It used to be that if you wanted an action camera, you could choose between a GoPro… or a GoPro. Indeed, GoPro revolutionised if not INVENTED the action camera market and for a long time had the entire space all to themselves.
However, those days are now behind us and there are loads of GoPro alternatives available. The action camera market has expanded greatly and the competition has really got its act together in giving GoPro a run for its money.
But unfortunately, there are still TONS of knock-offs and bad products out there. We don’t want you to get ripped off or spend your money on a crap camera.
So to help, we at Broke Backpacker have put together this epic guide for the best GoPro alternatives. In this bargain guide, we break down 12 unbelievable action cameras and show you why they’re great GoPro alternatives.
By the end of this article, you’ll know EXACTLY which action camera is best for you (and your wallet!).
Quick Answers: 12 Best GoPro Alternatives of 2020
These are the 12 best GoPro substitutes on the market. Also, check out the end of the article where I highlight what the pros look for when buying an action camera. Some of the tips are next-level…
- #1 OCLU Action Camera – Best GoPro Alternative
- #2 Garmin VIRB Ultra 30 – Good All Round GoPro Alternative
- #3 Akaso Brave 7 LE – Best Budget GoPro Alternative
- #4 Sony FDR X3000R – Best Premium GoPro Alternative
Garmin VIRB Ultra 30
- Price > $$$
- Weight > 3.2 ounces
- Size > 2.4 x 1.2 x 1.6 inches
OCLU Action Camera
- Price > $$
- Weight > 101g (with battery & metal door)
- Size > 6.15 mm / 2.4 inches
Sony FDR X3000R
- Price > $$
- Weight > 3.2 ounces
- Size > 1.2 x 1.9 x 3.3 inches
Akaso Brave 7 LE
- Price > $
- Weight > 2.9 ounces
- Size > 2.4 x 1.6 x 1.4 inches
Garmin VIRB 360
- Price > $$$$
- Weight > 5.6 ounces
- Size > 1.5 x 2.8 x 2.3 inches
The Best GoPro Alternatives of 2020
Can’t Beat The Real Thing?
Let’s be honest here, whilst some of these GoPro alternatives are great products, you really cannot beat the real thing. Just like with Coca Cola, the original GoPro is still the best and if you can stretch to it and find the extra bucks, may be a sound investment. A proper GoPro will serve you good for miles and miles and years and years of adventuring.
#1 OCLU Action Camera: Our Pick For The Best Go Pro Alternative
What to start capturing excellent 4k footage straight out of the box? Meet the OCLU action camera. This cleverly designed action cam has been turning heads for the last few years – at a cost that won’t totally upend your gear budget for the year.
This may well be my favorite new camera I have tested this year. Why? It has all of the features I look for in a GoPro alternative and a few other unique features exclusive to OCLU.
The Live Cut features allow you to manage your clips on the go so that you only end up with the best shots when the shooting day is done. The camera integrates with a smartphone app, giving the user easy access to the different modes and settings. One can enjoy smooth image stabilization when shooting at 1080P @ 30 / 60 FPS – and let’s be honest most of us don’t need to be shooting at 4k all the time anyway.
Still though, the camera captures 4k footage at 30 FPS.
The shape of the camera takes a little getting use to but it should be noted that it is indeed small, and perfect for those looking to travel light.
OCLU offers a few interesting accessory add-ons as well including a waterproof housing, various helmet and body mounts depending on the activity, and an expandable grip mount for recording vlogs or POV. The waterproof housing allows for shooting at depths up to 165ft (50m).
GPS tracking allows you to log location data on every adventure as well.
All and all a dope camera at a budget price. If you need more deets, check out our OCLU camera review.
- Has a wide variety of shooting modes; timelapse, burst, loop record.
- Compatible w/ many different mounts made my OCLU
- Live cut editing
- No image stabilization in 4k.
- Photo quality is not as high as other cameras.
- Requires additional case to be totally waterproof.
