Yes, the action camera shoots 4K video. But in 2020, you’ll want a little more than that. So what should you be looking for?
Firstly, how good is that 4K video? Check the bitrate of the action cam’s video recording in the specifications. The higher the bitrate, the better the quality. For example, the GoPro Hero8 Black records 4K/60p video at 100Mbps, making it one of the highest quality 4K action cameras available.
Also, how durable is the action camera? “Waterproof” may be enough for you and most action cameras can handle prolonged dips underwater. But how much water pressure can they handle? How deep can they go? And on land, how much of a bashing can they endure? The last thing you want to do with an action camera is handle it with care.
Then there’s the stills capabilities. Some people may not care at all how well their action camera can take a photo. Besides, most of us will have a decent phone or separate camera for that. But if stills do matter to you, we will let you know which of the current cohort of 2020 action cams will handle still nicely too.
Pro tip: We’d also recommend purchasing some hydrophobic spray to help keep water and dirt from building up on your action camera’s lens while in use.
What is the best action camera in 2020?
DJI’s Osmo Action (£269) is the most impressive option for features and value for money and the best action camera available right now. Whether you’re an advanced video creator, vlogger or a beginner, the Osmo Action is an easy choice. It has a wealth of features including dual screens, 4K/60p recording and wizard-like image stabilisation to capture any adventure, in every environment.
View the DJI Osmo Action for £269 on Amazon
The king of photography when it comes to the action camera world, the RX0 II (£729) benefits from a brilliant 1-inch Sony sensor that can capture crisp 4K/60p video and 15MP stills. It also has a 180° tilting screen to help framing when capturing selfie content.
View the Sony RX0 II for £729 on Park Cameras
The Insta360 One R (£440) has an innovative modular design making it the most versatile action camera setup. The base model gives you two cameras for the price of one and can capture 360° video at 5.3K/30p resolution with clever voice control functionality.
View the Insta360 One R for £440 on Amazon
DJI Osmo Action
WIRED Recommends: Rock steady stabilisation, brilliant features and quality 4K video
Sensor: 12-MP 1/2.3in CMOS | Stabilisation: RockSteady EIS | Video: 4K/60p 100Mbs | High frame rate: 2.7K/60p, FullHD/240p | HDR video: 4K/30p | Field of view: 145° | Lens/Aperture: f/2.8 | Battery: 1300mAh | Connectivity: GPS/WiFi/Bluetooth | Waterproof: 10m | Dimensions: 65 x 42 x 35mm | Weight: 124g | Memory: 1x microSDHC/SDXC
The first thing you’ll notice about the DJI Osmo Action (£269) is that it features a clever 1.4-inch, 300ppi full-colour LCD display. This is a feature that vloggers especially have wanted from action cameras for the longest time.
The screen provides an easy way to frame your shots when self-shooting content, whether handheld or mounted. Being able to see yourself clearly in frame is a huge time saver, especially when you’re out on an adventure or travelling. Knowing that you and the scenery are perfectly in the shot is vital when a critical moment – skydive, sunset, hotly – can’t be easily repeated.
The Osmo Action’s 325ppi rear touchscreen is also impressive. Measuring 2.25in, the Osmo’s main screen is responsive and provides a larger than usual view comparative to many other action cameras.
As the challenger brand, the DJI Osmo Action matches GoPro’s flagship action camera on almost every video spec. This includes 100Mbps quality 4K-resolution video at 60fps, perfect for capturing fast-moving action. It can also capture up to 240fps Full HD video for dramatic moments, such as flips and other technical maneuvers. It loses pace slightly when it comes to 2.7K-video recording, where it can only capture at 60 fps, while the GoPro Hero8 Black (below) goes up to 120fps at 2.7K resolution.
Colours from the Osmo Action are slightly more neutral than what is typical for action cameras, which tend to be more saturated and punchy, but that also means it renders skin tones much more faithfully. It offers the option of shooting in D-Cinelike, a flat colour profile that is popular in DJI’s drones. As for stills, the Osmo Action is comparable to a flagship smartphone from 2019. At 12MP it’s perfectly good enough for capturing images for social media, but it struggles in low light. Despite a maximum ISO sensitivity of ISO 3200 it will need a slow shutter or stabilisation to get the best shots at night.
