Best cheap action camera GoPro Hero7 Black
Best 4K camcorder: Sony AX700
Why should you buy this: Beautiful 4K footage from a large, 1-inch sensor andbright zoom lens.Who’s it for: Those who aren’t afraid to drop some cash for great imagequality.Why we picked the Sony AX700:I’m not a big fan of camcorders, and I think your smartphone is an adequatesubstitute for many situations. But, the Sony AX700 makes a strong case foritself with a good balance of portability and image quality. Camcorders arealso a good choice for live events, from weddings to sports, where you need acamera that can keep shooting uninterrupted for a long period of time.Sony’s 1-inch-type sensors have dominated the compact camera market for years,and while those same sensors are newer to video cameras, they are no lessimpressive here, where they offer superior image quality to the usual 1/2-inchor smaller sensors found in camcorders. The 1-inch sensor in the AX700 helpsit gather more light, bringing a serious image quality boost. Combined withthe S-Log flat color profile, you can preserve more dynamic range to push theexposure and color further in post, if you feel like getting that in-depth.The larger a sensor is, the harder it is to put a long zoom lens in front ofit, but Sony still managed to tack on a 12X zoom to the AX700. The f/2.8-4.5aperture is bright for the category, working together with the larger sensorto improve image quality in low light scenes. On the flip side, a built-inneutral density filter will assist when the surroundings are too bright,helping to keep the shutter speed down so that video doesn’t look jittery.The sensor and lens work together with a 273-point phase-detection autofocusfor smoother focusing with more accurate subject tracking. 4K video isrecorded at 100 megabits per second, not as high as the likes of theBlackmagic PCC4K, but higher than the average consumer-grade video camera.Additional capabilities like HDR (high dynamic range) mode, 960-frames-per-second super slow-motion, and a hot shoe connection round out the feature set.On the exterior, the camera offers a handful of manual controls including amulti-function lens ring that can control focus or zoom. Dual SD card slotsallow for plenty of storage and uninterrupted recording.The price of the Sony AX700 is a bit steep for many buyers, but right in linefor the class. Canon’s competing Vixia HF G60 is a slightly more affordablealternative. It also offers a 1-inch sensor, but with an even longer 15X zoomand the same f/2.8-4.5 aperture. It lacks the super slow-motion mode and someother advanced features of the Sony, however.
The best video camera for YouTube: Sony A6600
Why should you buy this: Excellent autofocus, good video quality, and 5-axisimage stabilization.Who’s it for: One-person crews who need a camera that’s reliable even whennobody is standing behind it.Why we picked the Sony A6600:There are many great options when it comes to choosing a video camera to helptake your YouTube channel to the next level, but none that will make capturinggreat footage as easy as the Sony A6600. While this camera is loaded with tonsof powerful features, there is one that really stands out when it comes toshooting video for YouTube. That’s Sony’s Real-Time Eye and Real-Time Trackingautofocus, which is hands-down the best continuous focusing tech we’ve everseen. For YouTubers who need to be on-camera and don’t have the luxury ofworking with another person as a camera operator, Real-Time Eye AF will keepyou in sharp focus even if you need to move around within the frame.That’s not the only thing that makes the A6600 a great video camera. It alsoshoots oversampled 4K video from its APS-C sensor for detail-rich output. TheLCD screen can flip up 180 degrees so you can monitor yourself while oncamera. Dedicated microphone and headphone jacks allow you to upgrade theaudio quality without any bulky accessories. The five-axis sensor-shiftstabilization system keeps your videos smooth and steady when shootinghandheld (think vlogging). The short flange-back distance of the Sony E mountalso makes the A6600 very adaptable to other lenses, including those fromCanon and Nikon DSLRs, which opens up a world of creative lens options.On top of all of this, the A6600 is also a top-notch still camera and iscompact enough for travel. For jobs that require photography and video, youcan knock both tasks out with the same tool.But let me address the elephant in the room, the Panasonic Lumix GH5. The GH5offers higher-quality 10-bit video files and some other pro-level features theSony A6600 lacks. I think it’s an excellent choice — but, Panasonic’scontrast-detection autofocus simply doesn’t keep up with Sony’s bettertechnology, and I think the average YouTuber will find the A6600 a bit easierto work with because of this.Read our Sony A6600 hands-on review
