Best Action Cameras with Image Stabilisation for Trail Runners and Vloggers

action cameras for running

Are you in to running, trail running, road running, even mountain running and want to record you epic runs, training or take photos along the way?

Are you a running vlogger and want to get the best footage you can?

There are ample options out there on the market for runners, with action cameras being lighter and more tough than smart phones and even compact cameras, they are a great way in to taking photos of beautiful landscapes as you run and even recording videos of the run itself to share with friends and family.

Here we look at the ever growing list of action cameras that would work well for runners.

We'll look at the different types of action camera, the different forms they come in and the pro's and cons of each.

As well as cameras specifically for taking photos and cameras for taking video. Hopefully we including something for everyone and if we miss anything out and you still can't decide what camera to get.

Make sure to look at the camera discovery tool, which we use to create the lists you see below and has the biggest database of action cameras anywhere online that you can filter and sort to find cameras based on specifics you want for your running.

We only go over a few positives and negatives of each camera type for running, but if you're looking for a specific feature, such as action cameras with 4k resolution at 60fps in video or you want to make hyperlapses, then you can do that with the discovery tool by simply selecting the features in the filters list.

Why Are Action Cameras Better For Runners

Action cameras are better for runners because of a few things, if comparing them to smart phones, which often people take on runs with them, or even small compacts, they are better for runners in a number of ways and here are a few of our thoughts on this.

Action Cameras are Light

Action cameras are lighter, the gimbal style action cameras weigh about 120 grams each, with more regular shaped action cameras in the rectangular form coming in even lighter, between 70 and 120 grams depending on the camera make and model.

The latest iPhones and Android phones weigh about 200grams, which is nearly three times the weight in comparison.

Action Cameras for Running are Tough

Not all are classified as tough cameras or can be dropped from a height, although some can, like the Olympus Tough Series.

But they definitely can handle a drop or two, because they are lighter, they have smaller screens, which means they are less prone to breaking.

Action Cameras are Waterproof

A lot of new action cameras are waterproof, in our latest article we talked about waterproof ready action cameras which don't use a case and are waterproof out of the box.

Different Types of Action Cameras For Running

The answer to this question depends totally on the type of content you are creating and below you can see the three style of action cameras we look at specifically for runners and running.

Pocket Gimbal Action Cameras for Vloggers

These are hand held mini action cameras with a gimbal on top, often called pocket gimbal cameras. They have a 3-axis gimbal sat at the top of the screen and electronics and they make for some of the smoothest footage you can get and come in a very small package.

If you are making vlogging style running videos, a normal action camera with image stabilisation might suffice for your needs, especially if you'll be talking whilst walking and you can get videos and other footage from stationary positions.

xiaomi fimi palm gimbal action camera

Action Cameras for POV and Good Weather

You all know and love regular form factor action cameras, the small rectangular brick that is hard to hold but always packs a punch with its footage quality and features.

If you want to get point of view (POV) style footage, or run along with the camera facing you and the weather is good, then a pocket gimbal action camera like the DJI Osmo Pocket or the Fimi Palm are perfect for you.

You can run as fast as you want, over technical terrain and have an easy to hold pocket gimbal action camera that will make all your runs look super smooth and steady which is pleasing on the eye.

The downside is if you are out in bad weather a lot, we advise to stay away from this and look at the action camera and hand held gimbal combination.

gopro hero 5 black action camera

Tough Cameras for Beautiful Nature Photos

Let's not forget the more photography aimed tough cameras made by Nikon, Olympus and Fuji, amongst others.

They are simply compact cameras that are made waterproof and drop proof and aimed at photographers who need something with a bit of protection from the elements.

If you're interested more in photography, especially macro and wide landscapes you might prefer one of these and we talk more about their pros and cons further down.

olympus tough tg6 action camera

Action Camera and Gimbal Combination

An action camera and hand held gimbal combo like below is another option and we look more in to these options further down the article.

Is best for those wanting to still get running point of view footage, going down fast mountain trails and through the woods on your local trail. You will get super smooth footage when combining a hand held gimbal like a Feiyu G6 or a Hohem with an action camera.

You don't even need an expensive action camera for this and could get something that records in 4K for less than $150 and add a hand held gimbal for $100 and you're still getting a cheaper alternative to a GoPro Hero 8 Black and you'll definitely get smoother running footage.

You should be able to use this setup in all weather if both the gimbal is weather proof and the action camera is waterproof ready.

hohem isteady pro 3 action camera gimbal



Gimbal Action Cameras

These type of action camera are new to the market, having only been around for a year or two, with the first offering coming from DJI, in the form of the DJI Osmo Pocket.

