5 Best Action Cameras in Low Light and Outdoor Settings
Action cameras have gone popular due to their small size yet powerful shooting capabilities. Still, many are hesitant to buy it because of its poor reputation in terms of low-light performance. Like any camera, this feature depends on the build and quality of the action cam. To save you from the hassle of trial and error, I’ve selected five options if you’re looking for the best action camera in low light.
When it comes to action cams, GoPro has established a mecca of users. Still, if you don’t have the budget to splurge, I’ve reviewed other cheaper options but not short of quality.
Most action cameras are made rugged and resistant to outdoor elements. Since it’s small, it’s widely used for hunting, cycling, and hand-held shooting, among other purposes. It’s a versatile camera that’s used on a myriad of activities, vlogging, for one. Some even mount this on their dog’s harness!
Unlike bulky DSLR cameras, action cams gave camera enthusiasts a less intimidating option. It’s a powerhouse shooting tool in a small package.
Ever since it rose to fame, action cams have flooded the market. There are cheap finds, but there are also splurge-worthy options that will pay for itself in the long run.
1. GoPro HERO8 4K Action Camera
If the budget isn’t an issue, the best low-light action camera is the GoPro HERO8. It’s equipped with a 4K Ultra HD video quality as well as 12-megapixel photo resolution. To top that, it has a 1080p live streaming quality for the clearest and sharpest images and videos you can ever shoot.
Moreover, the HERO8 is equipped with HyperSmooth 2.0, which includes three levels of stabilization. You can set use it in three modes: on, high, and boost. So far, it’s the smoothest video technology ever offered on the HERO action cam series.
- HyperSmooth 2.0: HERO8 Black has three levels of stabilization – On, High and Boost. Get the widest views, or boost to the smoothest video ever offered in a HERO camera. Works with all resolutions and frame rates, and features in-app horizon leveling
- Streamlined Design: The re-imagined shape is more pocketable, and folding fingers at the base let you swap mounts quickly. A new side door makes changing batteries even faster, and the lens is now 2x more impact-resistant compared to previous models
If your hand is really shaky, the GoPro HERO8 will compensate through its TimeWarp 2.0 technology. It will keep your videos stable as you move. This is paired with scene detection and lighting. It’s like a multimedia editor and camera working simultaneously.
When taking images, the HERO8 boasts the SuperPhoto technology combined with HDR. It gives killer 12MP photos, even in a low-light setting. It reduces the blur so that you will capture images with intensive detail.
Lastly, the HERO8 is waterproof and equipped with a reliable touchscreen function. Wherever you’re planning to use it, this action cam won’t disappoint.
- HyperSmooth 2.0 stabilization
- Unbeatable low-light performance
- Scene detection feature
- You need to update the camera’s software first
2. GoPro HERO7 Action Camera Bundle
If you want a GoPro that’s a tad cheaper and bundled with extras, HERO7 is the way to go. It shares some of the amazing features of the HERO8, including excellent low-light performance.
Aside from the action cam, the package also includes a dual charger, extra battery, memory card, camera frame, adhesive mount, buckle, and a USB-C cable. All of these accessories are protected by a one-year warranty.
When it comes to resolution, HERO7 is far from shabby. It sports 4K video quality and 12MP image resolution. It’s also waterproof for up to 10 meters so you can use it on almost any activity you can think of.
- This K&M Bundle Includes All Standard GoPro Accessories + Limited 1-Year Warranty
- Product Highlights: 4K60/50, 2.7K120/100 & 1080p240/200, 12MP Still Photos with Selectable HDR, HyperSmooth Video Stabilization, Direct Live Streaming to Facebook Live, TimeWarp Stabilized Time-Lapse Video, Waterproof to 33' without a Housing, Vertical Portrait Mode for Social Media, Intuitive, Smartphone-Like Touchscreen, Face, Smile & Scene Detection, 16-Command Voice Control
For vloggers, the HERO7 has a direct live streaming feature that connects directly to Facebook Live. It also boasts the TimeWarp technology that stabilizes the video quality. It’s also equipped with a smartphone-like touchscreen function.
So what’s the difference between HERO7 and HERO8, you ask? Well, in HERO8, you will get the newest SuperPhoto combined with HDR that’s not present in HERO7. Also, the HERO8 has the TimeWrap 2.0 while HERO7 has the base version.
