Best Action Camera For Drones, Diving & Extreme Sports

Action cameras are a fantastic piece of technology. They have opened a whole new world for extreme sports and even travel bloggers. They are small, durable and anyone can use them. And most of all, they are designed to be attached to surfboards, cars, bicycles, literally anywhere. They are meant to take a beating and still work like nothing happened!

And capturing moments has become a part of the modern world. YouTube has become the number one website for video bloggers. There are tons of people traveling around the world and capturing what they see with their best action camera. It has become a real job. Everybody loves watching some cool skydiving or desert racing videos. Without action cameras, this would be impossible. Just attach them to yourself or a moving object and done.

GoPro is currently the market leader. They were the very first company to introduce their Hero action camera line. But since then, many other companies have started to enter the market. And some even surpass the GoPro. One of such is Sony, who’s action cameras have been number one in video quality for quite some time now. And there is also SJCAM and Xiaomi, both who are known for their amazing budget action cameras.

The saturation of the market has also made things more difficult for the average consumer. With the amount of different action cameras available, it’s hard to pick the very best for you. That is why I have put together a list featuring the very best camera in every category. You can really find something for any type of budget and requirement. Not everybody needs to have the best video quality or some of the fancier features. Such as Voice Commands for example. While they are nice, they really increase the price and sometimes they ain’t worth it.

OVERALL BEST

GoPro Hero5 Black

GoPro Hero5 Black Review

PROS:

  • Great video quality
  • Digital Image Stabilization
  • Lots of accessories and mounts, incl. drones (GoPro Karma)
  • High build quality and durable
  • Built-in touch LCD screen

CONS:

  • Not so good battery life
  • High $399 price

If you are not entirely sure what you are planning to use the camera for then the GoPro Hero5 Black is the best action camera for overall use. It’s not even because of the GoPro hype. What really makes the Hero5 Black stand out is the whole package: the 4K video quality is amazing at 30fps, colors are rich, mounting accessories are endless, waterproof without a case and it even comes with a built-in touch LCD screen! Main reason why I have put the GoPro as the best is the mounting capabilities which most others sadly lack. For more in-depth information check out our GoPro Hero5 Black Review.


Technical specs & features

  • Video Resolutions: 4K 30/25/24fps; 2.7K 60/50/48/30/25/24 fps; 1440p 80/60/50/48/30/25/24fps; 1080p 120/90/80/60/50/48/30/25/24fps; 720p 240/120/60/50fps
  • Photo: 12MP
  • Memory: Up to 128GB MicroSD
  • Features: WiFi+Bluetooth, Electronic Image Stabilization, Advanced Wind Noise Reduction, Voice Control, GPS, Linear Field Of View, RAW & WDR Photos
  • Battery: 1 hour 40 minutes of 4K 30fps recording
  • Waterproof up to 33ft /10m without case


Only downside of the Hero5 Black in my opinion is the price – $399 which can be quite pricey. However the overall package and the insane selection of mounting options makes it currently the best choice available. Also you might argue that the Sony FDR-X3000 is better due to the higher bitrates (100Mbps vs 60Mbps) and next generation stabilization, and that is true. However, for a person looking for a great action camera for traveling and not super demanding extreme sports, the GoPro is much easier to use. You will also save around $70 and get a camera with a much better and user friendly LCD touch screen. I know that so many of you will be using it a lot. Having to take out your smartphone to watch what you have captured every single time can get annoying. You really can’t go wrong with this.

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BEST VIDEO QUALITY

Sony 4K FDR-X3000R

sony fdr-x3000r review

PROS:

  • Amazing video quality
  • Next generation Image Stabilization (works up to 4K)
  • Accessories and mounting for extreme sports
  • Best audio recording

CONS:

  • High $469 price
  • Not possible to use on drones
  • Not so good battery life

Sony has one very important feature that makes it the best action camera for extreme sports – Balanced Optical SteadyShot image stabilization. It greatly reduces vibration and it is the only action camera to have this next generation stabilization system. It even works when recording in 4K! The 4K image quality is even better than on the GoPro Hero5 Black, and it comes with crazy good audio recording. It also has a very good selection of mounting accessories for snowboarding, skateboarding, skydiving, cycling and other extreme sports. Read our full review: Sony FDR-X3000


