Action cameras like GoPros have their advantages too though. They're generally much smaller than waterproof compacts, making them lighter and easier to mount via a chest harness or helmet mount or similar. The best action cameras also tend to have better video specs, offering pristine 4K in high frame rates, which many waterproof compacts currently lack.
What is a good cheap action camera?
Before you start digging into the reviews, a few notes on choosing a cam that's right for you. You'll definitely want to consider frame rate, expressed as frames per second (fps). Some action cameras offer up to 240fps recording, while others only go to 30fps. For standard playback, 30fps is perfectly fine. It's when you want to slow footage down in editing to create dramatic scenes that frame rate matters. Footage captured at 240fps can be slowed down and played back smoothly at one-quarter speed. You may also want to go for a cinematic look, in which case you'll want one that has a 24fps capture option, the same speed used by most Hollywood productions.
The latest flagship GoPro model is our favorite action camera available right now. A key difference from its predecessor (and especially the less expensive Hero7 Black) is that there are fold-out feet, giving you the advantage that the camera mount is now built in. Furthermore, you can accessorise the Hero8 Black with a new series of bespoke optional extras called Mods – we particularly like the Display Mod, which adds a second monitor that is perfect for vloggers, but there are plenty of others, including a Media Mod for improving the production value of your videos, and a Light Mod LED light too. These add-ons cost you more – but if you are looking for the very best action camera, and the best GoPro for image quality and features, then the Hero8 Black is it.
Another highly sought-after, and relatively exclusive, feature within the video camera realm is the ability to record in RAW or ProRes. These are uncompressed formats that maximize the information gathered by the sensor and provide you with extended flexibility when it comes to color grading and post-processing. As mentioned, this feature is quite an exclusive one and only available in a select few cameras on the market with good processors (again, excluding high-end cinema systems). Some select cameras can record in ProRes Raw with an Atomos Ninja V external recorder. Nauticam offers a housing for the Ninja V for use with your underwater system.