#2 Akaso Brave 7 LE : Best Ultra Budget GoPro Alternative
At a fraction of the price of the current GoPro cameras, the Akaso Brave 7 LE is the latest and greatest model in the budget cam lineup from Akaso. For around $80, you get 4k recording, a remote control, dual-screen recording, and a couple of extra batteries to sweeten the deal. If you’re looking for an action camera that’s really on the cheap, then the Akaso Brave 4 LE is the best ultra-budget GoPro alternative out there!
The Brave 4 LE’s recording capabilities are commendable, being able to record up to 30 fps at this resolution. Higher frame rates are possible at lower resolutions – 120 fps at 720p is the cap.
A built-in electronic image stabilizer helps to eliminate shake and create smooth videos though the amount it does so is not as much as some other action cameras in this guide. The Akaso’s microphone is not as good as a GoPro model but over the last year, Akaso has improved the sound quality /
The Brave 7 LE comes included with a remote control that can be used to take and start recordings. It is a very basic remote and doesn’t offer any live view features but it gets the job done. Built-in WiFi also allows users to link up with their smartphones via an app (iSmart Pro +).
Construction-wise, the AkasoBrave 7 LE comes with a touchscreen in addition to the usual USB and HDMI ports. The camera is waterproof on its own up to 1m without a case or 30m with the included case
The Brave 7 LE does not come with an SD card so you’ll have to purchase yours separately. It does come with extra batteries, which kind of offsets the expenses of buying an SD card. Also included is a large selection of accessories that can be used to mount the camera.
If you want to learn about this action cam, be sure to read our in-depth review of the Akaso Brave 7 LE!
- Clean 4K recording.
- Dual screens.
- Very affordable.
- Sound quality is not the best.
- No SD card included.
- Limited quality above 30 fps
#3 Garmin VIRB Ultra 30: Good Overall GoPro Alternative
Thanks to its excellent construction, superb video quality, and the inclusion of several innovative features like voice recognition and informative overlays, the Garmin VIRB Ultra 30 is our choice for the best overall GoPro alternative!
Build-wise there’s little wrong with the Garmin VIRB Ultra 30. Without any extra accessories, the VIRB 30 is quite small and features a tough shell and equally resistant touchscreen.
Although not waterproof on its own, the Garmin VIRB becomes so with the addition of an external housing, which is rated at a maximum water depth of 131 feet. Amazingly, the touch screen and voice recognition controls still work with the housing installed.
In terms of video quality and recording, the Garmin VIRB Ultra delivers yet again. For the first time in the Garmin line, 4k recording possible and at 30 fps. There are several other recording options, like 1080p at 120fps, 720p at 240fps, etc. Video/image quality is superb with rich colors and excellent sharpness, perhaps even sharper than the most recent GoPro models.
The Garmin VIRB Ultra 30 comes equipped with a voice control feature that, though not perfect, performs very well. WiFi connectivity is included and can be used to sync up with your phone and even stream live videos on Youtube. With Garmin’s own G-Metrix system present as well, you can overlay several metrics over your videos including heart rate and distance traveled.
Pretty awesome, right?
The Garmin VIRB Ultra does have some flaws though. Battery life is limited, especially when the camera’s more demanding tech is used – users have reported that 4k shooting can last less than an hour. Batteries are removable can be changed on the fly though. The built-in image stabilization, though commendable, is only electronic and not very effective at times.
If you are still not convinced and want to see how the brand new GoPro Hero9 Black compares, well then I don’t blame you.
- Excellent connectivity thanks to solid voice recognition and the G-Metrix system.
- Compatible w/ GoPro mounts and accessories.
- Excellent video and image quality.
- Shorter battery life.
- Image stabilization isn’t great.
- Requires additional case to be waterproof though touch screen and voice recognition still works.
#4 Yi 4k +: Best Budget GoPro Alternative
The Yi 4k + can stand up to many GoPros and for almost half the price. With stellar 4k recording, a rugged touchscreen, and long battery life, this camera takes the award for best budget GoPro alternative.
Optically, the Yi 4k + can give GoPros a run for their money. Videos are crisp and, quality-wise, equal to those from the GoPro HERO4.