Now in 2020 there are a number of action camera gimbals which mean you get the camera lens attached to the 3-axis gimbal and the electronics all fit within the handle beneath it that you hold.

It's an entirely new concept for action cameras but one that works very well in our opinion, especially if you want stable and smooth footage.

If you haven't seen this form factor before, they're pretty simple to use, they have a stick that you hold, which has all of the elctronics and workings of the camera, with a 3-axis gimbal sat on top of this, which in turn holds the camera lens. This means the camera is only stabilising the only part of the camera that needs it, the camera lens, the part that sees and records the footage.

The current gimbal style action cameras on the market at the moment are as follows:

  • DJI Osmo Pocket Action Camera
  • DJI Osmo+ Action Camera
  • Keelead P6A Pocket GImbal Camera
  • Snoppa Vmate Pocket Gimbal Action Camera
  • Xioami Fimi Palm Gimbal Action Camera

There aren't that many, especially comparing them to the likes of the small rectangular form factor of other action cameras and that we've all come to know and love.

Positives of a Gimbal Action Camera

There are quite a few positives to these cameras, especially when comparing them to the square and rectangular bricks of regular cameras. Even more positives when comparing them for running footage.

Super Smooth Video Footage for Running

The main reason we've put these action camera types first, is because of the super smooth footage that comes out of them, because they all have 3-axis motorised gimbals on them, no matter how hard you push them, jump about, fall down mountains and take technical running trails they'll always create far smoother footage than an action camera with inbuilt image stabilisation, either with a gyro or electronic.

Above you can see an example of what it is like to run with a gimbal style action camera. The gimbal does all the work and the camera does what it does best, just records high quality footage and just can't be beaten.

The best way is to get the source footage as stable as possible and that means keeping the lens stable with the gimbal and this means better quality videos.

Gimbal Action Cameras are Easier To Hold

Gimbal action cameras are just easier to hold, they come with a hand hold, small stick, that holds and protects the electronics. Where as with a regular formed action camera, you end up adding a stick or grip to the bottom so that you can hold the camera straight and more easily.

The camera and 3-axis gimbal sit above the hand, in your fist and out of the way.

Camera Movement

You can pan, tilt, rotate, do selfies and roll the camera effortlessly to create fantastic and cinematic footage. This is almost impossible to do smoothly with a regular formed action camera unless you have years of experience with these movements.

Negatives of a Gimbal Action Camera

Because there are moving parts, that means there is access to the electronics and insides of the camera and internals. This is not great for poor weather outings and means water and rain can access the insides of the camera and gimbal, which is not good.

As much as they are made for action and they will make action look smoother, this is a downside that you will just have to accept until one comes out which is at least weather resistant.

There is hope though as we do own and know of camera gimbals which are weatherproof and this feature should pass on to action camera gimbals in the next year or two.

Compare all specs and features of action cameras with a motorised gimbal on the action camera comparison tool.

Action Cameras for Photography

If you're interested in taking photos of your beautiful surroundings, small flowers or landscape pictures, then more of a tough photography camera might be what you want for your running adventures.

What we love about these offerings are that they are all completely waterproof and completely aimed at standing still and taking photos and videos.

Positives for Point and Shoot Compact Tough Cameras

Normal Looking Wide Shots

You get a less wide, more normal looking shot with these types of cameras, action cameras are renowned for their super epic wide field of views, about 170 degrees in most cases.

With a point and shoot tough camera, you get the feel of a normal camera as well as the photos and videos that aren't cropped in or too wide.

Better Hand Ergonomics and User Experience

These types of camera, like the Olympus Tough TG 6 are easier to hold than a regular action camera, you can hold them in one hand, hold them in two to steady the camera and frame your shot.

Because they are bigger you'll get a bigger screen which is easier to see which means a better overall experience with it in your hand and whilst using to take photos or videos.

Larger Image Sensors

You generally get larger image sensors, with some having 1" image sensors, compared to the usual 1/2.3" in most action cameras.

This means if you're shooting in low light or it's getting darker on your run, you'll have a better chance of getting a nicer image, with less noise compared to the smaller sized sensors.

Better Photography and Photos

If you want to take your nature photography up a level, we love pairing a camera with a run and some of these point and shoot compact tough cameras are just great for macro and wide angle photography.

You can zoom in on the smallest flowers or insects with these cameras as some have amazing macro modes and all can shoot wide angle landscape photos without making them look distorted.

Compare all specs and features of action cameras that have a tough compact camera form for photography on the action camera comparison tool.

