Whether your idea of a good time involves hurtling down a mountain at high speeds or simply rigging a point-of-view camera for someone else willing to risk their life, there is no shortage of high-quality action cameras capable of capturing all of the death-defying action.
You can plunge Ricoh’s 14-megapixel WG-M1 beneath 32 feet of water without a housing. It’s also shock-resistant—capable of withstanding falls from as high as six feet—and able to withstand temperatures as low as 14 degrees Fahrenheit. Besides its brawn, the M1 is capable of 1920x1080p recording at 30 frames per second with digital image stabilization. You can push frame rates up to 120 fps for slow-motion recording at 848x480p resolution. The Wi-Fi-enabled M1 also offers a continuous shooting mode that cranks at 10 fps. Its lens has a 160-degree angle of view when shooting stills and you’ll have the ability to narrow this field of view down to 90 degrees when shooting in underwater mode. Unlike most cameras in this category, the M1 lets you preview your images and videos directly on camera via a 1.5-inch LCD. A carabiner strap and adhesive mount are included in the box and Ricoh has a line of optional mounts for helmets, handlebars, wrists and more.
iON Air Pro
The newest member of iON’s portfolio of action cams is the affordable iON Air Pro. It has a one-touch record button that vibrates to confirm that you’ve started (or stopped) recording. The camera’s 14-megapixel image sensor records 1920x1080p video at 30 fps, with an option for 1280x720p recording at 60 fps. The camera can snap 14-megapixel stills with a sequencing mode that captures three frames in one second, or a photo at intervals of 10, 20 or 30 seconds. Footage is saved to microSD cards—the camera takes cards up to 32GB in capacity, good for about four hours of 1080p footage. The Air Pro’s lens delivers a 180-degree angle of view with a minimum focusing distance of 15.7 inches. The camera is waterproof to a depth of 30 feet without a housing, and its internal rechargeable battery is good for up to two hours of continuous recording—or one hour, if you’re using Wi-Fi.
Sony FDR-X100V and HDR-AS200V
Not content to let GoPro hog the 4K limelight, Sony has added 4K (3840x2160p) capture to its new flagship action camera, the FDR-X100V. Several advanced functions from Sony’s A7 camera line have also trickled down to the X100V, including full pixel readout during recording, which reduces jagged edges and false colors by pulling all of the data off the CMOS sensor. When shooting in 4K at 30 fps, you’ll enjoy bit rates of 100Mbps; it drops to 60Mbps when shooting at 24 fps. The X100V can record in 1920x1080p at up to 120 fps or at 240 fps when shooting at 1280x720p resolution. The optical image stabilization system has been revamped from earlier action cams with a specific emphasis on stabilizing the camera for use on drones where low amplitude vibrations can induce nauseating jitters. Sony has added wind reduction to the stereo microphone as well as automatic exposure control and white balance settings to give pro users more latitude when adjusting exposure.
Another new addition to Sony’s 2015 action cam line is the Loop Recording feature. First, you designate a recording time interval; When the camera hits the end of the allotted time, it will automatically loop back to the beginning and start over-writing previously recorded footage with new video. You can set loop recording at 5, 20, 60, or 120-minute intervals—set it to unlimited, and it will use the entire capacity of your memory card. For those in search of a quick, shareable highlight reel from the day’s adventure, a new Highlight Movie Maker function uses algorithms pegged to the cameras gyro sensor to flag content recorded when the camera was moving or turning rapidly and compiles the clips automatically into a short movie. The X100V will be slightly larger than Sony’s existing action cams, so it won’t be compatible with older waterproof cases. If you don’t need the 4K experience, Sony’s new full HD HDR-AS200V updates the AS100V with Loop Record, Highlight Movie Maker, the full pixel readout functionality and a wind-reduction microphone.
Kodak—otherwise known as JK Imaging—has a relatively novel take on the action camera. Its SP360 not only takes the requisite pounding, but can also record 360-degree 1920x1080p HD video and 10-MP stills. In fact, the SP360 can produce several unique photo formats including a ring, a dome, a globe, a 360-degree panorama or a pair of 180-degree panoramas. Beyond its all-seeing 0.8mm (8.25mm full-frame equivalent) f/2.8 lens, the SP360 features 10-fps burst shooting at full resolution, and an on-board motion sensor for motion-activated recordings. Footage is saved to a microSD card; the SP360 accepts cards up to 32GB in capacity. With Wi-Fi and NFC, you can pair with mobile devices up to 65 feet away. The SP360 is water-resistant, shockproofed from falls as high as six feet and can endure temperatures as low as 14 degrees Fahrenheit. Kodak is selling the SP360 in three configurations; an Explorer version that includes the camera, a standard housing, a vented helmet strap and a bar mount; an Aqua kit with a waterproof housing, head strap and surfboard adhesive mount; and an Extreme kit that includes the waterproof housing, suction cup mount, bar mount and head strap.
Contour, an early action cam pioneer, has rebounded from what looked like a fatal shut down of its business in 2013 with a renewed bid to grab back market share. The first product from the revitalized company is the Roam3, and it’s aiming its tubular lens at newer entrants to action cam videography. The Roam3 records 1920x1080p video at 30 fps or 1280x720p at 60 fps, with a recording switch that locks into place so you don’t accidentally start or stop recording as you’re wrestling with a bear or whizzing down the trail. You can switch from video to photo mode by holding down the shutter. Contour’s free software utility lets you make additional changes to camera settings. A time-lapse function triggers 5-MP still photos at pre-determined intervals (1, 3, 5, 10, 30 or 60 seconds). The Roam3’s lens rotates 270 degrees—180 degrees to the left and 90 degrees to the right—and incorporates a laser level so your footage is properly oriented. It offers a wide, 170-degree field-of-view and is waterproof down to 30 feet without a case. The Roam3 has an internal rechargeable battery rated for up to 3.5 hours of recording, and ships with an 8GB microSD card.
