Getting ready for your next summer adventure? You might want to put an action camera on your to-buy list. They are small, portable, rugged, and can withstand almost anything you put them through. Thanks to the explosive popularity of the GoPro, the market is now flooded with action cams, but don’t worry — we are here to help you choose.
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. They 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.
Best action cameras:
Editor’s note: This list will be updated as new and better action cameras launch.
1. GoPro HERO7 Black
- Price: $399.99
- Pros: amazing video stabilization, feature-full, huge range of accessories
- Cons: pricey, interface could use some work
We can’t make an action camera list and not include a GoPro. The brand not only put action cameras on the map, but is deservedly recognized as a leader in its field. The GoPro HERO7 Black is proof of that. It offers HyperSmooth — the best in-camera video stabilization on the market, which works even at high resolutions and frame rates, such as 4k 60fps. At lower resolutions, the GoPro HERO7 Black can shoot at up to an amazing 240fps, while stills are 12MP.
The GoPro HERO7 Black has the best image stabilization software on the market.
It also shines with its multitude of features such as livestreaming, voice commands (you can say “GoPro start filming” when your hands are full) and TimeWarp, which applies HyperSmooth to time lapses. All of these features come in a small package. The GoPro HERO7 Black weighs only 118g and it’s rugged — in 2017, a GoPro camera survived being engulfed in lava! It doesn’t get much better than that. The GoPro HERO7 Black will also withstand being submerged in water up to 10 meters, or 33 feet.
The only major drawback for many would be this action camera’s price. Retailing at $399.99, it’s by no means a budget choice, but you get what you pay for. If you want an excellent and feature-packed companion for your adventures, you can’t go wrong with the GoPro HERO7 Black.
2. Sony FDR-X3000 4K
- Price: $368.00
- 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
It’s a bit old, but the Sony FDR-X3000 is still one of the top picks for an action camera. It stands out with both optical and digital video stabilization, which produces some of the best results on the market, combined with its Zeiss Tessar lens. Just like the GoPro HERO7 Black, it can film stunning footage in 4K, but the Sony FDR-X3000 falls a bit behind in the frame rate department. Video at 4K maxes out at 30fps, while 1080p video can be captured at 120fps.
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.
The Sony FDR-X3000 is one of the best waterproof action cameras on the market.
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. However, 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 action camera models.
3. DJI Osmo Action
- Price: $319.00
- Pros: dual screens, great stabilization, a bit cheaper than comparative cams
- Cons: no livestreaming, no GPS
Regarded as one of the biggest GoPro competitors, the DJI Osmo Action is a relative newcomer to the action cam market, but an impressive one nonetheless. Created by drone manufacturer DJI, this camera rivals the GoPro HERO7 Black’s Hypersmooth stabilization and its shooting power. 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.
The DJI Osmo Action stands out from the competition with its dual screens.
It’s 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 also rugged and durable. It is 11m or 36 feet waterproof, as well as temperature resistant. Where it falls behind is the lack of GPS and livestreaming abilities.
However, if you can go without those, the DJI Osmo Action is one of the best action cameras you can buy. It is cheaper than similar cameras at $348 and the company even offers great discounted bundles which include multiple mounts, a USB-C cable, a 32GB microSD card, and even a battery case.
4. Garmin Virb 360
- Price: $799.99
- Pros: 360 degree footage, variety of sensors
- Cons: 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 360 is the action camera for you. As its name suggests, it is designed to capture 360-degree video and it does so magnificently thanks to a pair of sensors. It is capable of taking 15MP spherical photos and can capture stitched 4K video at 30fps. If you don’t mind externally processing your footage, the Garmin Virb 360 can go to an even higher resolution of 5.7k. If audio is just as important to you as video, the Virb 360 has you covered with 360-degree audio thanks to four microphones.
The Garmin Virb 360 offers 360 video and audio!
It doesn’t have the spectacular fps of the GoPro HERO7 Black, but the Virb 360 also offers voice commands and livestreaming. It also has a plethora of other sensors such as an accelerometer, a compass, and a GPS chip. Its ruggedness shouldn’t be questioned either — it’s waterproof up to 33 feet or 10 meters.
The major drawback is the Garmin Virb 360’s price. It retails for $799.99, but you can often find it on sale for around $500. 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.
5. YI 4K+
- Price: $199.99
- Pros: cheap, durable, good video quality
- Cons: not waterproof without case which needs to be purchased separately
If you want a budget pick, you can’t go wrong with the YI 4K+ action camera. At half the price of most competitors, but with similar specs, it’s the best price-to-quality ratio action cam on the market. Its image stabilization might not be as butter smooth as the GoPro, but it’s quite impressive regardless. The YI 4K+ sports a built-in Sony IMX377 image sensor and can shoot 4K video at 60fps, as well as take 12MP stills. Just like the more premium cameras on our list, it also has Wi-Fi and voice controls. What makes it stand out is its high-res retina touch screen which combines with an intuitive UI for a great user experience.
There is no catch! The YI 4K+ is an excellent budget action camera.
If the YI 4K+ is so cheap, there has to be a catch, right? This action camera is not waterproof without a case and it is usually sold separately. However, you can find case and camera bundles for around $15 more than the standalone YI 4K+. We wouldn’t say that’s much of a price increase, but we understand if some people find it inconvenient to use a case every single time.
You shouldn’t worry about durability either. The touch screen of the YI 4K+ is protected by Gorilla Glass and the overall build quality is excellent. If you want to capture your adventures on a budget, this is your best choice.
If you’re not sure any of the cameras on our list suit your needs, check out the GoPro Hero (2018). 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 the most important thing to you is ruggedness, check out the Olympus Tough TG-Tracker or other cameras from the Olympus brand.
These are our picks for the best action cameras. We’ll be adding more as they come to market!