Action Cameras With Image Stabilisation

Here we have a huge mega list of action cameras with image stabilisation, from the GoPro Hero 8 through the GoPro range and on to other smaller brands like the DJI, SJCam, Xiaomi, Yi and many more.

To get a perspective of what one of the better action cameras with image stabilisation can do whilst running, here is a POV video of a runner with a GoPro Hero 8 Black mounted to their head.

As you can see, comparing it to the gimbal style action cameras, even with the best image stabilisation for running, you still get camera bob from your body moving up and down and you also get panning movements which orbit rather than turn like a gimbal does.

Here is the DJI Osmo Action which is used by this running vlogger and when used held in the hand shows how good of a running action camera this can be.

Another option to look at is the Insta360 GO action camera, a tiny little pebble sized action camera which has image stabilisation and can be mounted on a running cap and provides fantastic quality footage for such a small camera.

Positives of a Regular Form Factor Action Camera with Image Stabilisation

Even though the image stabilisation might not be as good, there are some positives to a regular form factor action camera.

Action Cameras Are Tough

Action cameras, the small rectangular ones that are hard to hold are tough, some are waterproof and great for taking on adventures, knowing you'll have a tough time trying to break it.

You can shove them in a backpack side pocket, your running vest chest sleeve, strap it to your wrist, chest, head or shoulder and have it get knocked about without any issues.

Once you've finished recording footage with it, you can literally shove it back in to a pocket or bumbag without worrying how it will be.

This is probably the main advantage to an action camera and if you know you're going to be running in a mountainous environment, or the weather might not be good, you know you wont be risking your camera, which makes it a great replacement for a smart phone if you are caught in a rainstorm or bad weather.

Compare all action cameras with electronic image stabilisation on our action camera comparison tool.

Placing an Action Camera on a Handheld Gimbal

If you're serious about smooth footage and want the best of both worlds, a tough action camera that can be pocketed and you have the spaces for a small action camera gimbal, then why not consider fitting an action camera to a handheld gimbal.

This way, you can use any action camera, even without image stabilisation, with your hand held gimbal and if you get a waterproof action camera, like the SJCam SJ9 Strike, SJ4000X, SJ10 Pro or the DJI Osmo Action, GoPro Hero 5 - 8 models, you can combine that with a waterproof hand held gimbal and be ready for anything and any weather.

Hand held gimbals work by

Positives of a Hand Held Gimbal

There are a few positives and negatives to using and running with a gimbal, here we look at some of those.

Smooth Running Video Footage

Without a doubt, the best positive is the smooth running footage you're about to capture when combining an action camera and a hand held gimbal. It will be cinematic, stable and an overall improvement over any on board electronic image stabilisation used with just an action camera in hand without a 3-axis gimbal.

They're Hand Held and Easier to Hold

The ergonomics of a hand held action camera gimbal are by far the best out of any option above. The buttons will be in positions you can access more or less with one hand and where you point the gimbal, it will face the camera in that direction.

Many More Filming Options

With a gimbal, you open up the world of new filming techniques and movements, depending on the camera gimbal.

Some will simply pan, tilt, rotate and can lock themselves straight or will follow depending on what axis you want to move.

Whilst others can help with timelapse and hyperlapse movements which would be impossible without.

Weatherproof and Can Be Used in Bad Weather

Some of the action camera gimbals can be used in bad weather, are rainproof or shower proof, none are 100% waterproof because of the moving parts but they are more sturdy and tougher than the pocket action camera gimbals further up the article.

This means, if you pair them with a waterproof ready action camera, such as the SJCam SJ10 or the DJI Osmo Action or older GoPro like the Hero 5, 6 or 7 Black you can get incredible footage from that action camera, without having to use the on board electronic image stabilisation and know that you'll be fine in the worst of the weather.

Negatives of a Hand Held Gimbal

As well as holding your camera, probably a smart phone and your GPS sports running watch, you might have to find somewhere to hold or store the gimbal too.

Hand Held Gimbals Are Not Small

Even though they look it compared to their bigger mirrorless and DSLR camera gimbals, they're not that small and weigh about 200-350 grams depending on the model you choose.

You have to find somewhere in your running vest to stow away this 25cm+ pole which has a weird shape to it and then also carry the extra weight when not in use.

If you can do this, this isn't too much of a concern and combined with the action camera, this setup could weigh less than one small 500ml of water in a soft flask.

We recommend a stretchy running vest so that you can fit it in where it stretches and the vest will hold the gimbal in place.

Compare all hand held gimbals which work with action cameras on the gimbal comparison tool.

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