There is no doubt that Sony Action Cams made their mark in IRL live content and still maintain their supremacy. But are they still ideal for everyone using encoders to live stream? I believe that in today’s world, with the limited options available for encoder live streaming, there may be some other alternatives, albeit with certain drawbacks compared to the Sony Action Cam. The inevitable truth is that Sony Action Cams ceased production years ago and will eventually become obsolete, at least in terms of working models.
GoPro cameras serve as a decent replacement and are the first choice that comes to mind when Sony Action Cams are unavailable. The positive aspect is that older GoPro models perform just as well as the newer ones, with minimal differences in terms of live streaming capabilities. So, you can opt for an older model and still be satisfied. The newer models, however, provide better performance if you intend to record content for purposes beyond live streaming. But, if you’re considering a GoPro, it’s important to bear in mind the major drawbacks in my opinion.
GoPro doesn’t have, nor does it show any interest in, investing in a high-quality microphone. Why? Because it’s primarily designed for capturing action footage, such as sports, and is not tailored for interviews or vlogs. However, there is an accessory called the “Mediamod” that allows the use of external microphones on the last few GoPro models. (The Mediamod is only available for HERO12 Black, HERO11 Black, HERO10 Black, or HERO9 Black.)
I recommend using either the Rode wireless Go 2 microphones or DJI. Its a little better performance in the DJI in my opinion but either one can work fine for IRL streaming, and it is a bit cheaper.
Image Stabilization / Sync Issues
While GoPro’s image stabilization is excellent and even superior to the Sony Action Cam, there’s a major drawback for live streaming. GoPro employs software-based image stabilization, which causes the video to encode differently than a Sony camera with optical stabilization. This can result in audio sync issues during live streaming, causing the audio to be delayed by a second or more. The only way to overcome this is to adjust the delay settings in OBS to compensate.
GoPro cameras have a reputation for poor low-light performance. This is due to their core design, as mentioned previously in the context of audio. GoPros are designed for capturing action in well-lit conditions, making low-light filming unnecessary. As a result, all GoPro cameras exhibit subpar low-light performance compared to Sony Action Cameras. While the newer GoPro generations show incremental improvements in low-light performance, it’s still not a significant change. If you plan to use a GoPro for low-light conditions, opt for the newest model for the best performance. However, if you don’t require this, even an older GoPro camera will suffice for daytime live streaming.
The cost of GoPro cameras can vary, but in my opinion, new GoPros are relatively expensive compared to Sony Action Cams. Sony Action Cams were sold for $300-$400 for their AS300/X3000 models from 2016 to 2020. Today, used Sony Action Cams (AS300/X3000) are generally available for $300-$900. If you’re fortunate, you might find one for the same price as it was in retail in 2016.
On the other hand, GoPro prices don’t seem to significantly decrease with the release of new models. As of my last check on October 25, 2023, the cheapest GoPro 10 I could find in the used market was $199, while the most expensive was $249. New GoPro 10 models were being sold for $250-$300 in kits with various accessories on Amazon. As for the GoPro 11, used models ranged from $250-$350, and new ones were priced between $339 and $400. The recently released GoPro 12 is available for $399-$449. So, if you’re looking to save, I believe that a used GoPro 10 should suffice, with minimal differences in live streaming performance.
And don’t forget the cost for a Media Mod ranging $50-80 (used/new).
While there are other cameras available, the unfortunate part is that none of them support HDMI or offer any accessories for HDMI connectivity to an encoder. The next best option is wireless streaming with RTMP, but I must warn you that this approach may introduce new issues and be less stable than using an HDMI connection between a camera and an encoder. A few cameras that currently support RTMP are the DJI Osmo Action and DJI Osmo Pocket. Although I haven’t personally tested these cameras, I have observed multiple IRL streamers using them, and they seem to work reasonably well, aside from occasional instability. They may not be as sharp as the Sony Action Cams, but they are easier to conceal in incognito situations, even more so than the GoPro.”
As for other brands it is unclear if any others support RTMP, USB support for picture preview onto another monitor for action cameras, and most (if not all) modern action cameras entirely moved on away from HDMI ports. Bigger cameras like a DSLR or mirrorless can work but it is NOT ideal for IRL streaming. One primary reason is weight, and second reason stabilization is barely there in comparison to action cameras. Using a full size gimbal in IRL streaming is super unrealistic too.
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