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The GoPro HERO 5 Black is the flagship camera from GoPro and it packs all of the latest and greatest features including image stabilization, voice commands, and 4k video up to 30 frames per second. If you have the cash, the HERO5 Black is the way to go. It also is water resistant down to 10 meters out-of-the-box, which is great and has a large, full-color, touchscreen display on the back. This makes it easy to view shots, change settings, and view previously recorded media. The HERO5 Black is super simple to use and even sports one-touch recording, which helps to conserve battery life. And speaking of battery life, it’s decent on the HERO5 Black. It’s about an hour of recording time. This depends on the settings, however, if you’re in 4k then expect 30-45 minutes. If you have Wi-Fi switched on, communicating with your phone, and voice commands, then battery life takes a hit. Bottom line, it’s not perfect and there’s no-brainer upgrades GoPro could make, but it’s a superb action camera.
The GoPro HERO4 Silver was our go-to action camera for two years. It was, in our opinion, the best GoPro camera that you could get. It shot beautiful video, was super compact, battery conscious, easy to use, and even had a LCD touchscreen on the back. It required an external housing unit to be submerged in water, but beyond that it’s a heck of a camera. The best thing about it is that prices have come down to where it’s very affordable now. We actually would have stayed with the HERO4 Silver if not for the image stabilization on the HERO 5 Black. Great action camera.
The HERO Session is the cheapest action cam that GoPro sells. It’s basically the HERO4 Session and it’s a 1″ x 1″ x 1″ cube that is crazy durable, compact, and easy to use. You’ve got two buttons on it: a settings button and start/stop button. That’s it! You press the record button and the action camera turns on and starts recording. Press that button once more and it stops the footage, saves it, and turns off the camera. Brilliant. We love one-touch recording. This also means that it has great battery life. We just really like it because the video quality is stellar (1080p) and we can bring it around anywhere. It’s a pocket-sized, super-capable action camera with an affordable price tag.
The GoPro HERO5 Session is basically a combination of the HERO Session and HERO5 Black. It takes the best features of the HERO5 Black (namely 4k video, image stabilization, and voice commands) and smashes them into a camera the size of the HERO Session. And that’s all you really need to know about this camera. It’s awesome and people seem to love it. Besides the HERO5 Black, this is the action camera we shoot most often with.
Garmin makes the only non-GoPro camera on this list. Reason: GoPro kills it in the action camera space. Garmin, however, is starting to give them a run for their money. The VIRB Ultra 30 camera is pretty much on par with the HERO5 Black except in one area. That would be battery life. Expect 30 minutes of battery life on a single charge. Disappointing, but still a killer camera. The VIRB Ultra 30 shoots 4k up to 30 frames per second—looks beautiful. Like the HERO5 Black, the Ultra 30 also has digital image stabilization and voice commands (basically you can tell it to start or stop recording, take a picture, create a highlight, etc.). Beyond that, it does require an external housing unit to be water resistant, but that housing unit does actually let in a decent amount of audio to where it’s not that bad actually. Obviously, out of the housing unit the audio is better and because the built-in mic is front-facing it tends to pick up less wind noise than my GoPro cameras, which is neat. The other thing is that you can adjust the pro settings (ISO, Sharpness, etc.) within settings on the VIRB. This is essentially GoPro’s Protune feature. The reason we like this camera so much is that it actually shoots very sharp, crystal clear footage and has awesome stabilization. We really, really like it.