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Kit Guide

The Best Action Cameras for Divers

 

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Take one on every dive. Neil Hope compares the leading action cameras and looks at some useful accessories

From their humble beginnings, the rise of the action camera over the last five or six years could be described as something of a phenomenon. 

These small, tough and simple-to-use devices, originally devised as a means for surfers to film close to the action, have become almost de rigour for a multitude of extreme sports - from mountaineering to motor racing and skydiving to scuba.

Designed to be held, worn or mounted, their compact size coupled with a fixed-focus fisheye lens allows them to get to those places where a conventional camera just cannot reach.

Much beloved by TV documentary film crews, it seems that almost every avenue of modern life has been documented using these marvels of technology and for many divers these miniaturised cameras are something of a godsend.

The advantages of using a POV (point of view) camera are numerous and whether shooting at cinema-quality 4K resolution for a professional project, or at 720p as a means to record your dive, they have now become a staple ingredient of the diver's kitbag.

So what should you be looking for in an action camera? 

Size, weight and shape are of primary importance with the solid 'block' style or the more streamlined 'bullet' providing two examples of the genre. The former offering good all-round adaptability while the latter lending itself to more streamlined applications.

Resolution and frame rate are the two most important factors when looking at image quality.

Most current models offer full 1080p definition, with high-end models offering up to 4K, but the higher the resolution the more space it takes up on recording media and you must also ask whether your computer has sufficient processing power to cope when it comes to editing. 

The higher the frame rate – a minimum of 60 frames per second is a good benchmark - the better result when playing back your footage in slow motion, so if you're seriously into slo-mo then it's one to watch out for.

Many cameras have a multitude of features such as wifi to allow remote control via a phone or tablet, others have touch screens and in some cases even GPS - which are great if you're using your camera above the water. However, if your primary use is to record the underwater world, then, in reality, none of the above have any usable benefit during your dive.

An LCD monitor will allow you to see exactly what you're filming if the camera is there right in front of you but if you primarily intend mounting your action camera via a head or helmet strap then it is something you can easily do without.

Getting as many features for your money, especially so if your camera will be seeing some topside use too, makes perfect sense, while if you're looking at a simple point and press device for underwater use then a more basic model may hold more appeal.

KIT GUIDE

OUR TOP 10 CAMERAS

 

GoPro Hero4 Black

DIVE

GoPro Hero4 Review 

GoPro's top-of-the-range and feature-rich offering has a maximum 4K resolution, 170-degree angle of view and also shoots 12MP stills at a burst rate of 30 fps. The supplied housing is depth rated to 40m with an LCD screen  an optional add-on.

VERDICT - DIVE BEST BUY You may pay top dollar for the Hero4 Black – plus a little more if you want an LCD screen - but if you're serious about shooting video above and below the water then this feature-laden camera is for you

PRICE: £409.99 | www.gopro.com      a.co.uk logo RGB

Sony Action Cam X1000V 4K

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With 4K resolution, a 170-degree angle of view and 8.8MP/ 10fps burst rate the  Sony X1000V is water resistant to 10m, increasing to 60m with the addition of its custom dive housing.

Price: £359 | www.sony.co.uk       a.co.uk logo RGB

Edge HD30W

edge copy

Complete with a 100m-rated housing, the HD30W shoots video at 1080p, stills at 8MP with a burst rate of 10fps and also has an LCD for viewing and playback.

PRICE: £269.99 | www.kitvision.co.uk    a.co.uk logo RGB

Intova Edge X

intova edge x waterproof

 

Differing from the majority of action cameras the Intova has a unibody design where the electronics are built directly into its compact and 100m-rated rubberised housing. With a maximum resolution of 1080p, 12MP stills and a burst rate of 30fps the Edge X also benefits from a built-in screen.

PRICE: £259.00 | www.intova.net  a.co.uk logo RGB

Drift Ghost-S

ghost

Like the +2 and Sony ActionCam, the Drift Ghost-S is a departure from the popular 'block' design. The camera's LCD screen is situated on the side making it more suitable for viewing playback rather than actual real time monitoring. Offering a 170-degree angle of view, 1080p definition and 12 MP stills/10fps burst the camera is water resistant to a depth of 3m or with it's optional housing to 60m.

