High performance testing
What can you rely on to sort the best action camera from the rest? The answer is a comparative test that looks at only an action camera's video quality output and battery life, without relying on brand reputation or a tester's prejudice that could influence the results.
All the tests and procedures described in this article are carried out or overseen by professional testers in specialist camera testing laboratories in Europe. The test method is decided on by representatives of consumer organisations from around the world who have many years' experience and specialised expertise in action camera testing.
Fortunately, action cameras don't vary in any meaningful way from country to country, which makes an international test possible. However, markets do vary and the lab has a limit on the number of cameras it can test each year, so each country gets to suggest which cameras should be included. Where there is general agreement the selection is easy, but in some cases a camera that is popular in only one market will not make the cut.
Video quality score
All video recordings are made at the maximum resolution setting in auto mode. The devices are mounted on a tripod recording our test scene, with a mix of static and moving objects in the foreground and background for a minute with panning. The lighting conditions are controlled to simulate outdoor, artificial and low light at about 12 lux. The recordings are played back on 24-inch LCD monitors with resolution set to 1920 x 1200, and a three- person panel evaluates sharpness, resolution, colour fidelity (colour neutrality and colour noise), exposure and contrast gradation. We test and assess the footage in FullHD where available as this is the most common format. When 4K video becomes standard, our test will incorporate video quality performance at this setting in the overall score. Until then, our testers will make comment only if the 4K footage is particularly poor.
Still image recording score
The photo score is determined by analysing the captured image for sharpness, dynamic range and colour accuracy.
Battery time recording
The camcorder is set at the highest resolution possible capturing a test subject measuring the recording time taken before the battery is discharged. Our testers also evaluate the time taken to charge the model using the USB connection if available.
The overall score is made up of video quality (daylight 40%, low light 30%, artificial light 20%) and still photo (10%).
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Get test results and expert commentary in our latest Action cameras test report.