Technical specs & features

  • Video Resolutions: 4K 30/25/24fps; 1080p 120/100/60/50/30/25/24fps; 720p 240/200/120/100fps
  • Photo: 12MP
  • Memory: Up to 128GB MicroSD
  • Features: WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS, Small LCD screen, Balanced Optical SteadyShot with Active mode Image Stabilization
  • Battery: 60 minutes of 4K 30fps recording with WiFI turned off
  • Waterproof with special case up to 60m


Perhaps the biggest downside is it’s $469 price tag, which is more expensive than the GoPro Hero5 Black. Nor does it have a nice LCD touchscreen to view live feed and change settings from. And that’s the main reason why I couldn’t pick the Sony as the best overall action camera. But if you are looking for an action camera with the newest technology and the very best video quality, then Sony FDR-X3000 is definitely the best camera available. You can’t get anything better than this for extreme sports.

BEST BANG FOR BUCK

Xiaomi Yi 4K

Xiaomi Yi 4K review

PROS:

  • Great video and photo quality
  • 4K video resolution at 30fps
  • Digital Image Stabilization
  • Best bang for buck with its $249 price tag

CONS:

  • The phone app is a bit complicated

Xiaomi Yi 4K, with it’s $199 price tag, is definitely the best bang for the buck action camera! It is actually an upgraded version of our previous choice, the original Xiaomi Yi. Sadly though that model has been discounted. The new 4K version is more than worth of an upgrade however. It comes with 4K video resolution that can be captured at 30fps and 60Mbps. That is basically the same as the GoPro Hero5 Black on paper. It can easily be compared with the titans in the $400 price range. And the best part, mounting isn’t really an issue. You can even purchase GoPro adapters that come with a tripod threaded screw. The Xiaomi Yi 4K has a tripod threaded hole underneath it. If you want more information about this amazing action camera, then check our Xiaomi Yi 4K Review.


Technical specs & features

  • Video Resolutions: 4K 30/25fps; 2.5K 30/25fps; 1440p 60/50/30/25fps; 1080p 120/100/60/50/30/25fps; 720p 240/200fps
  • Photo: 12MP
  • Memory: Up to 128GB MicroSD
  • Features: 2.2″ LCD touch screen, WiFi, Electronic Image Stabilization, Dual Microphone, Gyroscope/Accelerometer, 1/4″ Tripod hole
  • Battery: 2 hours of 4K 30fps recording
  • Waterproof with special case up to 40m / 131ft


As you can see from the technical specification and the video, it’s definitely as good as the GoPro Hero4 models! I did compare it to the GoPro Hero5 Black, and I must say that in real life, the GoPro did look a little bit better. But the difference is so little that if you’ll get a just as good action camera if you don’t want to spend that much on a GoPro. You can also check other videos people have taken with it and even a run down between Hero5 in our comparison section.

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BEST UNDER $100

AKASO EK7000 4K

AKASO EK7000 review

PROS:

  • Decent video quality
  • 2″ LCD screen
  • Plenty of accessories included (Remote Control)
  • Costs around $88

CONS:

  • Interpolated 4K
  • Warm colors

AKASO EK7000 is latest budget action camera that actually costs around $88! But what makes it the best action camera for me, is not just the video quality but also what’s included in the box. I don’t know how but AKASO has managed to put together the most complete package I have ever seen. Besides receiving the action camera, you also get plenty of mounts, adapters and even a remote control. No other available action camera offers this much stuff for $88.


Technical specs & features

  • Video Resolutions: 4K 25fps; 2.7K 30fps; 1080p 60/30fps; 720p 120/60/30fps
  • Photo: 12MP
  • Memory: Up to 64GB MicroSD
  • Features: WiFi, Remote Control
  • Battery: 80 minutes of 1080p at 60fps
  • Waterproof with included case up to 30m / 98ft


I want to point out that despite the technical specs showing 4K video resolution, it’s not entirely true. The action camera uses interpolated 4K. Which means that the camera actually records the video in 2K resolution and generates fake pixels to make up for the 4K resolution. So you’ll never get as good 4K video quality as action cameras with native support. Sadly those action cameras start at around $200 so pay that in mind. Also I have noted “warm colors” as a con. I’m personally not a huge fan of over tuned colors so that’s a personal preference. Do check out example videos on YouTube before buying the camera!

