Action cameras used to be used mostly for recording sports like snowboarding, climbing, skating, surfing and the like. But that’s not so much the case anymore. These days action cameras are a good choice for filming everyday, non-extreme activities as well. This trend makes a lot of sense if you think about it: we want to preserve the batteries on our phones, action cameras tend to be smaller and easier to place, action cameras have a variety of mounts and accessories, action cams can be mounted on drones (which are also increasing in popularity) and action cams are getting cheaper and better (at the same time).
While GoPro has been the leader in action cams since it’s debut, many people have become increasingly frustrated with the company’s products (including it’s own investors as evidenced by the stocks recent free fall). The top of the line GoPro cameras tend to be expensive, have hampered sound due to their casing (and need casing to be waterproof, for that matter) and receive numerous complaints about bad battery life. For awhile, GoPro made the only 4K action cam I would have considered buying, but that’s no longer the case.
The competition definitely hasn’t been sitting on the sidelines. Companies like Ricoh, Sony, Nikon and even Kodak have been developing slick new cameras with features you won’t find on a GoPro and prices that are competitive with a GoPro. Some exciting new action cameras have been released in recent days, weeks and months and I thought it was time to get them all together in one convenient roundup.
Here you’ll find some action cameras that are more traditional and some that are more trendy. By traditional I mean action cameras with one lens. By trendy I mean action cameras that are capitalizing on trends like VR (virtual reality) and life logging. So whether you’re looking for the best GoPro alternatives, the best new 4K action cameras, the best 4K 360 degree action cameras for shooting immersive VR content or the smallest 4K video camera there is, you’re in the right place. Let me know in the comments which camera looks the best in your eyes (or if there’s one we happened to miss).
Important Update Aug 1., 2016 — after I published this post, Yi cam out with an AMAZING 4K action cam that every single reviewer agrees outdoes the GoPro at it’s own game. I highly recommend checking out out (even over all the cameras listed here).
Ricoh WG-M2 – $299.95
The Ricoh WG-M2 is another Ricoh camera that looks very impressive (DailyTekk readers already love to buy Ricoh’s Theta S 360 degree camera). This is an ultra-rugged 4K action camera that has such a tough body that it doesn’t need an extra case to go underwater (unlike the GoPro Hero 4). That means it’s obviously waterproof (20m) but it’s also freezeproof and shockproof.
Perhaps the most exciting feature of the Ricoh WG-M2 is it’s ultra-wide angle lens which has a viewing angle of 204 degrees (whereas the average action cam is probably closer to 135 degrees). It’s a big upgrade in terms of what you can capture.
The second best feature? The fact that the WG-M2 can record at a super-high bitrate of 100 Mbps. In layman’s terms this means you can capture more data per frame which produces a more vivid, detailed picture overall.
With the WG-M2 you’ll also get a 1.5″ LCD monitor, a stereo mic (which again isn’t covered by an additional case like the GoPro) and large control buttons that can be operated even when wearing gloves. The shake reduction feature, dubbed Movie SR, seems impressive but is only available in narrow mode (so it can’t be used in wide angle shots).
A few final notes. With the WG-M2 you’ll get control of exposure to make on the fly adjustments and you can also shoot time-lapse and slowmo videos. While there is a companion app, and most people will edit their footage using an app like iMovie or Final Cut Pro, there are some basic on-camera editing features like being able to split footage.
The price is certainly affordable: at $299.95, I’d call this this best cheap 4K action camera for people on a budget.
Sony X1000V – $499
The Sony X1000V is a 4K action cam with pro quality results. If you’re looking for Hollywood caliber footage (as much as that is possible from an action camera) then this is the camera for you.
Aside from recording in 4K, this Sony action cam records at a high bitrate with true to life resolution. That means that aliasing, moire and false color artifacts won’t be an issue. Additionally, you’ll see better low light footage and smooth motion captured with a 170 degree wide-angle lens.
This camera also benefits from Sony’s SteadyShot technology which reduces vibrations and blurs in footage — especially vibrations caused by drones.
A few other cool features include: wind noise reduction, the ability to livestream, burst shooting, loop recording, motion shot and interval still recording.
Add to all of this the Live-View remote which straps a color screen onto your wrist and the ability to control multiple cameras at once (up to 5) and this cements the Sony X1000V as a, or perhaps the, top of the line 4K action camera available now.
Nikon KeyMission 360 – $TBA
Nikon’s new KeyMission 360 action cam is a rugged camera that capture more than just what is in front of you: it captures everything around you (literally all angles). This dual-lens and dual-image sensor setup will produce immersive photos and videos.
Nikon hasn’t shared a whole lot of information about the KeyMission 360 yet, but we do know that this 4K shooter is waterproof up to 100 feet and shockproof as well.
The design of the KeyMission 360 is what might end up setting this camera apart. For having a dual-lens setup it seems quite compact. There’s no screen on the camera, but I’m going to assume that Nikon will release an app with camera controls which will also let you review footage.
It’s worth noting how simple the KetMission appears to be in terms of controls: there are only a couple buttons on the device itself (a power button and a record button) and they look easy to press even if you’re wearing gloves.
The Mokacam is unique in that it’s the world’s smallest 4K camera. And while it isn’t exactly an action camera as defined by being rugged and sport-friendly, it is an action camera in the sense that you can take it with you wherever you go on a normal day. It’s really the small size of this camera that is it’s main feature. It’s only 45 mm high and wide and just 30 mm deep!
This Indiegogo project (which raised an impressive $675,000 in 60 days) is perfect for capturing your day hanging out with friends or for traveling. In fact, this might be one of the best cameras for traveling I’ve ever seen — it’s so small and compact and shoots such high-quality footage that it won’t get in your way while you’re sightseeing.
One thing I absolutely love about the Mokacam is that it’s magnetic. Not only can you easily connect magnetic accessories to the Mokacam, but you can place it on any metal surface for a quick and easy mounting solution.
The Mokacam is another camera that is simple and easy to operate. Again, there are just two buttons: power and function.
The Mokacam also comes with a self-powered, rotatable screen which just happens to provide extra battery life.
Kodak SP360 4K – $449
The Kodak SP 360 4K is another Ultra-High Definition camera that is compact enough to take with you just about anywhere, though it isn’t ruggedized. Still, you can mount it to a drone to capture any action from the skies.
But the SP360 4K takes a different approach to capturing immersive content. While you can use a single camera by itself, you actually will need to mount two together in order to get fully-immersive content.