GoPro carved out the action camera niche and turned it into a multi-billion dollar industry. But they’re no longer the only game in town. From established brands like Sony, Garmin, and Nikon that bring innovative features, to clones that bring a much lower price, GoPros now have some real competition.
Here's a rundown of some of the main GoPro competitors and their distinctive features to help you decide which is the best GoPro alternative for what you're after.
I'm focusing here on 4K action cameras. There are others that do lower-resolution video and some that shoot 360° footage, but I'll cover those separately. So these are some of the main 4K action cameras that make a case for being good GoPro alternatives.
Akaso EK7000 Action Camera
If you want a camera similar to a GoPro but don't want to spend that much, this is a very good place to start. It's hard to beat in terms of value for money. There's now a lot of GoPro clones out there. This is one that's taken off and become very popular, and after having played with it for a while now, I can see why. It doesn't have all the features of the latest and greatest GoPro like video stabilization and voice control, but it's a decent clone of the GoPros a couple of versions back.
- 4K Ultra HD Action Camera. Professional 4K 25fps & 2.7K 30fps video with 12MP photos at up to 30 frames...
- Wireless Wrist Remote Control Sports Camera. With a wrist 2.4G remote, you can capture the world in an...
It shoots video up to 4K25, 2.7K30, and 1080p60 and still photos at 12MP. It comes with a waterproof case that's rated down to about 100 feet (30 meters). There's a 2-inch screen on the back for live view, playback, and using the menus.
Distinctive Features. Its killer feature is its price. It costs only a fraction of most of the other cameras here but is an impressive clone of the GoPros a couple of models back. It also includes a splash-proof remote control and a spare battery.
I've been testing these out recently and have now had a chance to post my detailed review. If you're looking for a GoPro alternative at a much lower price point and don't need all the bells and whistles of the latest and greatest models, this one is well worth a look.
It comes in black, blue, or silver. They're sold through Amazon.
Sony FDR-X3000 Action Camera
Sony's flagship action cam looks more like an old-school camcorder rather than the boxy shapes of GoPros and the Garmin VIRB Ultra 30.
- Ultimate image stabilization from Balanced Optical SteadyShot Professional 4K with ZEISS lens and Exmor R...
- Splash-proof body or use incl. waterproof housing down to 197ft. Selectable viewing angle: Wide, Medium...
It's a 4K action camera that shoots video up to 4K30, 1080p120, and 720p240 and 12MP still photos (in 16:9 aspect ratio). Battery life is similar to GoPros, with a maximum time a little over 2 hours in its most efficient mode (1080p30 with wifi off) and an hour or so in higher video modes. The body itself is splashproof and dustproof, but with the waterproof housing, it's rated down to nearly 200 feet (60 meters).
Distinctive Features: Sony has incredibly deep technology when it comes to cameras, and they've leveraged some of it here. They've used a ZEISS Tessar lens and their own industry-leading sensor technology. Probably its most impressive feature that sets it apart is the way it does video stabilization. It uses an optical stabilization, which will often give better results than the digital stabilization that most of its competitors use. There's also an unusual Motion Shot LE mode which is a single image comprises of multiple shots to show a sequence. You can also live stream. They've also enabled the option for unusually high bitrate recording with potentially much higher quality, up to 100 Mbps. And it comes with a remote control, which is a nice little perk rather than having it as an optional extra.
There's another fancier remote available as an optional extra, the Live-View Remote, that is a pretty compelling feature by itself. It provides not just the usual controls but also a live view of what the camera is seeing. While you can do that through mobile apps with other cameras, there are times that having a dedicated, small viewer has its advantages.
The basic kit, which includes the camera and a waterproof case, has an MSRP of $399.99. There's another kit with the Live-View Remote Kit with an MSRP of $549.99.
This is a brand-new camera from Sony that's aiming for the premium end of the market and is priced accordingly. It's Zeiss lens is wide angle, but not nearly as wide and distorted as the bulging fisheye on some other action cams (it's equivalent to 24mm in 35mm full-frame terms). It has some impressive features that you can't find on competitors, including super slow motion at up to 1000 frames per second and a shutter speed up to 1/32000. And it has a much larger sensor, which opens the potential of much better low-light performance and sharper images.
