Getting ready for your next adventure? You might want to put an action camera on your to-buy list. They’re small, portable, rugged, and can withstand almost anything you put them through. Thanks to GoPro‘s explosive popularity, the market is now flooded with action cams, but don’t worry — we are here to help you choose the right one. We’ve compiled a list of the best action cameras you can currently buy.
Should you buy an action camera?
Before we jump into our top action camera picks, let’s have a look at what action cameras excel at and if you should buy one.
Generally, they’re for those that lead an active lifestyle. Thanks to their ruggedness, image stabilization, and various mounting options (you can attach action cameras to equipment or yourself), they are very popular among the extreme sports crowd. These gadgets are great for capturing exciting point-of-view style footage when diving, hiking, mountain biking, and more. Many of them are waterproof, which is also a huge selling point.
You don't have to be an adrenaline junkie to enjoy an action camera.
They don’t produce the same breathtaking results when shooting stills, but you don’t have to be an adrenaline junkie to enjoy an action camera. Because they are so small, they are great for vlogging on the go or even just capturing family moments on vacation. You don’t have to break the bank to get one, either. There are some great budget options, which we have included on our list.
The best action cameras:
Editor’s note: This list of the best action cameras will be updated as new and better devices launch.
1. GoPro Hero 9 Black
- Price: ~$399
- Pros: Front and rear displays, 5K recording, HyperSmooth and TimeWarp 3.0
- Cons: Expensive
If you’re going with GoPro, sometimes you have to splurge on the best around. The Hero 9 Black is the top of the line, but you can expect to shell out a pretty penny to capture your action.
The device has a 23.6MP sensor, can record 5K video, has a front touchscreen, and packs all of the fancy features you expect from the GoPro name. It has a rugged design and can be submerged in water up to 33 feet deep. The unit can also be controlled by voice, includes noise reduction, and offers HyperSmooth 3.0 as well as TimeWarp 3.0
If you have a wide-open budget and want the best, the Hero 9 Black is a premium pick.
2. GoPro Hero 8 Black
- Price: ~$299
- Pros: Amazing video stabilization, built-in mounting system, many accessories available.
- Cons: Pricey, the interface could use some work.
GoPro is right back into the fray with another one of the best action cameras. This company is responsible for making action cameras popular, and it continues to make some of the best products in the category. The Hero 8 Black is GoPro’s previous high-end action camera, so you should be able to shave a few bucks off of the asking price.
HyperSmooth stabilization surprised us when launched with the GoPro Hero 7 Black, and it has only gotten better with its successor. The GoPro Hero 8 features HyperSmooth 2.0 video stabilization and it works wonders. Other specs include a 12MP sensor, RAW support, the ability to record 4K video at 60fps, a plethora of shooting modes, and even live streaming at 1080p. The GoPro Hero 8 Black will also withstand being submerged in water up to 10 meters, or 33 feet.
Also read: Best point-and-shoot cameras
What also makes the GoPro Hero 8 Black unique is that it comes with a built-in mounting system. This is pretty cool, as it may no longer be necessary to buy as many extra accessories.
If you are looking for 360-degree content, you may also want to look into the GoPro Max. We didn’t include it in this list because it is a more niche product with a higher price point.
3. Sony FDR-X3000 4K
- Price: ~$370
- Pros: Optical and digital stabilization, great audio and video quality.
- Cons: Expensive for its age, lower fps, can’t preview content on the camera itself.
Also read: Best Sony cameras
However, while that might be an issue for fans of extreme sports, those that enjoy filming more “cinematic” footage won’t mind the difference. The Sony FDR-X3000 can also capture 12MP images and offers Wi-Fi, GPS, and quality audio thanks to a built-in stereo microphone. It doesn’t fall behind in durability either — it’s waterproof up to 60 meters or 197 feet with its supplied underwater housing, making it one of the best underwater action cameras for diving enthusiasts.
Despite this, the Sony FDR-X3000 is not flawless. You can’t preview content on the camera itself. The user interface also needs some work. The price will be the biggest drawback for many. Despite its age, the Sony FDR-X3000 still retails at around the same price as newer high-end action camera models.
4. DJI Osmo Action
- Price: ~$250
- Pros: Dual screens, great stabilization, a bit cheaper than comparative cams.
- Cons: No live streaming, no GPS.
The DJI Osmo Action is capable of filming 4K video at 60fps and 1080p video at 240fps. It also offers HDR video (without stabilization), 8x slow-motion full HD time lapses so you can capture every second of your adventures, and best of all, it too has voice controls.
Its dual screens make it an even bigger standout. The front screen helps you frame yourself easily, making the DJI Osmo Action ideal for vlogging on the go. Of course, just like the other action cams on our list, the DJI is rugged and durable. It is waterproof (up to 11 meters or 36 feet), as well as temperature resistant. Where it falls behind is the lack of GPS and live streaming abilities. However, if you can go without those, the DJI Osmo Action is one of the best action cameras you can buy.
5. Garmin Virb Ultra 30
- Price: ~$500
- Pros: 1.75-inch touchscreen, Garmin GPS capabilities.
- Cons: Very expensive, only 30 fps at 4K.
If you don’t mind splurging so you can capture your next skydiving or paragliding adventure in all its glory, the Garmin Virb Ultra 30 is the action camera for you. It is designed to take to the skies thanks to a special aviation mount for capturing continuous video and it does so magnificently thanks to a large front sensor. It is capable of taking 12MP photos and can capture stitched 4K video at 30fps.
Also read: Best beginner cameras
The Virb Ultra 30 even uses advanced GPS sensors to track your speed and distance while you capture footage. It also has a plethora of other sensors such as an accelerometer and a compass. Its ruggedness shouldn’t be questioned either — it’s waterproof up to 33 feet or 10 meters.
The major drawback is the Garmin Virb Ultra 30’s price. It retails for $500, yet it skips some of the newer GoPro Hero 9 Black’s features. This makes it a more of a niche pick than the rest of the action cameras on this list, but a great one for dedicated enthusiasts, nonetheless.
6. Insta360 One R
- Price: ~$450
- Pros: Modular, durable, powered by Leica
- Cons: Bugs at launch, must purchase mods separately.
If you want a completely unique experience, the Insta360 One R is the action camera for you. Instead of going for the traditional box setup, the One R is modular. That means you can flip the lens to face the touchscreen or record the world around you in seconds. Of course, you might run up quite the tab as you add more mods to your collection.
Fine tune your action camera just how you want it.
The One R is a joint venture with Leica’s powerful camera history planted firmly behind it. You can grab a bundle that includes a one-inch lens mod and capture even better still images than with the base unit. Also, the red camera base serves as the battery for your adventures, so you can easily carry more than one and record for hours on end.
Insta360’s One R isn’t a cheap customer, but there’s a chance that it’s an indication of where action cameras are going in the future. Grab yours below.
If you’re not sure any of the cameras on our list suit your needs, check out the Polaroid Cube Act II. It’s a great basic action camera for more casual users, and your wallet will thank you for choosing it. If you are the complete opposite and don’t mind splurging on the latest and greatest, take a look at the Sony RX0 II – a tiny camera with a big sensor suited for experienced filmmakers. And if you want to give an advanced gimbal a try, check out the DJI Osmo Pocket 2.
These are our picks for the best action cameras. We’ll be adding more as they come to market!