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Updated March 2017

Best Action Cameras

Updated March 2017
GoPro
HERO5
GoPro
HERO+
iON
Air Pro™ 3 WiFi
Black Box
Mobius Pro Mini Action Camera
Polaroid
Extreme Edition HD
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Bottom Line

GoPro invented a market segment and has introduced yet another dominant product. This one sets the bar.

Want to get into the world of GoPro without spending a lot? This is the way to go. Very versatile and may be all you'll ever need.

One of the more popular GoPro alternatives, these sell out quickly. Great unit, but not an improvement on GoPro.

The most compact action quality out there that can provide some impressive HD video.

Meant as a "starter" camera, this is robust enough to stick with you until you decide you need something more advanced.

Good

Offers a lot of improvements on the original design such as faster frame rates, ultra high def images, and amazing still camera performance.

Rugged, easy to use, and compatible with all GoPro software and accessories. Very affordable.

Wide angle lens, HD video, good still photos, WiFi allows for live streaming to computers, tablets, etc.

Great for those situations where you need a compact action camera that takes good video. Low price.

Inexpensive, good video quality, mounting bracket included.

Bad

It's expensive, but what would you expect of an action camera that is top quality and professional equipment?

Poor low light performance and the battery is not removable.

Sells out in a hurry. Features not on par with GoPro's better offerings.

Not a durable action camera and low light performance is poor.

Light on features, but that's kind of the tradeoff for a well engineered camera with good HD video.

Best of the Best
GoPro
HERO5
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Bottom Line
GoPro invented a market segment and has introduced yet another dominant product. This one sets the bar.

Bad
It's expensive, but what would you expect of an action camera that is top quality and professional equipment?

Good
Offers a lot of improvements on the original design such as faster frame rates, ultra high def images, and amazing still camera performance.
Best Bang for the Buck
GoPro
HERO+
Check Price

Bottom Line
Want to get into the world of GoPro without spending a lot? This is the way to go. Very versatile and may be all you'll ever need.

Bad
Poor low light performance and the battery is not removable.

Good
Rugged, easy to use, and compatible with all GoPro software and accessories. Very affordable.
iON
Air Pro™ 3 WiFi
Check Price

Bottom Line
One of the more popular GoPro alternatives, these sell out quickly. Great unit, but not an improvement on GoPro.

Bad
Sells out in a hurry. Features not on par with GoPro's better offerings.

Good
Wide angle lens, HD video, good still photos, WiFi allows for live streaming to computers, tablets, etc.
Black Box
Mobius Pro Mini Action Camera
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Bottom Line
The most compact action quality out there that can provide some impressive HD video.

Bad
Not a durable action camera and low light performance is poor.

Good
Great for those situations where you need a compact action camera that takes good video. Low price.
Polaroid
Extreme Edition HD
Check Price

Bottom Line
Meant as a "starter" camera, this is robust enough to stick with you until you decide you need something more advanced.

Bad
Light on features, but that's kind of the tradeoff for a well engineered camera with good HD video.

Good
Inexpensive, good video quality, mounting bracket included.
How We Decided
  • 54 Models Considered
  • 7 Hours Spent
  • 1 Experts Interviewed
  • 143 Consumers Consulted
  • Zero products received from manufacturers.

    We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

    Shopping Guide For The Best Action Cameras

    Nowadays, a camera is a must-have. Whether you attach it to a drone to capture a scenic view, or clip it to your helmet as you cycle through rush hour, the obscure and fantastic footage caught on action cameras today is must-see viewing — especially for those who live it and wish to relive it.

    GoPro changed the camera industry years ago with tiny cameras that could produce quality videos in the most rugged of conditions. Today, the name “GoPro” is synonymous with action cameras in general.

    But GoPro isn’t the only name on the market, and those seeking an action camera have many products from which to choose.

    That’s where we come in. At BestReviews, our goal is to provide our readers with honest, unbiased reviews of the best products out there. We consult experts, buy and test products, and solicit owner opinions in order to present a clear picture of what you can expect from each product on our shortlist.

    So focus your lens, zip up your jacket, and head out into the elements as we present the fruits of our research: our guide to finding the best action camera to suit your needs.

    Do you need an action camera for underwater photos or video footage? Consider a GoPro; both models on our shortlist can be submerged at least 131 feet. The iON Air Pro 3 can safely go down 49 feet, and the Polaroid Extreme Edition HD dips down to 30 feet before experiencing issues. The Black Box Mobius was unfortunately not designed for water exposure.

