How will you use the camera? Owners of action cameras say they use them for everything from snorkeling to motor sports to documentary filmmaking. Obviously, these different uses call for different feature sets. For instance, if you'll use your camera indoors a lot, then low-light performance should be a priority. If you plan to use it mostly during sports, by contrast, you'll want something that's rugged and comes with the appropriate mounts for your equipment (goggles, helmet, bike handlebars, etc.). If you're planning to use the camera underwater, consider how deep you plan to take it. Cameras with hefty waterproof cases usually can handle greater depths, but those that are waterproof without a case are easier to use underwater.
How will you use the footage? If you consider yourself a serious videographer, then you'll want a camera with the best possible video quality and the widest range of shooting options. However, if you're a more casual user who just wants to post videos on YouTube of yourself learning to ski, then it makes sense to trade off some video quality for a lower price tag, better ease of use or longer battery life.
What's your price range? The very best action cameras cost $300 or more. However, if you spend that much, you run the risk that your pricey camera could get trashed in a wreck or washed away at sea. If worrying about that risk would ruin your enjoyment of the camera, you may be better off with one of the very good second-tier cameras you can buy for $200 or less. This could also be a good choice if you'd like to let your kids use the camera without worrying that they'll destroy it.
Most wearable cameras today are designed for sports use, but that may be changing. We've seen several reports about truly tiny cameras now in the works that you can simply clip to your clothes and use at any time. For instance, the MeMini, currently available for pre-order at $179, is designed to record continuously as you go through your day -- but it saves the video only when you tell it to. That way, you can capture every memorable moment without having to fumble for your camera. Google is also working in partnership with Amberella to develop a wearable camera that can stream video to its new Helpouts service, which provides live video assistance from doctors, teachers and the like. The matchbox-sized camera will stream directly to Google's servers with no need for another mobile device. Look for more on this new generation of wearable cameras in our next update.