How to choose a cheap action camera

Price, resolution, viewing angle, wireless connection: there are many elements that you need to evaluate before buying a cheap action cam

Until some time ago the word action camera was mainly associated with the company GoPro. In recent years, the market for these small and durable devices has grown and prices have dropped dramatically. But the wider the offer, the greater the confusion. Which action cam to choose?

Let's start by explaining what an action cam is and how it can be used. These are devices that allow you to take pictures and record high-resolution video in any situation. Even the most difficult ones. They are waterproof and water resistant, do not suffer from dust and do not break in case of a fall. They are mainly used in extreme sports, are normally mounted on a stand - such as a helmet - and allow you to shoot first-person videos, i.e. from the perspective of the author. That said, before buying an action cam you need to evaluate several factors ranging from technical features to price.

Action cam, what advantages?

Buying an action cam undoubtedly has advantages: it can be used where normal cameras can't reach and it's easy to use. But action cams have, however, limitations: they don't have a zoom and some don't even have an LCD display to review everything that has been recorded. Having made this small and important premise, we now describe what are the elements to consider before buying an action cam. First we must understand what we need it for. Spending 300€ to film our summer vacation or a bike ride doesn't make sense. With much less you can find good action cameras. Prices vary and start from 50-70 € to arrive up to 250-300 € .

First element to consider: the resolution

Closely related to the price are the technical characteristics. Let's start with the resolution. An entry-level action-cam can record images with a resolution of 720p, i.e. in HD (1280 x 720 pixels). Going up there is the Full-HD standard (1920 x 1080 pixels) and then the more advanced 4K (3,840 x 2,160 pixels). It goes without saying that the higher the resolution, the more defined the images are. It also goes without saying that a 4K action camera will cost more than an HD one.

Frame rate and shooting angle

Another factor that should not be underestimated is the frame rate, i.e. the number of consecutive frames an action camera can record in one second. On average, a normal action camera shoots 30 frames per second. The most advanced ones reach 60 fps (frames per second) and some, ideal for slow motion shooting, reach 120 fps. Obviously the choice will always depend on what you want to film.

Another important factor is the shooting angle, that is the focal extension of the action cam, expressed in degrees. The higher its value, the greater the visual coverage of a lens will be. Also, don't forget that action cams are not SLRs and as much as they allow you to take pictures, the resolution of the shots will always be limited.

Water Resistance

We said that action cameras are waterproof and water resistant. There is a big difference. In fact, some of them can only be submerged for a few feet. Before buying an action cam, it is therefore necessary to check its water resistance capacity.

Other important factors to consider: mounting and battery

It is also important to consider how and where to mount an action cam. Most of these small cameras have a universal system that allows them to be installed on any surface. For example, they can be placed on a helmet, a bicycle or motorcycle handlebar, or on your wrist. If you have special needs, you will be forced to put your hands in your wallet and buy additional mounting accessories. Evaluate this element as well before proceeding with your purchase.

Let's get to the battery, a vital element. Normally, action cam batteries only last for a few hours. If you don't want to run out of power, you might want to add money to your initial budget to buy spare batteries.

Internal memory, GPS and wireless connections

Are we done? Not yet. There are three other important factors to evaluate before buying an action cam and they are: internal memory, wireless connections and GPS. Let's start with the first one. Action cams need a lot of gigabytes as they record high resolution videos. Evaluate the storage capacity of the camera before buying it and also remember to buy an SD card. And not just any SD card, preferably class 10 cards.

Second item. Bluetooth, Wifi and NFC are important if you need to control the action camera with a smartphone or tablet. The latest generation of action cameras are almost all equipped with these three connection features. Obviously they raise the bar on price.

Last item: GPS. Necessary only if you want the action cam to include the position in the videos and photos, otherwise you can also do without it. Now you have all the elements to decide which action camera to buy.