    Size

    One of the main advantages of having an action camera is that it’s small and easily equipable. Adhering your camera to your parachutist helmet before taking the plunge, for example, should pose no problems. And the footage you get should be phenomenal.

    For these reasons, the first feature a lot of consumers look at is size.

    Our shortlist features two GoPro models: the HERO and the HERO4. The HERO4 is the smaller of the two, measuring 1.53” x 2.79” x 2.8”. Oddly, the HERO is the size of a standard camera, measuring 9.72” x 4.09” x 4.02”.

    The iON Air Pro 3 and the Polaroid Extreme Edition HD both take a cylinder shape, with the Polaroid being two inches smaller than the iON in every aspect and measuring 1.65” x 1.66” x 4.25”.

    The final action camera on our list is the Black Box Mobius, measuring 2” x 1” x 1”. It’s one of the smallest action cameras to pass our rigorous selection process.

    EXPERT TIP

    Because of the cylindrical design of the iON Air Pro 3 and the Polaroid Extreme Edition HD, you can mount and attach them to whatever you’d like. In a pinch, a simple zip tie will do.


    Tristan  | Photography Professional

    Battery

    Action camera battery power varies from product to product. Unfortunately, manufacturers aren’t always forthcoming about all of the battery details. Here’s what we know about the action cameras on our shortlist.

    • The HERO4 uses a 3.8-volt battery while the HERO uses a 1-volt. Both are rechargeable, but the manufacturer supplies no estimate as to how long they might last.
    • The makers of the Black Box and Polaroid don’t provide specifics about battery longevity, either. We do know that the Black Box Mobius has a 820mAh battery, and the Polaroid Extreme Edition has a 1200MAH battery.
    • The iON has a 2-volt battery that’s purported to last 1,200 watt hours.

    It’s tough to gauge which battery would last the longest in any given situation. But in terms of pure power, the HERO4’s battery is the best on our list.

    Previous buyers have noted that once the iON’s battery dies, the camera dies with it. This unit will need constant charging to ensure that it stays active.

    Video Quality

    Nothing quite matches the video quality of the action cameras made by GoPro. This company leads the pack with its movie camera-like HD video quality. In fact, In 2016, Aerospace Inc. sent a HERO camera into space with a small rocket launch. Needless to say, these cameras can withstand a lot!

    With an 8.3-pixel photo-like video, the HERO4 outshines its competitors in video quality. The rest of the group bounce between 7.2 pixels (the HERO) and 5.0 pixels (the Polaroid).

    Still Picture Quality

    Each camera on our shortlist has the ability to work like a regular still camera. Pixel quality may vary, but ultimately, not a single one of them is bad. In fact, if you were to get a bad still photo from one of these cameras, it would probably be due to user error and not a camera flaw.

    Lens

    Each camera has its own special type of lens. Some companies are open about what they offer; others are not. Here’s what we know:

    • The Polaroid Extreme Edition has a 170° ultra wide-angle lens.

    • The iON Air Pro 3 comes with a 160° fisheye lens.

    • Both of the GoPro series products boast an “ultra wide-angle glass lens.”

    Unlike a standard camera, most of the lenses that come with these cameras are not interchangeable.

    The quality of the zoom always depends on the camera. In the case of the models shown here, only the two GoPro models have an adequate zoom feature, which can be adjusted manually. The remaining cameras simply focus on what you have in front of you.

    Audio Quality

    Every action camera has a built-in microphone to record audio with your video. But not every device records and operates the same way.

    • The GoPro HERO and HERO4 both have high-quality microphones situated at the front of the camera, by the lens. The HD audio they record matches the picture.

    • The iON Air Pro 3 has a microphone system similar to both GoPros, but its mic is located on the side.

    • The Black Box’s microphone is located along the bottom. According to owners, its audio recordings have a CD-like quality.

    • The Polaroid’s mic is located on the back of the device in order to pick up the voice of its user. However, this mic has had problems with muffled sound.

    If you’re looking for quality audio to match your video, the iON and GoPro cameras on our list are the best choices.

    EXPERT TIP

    The Black Box Mobius and iON Air Pro 3 are the two best-equipped to download directly via WiFi. The iON has the ability to connect to cloud services and download up to 10 GB instantly.


    Tristan  | Photography Professional

    Recording Space

    All cameras come with a memory card, and that card has a limited amount of recording space.

    For example, the GoPro cameras on our list come with either a 64GB or 32GB SD card. The iON comes with a 64GB card, while the Polaroid and Black Box come with 32GB cards.