Best budget cinema camera: Blackmagic Design Pocket Cinema Camera 4K
Daven Mathies/Digital TrendsWhy should you buy this: Professional cinema quality at an enthusiast-friendlyprice.Who’s it for: Student, aspiring, and professional filmmakers.Why we picked the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K:The Pocket Cinema Camera 4K takes a lot of what makes Blackmagic Design’sprofessional Ursa Mini Pro 4.6K G2 camera special and serves it up at afraction of the cost. Blackmagic Design is on a mission to lower the entrypoint for professional-quality film production, and the Pocket Cinema Camera4K is its biggest step in that direction yet. It is considerably moreaffordable than other cinema cameras and even cheaper than many hybridmirrorless cameras that lack its video chops. It’s built around the Micro FourThirds system and uses a very similar sensor to the one found in the PanasonicLumix GH5S.In early 2020, Blackmagic Design also added remote camera control through theATEM Mini series of livestream-ready HDMI switchers. This lets you use aconnected computer to adjust exposure, color correction, and even focus andzoom on supported lenses. It turns the PCC4K into a viable studio camera,suitable for everything from professional livestream productions to a companyZoom meeting.The camera features a gorgeous, 5-inch, Full HD display that is perhaps thebest built-in monitor I’ve seen — although, it does not articulate. The touchinterface is also brilliantly designed, making the PCC4K a surprisingly simplecamera to use. Add the advanced audio inputs and controls, including both3.5mm and mini-XLR, and you’ve got everything you need to make your nextblockbuster.Beyond the hardware, what really sets this camera apart from others is in thesoftware. It records high-quality, edit-friendly filetypes including 10-bitApple ProRes and even 12-bit Blackmagic RAW. Compared to the compressedformats most video cameras use, this means more detail and greater flexibilityfor color grading footage in post. You also get more options for storing thatfootage, as the camera records to SD or CFast 2.0 memory cards, or directly toan external solid-state drive (SSD) over USB 3.Designed for workflows that involve a crew, the Pocket Cinema Camera doesn’toffer the creature comforts of most modern cameras. Autofocus is slow andoften inaccurate, and there is nothing like the face or eye-tracking autofocusfound on mirrorless cameras from the likes of Sony, Panasonic, Nikon, andCanon. It’s also designed to be a single component within a larger rig, andmany operators end up spending hundreds — if not thousands — more onaccessories to fully kit it out.Even so, no other camera provides such a good starting point as the PCC4K forfilmmakers who want the best quality on tight budgets.Blackmagic Design has since released the Pocket Cinema Camera 6K, an upgradeover — but not a replacement of — the 4K version. In addition to the extraresolution, it offers a larger super 35 sensor and Canon EF lens mount. Westill like the cheaper, smaller Blackmagic Design Pocket Cinema Camera 4K, butthe 6K is worth a look if you demand even higher-quality video.Read our Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K review
The best hybrid still/video camera: Fujifilm X-T4
Daven Mathies/Digital TrendsWhy should you buy this: 5-axis stabilization, great 4K quality, articulatingmonitorWho’s it for: Aspiring, enthusiast, and even professional video shooters.Why we picked the Fujifilm X-T4:Yes, a Fujifilm has made the list of best video cameras — and for greatreasons. After cultivating a rabid following of enthusiast still photographerswith its retro designs and fast prime lenses, Fujifilm set its eyes on videoaround the time of the X-T2. Two generations later and it has all butperfected it in the excellent X-T4.The X-T4 is the first X-T camera to feature 5-axis internal stabilization,which is a boon for videographers looking to smooth out those otherwise shakyhandheld shots. The camera also introduces a fully-articulating LCD screen sothat talent-operators (like vloggers and YouTubers) can actually seethemselves as they shoot, while the effective face- and eye-detectionautofocus does a great job of staying locked on to the subjectBeyond this, the X-T4 serves up some of the most advanced video features ofany mirrorless camera, with 10-bit 4K video at up to 400 megabits