Action Cameras


9 Pace-Setting Action Cameras

December 22, 2016

By Greg Scoblete

Olympus Stylus Tough TG-Tracker

With better stabilization, higher resolutions and more features, action cameras have come of age.

Olympus Stylus Tough TG-Tracker

The Tough TG-Tracker is loaded with sensors including GPS, an electronic compass, an accelerometer, a thermometer (active only underwater), a barometer, a manometer and a water detector. Data harvested from these sensors is used to help automatically compile highlight clips in the camera by detecting rapid changes in, for example, movement. It can also record a data-rich log of your activities, or be used to put the camera into underwater exposure mode when you dip below the waves. As the name implies, the TG-Tracker can take a beating. It is waterproof to 30 meters without a housing, can survive falls from up to 2.1 meters and can endure up to 220 pounds of pressure without cracking.

It records 4K video at 30p or full HD at up to 60p via a 1/2.3-inch CMOS sensor. If you need even faster frame rates, you can hit 240p when shooting at 1280 x 720 resolution. The TG-Tracker can snap 8-megapixel still images and has a fixed 13.9mm lens (35mm equivalent) with a maximum aperture of f/2. This wide-angle lens has a 204 degree angle of view, though you’ll drop to 161 degrees if image stabilization is on. A built-in LED lamp can either illuminate a scene or serve as a flashlight pumping out up to 60 lumens at 3.5 meters. It features digital 5-axis image stabilization, a stereo mic, Wi-Fi and a tilt-out 1.5-inch display.

PRICE: $350
INFO: www.getolympus.com

12-gear-roundup-gopro-28756781-hero-family-cluster-masterGoPro Hero 5

The long-awaited Hero 5 brings several new capabilities to the popular action cam lineup. Chief among them is voice control. Now you can bark commands at the camera—like “GoPro take a photo”—and have it obey. While previous Heroes had Wi-Fi, the Hero 5 can automatically begin uploading footage to GoPro Plus, a new subscription-based cloud service, when it’s connected to power. There’s a new 2-inch touch screen display, which also delivers a live preview to help compose your scene. The Hero 5 captures 4K video at 30p, 2K video at 80p or full HD at 120p. Like the prior model, the Hero 5 can snap 12-megapixel photos but now offers support for RAW format images in addition to JPEGs with a new Wide Dynamic Range mode to coax more tonal details from the camera. Unlike previous models, the Hero 5 is waterproof to a depth of 10 meters without a housing. It also offers built-in GPS to geotag your adventures, electronic image stabilization and a stereo microphone. Joining the Hero 5 is the tinier Hero 5 Session, which shares many of the Hero 5’s core features but loses GPS and RAW image capture.

PRICE: $400 (Hero 5); $300 (Hero 5 Session)
INFO: www.gopro.com

Drift Innovation Ghost 2

Drift Innovation Ghost 2

The Ghost is an angular action cam that can capture 4K (4096 x 2160) video at 24p or 3840 x 2160 video at 30p. If you need faster frame rates, the camera can hit 60 fps at 2K resolution, 120 fps in full HD and 240 fps in 720p. If you shoot in HD, you’ll have the benefit of electronic image stabilization to keep your footage steady. The Ghost uses a 1/2.3-inch sensor and supports 12-megapixel still photo capture. The built-in f/2.4 lens has a 140-degree field of view which can be narrowed to 115 and 90 degrees. Sound is recorded via a pair of mics and there’s Wi-Fi for remote control. The Ghost has a side dock for accessories, including external power supplies to prolong battery life. Footage is stored to microSD Cards.

PRICE: TBD
INFO: www.driftinnovation.com

Sony FDR-X3000R

Sony FDR-X3000R

Given the frenetic circumstances action cam filmmakers often find themselves in, it’s natural that a stabilized image would be paramount. Sony knows a thing or two about image stabilization and has packed its newest flagship 4K action camera with its Balanced Optical SteadyShot technology. It’s “balanced” because both sensor and lens move in tandem to offset shake. Unlike the digital stabilization systems used by most action cameras, which only work at HD resolution, Sony’s system can correct shake during both HD and 4K recording.

The X3000R features a back-illuminated Exmor R CMOS sensor with full pixel readout and no pixel binning. Using Sony’s XAVC S codec, you’ll enjoy 4K bitrates of 100Mbps. In addition to 4K, the X3000R can record Full HD video at up to 120 fps. You can adjust the lens’ angle of view from wide to medium or narrow if you want to eliminate some wide-angle distortion. Sony has revamped the camera’s menu system to make it more extensive and a bit easier to navigate than the previous model. You’ll find a built-in stereo mic with wind noise reduction. Sony has also slimmed down the live view remote, which is now 30 percent smaller than its predecessor and can be mounted on handlebars, helmets or worn on a wrist. It also has Wi-Fi for remote control via smartphone.

PRICE: $400; $550 (bundled with Live View remote)
INFO: www.sony.com

Garmin VIRB Ultra 30

Garmin VIRB Ultra 30

Garmin may not have a huge name in the photo market, but its VIRB Ultra 30 is one of the more feature-rich action cameras on the market. It boasts 4K recording at up to 30 fps and 720p capture at up to 240 fps, plus built-in GPS and a color touchscreen display. You can start and stop recording by voice and tell the camera to “remember that” to tag selected clips for easy retrieval. The Ultra 30 has Bluetooth and Wi-Fi and when it’s connected to an iPhone, you can live stream footage to YouTube using the VIRB app.

