Surfing, SUPing or snowboarding: whatever your activity of choice, the GoPro has long been the generally accepted means of making sure your epic wipeouts are captured for posterity, but it needn’t be so. Finding the best alternative to GoPro for your needs can be as simple as figuring out your budget and the features you absolutely can’t do without, and finding the overlap. With that in mind, we’ve rounded up the most highly-rated options from across the web.
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Generally speaking, what you’re after is an action camera, a compact video camera that's built to stand up to the rigours of travel and extreme day-to-days while still providing awesome footage, so things like in-camera image stabilisation and rugged casing are a bonus.
Our best buy all-round is the SJCAM SJ7 Star, which reviewers found offered unbeatable value and GoPro-mimicking features for a fraction of the price, but if you’re looking for specifics like watersports suitability or onboard image stabilisation, there are plenty of options out there, so keep reading to find the sports camera that’ll float your boat – or kayak, or paddleboard...
1. SJCAM SJ7 Star
A star turn from this GoPro-alike gives it our top spot
Best for: Direct competitor | Highest quality: 4K 30fps | Battery life: 1-2 hours | Waterproof: 30m with case
It’s not the most expensive, it’s not the cheapest, it’s simply the best all round as an alternative to the GoPro. This 4K camera records at 30fps for slick high-res footage of your best moments, and the still images it captures aren’t too shabby either. The neat, compact design and easy-to-use rear touch screen nail a big part of the GoPro’s appeal, and the free SJCAM app is said to make previewing and quick tweaks a breeze, although you will need to shell out for a waterproof case if you want to hit the waves – it’s a small price to pay for a big saving, though.
2. Olfi One Five
If you’re a film newbie, consider the One Five as your starter for ten
Best for: Ease of use | Highest quality: 4K 24fps | Battery life: 2 hours | Waterproof: 30m with case
These days, it’s reasonable to expect that you can get decent quality footage at home or on the go without a degree in film studies, and the Olfi One Five delivers on that expectation and then some. Reviewers found it refreshingly easy to set up and use, meaning there’s no barrier to getting started if you’re a videography virgin, and were pleased to find that there was no trade off with image quality either. Rather, it holds its own against more expensive options quite easily, and while the accessories can feel a little lacking, the all important stuff – crisp images, easy navigation – was there.
3. Garmin Virb Ultra 30
With smartphone control and live-streaming, this Garmin action camera is a very high-tech option
Best for: All-round quality | Highest quality: 4K 30fps | Battery life: 90mins | Waterproof: 40m with case
The Garmin Virb Ultra 30 is our most expensive GoPro alternative, but with three-figure savings still to be had on the latest model, it’s a great bet for those not on a strict budget. Again, like the SJ7 Star, it’ll need a separate case to be fully waterproof, but when you get over that one small hurdle, the Virb Ultra 30 and GoPro look to be more alike than different. This 4K video camera is controllable from your smartphone over Wi-Fi and can even be streamed live to YouTube, has high-speed shooting options, and includes image stabilisation up to 4K, making it one of our most high-spec options.
4. APEMAN Action Camera
Monkey around to your heart’s content with the APEMAN
Best for: Watersports | Highest quality: 1080p 30fps | Battery life: 1 hour (comes with two batteries) | Waterproof: 30m with case
With waterproofing to 30m courtesy of its included case, the APEMAN action camera is exactly as rugged as its name suggests, and our best camera for watersports. Its 14MP still photo sensor ensures your stationary shots are just as good as your video, and with a 170-degree wide angle lens and user-approved vivid colours, that can be very good indeed. Reviewers loved the built-in Wi-Fi mode for smartphone control, spacious LCD display and handy accessories bundle, making this one of the most versatile sports cameras available in this price range.
5. YI Action Camera
A great meeting point between inexpensive and impressive
Best for: Beginners | Highest quality: 1080p 30fps | Battery life: 95mins | Waterproof: 40m with case
Our friends at TechRadar called this cheap action camera “market-beating”, having found that hardly any of its reasonably-priced competitors came close to the quality available in this teeny tiny package. The combination of excellent quality video recording and a huge range of options for shooting make this one a great buy if you’re looking to capture a range of activities, although again, waterproof housing is extra. Together with a simple, intuitive design, this goes into making a beginner-friendly action camera that doesn’t skimp on quality, giving it more longevity than many other options.
6. Veho Muvi K-Series K-2 Sports Bundle Camera
Comes with all the kit you need, but doesn’t cost a bundle
Best for: Battery | Highest quality: 1080p 60fps | Battery life: 3 hours | Waterproof: 60m with case
The first thing that strikes you about this Veho Muvi bundle is the fact that it comes in its own hard shell case, so you’re already halfway there in the travel-friendly stakes if you’re planning on buying an action camera for your next big holiday. But as with so many things, it’s mainly what’s inside that counts, and in this case that’s said to be incredibly clear, high-quality images both moving and still. The 16MP sensor, range of shooting modes, and abundance of accessories make this a great-quality starter kit for any keen sportsperson or spectator.
7. AKASO Brave 4
With mounts and more, this action camera kit is our best for cyclists
Best for: Big-name tech | Highest quality: 4K 24fps | Battery life: 90mins | Waterproof: 30m with case
This 4K action camera has been lauded by reviewers for its high-quality (especially for the price) image stabilisation, which can mean more usable footage at the end of your trip and no missed moments or wasted time, among other features that belie its very low price. With accessories including a helmet mount and bicycle stand, it’s a great action camera for cyclists, and that anti-shake technology could come in really handy on the bumpiest trails – just turn on the gyroscope and shoot away. Oh, and don’t be put off by the unrecognisable name: packing a Sony sensor on board, it’s certainly high-end where it counts.
GoPro is a popular choice for beginner vloggers, but it isn’t the be-all: see our best vlogging cameras to rack up those sub numbers in no time