per second.4K can be recorded at up to 60 frames per second, while Full HD is availableat up to 240 fps for slow-motion playback. Fujifilm’s F-Log flat color profileprovides for greater dynamic range, while the option to record externallybrings even higher data rates and 4:2:2 color.Compared to previous Fujifilm X-series cameras, the X-T4 also uses a higher-capacity battery, extending 4K video record time up to 110 minutes.All the focus on video hasn’t changed Fujifilm’s core mission of delivering atop-notch photography experience. The Fujifilm X-T4 is one of the bestmirrorless cameras we’ve tested, combing excellent image quality, a thoughtfulcontrol layout, and strong autofocus and continuous shooting performance intoa portable (and surprisingly affordable) package.Read our Fujifilm X-T4 hands-on review
The best action camera: GoPro Hero9 Black
Why should you buy this: The most versatile feature set of any action cameraWho’s it for: Anyone with a love for POV videos or who needs a camera smallenough to go anywhere.Why we picked the GoPro Hero9 Black:Calling the Hero9 Black an action camera isn’t the most accurate label. Yes,GoPro’s latest flagship is still the best action camera you can buy, but itdoes much more than provide a point-of-view perspective for extreme athletes.The front-facing screen makes it perfect for vlogging and a redesigned mediamod, similar to the one introduced with the Hero8 Black, adds a mini shotgunmicrophone and two cold shoes for attaching other microphones or lights.The Hero9 Black is physically larger than last year’s Hero8, but now featuresa bigger rear screen and higher-capacity battery. The removable lens cover, abeloved feature of the Hero5 through 7, also returns (although is incompatiblewith those older cameras). Not only does this make securing ND filters abreeze, but it also opens up support for the new Max Lens Mod, which expandsthe field of view to 155 degrees and enables 360-degree horizon leveling,meaning the camera can do a barrel role and your footage will remain uprightthe entire time.Several software features have also received important updates. HyperSmooth3.0 provides even better digital image stabilization with in-camera horizonleveling; TimeWarp 3.0 now allows you to slow down to either real time or halfspeed and records audio during real-time segments; and a number of automationtools allow you to program record starting times and durations.All of this is to say nothing of the new sensor that shoots 20MP stills and 5Kvideo — the latter of which I found to be little more than a marketing stunt,but, still, it’s the first new sensor in several generations of GoPro cameras.The Hero8 Black remains an excellent camera and is still available, but if youwant the latest and greatest, nothing beats the GoPro Hero9 Black.Read our full GoPro Hero9 Black review
Should I buy a 4K video camera?
The answer is probably yes, if for no other reason than 4K is quickly becomingthe default. Even midrange mirrorless cameras now come equipped with 4K video.However, if you don’t have a 4K television or monitor, you won’t fully realizethe benefits of a 4K video camera — and many people can’t see the difference,anyway. That said, shooting in 4K does allow you some flexibility to crop andreframe a shot in post, which can be a very welcome feature when you need it.It also does a much better job rendering fine patterns, like the threads inclothing, that may otherwise cause moiré at lower resolutions.If you are shopping on a budget, check out the best Black Friday camera dealswe found.
GoPro Fusion 360-degree Action Camera
Daven Mathies/Digital TrendsOnce you dabble with the GoPro Fusion, you’ll find yourself saying If it’s not360-degrees then it’s not worth recording. The Fusion goes beyond the singlelens, fixed frame recording of the traditional GoPro cameras and expands it toa full 360-degrees. The Fusion action camera uses two lenses – one in thefront and one in the back — to film everything around you. No more worryingabout camera angles as the Fusion allows you to capture every angle at once.You can’t appreciate the power of this recording style until you start editingyour clips. You are not stuck watching the video from one perspective. You canpan to watch the action from the front or back, the left or right, or the topor bottom. You can even change perspectives on the fly as you compile thevideo using OverCapture into a flat file that everyone can watch. You don’thave to be a photographer or videographer to enjoy the creative power of theFusion. You just need to send your hardest and let the camera do the rest foryou.