- Unique performance and compactness for extraordinary applications
- 1" (1.0-Type) stacked Exmor RS CMOS sensor with DRAM Chip
Despite those specs, there are some curious omissions. It can shoot 4K, but to do that you'll need to get an optional external recorder. By itself, it can only natively shoot up to 1080p. And there's no built-in video stabilization.
So it's a GoPro competitor in the sense of it being a tiny rugged and waterproof camera, but its emphasis is on some different areas, so it's not a true apples-to-apples comparison.
Distinctive Features. It has a much larger sensor that promises better image quality, especially in low light. It has a less-distorted, high-quality Zeiss lens. And it has very fast shutter speeds and fps rates. But it also lacks some key features that others have.
Garmin VIRB Ultra 30 Action Camera
It's a 4K action camera that can record video up to 4K30, 2.7K60, and 1080p120 and shoots 12MP photos. It's a similar size and weight to the non-Session GoPros, comes with a waterproof housing that's rated down to 130 feet (40 meters), and built-in image stabilization (but not 4K or 2.7K), and has voice control. Its battery life is similar to what you get from a GoPro (ie. around 2 hours if you're lucky, and significantly less in high-end video modes). It's also compatible with wireless control from a mobile app.
- ULTRA HD VIDEO - Crystal clear 4K/30fps footage, 1080p/120fps, or slow motion capability at 720p/240fps
- G-METRIX - Built-in GPS and external sensors with connectivity to Garmin devices to capture performance...
Distinctive Features: There's built-in GPS, accelerometer, gyroscope, and altimeter sensors that provide data overlays like temperature, speed, and elevation as well as activity-specific measures like hang time for snowboarding and cadence for cycling. It also has a photo burst mode of up to 60 frames per second, which is unusually fast.
Nikon KeyMission 170 Action Camera
Nikon has joined the action cam party a little later than some others, and after a very delayed rollout, they now have three cameras in their current action camera range. The others are the KeyMission 80 and the KeyMisson 360; the numbers refer to the angle of view in degrees. The KeyMission 170 is the closest competitor to most of the GoPros.
- Equipped with a bright ultra-wide-angle NIKKOR lens of F2.8 with 4K video
- Electronic camera shake correction
In terms of specs, when they announced it, it seemed cutting edge with a built-in waterproof enclosure and video stabilization. But after a very delayed rollout, by the time it hit the market, GoPro had released the HERO5 Black that stole much of that thunder and other manufacturers were releasing their own innovations.
So it lags a little behind many of the other action cameras above. It records video up to 4K30 and 1080p and 8.3MP photos. It has built-in stabilization and wireless compatibility with the SnapBridge mobile app ecosystem. Its battery life isn't great--around 60 minutes of shooting.
It's a similar shape, size, and weight to the GoPros. It's waterproof (100 feet / 30 meters - IPX8) and dustproof.
You can find them at Amazon and B&H Photo, and I have more detailed comparison between the GoPro HERO5 Black and the Nikon KeyMission 170 here.
Ricoh WG-M2 Action Camera
It shoots video up to 4K30 and 1080p60 and still images at 8MP. It's waterproof without a separate housing, rated down to 65 feet (20 meters) and has built-in digital stabilization. It can be controlled via wifi with a mobile app.
- 4K Ultra HD Video at 30fps / Bit Rate: 100Mbps 1080p Full HD Video at 60fps 720p HD Video 120fps
- Waterproof to 65ft for up to 2 hours (No Housing Required)Shock-resistant up to 2 metersCold-proof to...
Distinctive Features. The layout of this camera is a bit different. The screen is on the top, which can be a more useful way to see it if you've got the camera mounted below you such as on a bike or snowboard.