That’s not all.
As the name implies, 4k video recording is possible at up to 30 fps. 240 fps is possible at 720p. Electronic image stabilization is present in the Yi but, like most other electronic stabilization systems, it’s nothing too spectacular.
On the flip side, the Yi 4k + does lack a lot of shooting modes found in GoPros though popular ones like slow-motion and time-lapses are still possible. Images taken from Yi 4k + are still very attractive and are surprisingly devoid of vignetting, chromatic aberrations, and other distortions. You can thank in-camera corrections for the lack of these tarnishes.
The Yi 4k + is built-in similar fashion to the GoPro – it’s tough, small, and somewhat utilitarian in aesthetics. What stands out though is the large touchscreen found on the back of Yi 4k +, which is where most of the camera’s settings are changed. Though responsive and gorgeous to look at, the touchscreen suffers in bright light. The inclusion of some additional mechanical controls would’ve been nice.
One of the greatest pluses to the Yi 4k + is its stellar battery life. It beats the GoPro HERO4 easily in recording times at all resolutions. The Yi 4k + can reportedly sustain 4k recording for over 90 minutes, which is fantastic.
But there are some downsides.
Note that the Yi 4k + comes with no additional accessories, not even an underwater housing. You’ll have to buy everything separately, which may or may not feel defeating when buying this budget GoPro alternative.
- Solid 4k video recording.
- Large responsive touchscreen.
- Great battery life.
- No extra accessories or waterproof housing.
- Reliance upon touchscreen hampers usability.
- Somewhat stripped-down version of a GoPro feature-wise.
How to Capture Better Content with Your Action Camera
Action cameras are amazing tools for capturing life’s most epic adventures. The question is do you know enough about the mechanics of photography and storytelling to actually make the most of the camera?
For any adventure photographer – one of the best things you can do to seriously up your photography game and skill set is to join the Roam Academy. Specifically, take the Adventure Photography class by Cory Richards.
Roam is a pretty new organization, but their content is top tier and they are coming out with new material all the time. Check them out!
#5 Sony FDR X3000R: Best Premium GoPro Alternative
The Sony FDR X3000R stuns with its excellent built-in image stabilization, top-of-the-line video quality, and a useful Live View Remote. Because of its stellar performance, we believe that the Sony FDR X3000R is the best premium GoPro alternative and worth the money for those willing to spend a little more.
Believe me, it’s worth it.
The Sony FDR X3000R shoots high-quality video as befitting its higher price tag. Shooting in 4k is, of course, an option and the FDR X3000R does so very well. Thanks in part to the highly effective built-in image stabilization, videos are even more crisp and smooth.
Due to its bullet shape, the Sony FDR X3000R may not fit in the same places that smaller cubical action cameras could. The X3000R does come with a built-in tripod mount that is compatible with GoPro accessories though so there are still lots of mounting options. Note that the body itself is only splashproof and that an external case will be required for underwater use. With the case, this action cam is waterproof up to 197 ft.
Uniquely, the Sony FDR X3000R comes with a separate Live View Remote accessory, which is meant to be mounted on a nearby surface like a bike handle or a wrist. By doing so, you’ll be able to view the live video without actually stopping the recording.
While practical in theory though, connectivity can be an issue with this remote. There’s a smartphone app, called PlayMemories, that can be linked with the Sony FDR X3000R via the built-in WiFi that behaves in a very similar way to the remote.
The Sony FDR X3000R does suffer from a poor battery. The battery can be changed though and you’ll need a few spares for a full day of shooting. Also, this camera takes less than inspiring still photos.
- Some of the best image stabilization in an action camera.
- Live View Remote.
- Top video quality
- Not so good still image quality.
- Shorter battery life.
- High price that may dissuade some.
#6 Garmin VIRB 360: Best 360 GoPro Alternative
For those who are interested in trying their hand at a 360 camera and still want something rugged and durable, the Garmin VIRB 360 is the best that you can find for under $1000. With superior optics, the ability to shoot at 5.7k, and at a reasonable price, the Garmin VIRB 360 is the best action camera for those who want to shoot in 360.
