Earlier this week, Gizmodo released a comparison of 6 action video cameras. The test included cameras from GoPro, Drift, JVC, Sony, Garmin, and Ion. The author of the original article, Brent Rose, decided it would be easier to make his own hilariously-large 6-camera head rig than to test them individually.
According to his review the cameras ranked in the following order:
6th Place: Ion Air Pro 3
Unfortunately, the one thing that could have really set the Ion apart from the pack is also where it stumbled. The Ion Air Pro 3 is supposed to be fully waterproof to an impressive 49 feet without the use of any additional cases. The problem is, it wasn't.
Considering that I was only paddling around for about 15 minutes in very weak surf, this doesn't give us confidence that it would make it to anywhere near 49 feet.
5th Place: Drift Ghost-S
Drift somehow still hasn't fixed its audio problems. It and the Ion easily had the worst sound of the group. While image quality is decidedly better than previous Drift models, the Ghost-S is still noticeably muddier than our top finishers.
4th Place: Garmin VIRB Elite
The downside? Audio quality is really bad. Garmin claims the battery will go for more than three hours while recording 1080p, but we only got it to 2 hours and 3 minutes, which was the second-worst time in this group.
3rd Place: Sony Action Cam
Perhaps most significantly, though, the Action Cam 2 has by far the best audio quality of the bunch.
Unfortunately, the camera's image quality hasn't really advanced since last year, while it feels like others in the pack have progressed.
2nd Place: JVC Adixxion GC-XA2
The hardware is equally impressive. It's not much bigger than the GoPro or the Sony, but as-is, it's waterproof to 16.4 feet (which is more than enough for most watery activities), drop-proof to 6.5 feet, dustproof, and freezeproof to 14 degrees F. It also has a 1.5-inch color screen for framing your shots and playing back video.
It's also the only camera of the group that uses a full-sized SD card.
That said, it's certainly not perfect. The Adixxion struggles with dynamic range, and has a tendency to blow out, losing detail in the highlights.
1st Place: (Not surprisingly) GoPro Hero 3+ Black
Simply put: GoPro still makes the overall best action camera. It's the obvious winner in terms of image quality. It has the best detail, solid color performance, and really excellent dynamic range. Everything looks clean, clear, and sharp, with just enough pop in the colors. It's also terrific in low-light (just behind the Garmin) and the much-improved microphone places it second in audio-quality to the Sony.