Information, opinions and advice to buy the sports camera that best suits your needs and your budget

Technical specifications to take into account:

  • Resolution (Full HD / 4K) . Basically we must take into account if we are going to need to record in 4K or if it is enough with Full HD (1080p). Today almost all video material is consumed in Full HD, therefore good projects can be made by recording at 1080p. Recording in 4K and then upscaling to 1080p has its advantages: it generally offers a sharper image, it allows applying software stabilization in the editing phase, it allows cropping a scene to enlarge (zoom in editing), etc. In return: 4K material requires a more powerful editing equipment, more storage (SD cards / hard drives), and in general editing is more expensive in time.

 

  • Frames per second (fps – frames per second). The higher the number of frames per second, the sharper the movement of the objects in the scene. For example, at 24fps (typical of cinema) a motion blur effect is produced that is usually pleasant to the eye and is identified with the cinematographic style. At 50 / 60fps the movements of the scene look sharper, more realistic, more in the style of documentaries or TV productions (sports, direct). From about 60fps it is very difficult to notice differences in terms of fluidity or sharpness of the scene, it depends on each person, the type of scene, etc. However, recording at a high rate of frames per second can then make editing the effect of slow motion ( slow motion) maintaining a sense of fluidity in the scene. For example, we can record a scene at 60fps and then edit it to reproduce it at 30 or 24fps, the effect would be slow motion while maintaining adequate movement fluidity.

 

  • Bitrate (bit rate) . Amount of video information generated by the camera. This parameter is quite important because it gives us an idea of ​​the compression that video information undergoes when leaving the camera. A raw video generates an enormous amount of information that could only be managed with highly specialized equipment. What all cameras do is compress and discard redundant or unimportant information to the human eye. The point is that in the video editing phase sometimes we need to have a lot of information to have room when applying effects, correcting color, etc. In general, the higher the bitrate the better, but keep in mind that there has to be a balance because moving, storing and processing very large volumes of video information will take more resources and more time, more work.

 

  • Image stabilizer . There are several types of stabilization techniques. For video, the ones that work best are those external to the camera (gimbal, steadicam, etc.). In-camera optical stabilization is very effective in correcting shake (jitter) without loss of quality, but very few cameras of this type include it. Another technique is the internal electronic stabilization (eg Gyro) that uses a cropping of the image as a floating frame to correct camera movements, it is quite effective but involves loss of quality and / or loss of viewing angle.

 

  • Optical . The optical (lens) part is one of the most important aspects of any camera. The sharpness of the lens (quality of the lenses you use). The maximum aperture (amount of light that the lens lets through depending on its focal length) is usually around f / 2.8 in this type of camera. The focal length, which is related to the angle of view offered by the camera, in general sports cameras offer viewing angles between 150º and 170º

 

  • Sound quality . The audio recording quality will be fair to poor in practically all cameras. If we want to improve the audio we will have to use an external microphone connected to the camera (if it allows it) or record the audio separately with a digital recorder.

 

  • Battery life

 

  • Compatibility with equipment and accessories : anchors, housings and other accessories. In general, GoPro are the go-to cameras for accessory manufacturers. If we choose a camera with the same physical format (size, lens location, controls, etc.) we will have many third-party accessories available, cheaper than those of the main brand, and with more variety.

Recommended action cameras for true 4K video

Many models are advertised as 4K, but most, especially low cost, can only record at 4K resolution at very few frames per second. In other words, the 4K material they generate is not suitable for video production. The minimum standard would be 24fps, which offers fluid movement of the scene.

Also, in general, cameras that record in true 4K have the ability to record at lower resolutions at higher speeds, at more frames per second: 60fps / 120fps / 240fps. Therefore, although we do not use 4K in our videos, it may be interesting to record at a higher speed to achieve more fluid movements or to perform slow motion in editing.

Some recommended action cameras based on these criteria:

  • Records true 4K (minimum 24-30fps, although the current standard would be 60fps)
  • Can record at 1080p / 60fps
  • Suitable bitrate for each resolution and frame rate. For 1080p / 30fps we can take 20Mbps as a reference although this depends a lot on the efficiency of the codec and other factors. Below that volume the image quality will suffer or it will leave us very little margin in editing. At 4K / 24fps we can take 40-50Mbps as a reference of more than acceptable quality.