The most impressive feature of the DJI, though, is its RockSteady stabilisation mode, which provides insanely stable footage at all resolutions with very little detectable distortion. However, it’s worth noting that while the camera’s lens and sensor combo have a wide 145° field of view, much of it is sacrificed when in RockSteady mode. This is because the camera uses powerful electronic image stabilisation, which analyses each frame and crops in heavily to keep footage stable – much more than the GoPro does. This is something that could improve in future as DJI’s stabilisation algorithms are enhanced with future firmware updates.
The Osmo Action has a native submersion rating of 11m, which can be improved to 60m when used with DJI’s Waterproof Case (£35). It also has a replaceable anti-glare lens filter/cover, another big advantage over much of the competition, including GoPro. Using its quick-switch function button on the side of it also makes it super easy to flip between high-res video and 8x slowmo.
The overall construction of the Osmo Action is sensible and solid, making it a true go-anywhere action camera that you can deploy with confidence. It’s easy-to-use, has dual screens and captures great quality video; you simply can’t go wrong.
Add this: While the Osmo Action has dual screens covered, we would recommend Cynova’s fantastic Osmo Action Dual 3.5mm/USB-C Audio adapter (£44). It’s a really cost-effective way to add an external mic and it works brilliantly with the latest firmware update. GoPro has promised similar accessories but they are yet to materialise.
Pros: Outrageously stable video; superior usability; dual screensCons: Stabilisation incurs a heavy crop
Price: £269 | Check price on Amazon | DJI | Currys
Olfi One.Five Black
The best budget action camera
Sensor: 16-MP Sony BSI Exmor-R CMOS | Stabilisation: EIS | Video: 4K/24p, FullHD/60p | High frame rate: HD/120p | HDR video: Yes | Field of view: 166° | Lens/Aperture: n/a | Battery: 900mAh | Connectivity: WiFi/RF | Waterproof: 30m with housing only | Dimensions: 54 x 40 x 24mm | Weight: 60g | Memory: microSDHC/SDXC
If you’re on a tighter budget and don’t need super high resolution and high frame rate video footage, the 2nd edition Olfi One.Five Black (£150) could make the most sense.
Olfi’s no frills approach ensures that the One.Five Black does the basics well. The back of the camera has a speaker and full colour live view LCD, which maintains decent visibility in bright light. Its internal microphone is usable, but you’ll get better results when using the camera’s waterproof housing as it reduces wind noise. Olfi has also included an external microphone input that can still be accessed while using the Waterproof Case (£25), which is a clever touch. As far as controls go, the Olfi only has a few buttons; Power, shutter and Up/Down arrows.
Its construction is minimalistic overall, with a nice ruggedised rubber finish and tally lights on both the top and rear to let you know when you’re recording. When you turn on the One.Five Black the logo on the front lights up, and it flashes when you press record. These little details are surprisingly fancy at this price point. It’s also a helpful feature as it gives you confidence that the camera is operating when you have it mounted. To keep costs down this action cam doesn’t have a touchscreen. Limited to physical controls only, you may find it easier to control the Olfi via its companion app or optional remote, both of which work well.
The housing is critical to using the Olfi One.Five Black as an action camera as it has no waterproofing without it, despite its rugged construction. Its microSD slot has no covering so you won’t want to submerge it or get it too filthy without the case. The base of the case uses a standard action camera mount, making it compatible with common accessories and fixtures.
The Olfi One.Five Black’s footage and stills are pleasing in good light, comparable to a mid-range smartphone. They’re not going to compete with the other best action cameras but at this price the quality represents good value for the money, especially when shooting in FullHD at 60fps.
While it lacks a touchscreen, GPS, sensors and high frame rates at high resolutions, its build quality is superior compared to other action cameras at this price point.
Pros: Excellent build quality; good video performanceCons: Lacks features such as touchscreen, GPS and high res slow mo
Price: £150 | Check price on Amazon | Olfi | Demon Tweeks
GoPro Hero8 Black
The former king of action cameras is still a challenger
Sensor: 12-MP 1/2.3in CMOS | Stabilisation: HyperSmooth 2.0 | Video: 4K/60p 100Mbs | High frame rate: 2.7K/120p, FullHD/240p | HDR video: 4K/30p | Field of view: 149.2° | Lens/Aperture: f/2.8 | Battery: 1220mAh | Connectivity: GPS/WiFi/Bluetooth | Waterproof: 10m | Dimensions: 66.3 x 48.6 x 28.4mm | Weight: 126g | Memory: 1x microSDHC/SDXC
Following a price slash this year, the GoPro Hero8 Black (£279) is an even more compelling option but a couple of small things hold it back slightly.
