More action cameras cost less and include 4K video thanks to market competition

by on November 1, 2016

Stephan Jukic – November 1st, 2016

After sales of action cameras first took off wonderfully for their manufacturers back in 2014, things started to look stormy for the industry by late 2015 and 2016 and drops in both sales and profit margins have caused the makers of these handy little recording devices to move forward with competitive new video recording technologies. The most important of these might just be 4K UHD resolution and this is what is now becoming a standard feature of ever more of these devices.

To give users an idea of just how much the action camera market has suffered in the last couple years, we need look no further than industry leader GoPro, whose Hero action camera models are probably the best selling action shooters in existence today. Brand popularity within this market hasn’t saved the company from serious enough financial turmoil to require employee layoffs to the tune of 7% of the company’s workforce for the start of 2016 alone. Furthermore, GoPro has seen its revenue drop by a massive 31% for the fourth quarter of 2015 in comparison to revenues for the end of 2014, when the action camera market was hotter and more profitable.

The picture for the rest of 2016 and into 2017 also doesn’t look too rosy for GoPro and its competitors: Market researchers at Euromonitor International have predicted that the market leading company will suffer a further 9% decline in their sales volume by the end of this year and the overall industry for digital camcorders (which action cameras are a version of) is likely going to see growth shrinking to just 3.5% between 2016 and 2021.

As bad as all this is for the people in charge of action camera development and sales, it does have the interesting effect of benefitting consumers of action camera technology. This is most notably happening in the form of product price drops in many mid-range camera models and the inclusion of cutting-edge technologies as increasingly standardized features in a growing percentage of cameras being sold today.


Most importantly, 4K video recording is increasingly the name of the game across the board and while makers of the new 4K action cameras being released in 2016 are banking on the technology to save their sales and profit margins, the same competitive pressures which have caused most 4K technologies (4K UHD TVs most of all) to become steadily cheaper, will also overtake 4K action camera prices soon enough.

Action camera makers struggle on however and consumers can take pleasure in what the newer cameras they buy include as a result. As Ms. Karissa Chua, consumer electronics analyst at Euromonitor International recently stated,

“To cushion the declining demand, manufacturers are pushing for higher-end models to drive value sales. We are seeing more action cameras equipped with more advanced features such as 4K video shooting,”

This inclusion of 4K video shooting capacity in these cameras also closely follows an expanding overall trend towards 4K resolution in numerous other digital video technologies such as 4K UHD TVs, other camera types, PC monitors, laptops and even smartphones, which increasingly include 4K video recording as the highest resolution for their built-in cameras.

In other words, as Ms. Chua affirms, action camera manufacturers are going in the same direction for the sake of relevancy in a rapidly evolving digital recording and display market.

Action cameras, for those who aren’t exactly sure what defines these devices, are typically ultra-compact portable video cameras which are designed to be mounted onto nearly any sort of moving object such as a surf board, helmet, drone, car, bike or just about anything with a hard surface. As their name suggests, they record action footage in assorted resolutions as the object they’re mounted to moves. Most action cameras such as GoPro’s Hero 4 camera and Yi’ 4K Action camera also come with waterproof external casings and the ability to capture 8 to 12 megapixel still photos, even though their main selling point is video recording.


action cameras like this Yi 4K Action model tend to be very small and toughly built for rugged conditions

action cameras like this Yi 4K Action model tend to be very small and toughly built for rugged conditions

As we mentioned above, the competitive pressures of the digital camera industry are also causing price drops, at least among mid-range models. Thus, while top-shelf new releases like GoPro’s Hero 5 completely waterproof 4K camera still cost around the same $500 pricier action cameras have cost for the last couple years, many cameras which offer nearly identical recording specs and superb video quality are emerging for prices below $400 and even $300.

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