As the name implies, a 360 camera records video in 360 degrees i.e. in every direction around you. This type of recording creates very immersive videos and has been touted as the beginnings of a VR-like experience. The development of 360 recording technology is still developing and most viewing platforms e.g. Youtube can’t even render the videos properly. Buying a 360 camera is certainly an investment in the future though and those looking for a new and exciting shooting experience would be wise to try one out.
The Garmin VIRB 360 offers very impressive optics. Notably, it can shoot 5.7k video, which is a greater resolution than the GoPro’s own 360 camera, the Fusion. 360 videos are crisp though still not as much as a traditional non-360 video (resolutions haven’t reached the point of rendering full 360 videos optimally yet). You can, of course, record regular 4k videos at 30 fps and 120fps at 720p with the VIRB 360, thus making it an effective action camera as well.
360 videos have to be stitched via multiple captures to be rendered fully. This is done either in-body or through a companion software.
Unfortunately, the VIRB 360 cannot stitch 360 videos that are shot in 5.7k in-body – for these, you’ll have to use a companion software.
Build-wise, the VIRB 360 delivers in every way that Garmin action cam should. The camera is waterproof without a separate housing for up to 100 feet and is, overall, very durable. Control wise, the VIRB 360 is very straightforward, offering a series of physical buttons and an LCD screen for accessing in-camera menus.
Like many other Garmin products as well, the VIRB 360 is equipped with several sensors as well that records various metrics like speed, elevation, and GPS coordinates.
- Can shoot 5.7k.
- Is still very rugged and waterproof.
- Is reasonably affordable.
- Stitching 5.7k can be a hassle.
- Battery drains quickly with 360 videos.
- Is still expensive by action camera standards.
#7 SJCAM SJ7 Star: GoPro Alternative Honorable Mention
Like the Yi 4k +, the SJCAM SJ7 Star takes much of what made GoPro successful and creates a more stripped-down, budget-friendly camera. With its competitive 4k recording and touchscreen, the SJCAM SJ7 Star is a solid competitor in the race for best action cam.
The SJCAM SJ7 Star offers the usual video resolutions that have become standard in 4k action cameras. 4k is obviously possible and caps out at 30 fps. 240fps videos are possible at 720p. The quality of video that the SJCAM SJ7 Star creates is perfectly fine and causes no complaints here. There is built-in electronic (Gyro) image stabilization and it performs ok but is inferior to other mechanical image stabilizers.
The SJCAM SJ7 Star is built from aluminum and is acceptably durable. Of concern though is how hot the body can get when the camera is used for long periods of time and the processor begins to overheat. Overheating can, besides causing catastrophic failure, affect battery life (which is average already in the SJCAM SJ7) and even render the camera unholdable at times.
The majority of the camera’s settings and controls are found within the LCD menus that are accessed via the rear touchscreen. Though responsive, the rear touchscreen suffers from glare in bright lights, which is a common phenomenon. There is a settings button in addition to a power found at the front camera but that’s all.
The SJCAM SJ7 is not waterproof on its own and requires a separate housing (100 ft) to be so. Unlike the Yi 4k +, the housing in addition to several other accessories is included with the SJ7 camera package. Oddly enough, there is no tripod threading found on the bottom of the camera, the inclusion of which is pretty much industry standard in all cameras these days.
- Excellent 4k video recording.
- Decent image stabilization.
- Good price.
- Aluminum body gets very hot.
- No tripod mount threading.
- Suffers from the usual frustrations of touchscreen-reliant cameras.
#8 Polaroid Cube: GoPro Alternative Honorable Mention
Weighing in at under 2 ozs and measuring no more than an inch and half in every direction, the Polaroid Cube is one of the smallest GoPro alternatives that you can buy! With decent 1080p video recording and at a minuscule price as well, this action camera will appeal to lots of casual photographers and aspiring action camera users.