GoPro as a brand is synonymous with action cameras, single-handedly creating the segment as we now know it back in 2004. Now in its eighth series, the Hero8 Black offers top of the range video specs for a range of needs, starting with 4K-video recording at 60fps with a bitrate of 100Mbps. In its highest resolution, the footage from the Hero8 Black is crisp and rich in colour. Blue skies and warm tones are particularly pleasing from this action camera, as is typical from GoPro footage.
If you’re also keen on capturing super slow motion video, the Hero8 Black can slow things down 8x to 240fps when recording at FullHD resolution. Popular features such as hyperlapse and timelapse are still included, while the Hero8 adds 1080p live video-capabilities, a big bonus in the age of streaming. GoPro action cameras are renowned for their stable footage and they don’t disappoint with this latest offering. HyperSmooth 2.0 manages to stabilise the Hero8’s footage without losing too much of the camera’s native 149.2° field of view.
This is one area where the GoPro remains unbeatable for now. If you’re engaged in close quarters action or need to capture more of the frame around your subject, the GoPro Hero8’s Superview mode will manage to squeeze more of the action into the frame. You will have to put up with a little distortion of course, but as yet, no other action camera can quite compete on delivering smooth high res video in as wide a field of view as GoPro.
Physically, the GoPro Hero8 is robust. It can be submerged to a depth of 10m without a case and it can definitely take some rough treatment. But if you damage its protective lens, you will have to send the whole unit off for repair or replace it altogether – it’s no longer removable as it was on the Hero5-Hero7 Black units. There’s no obvious reason for this change, but cynical types may wonder if it was a money-making decision.
Controlling the GoPro Hero8 Black is a breeze as it features an intuitive 2-inch touchscreen display, which benefits from generations of improvements. And if GoPro ever gets around to making its Media Mods (£80) widely available, it could be a strong all-rounder for vloggers, live musicians and streamers, as well as action-adventurers. But as yet, the announced mods, which add an external microphone and mic support, a flip-up display and LED lighting are in scarce supply.
Once the only real name in action cameras, GoPro now has legitimate competition. While it holds its own on high resolution video recording, it has lost ground in terms of overall functionality and features.
Pros: Widest stabilised high-resolution video; Superview modeCons: Mods are scarce and change camera’s form factor; protective lens not removable
Price: £279 | Check price on Amazon | GoPro | Argos
Sony Rx0 II
An action camera that handles stills and video brilliantly
Sensor: 15.3-MP 1-inch RS CMOS | Stabilisation: SteadyShot | Video: 4K/30p 100Mbs | High frame rate: FullHD/120p, 1000fps | HDR video: Yes | Field of view: 84° | Lens/Aperture: 24mm Zeiss Tessar T* f/4 | Battery: 1220mAh | Connectivity: WiFi/Bluetooth | Waterproof: 10m (crushproof to 2000N) | Dimensions: 59 x 40.5 x 35mm | Weight: 132g | Memory: 1 x microSDHC/SDXC
Having tried for a number of years to go its own way with a mini-torch-like action camera, Sony came up with the RX0. By placing one of its most successful 1-inch sensors inside a rugged, familiar action-camera body, Sony has created a dark-horse competitor to GoPro and DJI.
Now in its second generation, the Sony RX0 II (£729) has added 4K-video recording and a 1.5in 180° tilting screen. It can also focus at a closer distance compared to its predecessor, now 20cm vs 50cm previously. All of these improvements and more should make the RX0 II more appealing, especially to travel and vlog content creators.
However, the price of the RX0 II puts it in a really difficult position. At over £700, the RX0 II is by far the most expensive option in this round-up. Outside of this list, only the quirky (read ‘specialist’) Ricoh Theta Z1 (£885) costs more and that was bumped off the list by a camera that’s 50% cheaper. So with those things considered, how did the RX0 II earn its spot?
It all comes back to Sony’s impressive 1-inch RS CMOS sensor and a couple of bonus features. Whether capturing 4K video at the camera’s maximum 30p or 15.3-megapixel photos, the RX0 II captures a superior level of detail and colour compared to much of the competition. With its class-leading ISO sensitivity range of ISO 80 to 12,800, this is particularly noticeable in lower light conditions, including sunsets.