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SMALLEST OF SMALL

SJCAM M20

SJCAM M20 review

PROS:

  • Decent video quality
  • Small & light
  • Dashboard mode
  • Costs around $119

CONS:

  • Interpolated 4K
  • Warm colors

While all action cameras are small, there is still demand for even smaller versions. GoPro was one of the first to come out with their Session series. SJCAM has however taken it a step further. They created the SJCAM M20 – their smallest action camera. But what makes it so good in my opinion is the whole package. First it’s exactly what we are looking for: small (48×40×37mm / 2.1×1.6×0.9″) and light (55g / 1.9oz). Next it comes with plenty of mounts and accessories to really attach it anywhere you want. And finally we have both the video quality and the price, which are also really well balanced. So all of that make the SJCAM M20 the best small action camera in my opinion.


Technical specs & features

  • Video Resolutions: 4K 24fps; 2K 30fps; 1080p 60/30fps; 720p 120fps
  • Photo: 16MP
  • Memory: Up to 128GB MicroSD
  • Features: WiFi, 1.5″ LCD screen, Digital Image Stabilization, Dashboard Mode
  • Battery: 81 minutes of 1080p at 60fps
  • Waterproof with included case up to 30m / 98ft


PS! The 4K video resolution is actually interpolated. As in the action camera records in a smaller resolution and then creates fake pixels to make the 4K resolution size. So do not expect amazing 4K resolution from this camera. It’s more designed for Full HD 1080p! However, the video is pretty nice for a $119 action camera. You do get some over tuned colors at times but that’s more of a personal preference. I’m more into natural colors so that’s me. The SJCAM M20 can also be used as a dashboard camera. It has a mode that turns on movement detection. So whether you wish to use it in your car or on a motorcycle, SJCAM M20 is the best action camera when size and weight matters. Read our full review: SJCAM M20

BEST FOR DRONE

3dr solo gopro

Drones are also one of the reason why action cameras are so popular. DJI was one of the first companies to actually add the possibility to their Phantom line. It literally created aerial the aerial photography we know today. But with that, more people started looking towards action cameras to capture videos from the sky.

But drones add a limiting factor. Not every action camera is fit to be flown all over. With drones, the most important camera feature is the weight and that there are gimbals available for it. That is why you should always go with more known companies, such as GoPro, Xiaomi and SJCAM. They are known all over the drone industry and most use them even on their racing drones. So you can’t really go wrong with any of their action cameras. I have listed 3 of my absolute favorite drone action cameras though.


GoPro Hero4 Black

  • Price: $500
  • Video Resolutions: 4K 30fps; 1080p 120fps; 720p 240fps
  • Photo: 12MP
  • Features: WiFi, Auto-Low light mode, Night photo, Burst, Time-Lapse, Pro-Tune
  • Battery: 45 minutes

SJCAM SJ6 Legend

  • Price: $159
  • Video Resolutions: 4K 24fps; 2K 30fps; 1080p 60/50/30/25fps; 720p 120/60/30fps; 420p 240fps
  • Photo: 16MP
  • Features: WiFi, 2″ LCD touchscreen, Digital Image Stabilization, External Microphone
  • Battery: 65 minutes of 1080p at 60fps
  • Our Review

Xiaomi Yi

  • Price: $99
  • Video Resolutions: 2K 30fps; 1080p 60/48/30/24fps; 960p 60/48fps;  720p 120/60/48fps; 480p 240fps
  • Photo: 16MP
  • Features: WiFi, Bluetooth
  • Battery: 100 minutes of 1080p at 60fps
  • Our Review


So my list includes the best action camera for every budget. As you can see from the comparison here, Xiaomi Yi is definitely the go to camera for beginners. While it may be tempting to immediately get the very best for aerial photography, it takes time to get good. There will be a lot of crashes etc so it’s always best to start off cheaper. And once you are more confident in your skills, go with GoPro or SJCAM! I have also written an article about drone action cameras where I also talk about FPV flying solutions. If you are looking for drone racing action cameras, then you should definitely check that out as well

BEST FOR DIVING

Garmin VIRB Ultra 30

Garmin Virb Ultra 30 action camera

PROS:

  • Amazing 4K video quality underwater
  • Lots of accessories and mounting options
  • High build quality, durable and plenty of features

CONS:

  • High $400 price

Garmin VIRB Ultra 30 is a fantastic action camera that is built for extreme sports and tough conditions. You can already tell that from it’s tough design and amazing build quality. But where it really shines is underwater. When I first reviewed the Garmin VIRB Ultra 30 I wasn’t too pleased with the video quality. Especially when I compared it with the Hero5 and FDR-X3000. I mean the quality was good but I just didn’t like the colors that much. But once I brought it underwater, I was immediately blown away. Garmin VIRB Ultra 30 is definitely the best action camera for underwater recording. The video quality and colors are made for underwater recording.


