how to choose an action camera action camera buying guide
Action cameras are small lightweight cameras with standard features like record, pause and stop, but shoot incredibly wide angles of high-quality images in almost any environment. The biggest advantage they offer is their portability factor. They can be small enough to fit into the palm of your hands but are built to withstand very rough use. Action cameras are fun gadgets to have for sports junkies for recording their adventures in skiing, diving, surfing and gliding, by mounting these cameras onto their gears, or be very well mounted on standard tripods or monopods without the need of carrying them around.
If you are considering buying an action camera but are not sure “What makes a good action camera?” in the first place, here we have listed the top 9 must-have features for any action camera you must consider before buying one.
1. Design and Shape
The advent of technology has established that the smaller and lighter a gadget is, the more mobility and stability if offers. Action Cameras take this into consideration and are usually popular for their three unique shapes as Cube, Bullet and Box, where each one of them is more convenient for certain applications than others.
2. Water Proof
The action cameras are always made to withstand tough weather and conditions. Either you can buy one with waterproof exterior case for safe housing during outdoor activities, or go for special action cameras built for underwater use which can also withstand extreme pressure metres below sea level.
The image and video quality is the top feature to consider in any camera, and action cameras must be able to provide sharp and crisp shots. 720p resolution cameras have now been replaced by 1080p for good reasons. 4K models have started hitting market shelves, but might be expensive and unnecessary purchases if you don’t own any 4K screen to view the videos.
4. Image Stabilisation
This is a very important factor to consider since adventure videos can very easily be jerky and lead to haze in video print. There are two types of stabilization offered, where Optical Image Stabilisation is more efficient than the Electronic, but it comes with a higher cost.
5. Frame Rate
The more number of frames that are captured per second, the smoother and seamless video will it produces. But very high frame rate will also use a lot of memory and be more taxing on the hardware, consequently won’t be available in higher resolution cameras. Hence a 60-120 fps camera with 1080p resolution will be a better choice compared to 240fps with 720p.
6. Field of View
It is measured in terms of angles it can cover of a given scene. Every action camera has a fixed focal length with wide-angle lens. Some action cameras will allow you to choose between wide, medium, and narrow frames. Very wide angle can also lead to Fisheye-Effect. For those who don’t prefer this aberration, “Remove Fisheye” setting is also available in some models.
Either wireless or wired connectivity options may be available for easy transfer of recorded data from the camera to a Smartphone, PC, TV or the web. This is especially very handy if the camera doesn’t have a screen for instant playbacks.
Having Global Positioning System in-built in your action camera will automatically geo-tag all your images and videos taken, making it easier to locate in online maps for personal records or social-media posts.
More than good storage capability of pictures with respect to the high resolution of your camera, memory cards can also affect the quality of images it is storing. If your memory card is slower than the fps of the camera device, your card will not be fast enough to write the data, leading to dropping of frames and resulting in jerky footage.
Cold temperatures, wireless connectivity, and high resolution camera shoot can drain camera batteries. It is advisable to have enough battery life to sustain a few hours of continuous use, or carry spare batteries, just in case.
11. Mounting system
Action cameras are designed to be mounted on different surfaces like vests, surf boards, bike handles and helmets. Good action cameras might have universal mounting systems and need not be attached to additional accessories. Else, you can purchase appropriate accessories for mounting on the camera on specific surfaces if they are not included in the standard mounts as sold with camera kit.
It is very important for action cameras to have the essential accessories and mounts which will not only help you attach your camera onto different surfaces like helmets, vest, surfing boards and bikes, but also provide enough support to avoid jerky videos.
Camera Megapixels Is more always better
With the digital revolution of the 21st century on the boom, technology seems to get ‘outdated’ very quickly. Competitive market and ever growing demand has only resulted in devices cramping in more specifications and ‘higher’ specifications into simple old technologies and concepts. A twin cooler is better than single. A 6” screen is better than 4.5”. These are some of the many preconceived notions being encashed by brands and manufacturer companies in the various technical fields alike.
The megapixel hype is one of the best examples of this misunderstood trend by the latest camera smart phones and digital SLRs launching being launched in the market every month. The popular opinion suggests “the more the better,” like how the 8MP standard flagship models replaced 5MP and so on, just because “it sounds better.” But when we come to photography, especially, we need to understand why megapixels are not important. Yes, megapixels do affect the quality of photographs in the sense that the more data captured by the more number of megapixels will enable you to stretch-out the final image without becoming grainy, i.e. not compromising on you image quality, but are definitely not the sole determining factor. Camera lens, better electronics, shutter speed and image sensor quality are probably much more important in this respect.
It is not the megapixels but light sensors which result in higher resolution images. These light sensors are like digital ‘films’ which capture the image. The more light that falls on the sensors, the clearer the image is produced, with more details. This is the reason why 20MP cramped in a smart phone camera will not produce as quality images as a 20MP DLR, which has larger sensors than the ones present in the smart phone to collect the image reflection. Hence an 8MP camera with better sensors may give you sharper results than a 12MP camera.
There are also a number of disadvantages of using more megapixels unnecessarily;
- Models with more megapixels are proportionately more expensive.
- More megapixels will takes up more memory space and hence encourage you to take lesser shots.
- The higher data count, the longer the processing time. This causes lag between multiple shots taken in a shorter time frame, no photographer can compromise on missing out ‘the perfect shot’ because of a slower camera device.
So, are megapixels important? Yes, of course they are. Having an image taken from, say a 42 MP camera, even if you end up cropping a large one-third portion from the picture, your resultant image still has well over 20-25MP of data with great picture resolution. More megapixels will indeed give you the added flexibility to experiment with you captures even after the final shot without compromising on the picture quality. But experienced photographers who understand how to use megapixels efficiently may find a camera of 20 megapixels more than sufficient. It all depends upon how you photograph personally, and what use you are looking to make out of the megapixels. But do more megapixels mean better photo quality? No. The sensors’ quality, lighting, optics and speed will ensure a better picture quality than pixel count.