Overall, if you’re not too nitpicky about resolution, there’s only a small difference. This is the best action camera for hunting with zoom, watersports, hiking, vlogging, and just about any application.
- Bundled with accessories
- 4K video + 12MP photo
- Direct livestream feed
- The battery side is tricky to close (not a biggie)
3. DJI Osmo 4K Action Cam
A great alternative to GoPros is the DJI Osmo Action Cam. This also offers a 4K shooting resolution and excellent low light performance. It also sports dual screens, a small one in front and a larger one at the back. The front screen lets you frame yourself so you’ll get the best shots.
Moreover, this has the RockSteady technology that uses complex algorithms to deliver shake-free and stable footage. No matter how heavy the action gets, you can count on the DJI Osmo action cam to capture every moment in clarity.
- Dual Screens: Osmo Action’s dual screens allow you to capture it all with the touch of a button. A vivid front screen lets you frame yourself effortlessly in any setting, while the back screen delivers a crystal-clear, hyper-responsive display. This durable, versatile action camera is jam-packed with advanced technology that lets you spend less time worrying about equipment and more time living the action.
- The RockSteady technology combines EIS with complex algorithms, delivering stable, shake-free footage no matter how heavy the action gets.
Aside from that, this camera has a 145-degree wide-angle so that you can capture a bigger scene. It’s also equipped with an 8x slow-motion feature for jaw-dropping and epic shots. The slowest setting will let you shoot at 240 fps with a 1080p resolution. On the other hand, this action cam is a champ for low-light time-lapse shots.
The DJI Osmo has a waterproof depth rating of 11 meters. Its battery is also made to endure very low temperatures of about -10C (14F).
Aside from the action cam, the package includes a camera frame, curved and flat adhesive mount, locking screw, battery case, base, and a USB-C cable.
- Bundled with accessories
- RockSteady technology for excellent stabilization
- -10C temperature resistant
Steeper learning curve on the screen menus
4. YI 4K Action and Sports Camera
Another action cam that I can count on during low-light settings is the YI 4K. This has a 4K resolution at 30 fps, as well as 12MP for raw images. To ensure that your footages and photos are crisp and clear, this is equipped with the Electronic Image Stabilization (EIS) technology.
Its wide-angle lens is made for big shots. Moreover, it has low-light, time-lapse, and slow-motion shooting modes. You can also take burst shots with this action cam. The best thing part is it can connect to Wi-Fi networks for live streaming and social media sharing. And for complete connectivity, it also has a built-in Bluetooth function.
- Superb Image Quality – Records 4K/30fps (100mbps), 2. 7k/60fps, 1080p/120fps, 720p/240fps video, and 12MP raw image with build-in Sony IMX377 image sensor and Amarelle dual-core A9SE75; Equipped with advanced video stabilization (EIS) can capture super smooth footage at 2. 7k/60fps.
- Long battery life – high capacity rechargeable lithium-ion battery records up to 120mins of 4K/30Fps video with a single charge. High performing cooling system prevents YI 4K Action Camera of overheating and enables stable video recording.
Aside from that, YI boasts an intuitive UI as well as a Retina-equipped touchscreen. It’s protected with Gorilla glass in case the action gets heavy. You will also enjoy the newly-released voice command that lets you shoot without tinkering with the buttons all the time. It uses a 360-degree microphone for accurate response.
Aside from the cam, you will also get a rechargeable battery, USB cable, and a user manual. For each charge, this action cam can record up to 120 minutes of footages non-stop.
- EIS technology
- 360-degree microphone for the voice prompt
- Retina-equipped touchscreen
- The microphone can pick up wind speed, but it’s not really a disadvantage
5. Xiaomi Mi 4K Action Camera
If you’re on a budget and looking for a decent action cam, the Xiaomi Mi 4K is a good choice. It’s equipped with a 145-degree wide-angle lens as well as a 4K shooting quality with 30 fps. For slow-motion shots, you can utilize the 1080p resolution with 100 fps.
This action cam uses a built-in image sensor from Sony as well as an Ambarella chip. And to ensure that your videos are shake-free, this Xiaomi action cam is equipped with an Electronic Image Stabilization (EIS).