Given its size, the Polaroid Cube performs somewhat admirably. At 1080p the recording is not near the quality of some of the other cameras on this list. Take into account the diminutive sensor and a sluggish bitrate (8 mbps) and, overall, performance can be lackluster at times. In the proper conditions though – plenty of light, not too much action, etc – and the videos still look nice.
The recording capabilities may not be impressive but the overall construction is definitely up to standard. Like a true action camera, you can toss, drop, and beat up this camera like any other. The Polaroid is not waterproof and will require an external housing to be submerged.
On the bottom of the camera is a magnetic surface that is used for mounting the camera to other metal objects.
The Polaroid Cube has one button only that is used to take photos, start videos, and turn-on/turn-off the camera. There is no live view screen so you’ll be blind when shooting/recording (like the good ol’ days).
The battery life of the Polaroid Cube is predictably short and, worst of all, cannot be taken out. Granted, the Cube isn’t meant for longer recording though anyways – videos are capped at 5 minutes in length. You can take apart the cube and switch out the battery yourself if you like but this takes some work.
- Super small and portable.
- Respectable video.
- Short, non-interchangeable battery.
- More novelty than utility.
- Limited features.
#9 TomTom Bandit: GoPro Alternative Honorable Mention
TomTom’s first foray into the action camera world is a successful one. Thanks to a rugged design, great usability, and compatibility with GoPro mounts, the TomTom Bandit is a great alternative to a GoPro and just barely misses accolades.
The body of the Bandit is particularly hardy and is, aside from the front lens elements, waterproof. By removing the standard lens cover and installing a separate “dive” cover though, the Bandit becomes fully waterproof up to 131 feet.
The TomTom shines because of its controls and connectivity. Between the on-camera buttons and the LCD viewing screen, setting up the Bandit is a snap. In-camera menus are also very easy to navigate and changing settings are very straightforward.
Tom Tom’s affiliated mobile app is more impressive than others. Aside from offering the usual remote shooting controls, the app is very good at video editing in addition to storing some key metric data. Thanks to a built-in GPS and motion sensors, you can capture valuable information – like speed, G-Force, and rotation – during shooting and view it later on in the app.
The Bandit’s video recording is quite good but not the best out there. 4k is possible but only at 15 fps. Users are probably better off shooting in 1080p or, if you’re looking for maximum fps, 720p at 120fps.
Perhaps because of its less demanding recording technology, the battery life of the TomTom Bandit is great, beating out almost every other action camera in this guide. The Bandit is quoted to shoot continuously for close to three hours at lower resolutions, pending the WiFi is turned off. In a cool little design feature, the back of the Tom Tom, where the battery is located, is twisted loose and removed, revealing a USB stick that is used for charging and transferring files.
- Easy to use.
- Great connectivity that allows for fast editing.
- Great battery life.
- Easy to use.
- Great connectivity that allows for fast editing.
- Great battery life.
#10 Olympus Tough TG-Tracker: GoPro Alternative Honorable Mention
The Olympus Tough TG-Tracker is one of the best action cameras thanks to is a superlatively robust design and myriad features that make shooting exciting!
The Olympus Tough TG-Tracker is a bullet-shaped action camera. Unlike other bullet-shaped cameras on this list, the TG-Tracker is very light and weighs only 180 grams. This camera can easily fit in your pocket and, since it’s fully waterproof by itself, won’t get any bigger with the addition of a separate housing! You will need to mount a small waterproof cover for the lens to make it 100% waterproof though.
The Olympus Tough TG-Tracker is very straightforward and easy to use. There are multiple buttons on the camera body for changing settings and starting videos. The LCD screen flips out like most camcorders but cannot be rotated. A small LED light is also present for low light shooting.
Video quality is excellent with the Olympus TG-Tracker. All the usual bells and whistles of a good action camera are present – 4k, 240fps at 720p, and image stabilization – and these do a fine job. The 8 Mp sensor creates decent still images though they tend to be a little soft and lack contrast.
The FOV of the Olympus Tough TG-Tracker is a whopping 204 degrees, which is even wider than the GoPro. Some users find this angle to be a bit too much as fish eyeing is very present. You can change the FOV of the TG-Tracker in the on-screen menus though these are kinda buried deep.