Technical specs & features

  • Video Resolutions: 4K 30/24fps; 2.7K 60/48/30/24fps; 1080p 120/90/60/48/30/24fps; 720p 240/120/60/30fps; 420p 300fps
  • Photo: 12MP
  • Memory: Up to 128GB MicroSD
  • Features: WiFi, GPS, 1.75″ LCD screen, Digital Image Stabilization, Voice Control
  • Battery: 1 hour of 4K at 30fps
  • Waterproof with included case up to 50m / 164ft


As you can see from the specs, you also get a very nice waterproof case with the camera. It can actually be used at up to 50m / 164ft which is more than most other action cameras offer. The only negative part I can find is the pretty expensive price of $400. I’d also add the colors outside of water. But that’s more of a personal opinion. I know that many are into the more warmer colors and want the sky to be really blue. Read our full review: Garmin VIRB Ultra 30

360 DEGREES

Samsung Gear 360

Samsung Gear 360 Camera

PROS:

  • 4K video resolution and video quality
  • Tripod
  • Battery life

CONS:

  • Only compatible with certain Samsung phones
  • High $300 price

I have reviewed a pretty decent amount of 360 degree action cameras and almost all of them have had the same problem: blur. That’s just the state that 360 degree video is currently at. But if you still want one, then I have to recommend the Samsung Gear 360. I’d say that it’s currently the best action camera for 360 degree videos. Compared to Nikon KeyMission 360 for example, it has fantastic stitching. It creates the perfect 360 degree video where you can’t even see where the footage has been stitched together. Another thing is that it comes with a tripod. Which means that you can record while moving around as well, without having your hand be in 50% of the video.


Technical specs & features

  • Video Resolutions: 4K 30fps (Dual camera); 1440p 30fps (Single camera)
  • Photo: 30MP
  • Memory: Up to 128GB MicroSD
  • Features: WiFi, Bluetooth, 360 degree video, Gyro, NFC, Dust & Splash proof
  • Battery: 1 hour 30 minutes of 4K at 30fps
  • Waterproof option not available


The Samsung Gear 360 does cost $300 so it’s not the cheapest option. But it does have the best video quality in this price range. Another negative part is that the camera can only be connected to your phone via Bluetooth. And only the following phones are compatible: Galaxy S6, S6 edge, S6 edge+, Note5, S7, S7 edge. But if you don’t have a Samsung or want something cheaper, then I’d recommend taking a look at the SJCAM SJ360. It doesn’t have as good video quality but it’s definitely the second best in my opinion. Read our full reviews: Samsung Gear 360 & SJCAM SJ360

Tips For Finding The Best Action Camera

If the above options didn’t meet your needs and you would like to find an action camera tailored just for you, then below are some guidelines to help you further in finding the best one.

  • Firstly set the price limit for yourself. There are a lot of different models out there and expensive isn’t always the best. There’s plenty of different brands that have action cameras for all price ranges. If you are looking for something cheaper then I’d recommend looking at SJCAM, Xiaomi and Sony. Sony has a few cheaper ones that still have the same excellent quality as their more expensive models.
  • Secondly make sure it has all the features and accessories you need. Such as that it’s waterproof if you need it for diving, required mounting options for extreme sports and other accessories for drones. Also some action cameras come with accessories. Those are always good as buying them separately means spending more money.
  • Thirdly the video quality, which I consider to be the most important part of action cameras. My advice here is to watch videos that others have taken with the camera of your choice and decide if you are happy with the quality. Also price/brand does not equal video quality. I have done plenty of comparison articles where cheaper action cameras have beaten GoPro’s for example in terms of video quality. A lot depends on also your preference. If you have two videos that have the same sharpness and clarity but the colors are different, then pick the one you prefer. I’m always mentioning how I personally prefer more plain natural colors so definitely figure out which type you prefer.

Conclusion

Finding the best action camera for you can take time and an expensive product isn’t necessarily the best! If you have any more questions then we have more in depth camera information at the review, comparison and article sections. We hope you can find the all the help needed from us! If you have any videos you’d like to share with us then feel free to use the contact us page and we will gladly feature you!

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