The first GoPro was released in 2012 and we’ve come a long way since then. To the benefit of consumers, GoPro is now less a specific camera and more a kind of camera, as Kleenex has become synonymous with all tissues. The general term for GoPro is an action cameras and they’re perfect for those who want to capture the epic moments of movement in their life: swimming underwater, on a BMX bike, running through the forest, or whatever it may be. These kinds of cameras don’t fare well in low light and they’re not for vlogging nor narrative filmmaking. Mainly because watching extremely wide footage (typically around 170 degrees) for long durations is unnatural and can become tiring. That said, there are plenty of situations where having an action camera can be a useful addition to a vlog or narrative shoot, usually to provide a unique storytelling perspective (since they are often strapped to strange places, like helmets or at the end of selfie sticks).
GoPro still dominates the top of the action camera market and if you’re willing to spend the money, they’re tough to beat in terms of absolute quality. While GoPros are included in this list, the truth is that at this point, unless you need the best of the best, you are paying for the brand name. There are plenty of more affordable cameras that for most users, will prove just as handy.
One final aspect to keep in mind: are you interested in slow motion? Not all cameras offer recording options that permit for slow-mo recording. For instance, 60 frames per second (fps) allows one to slow their footage down to 2x. 120 fps can be slowed down by 5x. 240fps can be slowed to 10x. Such footage can add a dramatic and unique element to your films, but for some users will prove extraneous.
Here are the top 10 Best 4K action cameras in order of best value. GoPro is in the middle because it has expensive cameras that are still a pretty great value. The last camera on the list is by far the most expensive, but it’s by far the best. Check it out.
1. MGCool Explorer-Pro 4K
At a price that is far below its competitors, this MGCool camera doesn’t scrimp on quality. Including waterproof housing, a display on the back, and a touch screen, it’s easy to use. Of course, none of that matters if the footage quality is bunk, but here the MGCool delivers surprisingly well. Its video is sharp and has decent dynamic range, great for daylight shots of biking, running, and other physical activities. The camera does some sharpening and color correction and while it’s apparently altered, this makes for high quality footage straight off the card.
It’s no GoPro, but for $50, it’ll more than do the trick for many users. Plus, the audio quality is shockingly good – a feature you rarely see in action cameras. If you want the basics and are OK with 4K at 24fps, this MGCool camera is a very affordable way to get it. That said, it’s best at 1080P 60fps- 4K can come off a bit choppy.
Price: $49.99 (47 percent off MSRP)
- Touchscreen makes navigating easy
- Price is hard to beat
- Plenty of modes and options
- Great quality sound
- Video quality for the price is great
- 24fps isn’t great for action footage (true of any camera,however)
- Images are contrasty and sharpened
Want to take your action camera footage to the next level? Get a stabilizer. Check out our favorite gimbals for action cameras here (numbers 3 and 4)
2. AKASO EK7000 4K
This is a great action camera for most users. While it’s not great for stills, who really uses an action camera to take pictures? This is one mean little machine. Boasting 4K 25FPS and 1080P at 60 FPS, you’ll have all the capturing options you need to get whatever hubbub you want to record.
Built-in Wi-Fi, waterproof, and coming with a wireless remote control mean it’s all ready to go, right out of the box. Plus, you get two batteries. Are there drawbacks? The one problem with this camera that may affect users is that it uses strange filetypes that require conversion in post. Ergo, be prepared to spend some time learning how to manage the files if this sounds like the camera for you.
Price: $83.99 (30 percent off MSRP)
- Full 4K resolution with 1080P at 60 FPS
- Comes with two batteries with recording time up to 180 minutes
- Waterproof to 100 feet
- Continuously records ten minute clips only, dividing your files into parts
- Average lowlight performance for action camera
- Camera uses old format for video meaning post conversion is necessary
- Poor photograph quality
- Average audio quality for action camera
3. YI 4K Action Camera
Bumping up the price a bit, the YI 4k Action Camera provides a viable alternative to the GoPro dynasty. It has virtually all the same features as the GoPro Hero 5 but at half the price. Reviewing footage of the two side by side shows that the clarity and color is a tiny bit inferior on the Yi, but for most users, this just won’t matter. Check out this video of the Yi vs. the GoPro Hero 4 Black to see what I mean.