Drift Innovations Stealth 2
Drift Innovations put its original Stealth action cam on a strict diet, producing the new Stealth 2, which is 40-percent lighter and half the size of the original camera. Capable of recording 1920x1080p video at 30 fps or 1280x720p at 60 fps via its 3-MP image sensor, the Stealth 2 has a 135-degree wide-angle lens that can rotate a total of 300 degrees to achieve level footage no matter the angle it’s mounted at. It has built-in Wi-Fi for remote viewing and remote control via mobile device. There’s also a 1.3-inch LED display to tip you off to camera settings. Its internal battery is rated for three hours of continuous 1080p recording. In photo mode, the Stealth 2 can snap 12-MP interpolated stills or 2-MP images simultaneously when recording video. There’s also a time-lapse mode that will record 3-MP still images at intervals between one second up to one minute and a continuous shooting mode that clocks in at 3 fps for up to five seconds at a resolution of 5 MP. The Stealth 2 is weather-resistant, but not waterproof. There’s 2GB of internal memory and a microSD slot that supports cards up to 32GB.
While you won’t necessarily use the Cube to compose a cinematic masterpiece, this playful action cam is small enough (and cheap enough) to mount unobtrusively in any nook or cranny. In fact, it has a built-in magnet, so you can easily mount it to a metallic surface without clamps or other accessories—though Polaroid will naturally sell you those as well. The Cube is operated via a single button on the top, while additional camera settings, like video resolution, are adjustable behind the battery door. A tiny LED atop the camera will flash colors and blink in varying combinations to alert you to camera status. The f/2.0 lens offers a 124-degree angle of view. You can record 1920x1080p or 1280x720p HD video and 6-MP still images to microSD cards. A “cycle” record function lets you record to the capacity of a memory card then automatically start at the beginning of the card, erasing older footage. The internal battery is good for up to 90 minutes of 720p video recording before needing a recharge. The Cube is weatherproofed, but you’ll need an accessory case for any serious water-based action.
GoPro Hero4 Black and Silver Editions
Already accustomed to rocketing at high speeds, GoPro has now refreshed its Hero lineup to make it faster than ever. The flagship Hero4 Black Edition can now record 4K video (3840x2160p) at 30 fps, 2.7K footage at 50 fps and 1920x1080p video at up to 120 fps. The 12-megapixel Hero4 Black also features full-resolution still-photo bursts at 30 fps with faster Wi-Fi and improved audio processing that GoPro claims offers twice the dynamic range of its Hero3 predecessor. A new HiLight Tag feature lets you earmark key moments in your video while you’re recording, either through the GoPro app or a dedicated button on the camera. These highlights can then be quickly located in GoPro’s Studio software for sharing on social media or using in your highlight reel.
The new Silver edition Hero4 records 4K as well, but at a slower 15 or 12.5 fps. It has slower HD frame rates as well, topping out at 60 fps. The Silver Hero4 incorporates a touch-screen display—a first for the GoPro line—and also features HiLight Tag. Like the Black edition, the Silver Hero4 is capable of 30 fps still photo bursts at 12-MP resolution. Both cameras will ship with an accessory housing for diving up to 131 feet underwater.
Replay XD Prime X
Another action camera aimed directly at professional users, the Replay XD Prime X boasts an f/2.7 lens that the company claims is the first in the category to use an aspherical, multi-element glass design. It offers a 140-degree angle of view with anti-flare coatings and a protective glass cover so it won’t shatter upon impact (unlike you). The camera boasts a 1/2.3-inch, 16-MP CMOS image sensor capable of delivering 1920x1080p video at up to 60 fps. For even faster motion, the Prime X can record 1280x720p video at 120 fps. In addition to frame rates, you’ll have some basic exposure compensation controls, white balance presets plus the ability to adjust contrast, sharpness and saturation. Still photos can be snapped at 16-MP for 4:3 aspect stills or 12-MP for 16:9 aspect stills. Replay promises 3.5 hours worth of battery life on the Prime X’s internal battery. Videos are saved to microSDXC cards (4GB included) but you can also output uncompressed HD to an external recorder via HDMI. You’ll also enjoy built-in Wi-Fi for remote operation and view finding. The body is waterproof down to 10 feet without a case. For deeper dives, you can spring for the $50 DeepDive 197 case, which will let you descend to 197 feet below the surface.
The unique design of the A500 lets you clip the lens to a helmet or handlebar mount while the rest of the camera sits safely elsewhere. There’s even an over-the-ear mount for point-of-view recording. The A500 delivers 4K capture (3840×2160 pixels) at 30 fps from its backside-illuminated CMOS image sensor. You can also record 1920×1080 video at up to 60 fps, 1280×720 at 60 fps or 848×480 video at 240 fps. The A500 can be submerged in up to 9 feet of water for up to 30 minutes, and is sealed against dust. Using built-in Wi-Fi, you can pair the A500 with mobile phones for remote control/viewing but also for broadcasting live video with the Internet streaming platform Ustream. You’ll enjoy a 160-degree angle of view from the lens along with tilt correction and image stabilization when shooting 1920×1080 HD video.