The 4 best action cameras for your gap year
So you’re going on a gap year, and you already know it’s going to be the most memorable experience of your life. But not memorable enough that you can afford not to take any pictures or videos!
You will want to capture every moment, and make sure your memories are safe in a great device – and while you might be tempted to just use your phone, to capture the subtleties of a sunset on the beach in Colombia or the long kayaking adventure you will have in Argentina, a phone just won’t cut it. And that’s where action cameras come in!
Action cameras are relatively new to the market, but they have already revolutionised the way travellers document their experiences: with their flexibility of use, being attachable to clothes, hats and even equipment, they allow even the trickiest of adventures to be recorded.
This is exactly why I thought it would be helpful to compile a list of all the best action cameras to bring on your gap year, so that you don’t have to spend ages figuring all the specs out. Our top four is:
My Best Gap Year Action Cameras
How do I choose the best action camera for my gap year?
It might seem obvious, but the quality of the image the camera takes should be first and foremost on your list. You don’t want to spend a lot of money on an action camera which takes shaky, noisy videos. 4K video quality is the current best on the market, but this should be combined with at least 30fps (frames per second) frame rate, for optimal video resolution.
Also consider what stabilization the camera offers, as the steadiness of the video while on the move is important to avoid movement noises and shaky framing.
You should also check what accessories come with the camera, and how many you would need to buy separately: for example, does the camera come with a waterproof case, a mount, and a cable? Depending on the activities you will be undertaking, you might need more accessories, and so it might be wise to search for a camera that comes with those accessories included in the price.
The cameras typically come with a range of control options – some cameras rely on an app, others on voice control – so you can choose the one you think you’d find most comfortable to use.
You should also consider battery life when making a decision, as you don’t want to be halfway through a hike and the battery dying before you’ve come to the best views.
Action camera vs DSLR or compact camera?
An action camera might arguably be more flexible than a hand-held compact camera; while these cameras will often have more customizable settings, particularly for picture taking, and will as a consequence produce more detailed, livelier pictures, the action camera will typically produce much better videos, even in difficult and dynamic situations.
A DSLR, on the other hand, will take perfect pictures, but you will you need to actually stop and think about the shoot you are trying to take and regulate the settings. In some cases DSLRs are not compatible with video, and if they are they will require more input from you than an action camera.
In short, an action camera might be the best choice for those of you who want to capture moments on the go, even in the most adventurous situations, and especially if you see yourself taking lots of videos while you are out and about. Otherwise, if you’d rather take good pictures and do not envision taking many adventure videos, a DSLR or a point-and-shoot compact camera might be better for you.
GoPros – real pros or foes?
The rise of GoPros is seemingly unstoppable – despite their relatively recent arrival onto the scene, they are now dominating the market. Their first appeal is their versatility and sturdiness: they can go with you anywhere, underwater and on a cliff on the top of your head.
They come with accessories such as mounts and cables, and with the extra accessories that can be purchased, the GoPro can be clipped to almost anything, making filming hands-free while riding a motorcycle on the Pacific coast a real possibility.
But you must be thinking – what about the price? The price is definitely a notch higher than most competitors, but this not only because GoPros were pioneers in the field, but because they have remained at the top of the game since their launch in 2002.
That is why GoPros feature heavily on this list – you will be glad you spent that extra money when you replay your memories smoothly from home and feel like you are still scuba diving in Bali.
While there are definitely some worthy competitors to GoPro – two of which feature on my list - you should beware of some cheaper knockoffs you can find online. Some of these even have good reviews, and you might be tempted to just take that option; but unfortunately some of the companies have been known to send buyers notes along with the camera asking for 5 star reviews on Amazon, promising a gift in exchange.
This kind of marketing is deceitful as it promotes fake reviews, so make sure you check all reviews before you buy a cheaper alternative. With these kinds of cameras, moreover, you risk your files getting corrupt on a faulty machine, and losing all of your precious gap year memories.
My best action camera reviews
- HD video capture: 1080p @ 60 FPS or 720p @ 120 FPS at 19M/bits
- 1500mAh interchangeable rechargeable lithium battery for up to 4 hours record time
- Up to 16MP stills with photo-burst and continuous photo to allow time lapse videos and interval photos
- Wi-Fi enabled app to allow wireless streaming & remote recording
This compact and easy to use Veho camera has 12MP picture and 4K video resolution, shoots in 1080p at 60fps and has great slow motion playback options, so in terms of performance you can’t fault it.
It is quite generous with the many complimentary gadgets that come in the box, such as a curved and a flat mount, a silicone case, and LCD touchscreen which can be attached to the camera.
It doesn’t come with a waterproof case, unfortunately, but it can be bought separately.
- Stunning 4K video and 12MP photos in Single, Burst and Time Lapse modes.
- Durable by design, HERO5 Black is waterproof to 33ft (10m) without a housing.
- Preview and playback your shots, change settings and trim your footage, all on your GoPro.
- Enjoy hands-free control of your GoPro using simple voice commands.
- HERO5 Black Camera, The Frame (HERO5 Black), Rechargeable Battery (HERO5 Black), Curved Adhesive Mount, Flat Adhesive Mount, Mounting Buckle, USB-C Cable
The latest GoPro is a thing of wonder. It has a built-in touchscreen which allows you to edit your photos and videos on the go. It responds to voice controls in seven different languages.
Most importantly, its casing is waterproof up to 10m – this eliminates the need for an external waterproof case which previous GoPro generations needed. Its stabilization for videos is flawless, and the overall performance of the camera is hard to match.
- Smallest, Lightest GoPro Yet
- Durable + Waterproof to 10 m (33')
- Easy One-Button Control
- Professional Video Quality
- GoPro HERO Session Camera, The Standard Frame, Curved & Flat Adhesive Mounts, Mounting Buckle, Micro USB Cable
This compact version of the Black dispenses with the screen but maintains the sturdy and intuitive one-button design, and the voice control capabilities of its bigger sibling.
It shoots with 4k video 10mp photo resolution, and like the Black it is waterproof. It can also be controlled through your phone via an app.
Not having a screen makes it slightly more awkward to control in terms of setting the shot, but the quality of the video is just as good as in the pricier version.
The Olfi is an excellent compromise between price and performance. Its 4K resolution compromises none of the video quality combined with Gyro stabilization for shots on the move.
It has an integrated LCD screen for playback. It comes with a waterproof case and there is a free app to control camera with. Its cool retro design is also an appealing feature for the photography enthusiasts.
And the winner is...
Despite all four of these cameras being absolutely top of their game, we think the GoPro Hero 5 Black stands out from the pack. Its waterproof design, integrated LCD screen and flawless video definition accomplish versatility and quality at the same time. While the price can seem high, we don’t think you’d ever regret the investment.