The camera is loaded with sensors to record temperature, acceleration, altitude and movement.

You’ll enjoy three-axis image stabilization when shooting in HD at up to 60 fps. In addition to video, the VIRB snaps 12-megapixel stills and saves it all to microSD cards. A waterproof case that can descend 40 meters under water is included—and the camera’s touchscreen can be activated through the case. The battery is good for a little over an hour of 4K recording.

PRICE: $400
INFO: www.Virb.garmin.com

Ricoh WG-M2

The 4K-capable WG-M2 boasts one of the widest angle f/2 lenses of any action camera on the market: 204 degrees. You’re not locked into this ultra-wide format, however. You can reduce the field of view to 150 degrees. The WG-M2 is waterproof to a depth of 19 meters without a housing. It’s shock-resistant, too, capable of surviving a fall from 2 meters and able to operate in temperatures as low as -10°C.  The WG-M2 can automatically re-orient video if the camera is mounted sideways or upside down, so you always have the proper orientation.

The WG-M2 is controllable via Wi-Fi and also has a 1.5-inch color display for live view and menu navigation. In addition to the camera’s large buttons (the better for gloved hands to operate), there’s also haptic feedback—the on/off switch will vibrate to indicate when recording has started or stopped. You’ll enjoy 4K recording at 3840 x 2160 at 30 fps, 1080p recording up to 60 fps and 720p video at 120 fps. Digital image stabilization is available when filming in HD. There’s also a selection of seven image effects, such as monochrome and bleach bypass, to give your video an Instagram-friendly filtered look.

PRICE: $400
INFO: us.ricoh-imaging.com

YI 4K

YI 4K

China’s YI Technology is a new entrant in the camera market, though it’s off to a strong start. The YI 4K has a 2-inch touchscreen display built from Gorilla Glass. You’ll enjoy better-than-average battery life on this camera with up to two hours of 4K/30p recording on a single charge. There’s Wi-Fi, a gyroscope and accelerometer for image stabilization, dual microphones and Bluetooth Low Energy for remote control from mobile devices. The YI features a 12-megapixel Sony sensor that can deliver 4K at bitrates up to 60Mbps.

PRICE: $250
INFO: www.yitechnology.com

360fly 4K

360fly 4K

The bulbous 360fly 4K can capture a 360 x 240 degree image from its single wide-angle lens. The camera supports recording at 2880 x 2880 resolution at either 24 or 30 fps or at 1728 x 1728 at 60 fps. If you want a more traditional field of view, the camera’s Point of View (POV) mode sets the camera to a 16:9 aspect ratio. The 360fly’s f/2.5 lens can focus on objects as close as 30 cm away.

The 360fly 4K is controlled via Wi-Fi and a free app for Android and iOS devices. The app enables a live preview plus the ability to adjust exposure settings, create time lapse videos or view your spherical footage in Google Cardboard. Footage is saved to 64GB of internal memory and the built-in battery is good for about 90 minutes of recording. It has a standard ¼-20 mount on the base and is waterproof to a depth of 10 meters without a housing.

PRICE: $500
INFO: www.360fly.com

Nikon KeyMission

Nikon KeyMission

With the KeyMission, Nikon has three new action cameras that target a range of applications: 360-degree video, conventional point-of-view recording and a diminutive “life logger” that can be worn on clothing. The headliner of the new KeyMission action cam family is the previously announced 360, which records 360 x 360 degree footage with no blind spots. It uses a pair of 20-megapixel, 1/2.3-inch sensors and two 194-degree NIKKOR lenses and merges the image data automatically in-camera. The KeyMission 360 records 4K video at 24p and has built-in Wi-Fi, NFC and Bluetooth for wireless transfers and remote control. It has dedicated shutter buttons for movie and still recording. The camera is waterproof to 10 meters and can survive a fall from up to 2 meters. It will ship with a Google Cardboard VR viewer and features both removable memory (microSD) and a removable battery.

The 170 is a more conventional action camera, with just one wide-angle (170-degree) lens and a single 12-megapixel 1/2.3-inch CMOS image sensor. It captures 4K footage at 30p and full HD footage at up to 120p. It is waterproof to 10 meters sans housing. The 170 features a rear LCD display with its own menu so you can change camera settings. It will also use Wi-Fi and Bluetooth to enable wireless remote control and live view.

The KeyMission 80 is a petite camera that can be clipped to clothing to use as a life-logger, cataloguing your every step. It has a front-facing 12-megapixel camera and a back-facing 4.9-megapixel camera with a 25mm and 22mm lens, respectively. You can tweak camera settings through the LCD display or wirelessly, via Wi-Fi. The KeyMission 80 will record 1080p video at 30 fps and is waterproof to 1 meter and shockproof to 1.5 meters. You can record time lapses using the tiny camera and save them to microSD cards. Unlike the other models in the KeyMission line, the 80 has an internal battery.

PRICE: $500 (360); $400 (170); $280 (80)
INFO: www.nikonusa.com