Our recommendations:

GoPro Hero8 Black

  • 4K recording: 4K / 60fps  (bitrate: up to 100Mbps )
  • Full HD recording: 1080 / up to 240fps (bitrate: up to 60Mbps in slow motion and 30 / 45Mbps at 60fps and below)
  • Includes H.264 and H.265 codecs
  • Image Stabilizer: Yes, electronic. Probably the best stabilizer on the market. HyperSmooth 2.0 technology , better results than previous GoPro
  • Maximum lens aperture: f / 2.8
  • Maximum angle of view: 170º
  • Submersible up to 10m. no need for external housing
  • 2-inch rear screen. Tactile. The rear screen allows you to see what you are recording (framing, etc.) and access the configuration menus. Also includes front display for setup information.
  • Battery life: between 1h 30m and 2h depending on the video mode, with the extras disabled (stabilizer, GPS, WiFi). Charging is done through a USB Type-C connector
  • 3.5mm jack input for external microphone

The GoPro Hero8 Black once again becomes the benchmark for sports cameras, although it is not a significant qualitative leap compared to other models on the market. In fact, if you already have a Hero7 Black it may not be worth the upgrade to the Hero8.

The stabilizer, with HyperSmooth 2.0 technology, offers impressive results. It is not perfect, certain artifacts are still generated sometimes, but it is something common to all digital stabilizers.

DJI Osmo Action Cam

  • 4K recording: 4K / 60fps  (bitrate: up to 100Mbps )
  • Full HD recording: 1080 / up to 240fps
  • Includes H.264 and H.265 codecs
  • Image Stabilizer: Yes, electronic. It is also a very good stabilization system, it uses its own RockSteady technology
  • Maximum lens aperture: f / 2.8
  • Maximum angle of view: 170º
  • Submersible up to 10m. no need for external housing
  • 2.25-inch rear screen. Tactile. The rear screen allows you to see what you are recording (framing, etc.) and access the configuration menus.
  • 1.4-inch front screen in which we can see the scene we are recording (perfect for framing in selfie mode)
  • Battery life: between 1h 30m and 2h depending on the video mode, with the extras deactivated (stabilizer, WiFi and screen in sleep mode). Charging is done through a USB Type-C connector

DJI has done a great job with this camera, which is posed as a real alternative to the Hero Black.

It basically offers the same functionality as the Hreo8, with some cool things like the front screen.

The Hero8 is still a bit ahead, for example in the stabilization system, the option to switch between various viewing angles … And the ecosystem around the GoPro (accessories, etc.) is more complete today.

But for value for money, the Osmo Action is generally a great option.

GoPro Hero7 Black

  • 4K recording: 4K / 60fps  (bitrate: up to 80Mbps )
  • Full HD recording: 1080 / up to 240fps (bitrate: up to 60Mbps in slow motion and 30 / 45Mbps at 60fps and below)
  • Includes H.264 and H.265 codecs ( H.265 = HEVC – High Efficiency Video Coding : same quality but higher compression, videos take up less space)
  • Image Stabilizer: Yes, electronic. Available in 4K 60pfs with the most up-to-date firmware versions. HyperSmooth technology , better results than previous GoPro
  • Maximum lens aperture: f / 2.8
  • Maximum angle of view: 170º
  • Submersible up to 10m. no need for external housing
  • 2-inch rear screen. Tactile. The rear screen allows you to see what you are recording (framing, etc.) and access the configuration menus. Also includes front display for setup information.
  • Battery life: between 1h 30m and 2h 30m depending on the video mode, with the extras disabled (stabilizer, GPS, WiFi). Charging is done through a USB Type-C connector

 

The GoPro Hero7 comes out in three variants: Hero7 Black , Hero7 Silver, and Hero7 White . Of the three models we only recommend the Hero7 Black. The other variants are very limited compared to cameras from other manufacturers with better value for money. More info: Hero7 Black vs Hero7 Silver vs Hero7 White

With respect to the Hero6 Black, the Hero7 Black is very similar in performance, basically the same camera, but includes a very good electronic stabilizer, possibly the best on the market for this type of camera.

GoPro Hero7 Black summary / opinion

From a hardware and external aspect point of view, the GoPro Hero7 Black is practically identical to the Hero6. The main changes are in the firmware and the extra functions it offers compared to the Hero6.

