If you want to capture the exciting (and everyday) events in your life without having to pull out a camera to do so, you’re in need of a wearable camera. Wearable Cameras allow you to BE in the moment rather than simply document the moment. Action Cams, on the other hand, are a form of wearable camera that are specifically designed to capture… action. Like sports. They are rugged, sometimes water resistant or even waterproof. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes and while they all have the same core functionality—capturing photos and videos—they have varying and sometimes quite unique features that set them apart.
I suppose everyone has had a different introduction to wearable and action cams depending on who they follow and pay attention to. One of the first people I really saw using an action cam was Chris Spooner, a UK-based blogger, designer and professional video game player. It’s been fun to peek into his life and see what he’s up to—he does an excellent job of shooting and editing videos using his GoPro setup. Certainly work checking out.
While GoPro is certainly the dominant action cam brand, there are plenty of GoPro alternatives to choose from. I’ve listed a few great ones here. But I will say, if you’re looking for the absolute best action cam on the market, it’s hard to recommend anything other than the GoPro HER4 Black (see below). If you like this post, make sure to check out: 3 Apps that will Automatically Edit Your GoPro Footage into Sick Final Cuts.
If you’re looking for the best-of-the-best wearable camera—THE top-of-the-line—you’re looking for the GoPro HERO4 Black. What sets it apart and makes is so much better than the rest? For starters, it can shoot in ultra-high resolution at 4K30 (also 2.7K50 and 1080p120). So, if you own a 4K Ultra HD TV the GoPro HERO4 Black is going to be a good match. Compared to it’s predecessor, the GoPro HERO4 Black has a whopping 2x performance boost in terms of faster frame rates and image quality. You’ll love the 12MP Burst photo option that lets you capture moments you don’t want to miss when the shutter button may be out of reach. The Time Lapse mode can capture photos every 0.5 to 60 seconds. Night Photo and Night Lapse modes allow you to grab excellent nighttime photos or time lapses as well. You’ll also love the built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, ability to tag important moments (HiLight Tag) and SuperView wide-angle capture. Ever dreamed of powering your camera on and starting to record automatically in one buttons press? That dream is now a reality. Add low light mode, pro audio performance and professional production controls and this camera is a must-buy for those serious about their video quality and capabilities.
The Garmin Virb Elite action camera aims to help you film smarter and longer. In short, it’s a 1080p HD action cam with a Chroma display and 3 hour battery life that is water resistant. Really, it’s a fairly basic, no-frills action cam. That said, it DOES have some unique features you won’t find elsewhere. The Virb has the unique ability to connect with other Garmin products to record heart rate, cadence and outside temperature. The Virb itself also has an accelerometer, altimeter and GPS. One nice feature is the ability to add memory by adding a microSD card (one 64GB microSD card can hold over 7 hours of HD video content). If 3 hours of battery life isn’t enough for you, you can easily swap battery packs while on the go (something you can’t do with a GoPro, for instance). The Chroma display (color 1.4″ screen) shows you exactly what you’re filming. Some people may appreciate this as the GoPro HERO4 Black mentioned above only has a small monochrome display and forces you to use an external device like a phone or tablet to see what is being or has been recorded. The Virb features a WideVu lens (there are three shooting modes: wide, medium and narrow). You’ll probably appreciate the Digital Stabilization and Lens Distortion Correction features as well.
The Narrative Clip isn’t just a wearable camera—it’s billed as the world’s most wearable camera. It doesn’t record video, but it does take photos in a completely new way—without your involvement. You literally clip it onto your clothes, bag, bike, etc. and let it do it’s thing. It will take photos throughout the day automatically so you don’t have to. It’s great for capturing spontaneous moments or lifelogging (wow, you can participate in the Quantified Self movement). It also features an accelerometer and GPS to ensure you get more data about your photos. The Narrative Clip 2 works with the Narrative Service to store and organize your photos automatically. As soon as you plug it into an outlet to charge and it senses a recognized Wi-Fi network, it will automatically upload your photos to the Narratively Service. The Narrative Clip 2 works with your favorite smartphone to make viewing and sharing your photos simple and easy.
The Contour ROAM3 bills itself as “the world’s easiest-to-use” action camera. While the Garmin Virb Elite mentioned above is water resistant, the Contour ROAM3 is actually waterproof up to 30ft. If you want to easily snap photos in addition to taking video, there’s a handy Quick Photo Mode that is “so easy you can do it with your eyes closed” (although that might make it hard to see what you’re trying to capture). The Contour ROAM3 has a lens that can rotate 270 degrees which makes it quite versatile while mounted. It even features a laser leveling system to ensure straight shooting. If you already own a DSLR mount or tripod, it’ll work just fine with the ROAM3. Battery life is 3-3.5 hours.
Price: $269.99 (including Live View remote)
Just because it’s listed last on this article doesn’t mean Sony’s Action Cam is no good. In fact, it’s got plenty of worthwhile features worth exploring that can help you get an edge over your friends with GoPros—if you’re willing to settle for a few tradeoffs. The Sony Action Cam has an astounding 50 Mbps recording capability and uses Sony’s advanced BIONZ X image processor in combination with a ZEISS lens for beautiful footage of your rugged adventures. The wide-angle lens makes capturing as much of the scenery before you as you can possible while the SteadyShot technology gets rid of any bumps and blurs. If you’ve ever dreamed of live-streaming your life, the Action Cam makes it possible with moving POV footage. You’ll also benefit from the 120fps and 240fps speed so you can literally free-frame and edit like nobody else. What’s more, slo-mo still records the audio. Sony also offers some compelling accessories including the Live-View remote which allows for 5-camera shooting and hands-free monitoring.