Action Cam Buyer's Guide

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action cam buyers guide

>> Aaron Cortez

December 11, 2014 - San Diego, CA

Action Cam Buyer's Guide: GoPro's Serious Competition

action cam buyers guide gopro

Anywhere you look on TV or on the Web, it is apparent that GoPro is king in the action camera market. But they're certainly not the only game in town, and as you will see, a GoPro may not be the right choice for you at all depending on your specific needs.

In this Action Cam Buyer's Guide, we'll discuss the strengths, weaknesses, and quirks of four different action cams we carry, and make choosing the right camera for you easy with recommendations based on your individual needs and budget!


action cam buyers guide gopro hero4

Finally! A GoPro camera with a built-in touch screen display! It took a while for GoPro to figure out that we wanted this feature (and some pressure from the competition helped, no doubt) but the latest iteration of GoPro's legendary Hero camera lineup has that along with upgrades of nearly every other aspect of the camera.

As usual, the Hero4 comes in two models, Silver, the junior model, and Black, the big daddy. The junior model, the GoPro Hero4 Silver Camera comes in at $399 (a full $100 higher than last year's Hero3+ Silver), but it has that great touchscreen, films up to 4K15 and 2.7K30 resolution video, and takes 12MP photos at 30 fps. To capture those lovely exhaust sounds all us gearheads love, the new GoPro boasts an all-new audio system with twice the dynamic range of the previous model. Connectivity is easy, as always, with built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.

At $499, the GoPro HERO4 Black Camera is a big investment, but it sits at the very top of GoPro's food chain and its specs are impressive. Its the more "professional" version and for that reason does NOT have the LCD touchscreen, but it does have a 2X more powerful processor and 2X faster frame rate, and it can film at the incredible resolution of 4K30 or 2.7K50. Think of the clearest, sharpest HD footage you've ever seen; well 4K is much clearer than that! If you're very serious about your filming and can work with pro software, this is the camera for you.

What we love:

  • The integrated LCD touch screen on the Silver (finally!)
  • Truly incredible video quality
  • Mounts for every conceivable situation
  • App to control, preview, and upload video is awesome
  • Huge online support community!

Not crazy about:

  • The price! GoPro's have always been pricey, but a $100 price increase is a real kick in the pants
  • No screen on the Black? What the heck GoPro?
  • No image stabilization or zoom feature
  • Bulky and not aerodynamic; the whole world can see your GoPro mounted

GoPro HERO3 Plus

action cam buyers guide gopro hero3 plus

If the high price of GoPro's latest and greatest is a deterrent to you (and you're not an aspiring professional filmmaker) then definitely take a look at GoPros outgoing model, the still-exceptional Hero3+. This camera still packs more features than most of us riders will ever use anyway, and you'll still get access to the vast GoPro ecosystem, but without having to increase your credit card limit just to get it!

The junior version of the 3+ (the only one left in stock) is the GoPro HERO3 Silver Plus Camera. The Silver $299, is 15% lighter, has a 2X faster processor, 30% longer battery life, and 4X faster WiFi than its predecessor. Audio performance was also improved with automatic wind-noise reduction (the bane of all us motorcyclists that film our shenanigans.) The HERO3 Silver Plus can be controlled wirelessly with an app, and videos can also be shared instantly to FaceBook, Instagram and more.

What we love:

  • Video quality is exceptional, as we expect from GoPro
  • Mounts for every conceivable situation
  • App to control, preview, and upload video is awesome
  • Huge support community!

Not crazy about:

  • The 3+ focuses at 4-6 feet rather than at infinity; don't expect clarity at long distances!
  • Many features included in other cameras are expensive add-ons with the GoPro (like an LCD screen)
  • No image stabilization or zoom feature
  • Bulky and not aerodynamic

Garmin VIRB

action cam buyers guide garmin virb

Several of us at think the Garmin VIRB Action Camera is the most exciting new product to enter the action cam segment. The camera itself specs out even higher than the GoPro HERO3 Black Plus Camera, with true 1080p recording for up to 3 hours on one charge through a 16MP CMOS image processor, and it can take stills while recording video at 8, 12, or 16MP resolution. It also records at up to 120fps for incredibly smooth slow-motion playback, and it includes digital image stabilization. It also has a built-in 1.4" color LCD display that acts as both a viewfinder and as an interface to adjust camera settings, and built-in WiFi!

