The Buyers guide to...Best action camera

GoPro Hero8 Black Review
Buyers Guide

Action cameras enable you to capture video and stills in a way that no other camera can. The compact go-anywhere design quickly found appeal in the extreme sports sector and this use was projected by big-budget marketing from GoPro.

The original cameras were designed to be water, dust and impact-proof which meant that users could film their antics in the sea, through the air and even tunnelling underground.

Early features were limited, no screen, limited resolution, but who cared, finally you could show just how extreme you are, capturing video proof of that 10-ft drop-off, 100-foot wave or simply having fun with family and friends.

Almost two decades later and GoPro still leads the field with the formidable GoPro Hero8 Black.

Features and design have enhanced, it’s no longer a case of just hitting record and seeing what you capture. But what are the features you should be looking for and aside from GoPro what other action cameras are there?

We aim to take a look in the ultimate action camera buyers guide.

What essential action camera features should I be looking for?

  • 4K at 30fps or more
  • 1080p at 60fps or more
  • Screen preferably touch screen
  • Image stabilisation
  • Wifi/BlueTooth and App
  • Waterproof

Are there additional action camera features that are good to have?

  • Touch screen
  • Replaceable lens
  • Waterproof without a housing
  • GPS
  • Motion sensors
  • Voice activation
  • Locator
  • Waterproof remote
  • Livestream
  • Social media connection

GoPro Hero8 Black

GoPro Hero8 Black Review

Price when reviewed

£329

$379
Check current price

For

  • No need for waterproof housing
  • Incredible stabilisation
  • Stunning video quality

Against

  • Premium price for the brand
  • Mount can be tricky
  • Mods not available at launch
  • Camera type : Action Camera
  • Max video resolution and frame rate: 4k 60fps
  • Max photo resolution: 12mp
  • Screen: 2-inch touchscreen
  • Battery: Removable, rechargeable 1220mAh lithium-ion
  • Storage: MicroSD USH-I
  • Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
  • Dimensions (WxHxD): 66.3 x 48.6 x 28.4mm
  • Weight: 124g

The latest incarnation of the market-leading GoPro action camera may look the same as the past three generations, but the Hero8 Black is a very different.

Subtle design tweaks streamline the usability for existing extreme sports users, and a new generation of Vlogger will find appeal through the optional Mod system.

There are major design changes when compared with the Hero7 Black; firstly the cage has gone, the entire body is redesigned and there’s even a new workflow to the UI. 

Build and handling are good, but the new side door has a tendency to come off completely when released. 

The new drop-down finger mounts are very neat but can be a bit of a faff when fitting to mounts. 

Performance is undeniably good, clear crisp images, and TimeWarp with the new real-time option is fantastic. 

Is this all enough to warrant an upgrade? Maybe not, but once you factor in the upcoming Mod system this new GoPro goes from looking like a minor upgrade to a major one. 

DJI Osmo Action

123

Price when reviewed

£229.00

$234.00
Check current price

For

  • Excellent video quality
  • Robust build
  • Excellent Rock Steady stabilisation

Against

  • Battery life could be better
  • No live-streaming capability
  • Camera type: Action camera
  • Sensor: 12Mp 1/2.3-inch CMOS
  • Dimensions: 65 x 42 x 35mm
  • Max video resolution: 4K (16:9) – 60, 50, 48, 30, 25, 24fps
  • Weight: 124g

There have been many challengers to GoPro’s dominance in the action camera market: Nikon, Yi, Garmin and of course Sony, but one by one they’ve fallen by the wayside. But now DJI has entered the fray and announced the DJI Osmo Action.

Is it different? Hell yeah. It’s armour clad and ready for the impending battle!

This is one manufacturer that has already gone head-to-head with GoPro. The Mavic and Karma Drone battled it out in the sky, but even before launch the Karma drone had issues and was grounded, and even after those issues were resolved it never recovered.

However unlike the Karma Drone the GoPro Hero8 Black is refined and close to perfection, pulling on years of experience in a field that the company has dominated.

In the last battle, GoPro tried to take on DJI on its home turf; this time the tables are turned, and it’s DJI venturing into GoPro’s territory.

And DJI has given the Osmo Action all the features that a market-leading action camera must have: 4K at 60fps, 1080p at 240fps, voice control, touch screen, GPS, motion sensors, live stream capability, external audio and most importantly image stabilisation.

Rock Steady (RS) is DJI’s version of HyperSmooth and equally impressive. It’s the same technology that features in the Spark Drone, and you can see it refined here.

The build quality is exceptional, and as an action camera, it’s one of the best looking and most robust out there.

The screw in filters are an excellent addition, and with the release of a polariser and ND filter, it will make a nice rounded action camera for all situations.

The video quality and image stabilisation are the two headline features for the moment, and both are exceptional.

Who’s it for?

Sports enthusiasts, vloggers, drone pilots and even serious photographers who care about image quality.

Olfi One.Five Black

Olfi One.five

Price when reviewed

£123

$199
Check current price

For

  • Unique design
  • One of the most versatile action cameras on the market
  • Good video quality and options

Against

  • Requires waterproof housing
  • 4K Video resolution limited
  • Camera Type: Action Camera
  • Max Resolution: 4K 24fps
  • Max Photo resolution: 16MP
  • Screen:
  • Battery: 900MAH LI-ION
  • Storage: MicroSD
  • Connectivity: Wi-Fi
  • Weight: 115g
  • Dimensions: 78 X 61 X 37MM

There are few if any other action cameras that come close to the Olfi One.Five when it comes to features and versatility.