One of these features is the HyperSmooth electronic stabilizer , which works very well and can be activated even in 4K 60fps mode. As with other electronic stabilizers, when activated the image is slightly cropped around the edges (approximately 10% angle of view is lost) but the result is quite impressive.

Another new feature is Timewarp, which allows hyperlapse. And the possibility of direct streaming to different video platforms in real time.

Pros : Submersible without external case, records 4K / 60pfs, HyperSmoth stabilizer, high bitrate, rear screen, ease of use, very good options for slow motion / slow motion

Cons : Basically the price. In general, the outer casings seem safer to me because you can check their tightness at any time and replace them in case the gaskets have deteriorated, etc.

Xiaomi Yi 4K

  • 4K recording: 4K / 30fps (bitrate: up to 60Mbps )
  • Full HD recording: 1080 / up to 120fps (bitrate: up to 60Mbps in slow motion modes and 45Mbps at 60fps and below)
  • Image Stabilizer: Yes, electronic (but only available in resolutions below 4K)
  • Maximum lens aperture: f / 2.8
  • Maximum angle of view: 155º
  • You need an outer shell to use it underwater. The case is specific to the Yi 4K, they are not compatible with GoPro cases
  • 2-inch rear screen. Tactile.
  • It does not have a front LCD display
  • Battery life: between 1h 30m and 2h 40m depending on the video mode, with the extras deactivated (stabilizer, WiFi)

Pros : 4K recording, high bitrate, rear touch screen, ease of use, includes thread to attach to accessories. Unbeatable value for money compared to the GoPro of its range, which would be the Hero 5 Black. 720p / 240fps mode offers a wider angle of view than the GoPro Hero 5 Black

Cons : As with all non-submersible cameras, the underwater housing isolates the sound almost completely, unlike the submersible GoPro that can record sound perfectly underwater. In general, sound quality is not the strong suit of this camera. If you buy in a European store, the international version (English) is usually installed, if you buy in a Chinese store, verify that you choose the international version of the Yi 4K.

Xiaomi Mijia 4K

  • 4K recording: 4K / 30fps (bitrate: up to 60Mbps )
  • Full HD recording: 1080 / up to 100fps (bitrate: up to 60Mbps)
  • Image Stabilizer: Yes, electronic (but only available in resolutions below 4K)
  • Maximum lens aperture: f / 2.8
  • Maximum angle of view: 145º
  • You need an outer shell to use it underwater. The housing is specific to this camera and you usually have to buy the accessories separately. Mijia 4K packs do not usually include any accessories.
  • 2.5-inch rear screen. Tactile.
  • It does not have a front LCD display
  • Battery life: more than 2h 30m depending on the video mode, with the extras disabled (stabilizer, WiFi)

 

Pros : records 4K, medium bitrate although it has been increased with firmware updates, very large rear screen compared to other models, rear touch screen, ease of use, includes thread to attach to accessories. Unbeatable value for money compared to other sports cameras that record in 4K. Frequent firmware updates with improvements by Xiaomi.

Cons : The image quality worsens a lot when the light conditions are bad, in this sense its behavior is a little worse than other cameras of a similar range, although in general they are not cameras to use in low light conditions. Does not include external microphone input. As with all non-submersible cameras, the underwater housing almost completely isolates sound.

Summary: Overall it is a very good sports camera and a very interesting option for 4K video. In some respects it is slightly below Yi 4K: low light performance (more noise than Yi 4K), lower bitrate… But perhaps these are details that only really matter for certain types of projects.

SJCAM SJ8 Plus

  • 4K recording: 4K / 30fps  (bitrate: up to 33Mbps)
  • Full HD recording: 1080p / up to 120fps (bitrate: up to 20-30Mbps depending on firmware version)
  • Includes H.264 and H.265 codecs (same quality but higher compression, videos take up less space)
  • Image Stabilizer: Yes (Gyro – electronic stabilizer). Works in all modes, including 4K / 30fps
  • Maximum lens aperture: f / 2.8
  • Maximum angle of view: 170º
  • Requires external housing to use it underwater (compatible with GoPro cases)
  • 2.33-inch rear screen ( touch )
  • Front LCD display for configuration and status
  • Battery life: about 2h. depending on the configuration
  • SJCAMs usually come in a pack with the water housing and the most common accessories for these cameras.