PRICE: £249.99 | store.driftinnovation.com   a.co.uk logo RGB

2 DIVE Best Mid Price Buy

Rollei Actioncam 6S

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Rollei Actioncam 6S WIFI 1023790

Depth rated to 100m the Rollei 6S offers full 1080p video and an impressive 16MP stills option with 8fps burst plus an LCD screen in its compact package.

VERDICT - MID RANGE CHOICE The Actioncam 6S just about edges the almost identically specified MUVI K2 as our mid-range choice thanks to its LCD monitor

PRICE: €229.99 | www.rollei.com   a.co.uk logo RGB

MUVI K-Series K2

Veho Muvi K Series K2

Although the 1080p K2 has a slightly narrower 140-degree angle of view than some of its competitors it does offer an impressive 16MP/8fps stills facility and a  240-minute battery capacity. It's supplied housing is rated to 100m and a LCD screen can be purchased as an extra.

PRICE: £209.95 | www.veho-muvi.com   a.co.uk logo RGB

Contour +2

contour 

Primarily aimed towards video rather than stills, Contour's +2 provides 1080p resolution but only a 5MP stills option with single shot photography. The supplied housing is depth rated to 60m.

PRICE: $299.99 | www.contour.com  a.co.uk logo RGB

Liquid Image Ego

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Available in a variety of colours the Ego's stylised curves make it stand out among its peers. Resistant to water ingress to 3m, it's custom housing increases it's depth rating to 40m. An integrated battery offers 120 minutes of recording time at 1080p with a 12 MP/single shot stills option.

Price: $199.99 | www.liquidimageco.com  a.co.uk logo RGB

3 DIVE Budget Buy

Action Camera Pro HD

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Pro cam small 460x332

The Pro HD is a no-frills device that dispenses with all but the essential features needed for underwater use. Rated to 30m, the camera boasts 1080p video, 5 MP stills, can offer 120 minutes of recording time plus viewing and playback from its integrated screen.

VERDICT - BUDGET BUY If you're a technophobe or just want something to record your dive with, the Pro HD offers great value

PRICE: £59.99 | www.chilli-tech.com  a.co.uk logo RGB

KIT GUIDE

COMPARISON

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kit guide

Accessories

Once you have your action camera in your hands it's only the beginning as there are a multitude of accessories available to enhance your results. DIVE takes a look at just a few of those on offer.....

  • Backscattter Flip ComboBackscatter Flip 3.1 Combo Package

    Price: $134.00

    Compatible with the GoPro Hero3 and Hero4 models, Backscatter's trio of shallow, dive and deep filters gives a choice of colour correction to enhance your images whether still or moving. 

  • Quik Pod Explorer 3Quick Pod Explorer 3

    Price: $49.95

    Extending from 23cm to just under a metre the Explorer 3 lets you put your action camera where you can't quite reach – or actually wouldn't want to! Constructed from fully waterproof materials it's ideal for approaching timid marine life, diving selfies or even operated from the surface as a pole cam.




  • LIGHT FOR ME VIDEO LIGHTING SYSTEMLight For Me Video Lighting System

    Price: £229.00

    Suitable for GoPro and other similar action cameras this system comprises a pair of 900 lumen lights, with a combined outbut 1,800 lumens, mounted via adjustable butterfly connectors to a Goodman handle. The even no-hotspot 120-degree beam has an effective range of approximately two metres.
  • LM Action Camera Tray copyLight & Motion Action Camera Tray & Arm Kit

    Price: £80.00

    Designed specifically to maximise the underwater use of action cameras L&M's tray provides a stable platform with the capacity to add a lighting system via a pair of Locline arms.
  • IKELITE STEADY TRAY  HANDLESIkelite Steady Tray

    Price: $150.00

    Consisting of separate tray, pistol grip and  a pair of quick-release handles, Ikelite's modular system offers the action camera user a variety of solutions for holding their action camera steady while on the move, with the added option of mounting artificial lighting.
 

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