If you’re into outdoor adventures, sports and fun, action cameras are really the way to go!
Action cams are everywhere for the simple reason that it’s easy to use yet durable. Not to mention they have really great value for money as well!
In this guide, I’m going to be walking you through everything you’ll need to get one so you’ll not be regretting it in the future as buying and choosing is honestly the hardest part about action cams as many of them are very similar in terms of build and specs!
How To Buy An Action Camera
I would say there are 3 main steps to buying an action cam.
1. Features To Consider
Below are some of the features you can expect to have on an action cam and there are some that are rather sketchy because of the false advertisements going around
There are 2 main types of stabilization, video and photo stabilization.
Most cameras above $50 have stabilization for taking pictures which is commonly referred to as anti-shake image stabilization. And thus when you take a picture, it wouldn’t be blurry and ‘smudged’ all over.
For action cameras above $50, you can almost safely assume that there is going to be anti-shake image stabilization.
But the real issue lies with the video stabilization as it’s a little more tricky to deal with because it requires more processing power to do so.
Most videos that you’re going to take will be shaky and unstabilised, regardless of where you’re taking it from unless of course, you have a stabilizer attached to it.
Therefore, you’ll need a way to stabilise the bumps and tremors in the video.
There are 2 main types of video stabilization, gyro image stabilization & optical image stabilization.
The main difference is that gyro works electronically or through software, whereas optical stabilization works by the physical lens moving to counteract the motion (eg. camera bumps up→ lens move down to reduce shake)
If you want to know more this, feel free to read more in-depth about the different types of stabilization here!
Wind Noise Reduction
When travelling around, from car rides to bikes and even to something as simple such as hiking at your local hill.
There would always be wind noise and it gets especially loud when you’re moving fast.
Hence. to combat this, manufacturers have introduced wind noise reduction which works by having dual stereo microphones at different sides of the camera which work together to differentiate between wind noise and actual sound and using that data, they’ll be able to remove the wind noise.
From the cameras I’ve reviewed with this feature such as the Explorer 3 and T5 Edge, the wind noise reduction, I found that it removes approximately, about 80% of total wind noise, so it’s really useful for producing clear and undisturbed audio.
Lens Distortion Correction
Next up, we have the distortion correction feature.
Wide angled shots taken by action cameras creates a more immersive & engaging viewing experience compared to your typical smartphone camera but one of the drawbacks of action cameras is that they tend to have a bit of distortion/warp in their shots due to the fisheye lens which is required for creating a wide angle shot.
Hence, in order to correct this distortion, you’ll have to manually edit it using an editing software which can honestly be quite a hassle especially when you’re dealing with not just a few clips but tens or even hundreds of them.
That’s when action camera companies noticed that this is a pertinent issue and started making software algorithms to correct the fisheye distortion.
Below: Fisheye Distortion Correction
You’ll also have the choice of enabling or disabling the distortion, right from the camera as switching on the correction isn’t always the best because it takes away some field of view, which you may want to have some of the times.
All in all, really neat feature to have and having this option will give you more flexibility with your shots.
This is a feature that’s in my opinion quite rare for action cams especially on the lower end (less than $200) as the software and hardware used to make this must be very accurate, hence expensive, in order to achieve a satisfactory quality.
The voice control feature allows you to use basic voice commands to remotely control your camera. Some examples of this would be starting & stopping video recording, taking a picture and turning the camera off.
The cheapest action camera with a good voice control feature that I’ve tested is the T5 Edge but it is done via the remote control (comes together) for voice command rather than via the camera. More action cameras that I can recommend for this are the popular Yi 4K or the new GoPro Hero. Other than these 2, I have noticed SOOCOO action cameraswhich are under $200 but I can’t guarantee the quality as I have not tested them yet.
Remote Control Compatible
If you’re planning to be out with your action cam and have it be mounted onto somewhere, be it on your backpack, a monopod, or even on your bike, it’ll be worth getting a camera that is remote control compatible as that way, it’ll be way easier and more convenient to control your cam.
Besides that, having a remote control also makes taking selfies and wefies more fun as you wouldn’t have to use the traditional way of setting a timer, etc to take one.
All you have to do is point the camera at you and hit the button on the remote. Simple!