The RX0 II’s tilting screen comes in handy when capturing footage at creative angles or self-shooting, but it’s not a touchscreen. Using buttons takes a little getting used to, but its menu layout is sensible enough to avoid frustrations. It also benefits from Sony’s superb Eye AF, which will detect eyes consistently when taking selfies. Sadly it doesn’t work during video recording, nor does the RX0 II have AF-C. Sony gives with one hand and takes away with the other.
For ports the RX0 II has micro HDMI, microUSB 2.0 and a 3.5mm microphone input. This means there’s no need for any accessories to improve its audio capabilities, just an external microphone that has a jack input. It can also output video via a Clean HDMI signal. It’s been designed with modularity in mind and to allow creators to wirelessly sync multiple RX0 units and control them from one mobile device via the Sony Imaging Edge app or via optional Sony WD1 Camera Control Boxes. It’s a niche use-case, but it may be a big plus to some. Another standout feature is the ability for the RX0 II to apply 1.5x/2x ClearImage zoom to the frame, a lossless digital way of getting you closer to the action.
Interestingly, the RX0 II can also shoot in Sony’s flat video profile S-Log2 and supports dual-camera recording via the optional VMC-MM2 Release Cable (£49). These features make it a potentially strong option as a B-cam or Crash-Cam for creators who already shoot content with Sony cameras.
The RXo 11’s biggest downside is that it lacks an ultra-wide field of view that can match the very best. If you want great low-light performance, and need good photography performance, as well as video, the RX0 II is an excellent choice.
Pros: Best in-class photography capabilities; solid 4K videoCons: Disappointing field of view – one of the most restrictive on the market
Price: £730 | Check price on Amazon | Park Cameras | Wex
Insta360 One R (Twin Edition)
Top quality 360 video at a good price
Sensor: 15.3-MP 1-inch RS CMOS | Stabilisation: 6-axis Gyroscope | Video: 4K/60p 100Mbs + 5.7K/30p 360° | High frame rate: 2.7K/100p | HDR video: Yes | Field of view: 16.4mm+7.2mm | Lens/Aperture: f/2.8+f/2.0 | Battery: 1190mAh | Connectivity: WiFi/Bluetooth | Waterproof: 5m | Dimensions: 72mm x 48 x 32.4mm + 72 x 48 x 43mm | Weight: 121 + 130.5g | Memory: microSDHC/SDXC
The Insta360 One platform is one of the more ambitious offerings in the action camera space. Designed to give creators the freedom to switch up their camera’s capabilities on the fly, the Insta360 One R (£440) has multiple options for sale. We opted to include the Twin Edition in this round-up for the simple fact that it effectively gives you two action cameras for the price of one.
Capturing action sports has been revolutionised by 360° video recording. The initial challenge was around stabilising the footage and keeping all of the action in frame. But 360-video means everything is in frame at all times. It may take a little extra work, but creating content in 360° can produce immersive, getting on otherworldly video content.
The quality of the 5.3K/30p video from the Insta360 One R is superb, particularly in bright light. Colours are punchy and detail is sharp and its software is clever enough to render its selfie stick invisible. The resulting video footage leaves viewers wondering where the camera is. The same superlatives regarding video and picture quality can be applied to the 4K-wide-angle camera module.
The Insta360 One R 4K Wide-Angle module includes all of the features you’d expect from an action camera, including; HDR video, Timelapse, Burst, Night Shot and TimeShift. The module’s video also matches top action cams in terms of both resolution and bitrate – 4K/60p at 100Mbps. And it keeps everything super smooth using an internal 6-axis Gyroscope and clever algorithms.
For those whose creative requirements lean more towards photography and lowlight video, there’s an Insta360 One R for you too. The 1-inch camera module (£280), co-engineered with Leica gives you 19-megapixel stills, up to 5.3K/30p video and a wonderfully wide 14mm equivalent lens. Of course it costs a little more, but it’s good to have the option.
We love the approach of the Insta360 One R platform. It can adapt on-the-go and gives you a range of options to suit almost any imaginable creative need. Although with that flexibility comes a couple of drawbacks; for one it means carrying around extra accessories and modules. It also means that it’s not quite as durable as the other action cameras featured in this test. The One R still carries a decent submersion rating, though, and there’s optional underwater housing – such as the Insta360 60m Dive Case (£69) – available if the 5m depth is not enough.
Pros: Unique modular design that covers a lot of basisCons: Some may not want to fiddle with accessories while on-the-go
Price: £440 | Check price on Amazon | Apple
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