But the Virb is more than just a high-quality camera; it has a number of features that make it a true “action cam." It uses ANT+ wireless connectivity to communicate with other Garmin external sensors, and the higher-end Garmin VIRB Elite Action Camera includes an internal GPS sensor, altimeter, and accelerometer, which could make for some really exciting videos of fast mountain rides or track days with a map overlay!

What we love:

  • A large slider controls recording; no beeps, no lights, no tiny buttons
  • Built-in GPS and a color screen on one camera – finally!
  • 1080p HD recording with 16MP image processor is impressive
  • Compatible with all other Garmin devices for unmatched data acquisition on video!

Not crazy about:

  • Brand new product: expect some bugs, and firmware and software updates
  • Nowhere near as much online support as the ubiquitous GoPro

JVC Addixxion Action Camera

action cam buyers guide jvc adixxion

action cam buyers guide

In addition to a few GoPros, the JVC Addixxion Action Camera is also part of the arsenal here at BikeBandit that we use when filming rides for our YouTube videos.

The Addixxion's best feature, hands down, is the built-in 1.5" LCD monitor, which lets you set up shots and replay video, but also works as a menu interface.

Unlike the GoPro, the Addixxion is also pretty darn durable. Right out of the box its waterproof to 5 meters, dustproof and freezeproof, and can take more than a few hits and drops - all without a separate case!

If you want a camera that's extremely easy to use, can take a beating, and really want the convenience of an LCD screen, this is an all-around winner that doesn't get nearly the amount of attention it deserves!

What we love:

  • Waterproof, shockproof, dustproof, freezeproof...heck, its just lifeproof
  • Built in LCD screen makes set-up a breeze
  • Full HD with built-in image stabilization
  • Digital zoom up to 5X is awesome!

Not crazy about:

  • Only one model; no 2-step options like GoPro and Garmin offer
  • Not quite boxy, but not quite aerodynamic shape is a little odd
  • Nowhere near as much online support as the ubiquitous GoPro

Liquid Image EGO

action cam buyers guide liquid image ego

The Liquid Image Ego 1080 WiFi Camera is a bargain-priced camera that can do what most of its expensive competitors do for a lot less. Don't let the price fool you; this is a high quality camera that takes good video and surprisingly excellent still photos at an impressive 12MP and a 136-degree lens. It has internal Wi-Fi that can be used to turn your smart phone or tablet into a viewfinder and to set up exposure modes, field of view, mic recording level, and more with an easy-to-use app. It is also the only action camera to come in five different colors, and uses a standard ¼"-20 screw mount for infinite mounting options.

The down sides: the fixed battery means you can't carry a spare to swap out, which can limit some of the fun on longer trips. The buttons are also small and difficult to use, and the display is just as bad; using the Ego without the smart phone app can be very frustrating. The Ego is also behind the competition now that more highly featured cameras have been released, and might not be as good of a value in late 2013 now that newer cameras have been released.

What we love:

  • Inexpensive, very light, easy to use HD camera
  • Doesn't scream for attention (matte black version is particularly stealthy)
  • ¼"-20 screw threads gives infinite mounting options
  • Outstanding still images!

Not crazy about:

  • Features; the Ego is a little behind (ok, a lot behind)
  • Tiny buttons are frustrating to use
  • Tiny display is also frustrating to use

We hope this guide aids you in making the best camera choice to record your own adventures, or helps you get the perfect holiday gift for the enthusiast in your family. To browse through more of the latest cameras, check out our entire Motorcycle Cameras section!

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