What is an action camera and how to choose it?

The range of action cameras is constantly expanding. What model should I pay attention to now?

Bulky cameras are a thing of the past. These devices are now being replaced by action cameras that fit easily in your pocket. But what are such devices? Is it possible to use such babies on an ongoing basis? How exactly should the action camera be chosen? Let's understand all these issues.


What is an action camera for?

Such devices got such a name due to the fact that it’s convenient to shoot dynamic scenes - action, if you use English. The device is easily mounted both on a tripod, and on almost any sports equipment. However, many models provide the so-called slow-motion shooting, when you can slow down the picture and consider the process of performing the trick in all details.

So the action camera is only for shooting pokatushek on a snowboard and a bicycle? Not at all. Active sports around the world are not engaged in the largest number of people, while the demand for devices from the action camera series is insanely high. This inconsistency is connected with the fact that you can shoot absolutely any sketch from life on such a small “cube”. Many bloggers have long mastered action cameras, the use of which does not require the involvement of someone else as an operator - everything around falls into the frame.

Remember that any action camera makes the picture more or less distorted (there is a fish-eye effect). That is why traditional camcorders, as well as SLR and system cameras, are still used to shoot wedding ceremonies and other official events.

Key benefits of an action camera

The action cameras got such a high popularity due to the following qualities:

  • Miniature sizes - such a “baby” will not take up much space in a pocket or bag, and your hand does not get tired when using a small device;
  • Replaceable battery - buying additional batteries fundamentally solves the problem of not the longest battery life (the smartphone, for example, will have to be charged after an hour of video recording);
  • Easy transfer of material to mobile devices - almost every action camera is equipped with a Wi-Fi module, at the same time you can organize remote control;
  • A wide angle of view - almost the entire surrounding space enters the frame, and you can shoot yourself simply by stretching out your hand (using a traditional video camera, a person’s face would take half the frame at the time of this shooting);
  • Many video modes - expensive models allow you to choose between HD, Full HD and 4K resolutions, and frame rate and bit rate are also available;
  • Protection from moisture and dust - almost every action camera has a waterproof and shockproof housing (however, you can always break such a device, because the lens remains glass);
  • Time-lapse photography - accelerated video is easiest to shoot with an action camera. It has a wide angle of view, it is easy to place it anywhere, while it can work from a power bank connected to it, which will allow you to shoot for at least a whole day.
  • An aquabox is available - with such a cover, the device can be immersed in water, and sometimes it can be done without an auxiliary accessory.

And this is just a list of the advantages that most devices have. Do not forget that the best action cameras have a number of special advantages - for example, recording a route, excellent sound quality and the presence of an optical stabilizer.

How to choose an action camera?

In order not to miscalculate with a purchase, you should focus on several of the most important parameters:

  • Video Resolution - 4K support is a must if you have acquired or at least plan to buy a 4K TV. In other cases, Full HD is quite enough for a video enthusiast.
  • Video frequency - your choice should be an action camera that can shoot in 1080p at a frequency of 50 or 60 frames / s. If the plans include shooting dynamic scenes, then it does not hurt to support increasing the frequency to 120 or 240 frames / s - at the editing stage, this video can be slowed down.
  • Degree of protection - a waterproof camera will allow you to shoot underwater without putting on an aquabox. But if you are going to shoot only on land, then the usual spray protection is enough.
  • Sound quality - you can evaluate the work of the built-in microphones using test videos on YouTube.
  • Operating time - when reading or viewing reviews, you can find out how quickly the camera will use up battery power in a particular video mode.
  • Stabilization - it can be optical or digital. Or it may not be at all. Optical works the same under any lighting conditions, but you should not count on the ideal result - the edges of the frame will surely be shaken. Digital, especially in high-end action cameras, allows you to get the most smooth picture. But only with good lighting around! In the evening, it is better to turn it off, as it starts to spoil everything.
  • The display, its type, and their number - before action cameras cost a monochrome screen, which displayed only the current shooting parameters, but now such devices are increasingly getting a full-fledged LCD display. This is important, because with it you can immediately see what exactly gets into the frame without using a smartphone for this purpose. And some action cameras can boast a second screen located on the front side, which can be useful when shooting a vlog.
  • The sound quality is amazing, but so far the best sound is written by the Sony FDR-X3000, released a couple and a half years before this article was written. Competitors received great video protection, which is why the microphones had to be equipped with a special membrane that significantly dampens the sound. During installation, you can slightly improve its quality, but it takes time.
  • Built-in wireless modules - the availability of those depends on your personal preferences. Bluetooth allows you to use the remote control, NFC speeds up the first synchronization with a smartphone, GPS records the speed and route, and Wi-Fi transfers the picture in streaming mode to any mobile device.

The remaining selection criteria are already less important. For example, not everyone needs support for shooting time lapse (interval video). Like the slow-motion video mode, it is only needed when recording action scenes, and not all consumers use such cameras for this.

Remember that picture quality depends not only on resolution and frame rate - many factors influence this parameter, including lens lens transparency, aperture, bitrate, as well as matrix size and resolution. The specific numbers will probably not tell you anything. The best way to find out how well an action camera shoots is to download a test video from some review (on YouTube, the picture is always compressed, not allowing you to make a conclusion). And do not forget to read reviews on the chosen model!

How much does an action camera cost?

The cost of such devices can be very different. The price tag depends on the manufacturer's design costs, as well as the components used. It is interesting that among action cameras there is no division into amateur and professional products, as is customary in the segment of video cameras and cameras. Here, the maximum price tag can reach only 35-40 thousand rubles - the advanced models from Garmin and some other companies cost so much. Also such a price tag has GoPro MAX, which can shoot panoramic video. Its cost was affected not only by the presence of two matrices and lenses, but also by the introduction of six microphones. In any case, there is no question of any hundreds of thousands of rubles, as is the case with SLR cameras and professional video equipment.

If you need to get the ability to 4K-video with a huge bitrate, you have to fork out. But in the absence of such a need, you can save a lot of money. Even the best budget action cameras with AliExpress cost very little money. At the same time, they provide good picture quality, and the degree of protection of the case of such devices most often meets all international standards. Particular attention should be paid only to checking the sound quality - with this, Chinese manufacturers often have some problems. Curiously, even they now provide the ability to shoot in 4K resolution. This format has come to the masses. If the action camera can only shoot in Full HD, then you need to think ten times whether it is worth buying it.


An action camera is a great gift. You can buy such a device and your beloved. Believe me, it’s better to shoot significant events on video than save certain moments only in the form of photographs. There is no need to be frightened of the upcoming installation - even mobile applications deal with this matter almost automatically now, not to mention computer programs.

Still decided to buy an action camera? Our collections to help you:

The best action cameras Budget models