|1||Xiaoyi Yi Action Camera
|Buy on Amazon|
|Buy on Amazon|
|3||iON Camera Air Pro 3 Wi-Fi
|Buy on Amazon|
|4||Garmin VIRB™ Elite HD Camera
|Buy on Amazon|
The first thing you're most likely to hear when you ask for someone's advice on your next action camera buy is "Why don't you take the <insert latest GoPro camera>?" GoPro's brand name is so pervasive and powerful that there are those who even think that an action camera and a GoPro are synonymous. But go out shopping for one and you're likely to spend hundreds of dollars. Even if budget is not a problem for you, the fact that every second guy who owns an action cam is toting a GoPro might cause your inner hipster quite a bit of consternation.
So while you might love love GoPro and the fact that it allows you to capture your adventurous exploits in Full HD (1080P), you should know that there are many other alternatives to GoPro out there. This is especially true of the market in 2016, as the technology behind action cameras has been increasingly commoditized, which the venture capitalize Marc Andreeson famously predicted would happen back in 2014 in his now-famous tweet:
So while the GoPro is still a great choice for most people, you are now spoiled for choice when it comes to GoPro alternatives. We've got your back though; scroll down to see our list of GoPro alternatives, suited exactly to your needs.
How We Define "Action Camera"
An action camera is any tiny, lightweight video camera that can produce quality, wide angle video in almost any environment. Action cameras are meant to take abuse that the average camera can't. This is often achieved by placing the camera inside robust ‘housing’.
Action Cams are enhanced by mounts, which enable them to be fixed to, well, just about anything. Whether it's a helmet, bike, surfboard, or even a rider’s chest or hand, an action cam be strapped on with the right mount. The action cam's durability combined with its small size and wide range of mounts have all contributed to make action cameras the go-to choice when it comes to capturing action sports.
What to Look for In a GoPro or Alternative?
The first thing to understand is that not all action cams capture the same sports equally well. What might be a great fit for capturing surfing could turn out to be totally different than what you'll want if you are shooting snowboarding.
Here are a few suggestions of what you can do to find the right action cam for you:
- Get on forums and ask for recommendations from people who do the same activities as you
- Visit a local brick and mortar electronics store, ask for recommendations from a knowledgeable salesperson, and then buy online (it is almost always cheaper this way)
- Browse The Cam Critic's extensive selection of action cam reviews (GoPro and other action cams).
Your First Consideration: Durability
Durability is a key factor when choosing an action camera. In fact, a prerequisite for an action camera is that its ought to be tough enough to shoot in any environment. An ideal camera should be made out of no-nonsense materials that not only make the camera tough but also ensure that it can withstand harsh weather conditions. Whereas some action cameras are water-resistance on their own, others require a special waterproof case called a ‘housing’ to be waterproof.
If your new action cam is going to face constant exposure to the elements, we recommend selecting one that is waterproof without housing.
Also, keep in mind that cameras without housing tend to be lighter and less bulky.
Your Second Consideration: Battery Life
This is basic, but don't overlook it!
Most action cameras offer about one to three hours of use. However, their battery life will vary depending on their use. Think about the conditions in which you'll be using your new action cam, and expect the battery to drain faster if you:
- Shoot in high definition as a default
- Use Bluetooth or Wi-Fi regularly
- Have out-of-date firmware
- Shoot in extreme weather conditions
Yes, even the weather impacts battery life! If you are shooting in sub-zero temperatures. It is highly advisable that you choose an action camera that has the longest battery life. Make sure that you look into the availability of spare batteries, as some action cams feature a battery compartment that is enclosed in its housing, meaning that you might not be able to change batteries comfortable while in the field.
Consideration 3: Size and Design
Given to the nature of the use of action cameras, it is important to consider their weight and size. As mentioned earlier, action cameras are nowadays considerably more petite than they were a few years ago. Size and weight matter because action cameras are mostly mounted on your helmet, surfboard or bike without getting in the way too much. However, it is worth mentioning that heavier cameras are often due to the fact that they are carrying extra weight such as bigger sensors which might also be a good thing.
The action camera design is also an important consideration. The design encapsulates the cameras shape- rectangle, bullet, cube, and its color. The shape will mostly be determined by how you intend t use the action camera and where it will be mounted, and the color is a just matter of preference. Whereas Most GoPro alternatives are box-shaped, a shape ideal for chest mounting, others are bullet-shaped, which is the preferred shape for people that intend to mount the action camera on their helmet. All in all, when it comes to size, weights, and design, opt for the lightest and most compact action camera for maximum portability.