I’d say that the TG-Tracker’s most commendable features are its inclusion of a superior GPS and environmental sensors. With these sensors, the TG-Tracker can record a large array of metrics, more so than any other action camera on this list. These include temperatures, barometric pressure, GPS tracking, and much more.
- Special environmental sensors.
- Fully waterproof without case.
- Excellent performance.
- Complicated menus and mobile app.
- The lens may be too wide and changing FOV is tedious.
- Still not as small as a GoPro.
#11 Sony DSC-RX0: GoPro Alternative Honorable Mention
Those who want an action camera that offers a slightly different shooting experience should check out the Sony DSC-RX0. With a more reasonable FOV and superlative optics, the Sony DSC-RX0 feels less like an action cam and more like a hybridized compact camera. It’s a unique camera, one that maybe deserves its own classification. Regardless, it’s still one of the best action cameras available.
The Sony DSC-RX0’s greatest weapon is its gorgeous 24mm f/4.0 Zeiss lens, which offers stunning optical quality. Images shot with this camera are sharp and have good contrast. With a maximum image resolution of 15.3 megapixels, there’s plenty of captured detail as well. Though the f/4.0 aperture is somewhat slow and may not contribute greatly to low light performance, the larger image sensor does a good job with controlling noise.
At 24mm (FF equivalent), the Sony DSC-RX0’s FOV is much narrower than the usual action camera. Those who hate the fisheye effect that is present in action cameras will feel much better about the RXO’s tighter, more photographer-friendly framing. Obviously though, the Sony DSC-RX0 will not be able to capture those huge scenes, the likes of which has become popular with athletes who use GoPros.
The Sony DSC-RX0 offers decent video recording. Full HD is possible at 100 fps while 4k is only possible with an additional external recording device. In a sense, the Sony DSC-RX0 sacrifices some video capability for better still images.
Though the DSC-RX0’s optics feel more like a conventional camera, its construction is still purely action camera. The DSC-RX0 is tiny – around the size of a GoPro – and fully waterproof. There are several ports as well that can accommodate additional accessories like a microphone, HDMI cord, and small travel tripod.
- Excellent image quality – some of the best on this list.
- Fully waterproof.
- Still tiny.
- No internal 4k video recording.
- Narrower FOV.
#12 iSaw Edge: GoPro Alternative Honorable Mention
The iSaw Edge is another budget-friendly alternative to the GoPro. Like many action cameras on this list, the iSaw Edge is built very similarly to the GoPro but is offered at a much lower price.
Optically the iSaw Edge is a solid performer. Both videos and still images are crisp and look very good. The iSaw Edge can shoot 4k but only at limited 10 fps. Maximum fps in the iSaw Edge is 120 at 720p.
The iSaw Edge is built very well and rivals the GoPro in ruggedness and portability. The iSaw Edge is around the same size as the GoPro both in and out of its waterproof housing. When inside of the housing, the iSaw Edge is waterproof up to 130 feet.
Overall, the iSaw Edge is very easy to use. There are three physical buttons that are used for turning the camera off/on, shooting, and changing settings – these are all very straightforward and very useful. There is a touchscreen LCD screen as well but it suffers from the usual glare that afflicts such screens.
Battery life is rated at 2 hours of video recording. The battery can be replaced and the camera can even be charged in your car, which is great for those who like to shoot dashboard videos.
The iSaw Edge comes bundled with a plethora of accessories for mounting purposes. Should these not be sufficient, the Edge is compatible with GoPro accessories thus expanding you accessory library greatly.
The iSaw Edge has a companion mobile app that can act as a Live View and remote control. The app has trouble staying connecting with the camera and is generally unreliable.
- Good video quality.
- Lots of included accessories plus the ability to use GoPro mounts
- Limited FPS, especially at 4k.
- Unresponsive smartphone app.
