Action Cams Tested: What's the Best Outdoor Camera?

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Recording your outdoor exploits, from skiing and biking to surfing and riding ATVs, is no longer limited to the Shaun Whites of the world. More than just capturing exciting footage, though, these cameras now come with smartphone apps that let you use your iPhone as a remote viewfinder. But which one should you take on your next adventure? I tested the latest from Contour, Drift Innovation, GoPro, and Sony, by taking them out for a day of skiing at Mount Snow, Vermont. 

Contour 2
This wearable action camera records high-quality video, sports a rotating lens and lets you use your smartphone--or even a pair of high-tech goggles--as a viewfinder.

More:Contour 2 Reviewed

Drift Innovation HD Ghost
The Drift Innovation HD Ghost camera has a lens that rotates, a bright Gorilla Glass display, and great battery life, but its video quality could be better.

More: Drift Innovation HD Ghost Reviewed

GoPro Hero3 Silver Edition
The GoPro line of cams is arguably the most well-known, and with good reason. The company's cameras take some of the best footage around, and that tradition continues with the Hero3. The only thing holding this camera back is its battery life.

More: GoPro Hero3 Silver Edition Reviewed

Sony Action Cam wtih WiFi
Sony's in the action cam game with its own device. This tiny camera gets great battery life, and it has a very aggressive price of $249.

More: Sony Action Cam with WiFi Reviewed

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  • Gary Says:

    Garmin virb
    16 MP CMOS sensor/image processor for multiple HD video modes 1080p@30fps 960p@48fps720p@30/60fps 848x480@120fps and Still image capture: 16MP 12MP 8MP
    Long-lasting rechargeable and removable 2000mAh Lithium-Ion battery (up to 3 hr. battery life at 1080p) Rugged, durable waterproof (IPX7) with a compact design (1m/30min or 50m with optional dive case)
    Digital Image Stabilization and Lens Distortion Correction with different shooting modes (wide/medium/narrow)
    Internal micrphone and external USB jack with stereo Mic and composite A/V adapter Micro HDMI output for video playback micro SD card socket (up to 64GB)
    ANT+ connectivity for remote control function w/ other compatible Garmin products and data transfer - High-Sensitivity GPS, accelerometer, and altimeter (VIRB Elite only)

  • Peter mitchell Says:

    I have the sony action cam and I reckon it is the best cam for the buck!!! It has very nice sound and great say they compare it to the sulver edition and that its much better blah blah blah . There is no compiting with the hero 3 black tho for it is simply the BEST. I also have the hero 2 and am very impressed with what it can do !!!

  • Danial Whisted Says:

    Another alternative, like I've researched for a while is the Samsung WB 100, it has the ability to make 1080p for HDMI connections, and it has a pretty good 720p output. However, the audio does tend to make others voices pitched just a bit, it's not too noticeable, but for certain tones, that might affect someone's satisfaction with it. It runs on AA batteries, and it would've been a lot better if it had a rechargeable battery.

    I think NiMH rechargeable batteries might do the trick, but it might end up costing a fair amount of cash. Hopefully the Contour is going to have better noise cancellation, because there's nothing worse than going through a whole recording only to realize wind and other unnecessary noises will affect anyone recording their voice as well.

  • Adam Says:

    It's really between GoPro 3 and Countour with the +2 or ROAM2 (depending whether you want GPS.)
    The remote view through a smartphone is the most useful feature (especially for those moments when you can't wait to see the replay.)
    Contour image (lens?) and sound is better than GoPro.
    GoPro says they improved their sound/mic, so maybe it's better now. They do good wind noise cancellation, but at the expense of losing fidelity.
    Contour size and shape is far more convenient. I like the battery size/performance/charger.
    Both are absurdly expensive compared to very good compact cameras that are weatherproof and do 720p or 1080p.
    Aside from the two Contours, I use an "old" (two years?) Olympus compact camera that does superb 720p and has decent battery life. Cost $200.

  • D Angelo Says:

    The Contour Plus2 is a great camera and certainly holds its own in the tech stakes with the built in GPS. BUT the video quality is not as good as the GoPro Hero3 Black which is in the same price bracket and despite what the review says, it's not as good as the Drift Ghost - which is comparable quality to the Hero 3 Silver - another excellent camera for video quality,

    The big problem at the moment is that GoPro are having huge issues with the Hero3 with many of them freezing and becoming unusable. Their CEO had to make an hugely embarrassing apology to their millions of Facebook fans. They did release firm ware for it, but that made working cameras break too SERIOUS PROBLEMS FOR GOPRO.

  • Phil T Says:

    The comparison would have made more sense had you reviewed the Go Pro Hero 3 Black edition, which is priced at the same $400 mark that the Contour +2 is, the edition of the Hero 3 black could have been accompanied by the Contour Roam 2, Contour's direct competition to the Hero 3 silver edition.