    While it’s nice to know you have a ton of recording space to start out with, that initial figure doesn’t mean much if you’re a seasoned recorder. These cards are easily removeable and interchangeable, so you can always add more space if you’d like.

    If you plan to shoot lots of video or take a large number of photos, we highly recommend checking out the type of card your chosen camera uses. It’s a great idea to then purchase a card with more storage space on it and keep the original as a backup card.

    DID YOU KNOW?

    With 24 FPS in 720p, GoPro HERO4 and HERO have many recording options — even 4K Superview in HERO4. The other models work between 30 and 180 FPS.

    Durability

    No matter what the situation may be, you want an action camera that is durable and able to endure some punishment. The only device on our list that has issues with surviving the elements is the Black Box, simply because it wasn’t designed to be anything more than your standard action camera. The Mobius isn’t even waterproof.

    The remaining four, however, are extremely durable and can take a beating on both land and sea. In fact, most of them come with long-term warranties that reaffirm the manufacturer’s confidence in their durability. That doesn’t mean you should throw your camera into a swimming pool for no reason; it simply means that it can take some rough treatment before needing repair.

    The HERO or HERO4 would be your ideal choices for drone mounting, as they were designed with harder, tougher casings than some other models.

    The ability to mount your action camera is essential. GoPro cameras come with a tool that allows you to attach the unit to a tripod or other equipment. However, the Polaroid Extreme Edition HD has the best set of mounting attachments, with 11 different options that can be mixed and matched.

    Price

    While a top-of-the-line camera is going to have everything and then some, it comes with a hefty price tag. And the truth is, you might not need all of those fancy features. So, which price point is right for you?

    Pricing options

    Top-Tier

    Top-tier action cameras cost hundreds of dollars. The most expensive product on our list, at a cost over $300, is the GoPro HERO4. Is it worth it? If you’re just planning to shoot occasional videos for fun, the answer is probably no. But if you’re a weekend warrior who plans on taking lots and lots of footage, the steeper price tag could be worth it.

    Of all the products mentioned in this shopping guide, only the Black Box has a removeable battery. The remaining four are self-contained and need to be recharged.

    Pricing options

    Mid-range

    The GoPro HERO costs less than the HERO4, though it’s still a significant investment at close to $200. (Occasionally this camera goes on sale, in which case it could actually dip into the “Budget” category.) If you choose to go this route, you’re buying a ticket into the world of GoPro, but it’s an “economy” ticket rather than “first class.”

    The iON Air Pro 3 and Polaroid Extreme Edition typically sell for a little over $100. In spite of their lower mid-range prices, they still give you good quality and lots of options.

    Pricing options

    Budget

    The cheapest camera on our elite list is, by far, Mobius. It has some issues, as we’ve addressed above, but if the specs suit you, you really can’t go wrong, even with the low price tag.

    If you intend to use an action camera on a drone, you’ll want one with a strong exterior.

    Tips for Beginners

    For those who are buying an action camera for the first time, here are some tips on how to get the most out of your camera:

    • Experiment! No one just knows how to use a camera immediately out of the box — not even professionals who have been shooting for years. Examine the camera’s features and test them out to see what they do. Experiment with shooting different videos in your home.
    • If you plan on shooting videos to share online, the shorter the better. Short videos tend to gain more traction with online viewers.
    • Try different angles when shooting your subject. Often, the best results come from trying something different.
    • Learn from others. Online tutorials are very helpful.
    • If you’re looking to load to social media while out and about, consider downloading the Antix app. It’s free for iOS and Android.

    FAQs

    Q: Why would I want an action camera if I already have a camera in my phone?

    A: If you want a hearty device that can record “action” without breaking easily, this type of camera should be on your shopping list. A smartphone camera or other type of device simply can’t withstand the rigorous environments (high speeds, extreme weather, and so on) that an action camera is designed to handle.

    Q: Is there a way to hear what’s being recorded?

    A: Only if you have a headphone jack adaptor. GoPro sells one that plugs into the side, but for the other models on our list, you’d have to find a third-party model. None have a jack built into the device.

    Q: Can I edit my footage while in the device?

    A: Possibly. It depends on the software that comes with each camera and whether it needs to be hooked to a computer or not.

    Q: What happens if I record more footage than the device can hold?

    A: Usually the device will stop recording and give you some kind of indication that the memory card is full. Always begin a recording session with an empty card.

    • Devangana
      Devangana
      Web Producer
    • Heather
      Heather
      VP of Content
    • Gavin
      Gavin
      Writer
    • Melissa
      Melissa
      Editor