#13 Olfi One.Five: GoPro Alternative Honorable Mention
For those looking for an extremely easy action camera to use that won’t break the bank either, the Olfi One.Five is one of the most accessible action cameras out there. With very comprehensive controls and at half the price of its primary competition, the Olfi One.Five is a great alternative to a GoPro.
Video quality in the Olfi One.Five is commendable but somewhat lacking in a lot of ways. 4k recording is done at an acceptable 24 fps though the resolution is actually interpolated (upscaled i.e. “fake pixels”). At the other end, the Olfi One.Five can achieve 120 fps at 720p, which is, again, only acceptable. Given the size and price of the Olfi One.Five, its subpar video performance could be forgiven but those wanting the best quality video will be disappointed still.
The Olfi One.Five’s design is both unique and impressive. The camera body is flatter in shape looking like a small remote rather than a cube. Overall integrity still feels very solid and, though it may feel like the Olfi could break at any time, it’s actually very durable. The Olfi One.Five will require a separate housing to be waterproof, which, unfortunately, does add some bulk.
One of the most appealing aspects of the Olfi One.Five is its very easy-to-use controls. There are only a few buttons on the body itself and an LCD screen, which, contrary to many cameras in this guide, performs quite well in direct sunlight. The in-camera menus are very straightforward and settings are modified with ease.
In terms of connectivity, the Olfi One.Five is just ok. The usual ports and WiFi adapter are found within this camera but most of the companion software is lacking. The mobile app is difficult to use and the editing program is not very powerful.
- Smaller than a GoPro.
- Very easy to use thanks to effective LCD screen and buttons.
- Good price.
- Battery life is ok.
- 4k and fps could leave some unimpressed.
- Companion apps and editing leave a lot to be desired.
Buying an action camera or GoPro alternative, for that matter, is a slightly different experience than buying a regular DSLR. Though certain features are still taken into consideration – like sensor quality, size, weight, etc – more emphasis is put on other aspects.
With an action camera, the most important features are related to video quality, durability, and battery life. Essentially, a good action camera will shoot better, longer, and in more unfavorable conditions. Other features, like where you can mount the camera and built-in WiFi are nice added bonuses and, depending on your shooting style, may actually be vital.
Below I’ve created a list of things that one should consider when buying an action camera. Take them into consideration when choosing the right GoPro alternative for you.
These days, the video quality that action cameras offer runs the gamut from basic to professional level videography. Add in many new technological developments like image stabilization and adjustable field of views and you can find some really crazy cameras out there.
The highest current video recording resolution is 4k. Several action cameras have the ability to shoot 4k and, though they shoot with fewer megapixels, these videos are still gorgeous to look at. If 4k is not possible, then nearly every action camera shoots at least 1080p (HD quality), speaking for the ones in this article at least. Think about whether or not 4k is necessary in the first place as well – if your videos are just put on a 1080p screen, then 4k is worthless.
Frame rate (FPS) is something else that one should consider when buying the best possible GoPro alternative. 30 fps is the standard for most cameras these days and is used most frequently. 25 fps, once the industry standard for cinematography, creates a lovely “motion picture” look. If one intends to catch some very intense action scenes or even slow-motion videos, then they’ll have to crank up the fps – 60 fps, 120 fps, and 240 fps are all becoming common features and will create smoother slow-motion videos as the fps increases.
Action cameras are supposed to be built to last; how well they’re built and how much of a beating they can take is imperative. Of equal importance is their size, shape, and weight as well – being able to mount the camera on your body or whatever object, for that matter, and not feel encumbered can make or break your shooting experience.
Most action camera these days are built fairly well and can be beat-up a lot. How well they hold up under duress really comes down to build quality.
Of special note is the waterproof depth of an action camera, that is, how far it can be submerged before the sealing is compromised. 30 feet is generally the shallowest depth for action cameras though an increasing amount can go upwards of 150 feet. If you’re a deep-water diver, these numbers will mean more to you.
The size and weight of an action camera is pretty straight-forward. The smaller and lighter it is, the more useful it is. Be careful when buying a cheap GoPro alternative – many are built from less reliable materials and are, thus, more prone to breaking.