This isn’t just an action camera in the same mould as the majority, trying to appeal to the mass ordience, the Olfi is more refined.

With a team behind the camera that don’t just produce but are actively out testing and using the cameras the attention to detail is apparent from the outset.

On the surface, the resolution and framerates may seem reserved, but in truth they’re refined, giving you exactly what’s needed at an affordable price.

4K is limited to 24fps, but that’s clear usable 4K not pixelated, the 1080p footage is excellent and there’s little to fault with the usability.

But, that’s only just the surface of this camera. With the ability to plug-in external power and mics, you can easily use the camera for extended time-lapses or even vlogging.

At the price there’s little else that comes close to the features and quality of the Olfi One.Five Black.

GoPro Hero7 Black

GoPro Hero 7 Black review

Price when reviewed

£319

$329
Check current price

For

  • HyperSmooth Image Stabilisation
  • Incredible Price
  • Ultra high-quality video

Against

  • Still requires cage for waterproofing
  • No framerate or resolution boost since the Hero6
  • Camera type : Action Camera
  • Max video resolution and frame rate: 4K 60fps
  • Max photo resolution: 12mp
  • Screen: 2-inch Touch Screen
  • Battery: Removable, rechargeable lithium-ion
  • Storage: MicroSD USH-I
  • Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
  • Dimensions (WxHxD): 62.3 x 44.9 x 33mm
  • Weight: 116g

Don’t mistake the Hero 7 Black for a small update over its predecessor. It may have the same looks as the Hero 6 and match the resolution and framerate, but when it comes to performance, it’s a huge leap forward.

The colour is the most apparent change, from grey to black, and as the GoPro powers up for the first time, it reveals an all-new interface that gives the camera a fresh feel.

Linking to the mobile app has been streamlined, no passwords or faffing, just follow the instructions and within a few moments, all is connected.

Flicking through the options using the touch screen and it reveals the new features such as HyperSmooth and Live Streaming. Activating these, as with all setting changes, is as easy as a quick swipe and tap.

Back home and the footage reveals the power of the new HyperSmooth feature, the fluid motion is mindblowing.

Live Streaming is equally easy to master, sign into your FaceBook account and within minutes you’re launched on to a world social platform broadcasting live.

There may be no leaps forward in the usual sense of quality, but when it comes to usability the GoPro accelerates forward, and HyperSmooth isn’t just excited it’s the most groundbreaking advancement we’ve seen from GoPro since they launched.

Yi 4K+

Yi 4K Plus

Price when reviewed

£229

$242
Check current price

For

  • Market-leading resolution and framerate
  • Exceptional 4K video quality
  • Large touch screen

Against

  • Requires waterproof housing
  • Hasn't been updated
  • Camera Type: Action Camera
  • Max video resolution and frame rate: 4K 60fps
  • Max photo resolution: 12
  • Screen: 2.2-inch
  • Battery: High-density lithium polymer 3.8V, 1200mAH
  • Storage: MicroSD
  • Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
  • Dimensions (WxHxD): 65 x 42 x 30mm
  • Weight:

When the Yi 4K then 4K+ burst onto the scene everyone took note. Until it’s launch GoPro had pretty much led the field, then a camera arrived that didn’t just challenge the features and quality of the GoPro but bettered it.

The story of Yi didn’t start with the Yi 4K, a year or so before the Yi Action Camera had arrived. This rather cheap action camera with its vivid colour option was hard to miss.

It was just one of many cheap action cameras out there, and at first no one really paid it much attention, but then as reviews started to appear the quality of the video was revealed.

SJCAM SJ8 Pro

SJCAM SJ8 Pro Review

Price when reviewed

£169

$199
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For

  • Excellent value
  • Large clear screen
  • Decent video quality

Against

  • Waterproof housing
  • The app interface can be clunky when used with Gimbal

The SJCAM SJ8 is one great looking action camera. The large 2.33-inch IPS rear-mounted touch screen displays a glorious clear live view, and with a well-finished exterior, it certainly looks the business.

Comprising of a traditional and slightly clunky waterproof housing the 30m case while old skool does the job of protecting the camera inside.

This type of case is dated but it’s good to see a soft touchback for the housing in the box. This can be swapped, with some effort, for the hard clear back so you can use the touch screen while retaining the water protection.

There’s plenty of recording options from 4K at 60fps through to 1080p at 120fps, for some decent slow motion.

The app is equally well thought out giving you easy access to the camera’s settings and also full compatibility with the SJCAM Gimbal.

Overall SJCAM has produced an excellent camera with features that would put the SJ8 Pro right at the top of the action camera desirability list. However, issues with the app stability and non-translation of some screens and possible missing features do for the moment hold it back.

GoXtreme Black Hawk+ 4K

Price when reviewed

£126

$150
Check current price

For

  • Great price
  • 4K at 60fps
  • Decent EIS at 4K resolution

Against

  • Requires waterproof housing
  • No touch screen display
  • Camera type: Action Camera
  • Max video resolution and frame rate: 4K at 60fps
  • Screen: 2-inch
  • Battery: 1050mAh lithium
  • Storage: MicroSD
  • Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
  • Dimensions (WxHxD):
  • Weight:

When I looked at the GoXtreme 4K Black Hawk back in the summer of 2017 I was impressed with the quality that this small camera was capable of.

This camera along with others was really starting to put pressure on GoPro not only equaling but bettering the features and more importantly video quality.

Since then the camera has had an update to the Black Hawk+, again a formidable camera that comes in at a fantastic price.

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