Consideration 4: Field of View
Field of view can be defined as the area that your camera can capture at any given moment. All action cameras have a wide-angle, fixed lens with a focal length typically in the region of 17mm to 20mm. The field of view is dependent on the size of the sensor of the action camera. Most of the cameras have settings that allow you to change the field of view. You can choose between wide, narrow and medium. While the camera’s field of view may or may not be a pivot part in your decision, it is worth noting that a wide-angle footage shot with action cameras can at times look distorted due to the fisheye effect.
Consideration 5: Specs and Other Considerations
When choosing an action camera, it is important to read and understand the tech specs. This includes the cameras digital storage space and how many videos and picture it can hold. It is important to make sure the action camera storage space has a fast write speed as failure to this might cause dropped frames, which causes jerky footage.
If you want great footage and stunning photos, you would want an action with high resolution and several frame-rate options. The best camera ought to give you various high-definition options such as recording in 1080p-60, 720p-120, and other video modes.
Choosing an action camera that has connectivity functionalities such Wi-Fi and Bluetooth functionality might also be a good idea. Such a camera will enable you to have a quick and easy method of uploading or transferring your videos footage and pictures to your computer, smartphone, or the web. This is particularly important if the camera you are using does not have a screen for preview or playback.
After you have considered all of the above, you know have to make a decision on which action camera to choose. Luckily, this article also has reviewed four GoPro alternatives that might whet your interest. These GoPro alternatives include:
Garmin VIRB X
Garmin offers a couple of noteworthy GoPro alternatives for standard users and professionals respectively. A quintessential example of quality common user Garmin action camera is the Garmin VIRB X. Garmin VIRB X stacks favorably as a GoPro alternative thanks to its ability to shoot high-definition, rich, and wide-angle footage at 1080p-30. The action camera can also capture 12-megapixel photos at up to 10 frames per second. The Garmin is also sturdily built; hence, can be used in hard-hitting environments.
Key features of the Garmin VIRB X
The Garmin VIRB X is feature packed. It comes with some innovative features that help in improving its functionality. One of its gem features include the G-Metrix, which enables you to not only capture the great footage and pictures but also track and overlay how far, how fast, how high, and how intense the moment truly was. The Garmin VIRB X also comes rugged and dive ready. With this action camera, you will be able to dive deep (up to 50 meters) without the need for any additional housing.
The Garmin VIRB X also features a built-in Wi-Fi that enables you to connect the action camera with your smartphone or tablet via the Garmin mobile app. Thanks to this functionality, you can easily playback and preview your recorded footage. The action camera can also be said to be considerably user-friendly. This is due to features such as one-touch recording, which ensures smooth operating with a one-touch record switch. The switch is strategically located at the top of the camera.
When it comes to mounting, the Garmin VIRB X is versatile. From helmets to curved or flat surfaces, the Garmin VIRB X has you covered. The various mounts feature non-slip, professional, Allen head tightening for maximum vibration or impact resistance.
iON Air Pro 3
One thing that stands out about the iON Air Pro 3 is its simplicity. With its simple-to-operate usability, the iON Air Pro 3 simplicity is second to none. The iON Air Pro 3, although simple, is a sleek styled and solidly built action camera. In fact, the iON Air Pro 3 has probably the most bling you will find in an action camera. It comes in a streamlined and bulled-shaped design that enables the camera to be placed more discreetly on a helmet or a bike.
The iON Air Pro 3 is designed to be used by professionals and consumers alike. If you want to shoot video underwater, this camera might be an ideal choice because it can shot down to 49 feet without the need of housing.
The iON Air Pro 3 is stylishly designed. It looks like the sports car of action cameras. Its cylindrical shape gives the action camera a durable look and feel while still being compact and lightweight. Its waterproof givens you the convenience of going straight from land to water without additional equipment. The action camera’s design features a glass bubble over the lens that provides plenty of protection.
The brains behind the iON Air Pro 3 knew the score of coming up with an action camera that is considerably user-friendly. Even without a screen, the iON Air Pro 3 simple controls ensure that you can easily use the action camera.
When it comes to picture and video quality this action camera is able to capture fairly crisp, well-exposed video and 12MP stills. The action camera also features a fast Sony-made 12-megapixel BSI CMOS sensor, and from the iON Air Pro 3 impressive recording capabilities, the sensor is joined by a powerful processor.
