families, and the overall video quality is excellent.
08 Olfi one.five
It might not have voice activation or GPS but what it does have is easy usability and excellent all round performance.
The Olfi is a camera designed to be used, and unlike the rest of the top ten still features a waterproof housing. This means that there’s no worries about using this in the water or out in typical British weather conditions.
09 Wasp 4K
If you want a camera that could survive almost anything then you’ll want to take a look at the Wasp 4K. It took me a while to warm to with it’s robust and solid design.
However the battery life and overall quality of build meant that time and time again, in test it was always the last camera standing.
Video quality is exceptional with bright vivid colour and excellent detail.
10 Veho Muvi K2Pro4K
Veho have a solid history of action cameras and the K2Pro4K pushes the quality and usability of the K2 cameras forward.
Keeping with a near identical design to the previous releases the 4K version refines the design and features with a few subtle changes and a new detachable touch screen.
The interface makes it quick to change settings and play back footage. 4K video is limited to 15 fps but 1080p the footage is of excellent quality.
The 4K doesn’t ship with a waterproof housing however there’s a huge amount of aftermarket accessories available if you need.