Best action camera overall: GoPro Hero8 Black
Why you should buy this: Its super-smooth electronic image stabilization makesfor a great user experience.Who it’s for: Extreme athletes and vloggers.Why we picked the GoPro Hero8 Black:When it comes to action cameras, GoPro is a household name. It’s the brandthat started it all and it continues to lead the way. The Hero8 Black is thefirst physical redesign since the Hero5 Black, incorporating a built-in mountthat lets you forego a frame or case. This makes it faster and easier to setup, while also allowing you to swap batteries and memory cards while thecamera is mounted to something. The camera is also thinner overall, making itmore pocketable.GoPro also turned up it’s impressive HyperSmooth stabilization to 2.0 in theHero8, offering gimbal-like steadiness that smooths out the roughest trailruns or mountain bike rides. It’s beyond impressive, and probably the numberone reason to buy the Hero8 over other action cameras. It’s far from the onlynew feature, however. TimeWarp 2.0 offers new ways to create incrediblypolished hyper-lapse videos, automatically choosing the time-lapse speed basedon camera movement and allowing you to slow down to real time at any point.New microphones and audio processing algorithms make voices easier to hear,even in windy and noisy conditions, and improvements to the interface make thecamera even friendlier to use.GoPro also rolled out a new line of accessories for the Hero8 called mods. Thecurrent mods let you add an LED light, mini shotgun microphone, and even aflip-up selfie screen. For the vlogger, there’s never been a better actioncamera than the Hero8 Black.GoPro also continues to update its mobile app, which is simply the best in thebusiness. The QwikStories feature, previously its own app, is now built-in andlets you combine GoPro footage with photos and videos stored on your phoneinto fun, automatically edited clips that can be shared on social media.Of course, not everyone will need the latest and greatest and you can stillpick up the Hero7 Black brand new, now at a reduced cost. To see how it stacksup, see our GoPro Hero8 Black versus Hero7 Black comparison.Read our Hero8 Black review.
Most versatile action camera: Insta360 One R
Why you should buy this: This modular camera is both a standard action cam and360 camera in one — there’s even an option with a larger sensor.Who it’s for: Adventurers that can’t decide between a traditional action camand 360Why we picked the Insta360 One R:The Insta360 One R is unlike any other action camera on the market. A modularcamera, the One R allows adventurers to swap out mods to go from a traditionalwide-angle action camera to a 360 camera or even an advanced action camerawith a large, 1-inch-type sensor. Think of it like the mirrorless camera ofthe action camera category, only instead of swapping lenses, you swap mods.Despite having multiple parts that plug together, the One R is still small andwaterproof to 16 feet.Besides the versatility of those mods, the camera integrates Insta360’sexcellent image stabilization. Using the 360 mod, stabilization is nearlyperfect as it can reframe the image infinitely without cropping away pixels.Stabilization with the wide-angle lens mod isn’t quite as spectacular, butcompares well with the other action cameras on the market.The list of features for the Insta360 One R is long — there’s also tracking,invisible selfie stick mode, hyper lapses, time-lapses, and much more. Imagequality is what we’d expect from an action camera on the wide-angle and 360mods, and we’re getting ready to try out the 1-inch Leica mod next. Sensorsize plays a huge role in image quality, so the Leica mod may give the One R aleg up over GoPro.While an excellent action camera for video, it’s not ideal for still photossince there’s a slight delay that makes it difficult to time the shots justright. Some of the controls can also be a bit finicky. But, for theversatility, the Insta360 One R is unmatched — and the price isn’t too badeither.Read our Insta360 One R Twin Edition review
Best action camera alternative to GoPro: DJI Osmo Action
Daven Mathies/Digital TrendsWhy you should buy this: Screw-on filters, front-facing screen, goodstabilization.Who it’s for: Adventurers and filmmakers who need easy filters and a goodscreen.Why we picked the DJI Osmo Action:Pick up an Osmo Action and the first thing you’ll notice is that it has twoLCD screens, one on the back and one on the front. It’s a clever twist on thetried-and-true action camera recipe that allows you to easily frame selfieshots — a nice touch for vlogging — or preview your shot when the camera ismounted in such a way as to make the rear screen inaccessible. It also has thebest rear screen of any action camera we’ve tested, with a true 16:9 aspectratio and better resolution than GoPro.DJI’s other innovative feature with the Osmo Action is support for screw-onlens filters. If you need to add a diving filter, polarizer, or neutraldensity, simply unscrew the default protective glass and replace it with afilter. It’s a standard thread size which means filters are available frommany manufacturers and aren’t difficult to find.The DJI Osmo Action also has impressive electronic stabilization, at least atthe level of the Hero7 Black, but we’d put it below that of the Hero8 Black.Its interface is a near copy of GoPro’s, which means it’s easy to use, but itdoes lack some features. It’s also waterproof without a case, can shoot 4K/60pvideo, and is otherwise everything you’d expect from a flagship action camera— all for less money than the Hero8 Black. Where DJI falls behind GoPro iswith its mobile app, which simply lacks the features and ease of use ofGoPro’s, but hopefully, this will evolve into something more full-featuredover time.Read our DJI Osmo Action review.
