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Best Action Cameras 2017: The top 5 to capture life's adventures

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We list the best action cameras, including the best GoPro, you can buy for capturing all of life's greatest adventures.

Action cameras can go where your average camera or smartphone wouldn't even dream. Thanks to ruggedised and waterproof designs they can endure the rigours and extremes of any adventures. That could be hanging 100ft in the air as you abseil down a sheer cliff or while having a splash kayaking through whitewater rapids.

But even for more mundane activities action cameras can prove their worth, getting video and still images from unique perspectives thanks to their small size and mounting abilities. A good action camera can prove to be your best travelling companion.

One name that’s become synonymous with action cameras is GoPro – so much so that the company name almost risks becoming a generic term, with any and all action cameras being referred to as ‘GoPros’.

But GoPro has become incredibly popular for a reason, and its newest Hero 5 action cameras in particular are fantastic. But that doesn’t mean other cameras aren’t worth considering, as you’ll see from our list of the very best.

Make sure to read the full reviews to find out more about each model, as well as to check out test video and still images, and check back regularly as we update this list with new models that deserve a place in our list.

Related: Best GoPro mounts and accessories

Key features:  
  • Up to 4K/30fps
  • Voice controls
  • Electronic image stabilisation
  • Waterproof without a case

We've called the Hero 5 Black GoPro's 'Greatest Hits' camera for good reason. It's taken the best component parts of GoPro's previous attempts and merged them all together to form the company's most capable and best-performing action camera to date. It has the same 4K top resolution at 30 frames per second as the Hero 4 Black, adds in the built-in waterproofing of the Hero Session, and improves upon the integrated touchscreen display of the Hero 4 Silver.

GoPro has added some new features to the mix, too, including for the first time electronic image stabilisation for less shaky footage. There's also new voice-control options for when your hands are tied. Top it off with all-important excellent image quality and you have the recipe for one of the best action cameras you can buy today.

Related: GoPro Karma Grip review


At time of review the GoPro Hero 5 Black was available for £350.
Sony FDR-X3000R Action Cam

Key features: 

  • Up to 4K/30fps
  • Live-view remote control
  • Balanced optical image stabilisation
  • Innovative range of accessories

Sony's FDR-X3000R Action Cam is one of the priciest action cameras on the market at around £500. But if you have deep pockets it's also one of the best you can buy. What goes some way to justifying its hefty price tag is its optical image stabilisation.

No, you read that right – there's proper optical image stabilisation here, not digital trickery as is the case with electronic image stabilisation. This means there's a floating lens system that counters your hand movement. The big draw is the OIS still works even when you're shooting at glorious 4K resolution.

You also get a separate live-view remote control with the FDR-X3000R that can be worn on your wrist. Perfect if you've mounted the camera to your helmet or you want to snap a selfie. New with the FDR-X3000R's remote is the ability to detach the display and attach it to other accessories such as the Shooting Grip or Finger Grip. The latter is a tiny little holster that's perfect if you're using the FDR-X3000R as a travel camera. 

Both video and still image quality from the FDR-X3000R are excellent, and you get all of the resolution and frame rate options you would expect from a high-end action camera.

At the time of review the Sony FDR-X3000R Action Cam was available for £500.

GoPro Hero 5 Session

Key features: 

  • Up to 4K/30fps
  • Waterproof without a case
  • Electronic image stabilisation
  • Voice controls

When the original GoPro Hero 4 Session (since renamed to the Hero Session) was first launched, it was a tough sell. It launched at the same price as the better-performing GoPro Hero 4 Silver and was difficult to recommend.

This time round, GoPro hasn't introduced a 'Silver' model to go alongside the Hero 5 Black. This means the Hero 5 Session becomes the cheaper alternative and makes a whole load more sense.

It has the same 4K resolution at 30fps as the Hero 5 Black and its image quality is almost as good. There's also the new voice controls. You have to look at the lower resolutions to see where the Black excels at higher frame rate video. It also lacks the GPS of the Hero 5 Black. Be sure to give the full review a read to find out the other differences.

The returning cube-shaped design is still adorable and, importantly, very light. This makes the Hero 5 Session a great choice for mounting in tricky positions, such as your leg while rock climbing. If you're looking for a secondary camera, it's a great choice.

At the time of review the GoPro Hero 5 Session was available for £250.

Yi 4K Action Camera

Key features: 

  • Up to 4K/30fps
  • Electronic image stabilisation
  • 2.19-inch touchscreen display
  • Bluetooth and Wi-Fi

When the Yi 4K Action Camera first came out, it was touted as a much cheaper alternative to the GoPro Hero 4 Black. In many aspects it fulfilled a lot of that potential. Things have changed a little since the release of the excellent GoPro Hero 5 Black, but the Yi 4K Action Cam still makes for an excellent action camera for the money.

Its touchscreen display is great for changing settings and is a lot more responsive than the Hero 5 Black's. Its Wi-Fi pairing to its smartphone app is also one of the most reliable we've ever tested.

Video quality is fantastic, as is its still image capture, too. It's a fantastically well-built camera for the money, although there are some hidden costs to keep in mind. No waterproof case or mount are included in the basic package for starters. Keep that in mind before you set off on your holidays.

At the time of review the Yi 4K Action Camera was available for £250.

Garmin VIRB Ultra 30
Key features:  
  • Up to 4K/30fps
  • Voice controls
  • Electronic image stabilisation
  • GPS telemetry and external sensor support

If you're looking for an action camera specifically for sports, the Garmin VIRB Ultra 30 might be the action camera for you. Not only does it have 4K resolution at 30fps, it also has a GPS sensor inside to capture telemetry data.

This means while you're hitting the slopes you can capture route, speed and distance data to bring an added layer of information to your videos. The VIRB Ultra 30 also supports external sensors through ANT+ and Bluetooth. These include heart rate monitors and bike sensors.

Image quality is also right up there with the best. You get plenty of resolution and frame rate options, including 1080p at 120fps or 720p at 240fps – perfect for impressive slow-motion footage. 

You'll find a display on the back for framing your shots and changing settings, otherwise you can pair with the companion apps.

At the time of review the Garmin VIRB Ultra 30 was available for £370.

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