- 【Vivid Interpretation】Xiaomi Mi 4K Camera records 4k/30fps, 1080p/100fps, 720p/200fps video, and 8MP raw images with a build-in IMX317 image sensor( 1. 62um/single-pixel point) from Sony and Ambarella chip A12S75; Equipped with Electronic Image Stabilization (EIS) can capture super-smooth footage at 4k/30fps, to ensure excellent experience in shooting fast-moving objects
- 【Non-stop Shooting】High capacity 1450mAh rechargeable lithium-ion battery records up to 120mins of 4K/30fps video with a single charge. Without the battery, use Mi Power Bank Pro 10000mAh to power up the camera via USB port. High performing cooling system prevents Mi 4K Action Camera of overheating and enables stable video recording
You can also use this for a non-stop shooting of up to 120 minutes per charge. To ensure that the camera will not overheat, it’s fitted with a high-performing cooling system. You can also power up this camera even without a battery as long as you have a Mi Power Bank.
Moreover, this has a built-in Bluetooth 4.1 and a 2.4GHz/5GHz Wi-Fi network. You can easily share, edit, and transfer your files from this camera. And since it has flexible settings, you can capture clear footages on low light.
Aside from the camera, you will also receive a battery, USB cable, and a user manual. But since this action cam isn’t waterproof itself, you need to purchase a waterproof case separately.
- Cooling system to prevent overheating
- 5GHz/2.4GHz Wi-Fi compatibility
- 120 minutes of non-stop recording per charge
- You need to purchase the waterproof case separately
How to choose a low-light action camera
When selecting an action camera, you must consider the following aspects:
The very first thing you should check is the resolution of the action cam. Modern action cameras are now equipped to shoot at 4K. This resolution is the highest resolution available today among cameras. I also one that allows users to switch frame rates to suit different shooting needs.
Aside from video resolution, you should also check the image definition of the camera. Action cams that can shoot 4K boast a 12MP image quality. Flexible ISO/SHUTTER/WB/EV/METER settings also allow you to blend your shots for low-light settings.
Next, you should check the action cam’s sound quality, especially if you’re taking high-quality videos. Some action cams like the YI 4K camera has a 360-degree mic, which it also uses for the voice-prompt feature.
If you’re going to record videos with loud sounds, you should look for a camera that can compress and process it properly. Also, you should mind the wind speed recording since some low-end cameras are notorious for wind noise.
The battery life of the action cam will dictate how convenient it is to use. Try to look for an action cam that can shoot non-stop for 120 minutes without overheating. This is more than enough for almost all applications.
High-def videos will dry up the juice of your camera faster than lower resolutions. With this, you must look for an action camera with best battery life.
Another crucial feature that you should check is the stabilization of the camera. As an action cam, it should have excellent stabilizing features to prevent excessive shaking. Even as the action gets heavy, the camera should keep the motion fluid and clear.
For example, GoPro HERO7 and HERO8 are equipped with the HyperSmooth technology that analyzes movement in real-time. It then stabilizes the scene to produce shake-free footages.
Other cameras at a lower price range use Electronic Image Stabilization (EIS). It’s an enhancement technique that reduces blur to compensate for the shaking movement of the user and low light conditions.
Gone are the days when you have to remove the memory card from your camera just to extract the files on your computer. Action cams often have Wi-Fi and Bluetooth functions for a seamless file transfer. Mid to high-end ones even have a live stream function that lets you connect your Facebook Live feed. This feature is perfect for vloggers and online content creators.
If you’re shooting on low-light conditions, you should get a camera with a larger aperture. It will let you shoot images and videos on faster shutter speeds with excellent blur control. Paired with a low ISO setting, you can minimize the visual noise. You should also look for an action camera with excellent stabilization to reduce the shake on the images and videos.
Higher ISOs are more light-sensitive. For example, if you’re shooting in a low-light setting, you must use ISO 400 or more.
One of the most important features of an action camera is waterproofing. This will let you shoot in almost any environment, regardless of the weather. Most action cams are rated for 10 to 11 meters deep. However, affordable action cams often don’t have this feature, but you can always purchase a waterproof case to solve the issue.
Lastly, look for extras to make the most out of your purchase. Accessories like head mounts, poles, and belts will help you shoot better footages. Also, look for batteries, user manual, and USB cords to connect the camera.
With the best action camera in low light, you can shoot high-quality videos with minimal noise. Aside from that, it will let you use the action cam on different environments to make the most out of your purchase.