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What to Look for When Buying an Action Camera (and How To Use It)

Capture your next adrenaline-packed adventure on video. From mounting accessories to waterproof features, Abt outlines what to look for when buying an action camera.
GoPro action camera in waterproof housing on tree stump

Getting Started

From wanderlust travelers to adventure junkies and everyone in between, action cameras have become a must-have media tool. Whether you're skydiving or deep-sea diving, small action cameras are compact, rugged, and able to withstand more wear and tear than a traditional camera.
By now, you've probably heard of GoPro, the most prominent action camera brand. But, there are many more brands on the market to satisfy everyone's needs and budgets! It's worth spending the time to research the perfect fit for your adventuring style.
Wondering what exactly you need to look for when buying an action camera? Don't worry! This guide has got you covered.

A Note About Brands

As mentioned, GoPro is the most recognized brand name on the market. However, while it is a quality action camera brand, it might not fit everyone's criteria or budget.
Many action camera brands offer fantastic video quality and can take the same rough and rowdy wear and tear during your adventures.

Factors to Consider When Buying an Action Camera

  1. Video Quality and Frame Rate

    Two essential features of your purchasing decision are video resolution and frame rate. Today, the highest video resolution is 4K, but depending on how you plan to use your camera, it may not be necessary. You may be better off purchasing a more affordable model and upgrading later. It's also important to consider your mounting height. You'll have to determine if you want viewers to be able to see the TV from multiple angles. If you like to create crisp videos, you need to consider where you plan to mount your action camera. From a bike handlebar to a helmet on your head, how you typically use your action camera plays a significant role in video quality. As a result, action camera aficionados recommend a 4K portable monitor for the full experience. Pro Tip: When you use a 4K camera, make the most of it by switching your framerate from 30 fps to 60 fps. Although you likely couldn't spot the difference with a naked eye, changing this framerate allows you to edit your video in slow motion, which has a thrilling effect.
  2. Size, Shape and FOV (Field of View)

    Action cameras are meant to be compact compared to their counterparts, but when it comes to size and shape, there are still some considerations.
    Person using action camera underwater
    If you intend to mount your camera on your chest, a bulkier, square action camera is best. However, if you intend to mount your camera to a bike handle or helmet, go with the bullet-shaped options. Most action cameras will offer their version of a wide-angle FOV. However, we recommend choosing a camera with multiple FOVs, such as wide, medium, and narrow, which will prevent certain images from looking distorted and having a fish-eye effect. After some practice, you'll know which angles are best for your particular sport or activity. To keep things exciting, make sure to mount the camera in various spots to capture different perspectives.
  3. Image Stabilizing and Mounting Accessories

    As you research different action cameras, take note of their mounting accessories. Some common action video camera accessories are head mounts, helmets, bike handlebar mounts, chest belts and telescoping poles. These accessories are perfect for more thrilling activities such as surfing or base jumping.
    Action camera mounted on helmet
    Image stability plays a significant role in buying an action camera, and mounting accessories and attachments are an essential part of this. So, when purchasing a camera, do your research and ask others about their own experiences. If you find that one action camera brand does not come with the accessory you need, search for other compatible options. However, it's crucial to find a truly compatible accessory. If it isn't, you may lose your camera somewhere in the middle of the woods or in the water! In other words, find the action camera with a guaranteed compatible accessory. Don't settle for anything less.
  4. Durability and Resilience

    By now, you should know how you intend to use your action camera. This is important when it comes to choosing certain settings and features. Action cameras are already durable, but you also need to consider whether you need your camera to be weatherproof or waterproof for extreme outdoor activities. Moreover, you should consider the settings and modes. Underwater photography, for example, requires more elaborate settings and functions to capture your experiences than mountain biking. But, it helps to have various options to capture both. Pro Tip: Play around with the various settings and modes of action cameras. You can even take classes to learn photography basics and camera modes.
  5. Battery Life and Power Accessories

    Choose the best battery life in relation to how you'll use your action camera. Most action cameras last up to three continuous filming hours, but if you plan to only capture your experiences in hi-res videos, it will drain the battery faster. Also, like mounting accessories, guarantee that your action camera model has a separate charger to keep a spare battery on hand. This is one instance to consider purchasing compatible accessories, like power banks and extra batteries, to save some money.