Pros : records true 4K at 30fps, very large rear screen compared to other models, rear touch screen, ease of use, records 1080 / 120fps, includes thread to attach to accessories, quite good response when recording in low light conditions, includes input external microphone but with a manufacturer’s adapter. Very good value for money .

Cons : The bitrate in 4K is acceptable but it is a bit on the limit (it will not give us much margin if we have to edit color in post-production or make very aggressive adjustments in editing). The electronic stabilizer works well but is not the best. The underwater housing almost completely isolates the sound.

Summary: It is a very good option if we need to record 4K or we want a camera that allows us to record in slow motion at 1080, and we do not want to go to the high end (GoPro for example). The image quality is very good, but if we want to do a bit aggressive editing, it will limit us a bit (compared to other models that offer a higher bitrate, more bitrate equals more signal information).

GoPro Hero 6 Black

  • 4K recording: 4K / 60fps  (bitrate: up to 80Mbps )
  • Full HD recording: 1080 / up to 240fps (bitrate: up to 60Mbps in slow motion and 30 / 45Mbps at 60fps and below)
  • Includes H.264 and H.265 codecs (same quality but higher compression, videos take up less space)
  • Image Stabilizer: Yes, electronic. Available in 4K but up to 30pfs (not available in 4K 60fps). It also works better than the GoPro Hero5
  • Maximum lens aperture: f / 2.8
  • Maximum angle of view: 170º
  • Submersible up to 10m. no need for external housing
  • 2-inch rear screen. Tactile. The rear screen allows you to see what you are recording (framing, etc.) and access the configuration menus. Also includes front display for setup information.
  • Battery life: between 1h 30m and 2h 30m depending on the video mode, with the extras disabled (stabilizer, GPS, WiFi). Charging is done through a USB Type-C connector

GoPro Hero6 Black summary / opinion

It is perhaps the best sports camera for image quality and performance. The camera format and concept is practically identical to the Hero5 Black, but with better features, especially the option to record 4K at 60fps and the possibility of using the electronic stabilizer (very good, by the way) in 4K (although only at 30fps )

Pros : Submersible without external case, records 4K / 60pfs, high bitrate, rear screen, ease of use, very good slow motion / slow motion options

Cons : Basically the price. Also the fact that it does not need a case is both a pro and a con, as we mentioned with the Hero5. In general, the outer casings seem safer to me because you can check their tightness at any time and replace them in case the gaskets have deteriorated, etc.

GoPro Hero7 Black vs GoPro Hero7 Silver vs GoPro Hero7 White

The GoPro Hero7 has been released with three different variants:

  • GoPro Hero7 Black (the highest range and the only one we recommend )
  • GoPro Hero7 Silver : 4K at 30fps. It has no removable battery. Does not allow external microphone. It has no HDMI output. Stabilizer only in 1080p mode
  • GoPro Hero7 White : Only records at 1080p 60fps. It has no removable battery. It has no HDMI output

Both the Hero7 Silver and the Hero7 White are very limited models (compared to other competitive options with better value for money). One of the most negative aspects is that the battery is not removable, we cannot use spare batteries, for example if we go out for several hours, etc.

GoPro Hero 7 vs GoPro Hero 6 Black vs Hero 5 Black vs GoPro Hero 4 Black Which one to choose?

The GoPro Hero7 Black.  It would be my first choice, although in almost every way it is the same as the Hero6. However the electronic stabilizer works really well. It does not reach the level of stabilization that a good external gimbal provides, but there are many situations where it is very lazy to carry a gimbal or simply impossible to use.

The GoPro Hero6 Black.  If you have an external gimbal or don’t need this type of electronic stabilization, the Hero6 Black offers basically the same features and image quality as the Hero7. It is a very good option if you find it at a good price compared to the most recent model.

GoPro Hero5 Black  /  GoPro Hero4 Black  They are still interesting options if you find them at a good price and depending on your needs regarding 4K recording. In any case, they are discontinued models and more difficult to find on the market.

Recommended sports cameras for Full HD video (1080p)

If you don’t need to record in 4K you have many more options to choose from, as most current sports cameras record at least 1080p / 30fps.