Action cameras come in two shapes as well – cubical and bullet. Cubes are the most common variety and are most often very useful. Bullet shapes may suit other people more though and often bullet shape cameras come with more tech and features due to their increased size.
For many, the biggest complaint that they have with action cameras is that they’re a little hard to use due to their limited surface area and controls. Many modern actions camera developers have alleviated these problems, somewhat, thanks to some pretty intuitive technologies.
Touch screens are becoming increasingly common and are usually quite useful. These eliminate the need to have and use manual controls on the camera. Of increasing occurrence are voice controls, which, though in their fledgling years and not totally effective yet, are still an inspiring step in the right direction.
WiFi connectivity is practically mandatory in action cameras these days. With the ability to connect your action camera to a phone or electronic device, you can share photos wirelessly and even take remote photos. Even though most if not every action camera has some sort of WiFi feature included, not everyone performs well. Keep an eye for wireless efficiency when looking for a good action cam as well.
All of those 4k and slow-motion video means jack if you’re camera runs out of battery after only a few moments. Nothing is more frustrating than filming some amazing, action-packed scene, only to have your action camera die right at the best part. How long the battery lasts for your GoPro alternative is thus one of the most important aspects that you need to consider.
Most action cameras last anywhere between 1 and 3 hours if recording continuously. Most manufacturers will withhold official battery lives for whatever business reasons as well so judging an action camera based upon official numbers can be tricky. Best thing is to just listen to reviews and see what the consensus is.
Certain activities, like filming in higher resolutions, higher fps, and using WiFi, can drain a battery faster. For this reason, higher-end cameras with more advanced technology will need better batteries to run longer. Some lower-end cameras with less energy-consuming tech may last a greater amount of time.
Many action cameras have batteries that can be changed on the fly. Investing in several spare batteries is probably your best bet when it comes to extending shooting times. If an action camera’s batteries are not interchangeable, then you can send them to a third party for replacement. Prices for this service vary but are usually reasonable.
Most action cameras have a field of view (FOV) of between 140 and 170 degrees – this is equivalent to 17mm and 20mm on a full-frame camera. Some only provide one setting for the field of view while others are able to switch between multiple angles. Note that these angles are very wide (so that they can capture lots) and that a fisheye effect is often a symptom. Most post-production software has the ability to fix fish eyeing though.
Image stabilization is a relatively new form of technology that is being incorporated into action cameras. Image stabilization or IS essentially compensates for a shaky camera and makes footage more smooth. This is done either mechanically or electronically. Note that incorporating IS technology into cameras usually jacks the price up.
For more on IS in action cameras, check out Action Cam Guide’s informative article.
For extreme videographers and athletes, an action camera is only as good as its accessories. You can’t carry that camera all the time, especially if your hands are full with the task at hand, so being able to mount the camera quickly and effectively is key to a good shooting experience.
Depending on your intended activity – i.e surfing, traveling with a drone, mountain biking – you’ll need to consider the size, weight, and shape of the camera as well and if the proper mount is available. Each brand produces its own mounts and accessories so be sure to check their catalogs. Some cameras may even be compatible with GoPro’s own extensive line thus poaching the competition. Several other third parties produce mounts and accessories as well that may be compatible with your GoPro alternative.
Some action cameras will require a separate housing for submersion. Even if a camera is rated for, say, 33 feet, it can still be comprised at lesser depths in rare occurrences. Having the extra protection against water can be a good idea.
At the end of the day, it’s all about what you’re willing to spend on a GoPro alternative. Thankfully, action cameras come in many shapes and sizes these days and at many different price points. You can, with research, find the perfect action camera for you and at the price you want to pay.
So there you have them – the best GoPro alternatives of 2020! Over the course of 12 different action cameras, we’ve covered nearly every basis from more budget-friendly selections to upgrades to even a 360 camera. If you can take anything away from this guide it’s that, whilst GoPros are still good cameras, you don’t have to settle for them to take great adventure videos! Consider your options wisely and then invest in the perfect GoPro alternative for you.
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