Action cameras aren't just ruggedized and protected against the elements, they offer ultrawide viewing angles to capture the full experience of ski runs, skateboard tricks, snorkeling adventures or just pet antics (several companies make harnesses for your dog).
After testing more than a dozen action cameras under a variety of conditions, including a mountain biking trip and a rafting adventure, we consider the GoPro Hero 8 Black to be the best action camera overall. It offers the best video quality, has excellent image stabilization, is waterproof to a depth of 33 feet without requiring a protective shell, has a built-in touch screen and responds to voice commands. Its new design is sleeker, and no longer requires a case if you want to mount the camera to an accessory.
If you're looking for something a bit less expensive, the Yi Lite is our current favorite budget action cam. For less than $100, you get electronic image stabilization, a responsive touch screen and 4K video at 20 frames per second — though you'll want to stick to 1080p.
Make sure you check out all of our top picks for DSLRs, mirrorless cameras and more on our best cameras page.
Insta360 recently announced its own new action camera, the Insta360 One R. It has a modular design, so you can use it with one of three camera modules: A traditional 1/2.3 camera module, a 360 camera module, and a 1-inch camera module designed by Leica. Here's our hands-on with the Insta360 One R; stay tuned for our full review.
1. GoPro Hero 8 Black
The best action camera overall
Max Video Resolution: 4K/60 fps | Max Photo Resolution: 12 MP | Touch Screen: Yes | Battery Life: 158 minutes | Water Resistance: 33 feet | Size: 2.6 x 1.9 x 1.1 inches | Weight: 4.2 ounces
Surprise, surprise: GoPro's newest device, the Hero 8 Black, is once again at the top of our best action cameras list. GoPro redesigned the camera to make it smaller, and you no longer need to use a case if you want to attach it to accessories, such as a tripod or helmet mount.
The redesign also allows for new add-on "Mods," which increase the functionality of the camera through external mics, lights, and more. Unfortunately, it also means that existing cases and lens adapters no longer work.
Inside, GoPro has improved the motion stabilization to make the footage from the Hero 8 the smoothest we've seen from an action camera, and the overall quality remains as great as ever.
Read our full GoPro Hero 8 Black review.
2. GoPro Hero 7 Black
Still one of the best action cameras
Max Video Resolution: 4K/60 fps | Max Photo Resolution: 12 MP | Touch Screen: Yes | Battery Life: 158 minutes | Water Resistance: 33 feet | Weight: 4.2 ounces
GoPro's Hero7 Black was the first of GoPro's action cameras to include 4K video at 60 fps. Like earlier models, it's waterproof to 33 feet, has a rear 2-inch color touch-screen LCD, and voice control. While not as effective as the Hero 8, the Hero 7's image stabilization is still excellent. Plus, it can livestream to Facebook using the GoPro app.
Now that the Hero 8 is on the market, GoPro has discounted the Hero7 Black to $329, and you may be able to find even better deals on the camera through online retailers.
See our full GoPro Hero 7 Black review.
3. Yi Lite
Best action camera under $100
Max Video Resolution: 4K/20 fps | Max Photo Resolution: 16 MP | Touch Screen: Yes | Battery Life: 130 minutes | Water Resistance: None | Weight: 2.8 ounces
For less than $100, the Yi Lite is a well-designed camera that can shoot image-stabilized video at up to 1440p; it can also shoot video up to 4K/20 fps, but we found that 1080p mode offered some of the best video. Among budget action cameras, it had the most intuitive interface. Gorilla Glass protects its 2-inch touch screen, though you'll need to spend an extra $40 to get the camera's waterproof housing if you plan to take it diving.
See the full Yi Lite review.
4. Yi 4K+
A solid GoPro alternative
Max Video Resolution: 4K/60 fps | Max Photo Resolution: 12 MP | Touch Screen: Yes | Battery Life: 70 minutes | Water Resistance: None | Weight: 3.2 ounces
This camera has nearly all of GoPro's best features: 4K video recording, electronic image stabilization (up to 4K/30 fps), a touch screen and voice control. And, it costs $150 less. And, the quality was almost on a par with the GoPro Hero 6. So, what's missing? You need a case (sold separately for $40) to bring this camera into the water. And, we found its Android app to be a bit quirky.
See the full Yi 4K+ review.
5. DJI Osmo Action
The best action camera for selfies
Max Video Resolution: 4K/60 fps | Max Photo Resolution: 12 MP | Touch Screen: Yes | Battery Life: 95 minutes | Water Resistance: 33 feet | Weight: 4.2 ounces
The Osmo Action has a color screen on its front, which makes it much easier to frame yourself in photos and video. This durable camera also has very good electronic image stabilization, and it also can shoot HDR video. Unfortunately, you can't use HDR and image stabilization at the same time, and there's no way to livestream video from the camera. Still, for selfie enthusiasts, the front-facing camera alone could be worth the price.
See the full DJI Osmo Action review.
6. GoPro Hero
Great midpriced shooter
Max Video Resolution: 1440/60 fps | Max Photo Resolution: 10MP | Touch Screen: Yes | Battery Life: 2 hours (est) | Water Resistance: 33 feet | Weight: 4.2 ounces
For those looking to stay under $200 but still get features such as voice control and motion stabilization, the GoPro Hero is a good option. The camera's max resolution is 1440/60 fps (image stabilization only works up to 30 fps), and there's no slow-motion settings, but this Hero is waterproof to a depth of 33 feet without a case and has a touch screen on the back.
See the full GoPro Hero review.
7. GoPro Hero 6
Older but still good
Max Video Resolution: 4K/30 fps | Max Photo Resolution: 12 MP | Touch Screen: Yes | Battery Life: 1.5-2 hours (est) | Water Resistance: 33 feet | Weight: 4.2 ounces
GoPro's older top-end action camera is still an excellent option. The Hero6 has many of the same specs — 4K/30 fps video, image stabilization and voice control — and is about $50 less than the Hero7 Black. While the camera lacks the ability to livestream video like the Hero7, if you don't care for that feature, then the Hero6 can save you some money.
See the full GoPro Hero 6 review.
8. GoPro Hero 5 Session
Compact action camera
Max Video Resolution: 4K/30 fps | Max Photo Resolution: 10 MP | Touch Screen: No | Battery Life: 120 minutes (est) | Water Resistance: 33 feet | Weight: 2.6 ounces
The GoPro Hero 5 Session offers image quality comparable to its larger siblings (4K/30 fps), but in a much smaller package. It's waterproof to a depth of 33 feet and includes image stabilization, Bluetooth and voice control. GoPro has phased out its Session cameras, though, so get it while supplies last.
9. Olympus Tough TG-Tracker
Camcorder meets action camera
Max Video Resolution: 4K/30 fps | Max Photo Resolution: 8 MP | Touch Screen: No | Battery Life: 120 minutes (est) | Water Resistance: 100 feet | Weight: 6.35 ounces
On the large size for an action camera, the TG-Tracker has a flip-out screen so you can easily view what you're recording. It also has a 60-lumen light that helps illuminate darker scenes, image stabilization and a camera that's waterproof to a depth of 100 feet. This camera also tracks temperature, elevation, depth, latitude/longitude, distance traveled, barometric pressure and speed, so you can capture more than just amazing videos.
See the full Olympus Tough TG-Tracker review.
Credit: Tom's Guide