The criteria that we follow in this section are:

  • Can record at 1080p / 60fps
  • Bitrate of 20Mbps or higher
  • Build quality / brand reliability

GitUp Git2 / GitUp Git2P

  • Full HD recording: 1080p / up to 60fps (bitrate: up to 40Mbps)
  • Recording in 2K / 24fps (bitrate: up to 35-40Mbps). It can record 4K at 24fps but it is interpolated, it is not true 4K
  • Image Stabilizer: Yes (Gyro)
  • Maximum lens aperture: f / 2.8
  • Maximum angle of view: 170º
  • Requires external housing to use it underwater (Git2 and Git2P 170º use the same housing, compatible with GoPro cases, but Git2P 90º uses a different specific housing)
  • 1.5-inch rear screen (non-touch)
  • Battery life: around 1h 30m depending on configuration

Versions:

Git2 : lens with f / 2.8 aperture and 170º angle of view (Sony sensor)
Git2P (90º): lens with f / 2.5 aperture and 90º angle of view (Panasonic sensor). This version is not compatible with Git2 housings as the lens sticks out a bit more.
Git2P ( 170º ): lens with f / 2.8 aperture and 170º angle of view (Panasonic sensor)

SJCAM SJ5000X / SJ5000X Elite

  • Full HD recording: 1080p / up to 60fps (bitrate: up to 20-30Mbps depending on firmware version)
  • 2K / 30fps recording (bitrate: up to 20-30Mbps). It can record 4K at 24fps but it is interpolated, it is not true 4K
  • Image Stabilizer: Yes (Gyro)
  • Maximum lens aperture: f / 2.8
  • Maximum angle of view: 170º
  • Requires external housing to use it underwater (compatible with GoPro cases)
  • 2-inch rear screen (non-touch)
  • Battery life: around 1h 40m depending on configuration
  • SJCAMs usually come in a pack with the water casing and various accessories.

Versions (the quality and features are very similar, we will usually find the Elite version in stores):

SJ5000X – Initial Limited Edition
SJ5000X Elite – Definitive version with 12.4Mpx Sony sensor

SJCAM SJ6 Legend

  • Full HD recording: 1080p / up to 60fps (bitrate: up to 30Mbps)
  • 2K / 30fps recording (bitrate: up to 20-30Mbps). It can record 4K at 24fps but it is interpolated, it is not true 4K
  • Image Stabilizer: Yes (Gyro)
  • Maximum lens aperture: f / 2.8
  • Maximum angle of view: 170º
  • Requires external housing to use it underwater (compatible with GoPro cases)
  • 2-inch rear screen ( touch ). Front LCD display to see the operating mode and main configuration options.
  • Battery life: around 2h depending on configuration
  • SJCAMs usually come in a pack with the water casing and various accessories.

Firefly 7S

  • Full HD recording: 1080p / up to 60fps (bitrate: up to 40Mbps)
  • Recording in 2K / 30fps (bitrate: up to 40Mbps). It can record 4K at 24fps but it is interpolated, it is not true 4K
  • Image Stabilizer: Yes (Gyro)
  • Maximum lens aperture: f / 2.8
  • Maximum angle of view: 170º
  • Requires external housing to use it underwater (compatible with GoPro cases)
  • 2-inch rear screen (non-touch). Front LCD display to see the operating mode and main configuration options.
  • Battery life: around 1h 45m depending on configuration
  • The Firefly usually come in packs with the common accessories of this type of cameras, including the water housing.

Recommended low cost action cameras

Selection criteria:

  • 1080p recording / at least 30fps, 60fps preferable
  • Image quality and build
  • Recognized brand and model tested by many users

Eken H9

  • Full HD recording: 1080p / up to 60fps (bitrate: 25Mbps)
  • 4K recording at 10fps or 25fps depending on the firmware version, although it is interpolated. The best quality is obtained at 1080p
  • Image Stabilizer: No
  • Maximum lens aperture: f / 2.8
  • Maximum angle of view: 170º
  • Requires external housing to use it underwater (compatible with GoPro cases)
  • 2-inch rear screen (non-touch)
  • Battery life: around 1h 30m depending on the settings and video mode used
  • The pack usually includes a water casing and the typical accessories of sports cameras

Elecam ELE Exporer Elite

  • Full HD recording: 1080p / up to 60fps (bitrate: up to 30Mbps).
  • Doesn’t record true 4K
  • Image Stabilizer: No
  • Maximum lens aperture: f / 2.8
  • Maximum angle of view: 170º
  • Requires external housing to use it underwater (compatible with GoPro cases)
  • 2-inch rear screen (non-touch)
  • Battery life: about 2h 30m depending on the settings and video mode used during recording