Something I've long admired about Ricoh is that they like to think outside the box. Sometimes that results in a hit--the Theta spherical cameras and the GR series of high-end compact cameras come to mind, both of which I use regularly--but sometimes it results in misses. I've had a WG-M2 since they were released. I wanted to like it, but while it has some innovative features and ideas, I've been underwhelmed by the image quality and some aspects of the basic functionality and ruggedness.
TomTom Bandit Action Camera
These look quite different to most of the other current action cams. Rather than a rectangular box, it's a tube. They're a slightly older model now, but you might still be able to find new ones around. It has some innovative features but has never quite taken off like some of the other cameras here.
- 4k HD video camera provides the highest resolution action footage
- Long battery life allows for 3h of non-stop filming with cable-free Batt-stick
It records video up to 4K15, 1080p60, and 720p120 and photos at 16MP. It's waterproof, rated down to 130 feet (40 meters). It has built-in sensors for things like GPS and acceleration.
Distinctive Features. It's quite a different shape to most of the other current generation of action cams. The tube shape allows it to use a kind of cartridge approach, where slide out the battery stick. It has a longer-than-average battery life of up to 3 hours.
Olympus TG-Tracker Action Camera
The Olympus TG-Tracker is part of Olympus's Tough range and looks like a miniature old-school video camera. It shoots video up to 4K30, 1080p60, and 720p240 and still images at 8MP. It's waterproof, rated down to about 100 feet (30 meters). There's built-in digital stabilization and activity sensors for things like GPS, temperature, and acceleration.
- 4K 30P Video capture
- 204 Degree Extreme Angle f2.0 High-Speed Lens
Distinctive Features. It has an unusually wide field of view, at 204°, and a built-in LED headlamp.
Other GoPro Competitors
There are other action cams coming out all the time, and I'll do my best to keep this page updated as they're released.
There are also other action cameras that shoot HD video (1080p) but not 4K (UHD) video--cameras like the Polaroid Cube, for instance. You can even get versions designed for young kids. But I wanted to focus here on 4K video models in the hope it's useful in deciding which is the best GoPro alternative for your needs. Stay tuned for a separate post on the best GoPro alternatives that aren't 4K cameras coming soon.
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Common GoPro Questions
Here are some common questions I get from GoPro users.
How to Maximize a GoPro's battery life
There are several factors that influence how long the GoPro's battery life lasts. Among them include what mode you're recording in (4K uses more power than 1080p30, for instance), the health of the battery, and even the environmental temperature (lithium batteries don't perform well in very cold temperatures). But there are some things you can do to maximize battery life. Not every GoPro has all of these features, but start with these:
- Minimize use of the back screen
- Turn off wireless
- Turn off voice commands
- Turn off GPS
- Turn off Protune
- Use QuickCapture mode
Is it normal for GoPro cameras to get hot?
Yes. Depending on the model and the shooting mode you're using, it's normal for GoPros to get quite warm while shooting. They can get hot enough to be uncomfortable to touch. It's especially noticeable when shooting high-resolution and high-framerate video. Some newer models have an overheating protection mechanism that will shut the camera down if it gets too hot. I have more details on GoPros getting hot, here.
How can I control a GoPro remotely?
GoPro makes a range of wireless remote controls. They don't all work with all GoPros--for example, the HERO (2018) isn't compatible with this type of remote control. Many of the newer models also work with the GoPro mobile app. Not every model can be controlled remotely, but most of the newer models have wireless compatibility that can be used for at least some methods of remote control.
Can you take pictures with a GoPro?
If you've been using a GoPro for a while, this might seem pretty obvious, but if you've never used one, it's not quite so self-evident. GoPros are best known for dramatic action videos, but they can most certainly take still photos too. In fact, they can be a very interesting alternative to a traditional camera so long as you work within its limitations. I have more more details here.
Do GoPro wireless controls work underwater?
No. You can't use the mobile app or a wireless remote control if the camera is fully submerged in water. They will normally work just fine in rain and spray--just not submerged. I have a more detailed explanation here.
Do GoPro touchscreens work underwater?
No. If they're just wet above water, they can work to some extent, although often less reliably. But the touchscreens won't work underwater.