The best action cameras for cars

Capture the best car footage you can witha n action camera from GoPro, DJI and Insta360.

man taking selfie with action camera in a car

by Myles Warwood |

When you’re doing something cool, it’s great to have it on video and when you get it right, you’ll have a nice video to show your friends and say ‘I did that.’ On the flip side, if it goes wrong you’ll have something to show your friends and say ‘I did that.’

Action cameras are getting more and more popular in everyday life, with people taking them on holiday to catch those precious moments and now with car enthusiasts documenting rallies, drives and car repairs for YouTube channels, live streams or vlogs. An action cam isn't just a flashy way of getting a dash cam.

These handy little cameras come with all sorts of features and ever-increasing tech and gadgetry to get the best possible videos for whatever you need. Let’s take a look at the features.

What should I look out for?

As ever when purchasing something you should only buy something you can afford - when cameras offer extras think to yourself if that is what you need or if it is something which is desirable. If this is your first action camera purchase and you’re unsure how much you will use it, maybe getting something a bit more basic may be the way forward.

After all, if you end up needing something with a bit more in the way of slow-motion video capture or greater image stabilisation, then the original camera you bought won’t go to waste, it’ll be a great second or backup camera. Plus, like all the best standard cameras from Canon or Nikon, the best action cameras hold their value for second-hand sales.

Image stabilisation: this is basically what it says on the tin, it will smooth out your videos to make them look super sleek and allow viewers to see what is going on.

HDR: this stands for High Dynamic Range – dynamic range, in its simplest form, is basically the difference between the lightest light and the darkest dark. This trick bit of software takes photos or videos of varying luminosity and shutter speeds and overlays them. Creating stunning images and videos where you can see the dark areas and light areas are not blown out.

4K imagery: Where will you be putting your videos? If it’s for online, do you really need 4K? This is a super high-res image that will only be compressed and potentially lost if you post your video only on social media. If you're looking to wow audiences on YouTube, however, 4K is the way to go (just be aware that 4K footage takes up a large amount of memory, and thus might require higher capacity memory cards).

Frames per second: this is shortened to fps and it basically means how many frames of video are shot per second. In the UK most videos are shot at 25fps this is because power is delivered at 50Hz and matches the flicker you’d see when you point your camera at a light or a TV. The more frames you have per second the smoother your video will look - essential for dramatic and powerful captures of action - and it gives you the ability to slow the footage down.

Should I just buy a GoPro?

GoPro has been setting the standard for action cameras for a very long time, they shoot beautiful videos and have many features as standard with constant software updates. It’s true what everyone says - they are very, very good action cameras.

Very tough to break and often waterproof straight out the box, GoPros are a compelling all-in-one action camera. However, when you start buying accessories for these cameras, such as casings and mounts, that’s when the cost of them truly starts to ramp up. You'll always end up getting more and more mounts, too, as you will always need the one you don’t have to get the image that you want.

There is a car videographer’s trick for this though - you’ve heard of BluTack, right? Well, let us introduce you to PROtastic Black Tack. A maluble and reusable putty has all the properties of BluTack but with extra adhesive strength sticking your action camera to pretty much anything.

With this, you’ll be able to stick your action camera to any surface quickly and then remove it just as quick relocating it to another spot if time is limited.

But back to GoPro and its cameras - while it has previously been the untouchable top dog, there are now rivals here to offer you something different. the excellent DJI and Insta360 brands are now valid and compelling options that might be able to turn you from GoPro.

The best action cameras

Let’s have a look at what is on offer in today’s market…

Let’s start with the flagship GoPro and one of the newest in the range. You can see why this is such a popular choice and a camera which many in the market have followed, the dual screen is super handy when you’re filming selfie-style or setting up a shot, you can see from either side of the lens what your shot will look like.

It will film in 5.3K at 60fps in Ultra HD and take photos up to 23MP. There is so much packed into this camera now that it’s amazing it’s still so small. It will shoot 4k video up to 60fps and you can shoot 240fps slow motion but your video quality will be reduced to 1080p (aka Full HD).

Pros
Front Facing Screen
20MP photos
14.7MP screen grabs from videos

Cons
Large in size
5K videos take up a large amount of storage

Resolution: Up to 5.3K video 23MP photos
Max Frame Rate: 240fps
Battery: 83 minutes

Insta360 had ripped into the action camera scene with a few choice cameras and this one is the direct rival for the GoPro – it has a 67% faster RS core compared to its predecessor meaning that in-camera stabilisation is better and there is much crisper audio.

Insta360 has built a reputation for 360-degree filming where you shoot first and point later, by this they mean when you’re editing your footage you can focus on what’s important and with its wide-angle lens you can shoot up to 4K footage at 60fps.

Pros
4K and 360-degree lens options
RAW photos and 100mbps video

Cons
The touch screen is a touch on the small side

Resolution: 5.7k in 360 & 4k Boost lens
Max Frame Rate: 60fps
Battery: Up to 65 minutes

DJI’s cameras are usually at home on a drone, with mega image stabilisation and superb video quality. What they’ve done here is very clever and a different way of having a front-facing screen from what GoPro offers. The small compact size means that even when both screens are connected, via a magnetic clip, it’s only the size of a GoPro making it perfect for vloggers.

Pros
Use compact or with a combo unit
Live streaming

Cons
Internal storage only, to use Micro SD cards you need a secondary unit
A secondary unit must be attached to charge the camera

Resolution: 4K
Max Frame Rate: 120fps
Battery: up to 160 minutes

This super small super sleek 360-degree filming camera offers a way to film to bring some close action shots. You’re able to attach this to your helmet or visor on your cap to really bring some super cool drivers’ eye view footage.

Touted as the smallest action camera it does have its limits the FlowState image stabilisation is good and able to smooth out walking speed but it’s not a match compared to the GoPro Hero 9 Black or above.

Pros
Tiny in size
The case is also a Tripod and charging point

Cons
No display for framing

Resolution: 1440p
Max Frame Rate: 120fps
Battery: up to 150 minutes

Okay, okay, it might not be the most ‘action’ of cameras but what it can be is a fantastic selfie-style camera with next-level gimbal stabilisation and the camera’s ability to track you makes it a great option for vloggers and car spotters alike.

It’s not as rugged out the box as some of the others on this list but it will still capture 64MP stills and shoot at 4K and 60fps.

Pros
Gimbal stabilisation
Very impressive tracking

Cons
Poor low light performance
It will get hot when filming at 4k

Resolution: 1440p
Max Frame Rate: 120fps
Battery: up to 150 minutes

This is GoPro’s most expensive action camera in its range and a direct competitor to the Insta360 One RS. GoPro has used two fish eye lenses to shoot special 5.6K videos, when editing you can go pick out what it is you want the ‘camera’ to point at and crop it to 2D footage. To do this, you’ll be using OverCapture software.

The camera also has six microphones for superior audio quality however, it might make for a cool look in 360-degree footage the downside is that the max resolution in 2D footage is 1440p at 60fps shot in progressive, not interlace (think of progressive as frame after frame after frame whereas interlace is like a zip of frames combining together).

Pros
Shoots 5.6k, 360-degree video
In-camera stitching of footage

Cons
Low-res 2D footage
Could be better in low light

Resolution: 6k in 360
Max Frame Rate: 60fps
Battery: up to 85 minutes

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