OK, so you want to buy an action camera to film your riding adventures. The good news is that picture quality and battery life are improving all the time. Thanks to their ubiquity, a GoPro is the obvious choice but is it the best camera? Are there any decent alternatives? And which is the best GoPro model? We’ll run you through the different options that we’ve used extensively to help you choose the best action camera for your needs.
For this guide, we’ve recruited the experts — our BikeRadar video team. Not only are they professional videographers who use these devices on a daily basis, but they also ride their bikes very, very fast. They took time out of their busy filming schedule to tell us what they like and dislike about these cameras, how suitable they are for cyclists and what sort of value they represent. All opinions are based on using each camera extensively.
We’ll also be keeping you up to date with news about the GoPro Hero 6, which was recently announced. Pop on over to our GoPro Hero 6 article for the latest dates, prices, specs and rumours as we get them.
(This article was updated 8 February 2017)
What to look for in an action camera
Of course, any camera worth its salt has to deliver a good quality picture. While camera makers like to dazzle consumers with resolution numbers and frame rates, a lot of that boils down to marketing speak. For example, 4K resolution is only great if the frame rate is reasonable. 15 frames per second delivers footage that isn’t usable; in our opinion, it looks like security camera video.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that picture quality can be hugely affected by the lens and the processor in the camera, that’s why GoPro footage consistently looks good and why the videos created by cheap imitations often look a bit rubbish.
This is definitely a key consideration, but perhaps the first question is: how long do you actually need to film for? Because, if it’s just your commute then you probably don’t need a three-hour battery life. Our video team commonly find themselves hitting the record button for certain segments of a ride, rather than recording the entire thing. It saves on editing time and eliminates the danger of recording over old footage if you’re using the looping feature. What is video looping? It simply means recording over old footage after a specified duration to prevent running out of memory space.
No matter how good the picture quality is or h