The YI isn’t as good as a GoPro if you don’t have a post production solution, especially if you’re going to rely on apps and mobile videos to share your videos; these options simply aren’t as fleshed out and developed as in the GoPro world. That said, if you are able to move files to your computer and know how to handle them, this is basically a slightly worse GoPro Hero 5 at half price.
Price: $199.99 (20 percent off MSRP)
- Vast and powerful recording options comparable to much more expensive action cameras
- For most users, the quality is just as good as models twice its cost
- Low light quality is acceptable if you shrink from 4k to 1080P
- Battery life of up to two hours with included battery
- Some users report issues with recordings randomly stopping
- Yi app isn’t as good as the GoPro app
- Some users complain of poor battery life
- Poor sound quality
4. TomTom Bandit
If you don’t want to own the most mainstream camera, yet still want something powerful and interesting, the TomTom Bandit is a very compelling choice. Right off the bat, this isn’t truly a 4K camera. It only shoots 15 FPS for 4K so you’ll either need to speed up the footage or accept a timelapse kind of vibe. That drawback out of the way, this camera has so many unique features it may have you remembering that almost no one watches anything in 4K (yet). One other issue with the camera, it does not have a built-in LCD, so you’ll have to use your phone.
It is praised by users for its awesome app which makes highlight reels, but the true awesomeness of the Bandit are its unique data collection features and durability. This is very much a camera you can throw. And while it’s thrown (or on your head, preferably), this camera uniquely tracks stats like speed, g-force, altitude, and more. While it’s not the end all be all in terms of specifications, for those looking for a trip off the beaten path and don’t need 4K movies, the Bandit is a great, affordable way to go.
Price: $169.95 (58 percent off MSRP)
- Three hours of battery life
- Awesome app for editing and app features including GPS stats like speed, G-force, altitude, and rotation
- Works with GoPro accessories
- Highly durable, sustains throws and other falls like nothing
- No built-in LCD screen
- Technically doesn’t shoot 4K video, it only shoots 4K at 15 FPS (24 is the minimum for video)
- Exposure can be off when using 2.7K or 4K modes
5. GoPro Hero 4 Black
It may not be the top of the line GoPro, but the Hero 4 Black packs a lot of punch. If you’re willing to spend this money on action camera, the question isn’t why- it’s why WOULDN’T you get a Go Pro 5? Here’s why: you don’t care for waterproof housing, voice control (gimmicky, who needs it?), nor a screen on the back. The truth is, sure, having a screen can be handy, but it’s a GoPro; once you get the shot right, you’re all set. If you are of this mentality, there is no reason to spend $60 extra dollars on a GoPro 5. That said, if you are of this mentality, you can see more Go Pro Hero 5 information on Amazon.
Needless to say, there are myriad awesome things about the GoPro 4 Black. The footage quality is stunning, the audio is as good as it gets for action cameras (besides the GoPro 5, and the apps and accessories are widely available and powerful. If you don’t want to spend the money on a GoPro 5 and you demand GoPro’s excellence, this is the way to go.
Price: $339.99 (32 percent off MSRP)
- Best and most robust apps and accessories of any action camera besides its sequel
- Shoots 720P 240 FPS, a particularly high frame rate not all action cameras can do
- 4K 30 FPS and low light shooting looks better than other cameras
- More manual control than ever, connect to Wi-Fi to see what’s being recorded
- No built-in touch screen
- Battery life is only one hour
- Some users complain of occasional drop outs (gaps in footage)
6. HomKM Sport Action Camera
For the budget-minded, the HomKM Action Camera provides a simple enough user experience, a variety of recording options, and a dirt cheap price. It includes a huge variety of mounting options meaning you won’t need to purchase anything extra to start recording the action. It also includes two batteries to shoot up to four hours of recording time. While the footage quality is nothing special, it certainly gets the job done in daylight. It also allows one to shoot at 720P at 120 FPS, not a universal feature for these cameras.
