Best Action Cameras
2016 Holiday Gift Guide TOC
Welcome to our annual Holiday Gift Guide. For 2016, we've decided to segue from wholly budget-based recommendations and instead focus on different camera categories.
Action Cams are rugged and compact digital cameras designed to go anywhere you want while surviving the heat, cold, and all sorts of conditions that would destroy normal digicams. They are the cameras of our extreme athletes and adventures and have followed people from the depths of the ocean all the way up to the edge of our atmosphere. In 2016, we're talking about no-frills cameras that shoot 4K UHD video, take reasonably high-resolution stills (mostly in time-lapse modes), and come complete with underwater housings as well as access to a plentiful area of accessories and mounts.
If you love to hike and bike or surf, swim, and ski -- or even if you need a dashcam for your vehicle -- you might want to consider this list of the Best Action Cameras for 2016! Cheers.
GoPro HERO5 Black
Much like Apple smartphones, GoPros are the benchmark by which all action cams are measured. And with good reason. The HERO5 Black is an awesome little camera stuffed with performance features. At the top of this list, we have 4K/30p Ultra HD Video, 1440p video at 80fps, and 1080p Full HD video at up to 120fps for ultra-smooth slow motion. From there we add in 12MP RAW still images that can be captured in single shots, in a 30fps burst mode, or as a time-lapse. The HERO5 Black also boasts 1-button control (on/off & auto recording), Wi-Fi & Bluetooth with the option to automatically upload your content to the cloud, stereo audio recording with wind noise reduction, voice control ("GoPro, take a photo" and it does), built-in GPS, a 2" touchscreen display, and a body that can dive to depth of up to 33ft (10m) without need an external underwater housing. Along with those features, each HERO5 Black includes one frame, a rechargeable battery, a curved adhesive mount, a flat adhesive mount, a mounting buckle, and a USB-C cable. Pick up your GoPro HERO5 Black for less than $400.
Sony's flagship action cam for 2016 is the FDR-X3000R, which is actually a KIT that includes a wireless Live View Remote you wear on your wrist to frame shots, control the camera, adjust settings, and even playback your videos. Speaking of which, the FDR-X3000R boasts a back-illuminated Exmor R CMOS sensor and an acclaimed BIONZ X processor capable of 4K UHD video recording with stereo sound recording. The Balanced Optical SteadyShot image stabilization system to keep your content shake-free, while you can shoot either 12MP still images at up to 10fps, or 8.3MP still images using the interval recording feature or 4K time-lapse movie mode. Both videos and stills can be captured in Wide, Medium, or Narrow viewing angles. Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, NFC, and GPS are, of course, built in to facilitate connections with the Live View Remote and your personal smart devices. And for those looking to explore oceans and lakes, Sony includes an Underwater Housing capable of operating down to 97ft (60m). Pick up the Sony FDR-X3000R with the included Live View Remote and underwater housing for less than $500.
Olympus has made a lot of tough and life proof cameras over the years, but this is the first one designed with a video-first mentality. Waterproof down to 100ft (30m), crushproof to 200lbf (100kgf), shockproof from 7ft (2.1m falls), and freezeproof down to 14°F (-10°C), the TG Tracker shoots 4K/30p UHD videos and 8MP still images with a 204 degree extreme angle f2.0 lens and Electronic Image Stabilization. There's also a 60 lumens LED headlight to illuminate subjects. And, in addition to built-in Wi-FI, there are five in-camera sensors -- GPS, eCompass, Accelerometer, Thermometer, and Barometer -- to data log adventures. Pick up the Olympus TOUGH TG-Tracker today for less than $350.
The Nikon KeyMission 170 is a tough little action cam with a wide 170° field of view. It shoots 4K/30p UHD videos as well a Full HD 1080/60p videos and 8MP still images. (HD video recording comes with the option to have an electronic Vibration Reduction turned on.) This waterproof (33ft), freezeproof (14°F/-10°C), shockproof (6.6ft), and dust/grit resistant camera includes a small 1.75" rear display as well as a wireless remote control where you can tag clips that can later be auto-assembled into a highlight reel. Other features include time-lapse interval as well as loop recording (never miss a shot!). Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are built-in for use with Nikon's Snapbridge 360/170 mobile app (iOS and Android). Pick up the Nikon KeyMission 170 for less than $400. OR upgrade to the KeyMission 360 with full 360-video capabilities, for less than $500.
The Fujifilm FinePix XP90 could easily be on our Best Point-and-Shoot Cameras Gift Guide because it's easy to use, affordable, and primarily a 16MP still image camera that happens to shoot Full HD video. But with a body that's waterproof to 50ft (15m), down to 14°F (-10°C), shockproof to 5.8ft (1.75m), and dustproof, this is our pick for best Budget Action Cam for 2016. Also, much like the smartphone vs point-and-shoot debate, the XP90 stands out thanks to its 5x optical zoom lens (28-140mm). Other features include Optical (Sensor-Shift) image Stabilization, a 3" LCD display, a 10fps Burst Mode Button, and Interval Shooting for creating time-lapses at 10, 30, or 60fps. Lastly, with built-in Wi-Fi you can take any smartphone and turn it into a wireless remote control. Pick up a FinePix XP90 for less than $150.