Best action camera for travel: Olympus Tough TG-6
Hillary Grigonis/Digital TrendsWhy you should buy this: It is a sporty camera with optical zoom and largersensor.Who it’s for: Those who don’t mind a larger camera in exchange for betteroptics and larger sensor.Why we picked the Tough TG-6:Yes, we admit this is a stretch: The Olympus Tough TG-6 is technically arugged point-and-shoot camera, and while it is compact enough to fit in yourpocket, it’s bigger than your typical action cam. So why buy it? The TG-6 hassome notable action cam attributes, but in a body that operates like a stillcamera, making it perfect for adventurers who want a camera with capabilitiesthat go beyond capturing POV footage.Like an action camera, the TG-6 is built to withstand the elements (andwithout a case, no less), so you can drop it in the snow, sand, or waterwithout worry. It also has a larger sensor, a 4X optical zoom lens, andsensor-shift image stabilization. For action sequences, it can shoot bursts upto 20 fps.Finally, the TG-6 lens also has a microscope mode for capturing thingsincredibly up-close, something no action camera can do. It shoots RAW photosand 4K video, uses GPS to record your location data, and leverages Wi-Fi tolet you share online.The Olympus Tough TG-6 is a minor update to the popular Tough TG-5, with newlens coating and… not much else. The design and features are otherwiseidentical, but the TG-5 was so far ahead of its time that the TG-6 is stillone of the best point-and-shoots you can buy. Our TG-5 review below will letyou know what to expect from the TG-6, too.Read our Olympus Tough TG-5 review.
Best cheap action camera: GoPro Hero7 Black
Hero7 Black (left) next to Hero8 Black.Why you should buy this: The best of the previous generation, now for less.Who it’s for: Anyone who doesn’t need the latest and greatest but still wantsa solid camera.Why we picked the GoPro Hero7 Black:The Hero7 Black was the flagship of the previous generation, and it remains inGoPro’s lineup today — but now at a reduced cost. This is the camera thatintroduced HyperSmooth stabilization, and while GoPro improved upon it for theHero8, it’s still an impressive feature here.The body is the older style, so you’ll still need a mounting frame to attachthe camera to anything, unlike the Hero8 Black with its integrated mount. Thegood news is that it’s the same design as cameras going back a fewgenerations, so if you’re upgrading from a Hero5 or Hero6, you can use thesame frames you already have.As far as video quality goes, you don’t sacrifice much by choosing the Hero7over the Hero8. It still shoots 4K at up to 60 frames per second, and you getall the advanced settings within ProTune. The main difference in quality willcome down to HyperSmooth stabilization, which isn’t available across everyframe rate as it is on the Hero8.While we love the new lower-profile design of the Hero8 and fun features likeTimeWarp 2.0, the truth is that the GoPro Hero7 Black remains more than enoughaction camera for most people. We don’t hesitate to recommend it.