- Comes with waterproof case and variety of mounting options
- Includes two batteries to shoot up to four hours of recording time
- Easy to use
- 4K video at 30FPS, 1080P at 60 FPS, and 720P at 120 FPS
- Wi-Fi is spotty
- Picture quality is poor
- Some found operation confusing
- Battery gauge is inaccurate
7. GoPro HERO5 Black
If you can afford the GoPro Hero 5, there’s just no reason NOT to get it. It’s bar-none, the best action camera you can get. It has the highest quality video, the highest quality pictures (including the ability to shoot RAW), and even audio that’s decent. If you can spend this much on an action camera, the GoPro Hero 5 is the way to go.
That said, you are paying for the best footage quality and audio quality, but this is not to say it’s ten times better or even twice as good as its competitors. Considering you can get the Yi camera (number three on this list) for half the price, what are you really paying for? Certainly this is justified if you want and need a simple experience and don’t want to worry about processing footage; the GoPro ecosystem is the most developed of any action camera. If you need waterproof housing out of the box and want an LCD screen on the back, then these are two other features that justify the price tag.
It’s not the best value on this list, but it is the best, easiest, and therefore probably the most fun. For the person whose wallet weight doesn’t matter, the GoPro Hero 5 is a no-brainer.
- Easiest and most versatile GoPro yet
- Audio is best in its class and praised by users
- Waterproof out of the box (no housing needed)
- Built-in stabilization is decent
- GoPro software and apps are functional and easy-to-use
- Battery life of only one hour and 20 minutes
- Despite being the best in its class, low light footage is still grainy
- Strictly for action footage, but there’s really nothing better for this purpose
8. Campark ACT74
For $49.99, the Campark ACT74 records decent video at a fraction of the price of a GoPro or even of most GoPro alternatives. The Campark ACT74 has solid battery life, a variety of features, and even an app. The only aspect where this camera doesn’t deliver is that the image quality is poor. Still, for people looking for the basics or for a simple dash-cam, this may be the right camera for you.
Price: $49.99 (69 percent off MSRP)
- Many included accessories make mounting and using easy
- Outputs straight to HDMI to watch footage on a television
- Records 4K at 30FPS, 720P up to 90FPS
- Comes with waterproof casing
- Battery life of only 90 minutes
- Some users couldn’t get app to work for sharing and remote control functionality
- Picture quality is only acceptable, camera struggles to capture right amount of light
- Colors in footage are muted and dull
9. SOOCOO Sports Camera
The Soocoo Sports camera is a great camera overall if you’re a beginner or simply don’t need anything better than decent. Like most cameras of this class, nighttime shooting is for naught. One other issue particular to this camera is low battery life.
Still, there are some perks: it shoots natively at the filmic 24 FPS. Most cameras tend to go to 25 FPS; this bothers some filmmakers. It boasts an easy to use menu, two inch live image LCD screen, excellent stabilization, and 20 megapixel stills. The biggest standout is the LCD screen. If that’s what you’re after at this price point, this may be the camera for you.
Price: $62.99 (21 percent off MSRP)
- Stabilization is solid
- Easy to use and understand
- LCD screen has great resolution
- Two batteries for total recording time of 180 minutes
- Night quality is very low
- Battery life is poor
- Time lapse mode only works for 1080P
10. Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-RX100 V
The RX100 V isn’t truly an action camera, but it belongs on the list for anyone wondering, “Just how slow can slow-mo get?” While there are highly expensive cameras that shoot faster, one simply can’t find anything faster than this in terms of FPS under $5,000. For anyone who is saying, “Why do I need 4K? I want extreme slow motion!” this is the answer to your prayers. The RX100 V shoots 960 frames per second. That’s 40x slower than real life slow motion.
The RX100 V also shoots 4K and 24 FPS stills to boot; unlike some cameras it will also do both at once; You can take pictures while recording video.
For those who are not price sensitive and are interested in the slow-mo aspect of action camera filmmaking, this camera makes the list for its amazing specs. A four second 960 FPS clip watched in real time takes almost three minutes. Now that’s crazy.
- Shoots 960 FPS video at 480P, the most frames per second of any consumer camera
- High quality stills and video
- 2.9x optical zoom
- Not really an action camera, but easily handheld
- Expensive but shoots excellent stills and video
- 4K video clips are limited to five minutes in length
- Battery life is rated at 220 still shots
Want to see even more options? Browse more top-rated 4K action cameras on Amazon.