Even though there is a metal tripod mount in the bottom, iON has its own CamLock system that uses a quick connect clip than can be able to slide into several different mounts. The iON Air Pro 3 also comes with a Wi-Fi functionality that is straightforward to use.
Cheap GoPro Alternative
There are tons of cheap action cameras on the market these days, all claiming to be the perfect GoPro alternative for those on a budget. While some of these claims are legitimate, the alternative depends as much on your needs as on your budget.
The Garmin Virb Elite and iON Air Pro 3 are both superb cameras which can serve as great GoPro alternatives for those who are on a budget and looking for a well-rounded action camera. Both offer great video qualities of 1080p at 30fps and the image quality is excellent as well. Though the video quality doesn't match up to the 1080p at 120fps featured by the GoPro Hero 4, the fact that they're both half the price of the Hero 4 Black means that you're getting a very good deal.
ION Air Pro 3
Garmin Virb Elite
The cameras also feature massive durability, with the Ghost featuring an LCD made out of Gorilla Glass, perfect for those going on a rough adventure. The cameras even go so far as to trump the GoPro in certain aspects. Most obvious of these will be battery life; while the GoPro 4 Silver maxes out at only 1.5 hours, the Garmin Virb can go on till 3 hours, double that of the latest GoPro. The iON Air isn't too far behind either, with its stellar 2.5 hours battery life.
In terms of usability as well, the cameras stand their ground. They feature built in Wifi capabilities, meaning you can upload your photos to your social media sites directly from the camera. The UI is also brilliant on them, with some even claiming that they actually trump that of the GoPro. Cheap alternatives with great features, some of which are even better than the ones offered by GoPro. Definitely worth it!
The CHEAPEST GoPro Alternative: The Xiaomi Yi
Xiaomi Yi is a lightweight camera that looks more of a toy. But no, it is not. In fact, the action can record videos in full HD at 30 and 60 frames per second. Also, the camera can shoot and capture still images in true 16 megapixels. Despite its toy-like appearance, the Xiaomi Yi packs some impressive specs. Its video processor - the Ambarella A7LS, coupled with photo sensor –the Sony Exmor R, enables you to take pictures of exceptional quality.
One of the selling points of the Xiaomi Yi action camera is its price. Despite its impressive features, this action camera stacks favorably as a one of the cheapest GoPro alternatives.
Even though the Xiaomi Yi action camera does not come with an LCD screen, that is compensated by its Wifi functionality that enables you to stream on your smartphone or tablet using the Xiami App. The brains behind Xiaomi Yi design paid more attention to packing, design, and compatibility. No wonder Xiaomi is regarded as a Chinese Apple.
The camera features a standard 1/4 -20-inch tripod mount. There, you can mount a tripod or any compatible docking for various mounts. On the rear side of the camera, behind the flap, you will find a 1010 mAh battery from Panasonic. Still, on the rear side, behind a second flap, you will find connectors for micro USB port, micro HDMI, and a hole for the microSD that supports up to 128GB.
Panasonic HX-A500 is not your average GoPro alternative. It is a wearable camera that packs a punch. It features some impressive features including 4K video recording. Even though the Panasonic HX-A500 works similarly to a GoPro, it has some extra features that you might find in a more professional series camera.
It is worth mentioning that the Panasonic HX-A500 is the first wearable Ultra HD camcorder and it is capable of capturing footage at 25fps. Like its sister model the Panasonic HX-A100, the HX-A500 consists of two parts; the camera lens and the main operating unit. The two parts are connect by a 70cm cable. You can wear the camera lens on your head and then wear the operating unit in the supplied armband.
When it comes to design, the Panasonic HX-A500 takes a departure from the other action cameras due to its two compartment. The design offers the action camera an old school feel rather than a something cutting edge. However, the design is not an Achilles’ heel because it focuses on the usability of the Panasonic HX-A500. Its control unit is pretty straightforward. The action camera features a small full-color LCD that enables users to preview the videos they have recorded.
The action camera battery is not removable. On the side of action camera, there is an available micro-USB port for charging and a microSD slot for video and picture storage. Overall, the Panasonic HX-A500 is robustly built with dustproofing and waterproofing in mind. You will be glad to know that no housing is required to take the camera for a dip. However, you must make sure that you don’t go deeper than3 meters for more than 30 minutes.
The Panasonic HX-A500 features an image stabilizer that helps in eliminating blurring, which improves your shot. The action camera also has a built-in Wi-Fi functionality that you can use to link the camera with your tablet or smartphone.