Posted on November 22 2016
The action cam market has exploded. It has become a minefield when it comes to selecting the camera which has the best specs for capturing your surf excellence. So with a few years of experience under out belt, and the technical eye of our resident photographer, here are our top five, and an option for doing it on a budget.
GoPro Hero 5
GoPro has ruled the roost, they invented the action cam. They have consistently created the very best camera, and with their latest generation they have just about kept this lead. The trouble is our quest for improvements, and yearly updates. This is starting to bang into a glass ceiling and really whilst the GoPro Hero 5 adds some cool features, such as voice activation, better sound, touch screen and no water housing (thus keeping the price at only a few quid above last year's), it is only really worth buying if you're a pro, or don't own a 4 already.
The Silver with screen
The Black has better video settings but no back screen
GoPro Hero 4 Black and Silver
The Black is slightly better than the Silver. It has 4k, a higher bit rate for recording, and a few little extras, but for the average surfer it is not a significant difference for the premium price. What is more the Silver comes with a built in screen which makes it a lot more versatile as well. I'd also say if you already own one of these, and aren't producing epic edits for sponsors and the like, then wait on getting a five, these are fine.
This is a very good camera, in many respects it outclasses the GoPros. The Sony sensor is arguably a little better in poor light, and its lens trumps the GoPro just about. It does 4k like the top of the range GoPros, but it does lack a little on still capability unlike the GoPros. In addition it doesn't really quite come up to scratch when it comes to being able to add things like screens. Having said that, the difference between the top three is essentially splitting hairs. One slight annoyance though: out of all the action cams it is the only one that didn't go with a GoPro style mount, which means if you have one on a board already and get this, it's either an adapter or new mount.
Olympus TG - Tracker
This is a bit of a marmite camera looks wise, it's video capabilities don't quite match the Sony and GoPro on the surface, and it's pretty darned heavy. However, it has two killer features, it has a bigger sensor than the competitors, which means better quality video especially in low light. It also has significantly longer battery life, and with Olympus optics it's an interesting option.
The Bonus Collection
Number five is not just one camera but a whole load. There are now a fleet of GoPro clones out there, ThiEYE, iSaw and many more. They all come in at under £100 and look like a Gopro, and have specs not far off a GoPro so are they worth it? Well, yes and no. If you only have £50 and want an action cam then a ThiEYE will deliver decent results in good light, with OK specs. However they all lack a well thought out menu and they are a couple of generations behind on sensor tech and their batteries suck, but if they capture that hell barrel who cares, right? Next Week - Getting the best results out of your action camera.