The best action cameras are essential for showing off your daring exploits. Adrenaline aside, what’s the point of jumping off the side of a mountain on skis if nobody is going to see you do it?
All of the action cameras on our list have features which make them the perfect companion for adrenaline junkies. Most are designed to be rugged and withstand extreme conditions, water and impacts. They’re also compact, which makes them easy to pack into baggage and to mount anywhere they’re needed.
We’ve tested loads of action cameras in a range of conditions, and think the best action camera is the GoPro Hero11 Black. This action camera is pretty chunky, but has a large 1/1.9-inch sensor with a unique 8:7 aspect ratio, as well as horizon leveling and motion stabilization for silky smooth video. There’s also the GoPro Quik app, which allows editing on the fly.
The GoPro Hero11 Black isn’t the only camera you should consider, though, so we’ve rounded up the best action cameras below to help you make the right choice.
The best action cameras you can buy today
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The GoPro Hero11 Black has a large 1/1.9-inch image sensor with an 8:7 aspect ratio. This squarish format lets you capture expansive views, but more importantly, gives you much more flexibility when editing the video afterwards. In the GoPro Quik app, you can output your video in a number of formats, including the TikTok-friendly 9:16 ratio.
What also makes the Hero11 Black the best action camera overall is its superior image stabilization — you can literally rotate the camera all the way around, and it will keep the horizon level. New shooting modes also let you capture star trails and try your hand at light painting, and GoPro's Quik app makes editing your videos a real pleasure.
Read our full GoPro Hero11 Black review and check out our GoPro Hero11 Black vs GoPro Hero11 Black Mini comparison.
The Insta360 One RS makes our list of the best action cameras, but it's also one of the best 360 cameras too. That's because this innovative camera has a modular design that lets you swap out its wide angle 4K camera for a 360 lens or a camera with a 1-inch sensor. Its video stabilization is excellent, but not quite up to the same par as the GoPro Hero10.
We like that the One RS' display can be turned around so you can frame yourself in videos, but its small size relative to the GoPro makes it much more difficult to navigate on-screen menus. And, like older GoPros, you'll need to use a frame to mount it to anything. But, this is one versatile action camera.
Read our full Insta360 One RS review.
While the outside hasn't changed from the Hero9 Black, the GoPro Hero10 Black sports a new and improved processor on the inside, which translates to video recording as high as 5.3K/30 fps, as well as 2K video at 240 fps, and 4K video at 120 fps. On top of that, it has a larger 23MP image sensor, and manages to shave off a tiny bit of weight.
What's most impressive is the Hero10's upgraded image stabilization; you can now tilt the camera as much as 45 degrees and it will still smooth things out for you. However, this puts a serious dent on battery life, which is unchanged from the Hero9. But, you can use the same battery, as well as the same accessories, as before.
Read our full GoPro Hero10 Black review.
If you want a really, really small action camera then look no further than the Insta360 Go 2 — a wearable camera designed to capture life's most important moments. The original version impressed us with its video and photo quality, but was just too tricky to control. The second version fixes that, mainly thanks to a clever charging case that doubles as a remote.
Image quality has also been improved, and the electronic image stabilization works really well — it's just a shame that video footage maxes out at 1440p and that battery life is limited to 30 minutes without the case, or 150 with it. But those drawbacks aside, the Insta360 Go 2 is a good option for those who want something smaller than the average action cam.
Read our full Insta360 Go 2 review.
The DJI Osmo Action was the first action camera to feature a front-facing screen, which made it incredibly easy to frame yourself in shots. It was such a clever feature, in fact, that GoPro soon copied it.
The DJI Osmo Action 3 still has that front display, only now it's also a touchscreen. The Osmo 3 also has a novel magnetic mounting system, which makes it much easier to attach and remove the Osmo 3 from, say a helmet than GoPro's cameras.
However, the Osmo Action 3 still trails GoPro when it comes to video resolution: a max of 4K/60 fps, versus 5.3K/60 fps for the Hero11 Black. The Action 3 also takes smaller stills (12MP vs. 27MP) and you have fewer options when it comes to video aspect ratio.
Then again, the Osmo Action 3 is significantly less expensive than the GoPro, and delivers quality video, excellent image stabilization, and great battery life. For many, the tradeoff in price will be worth it.
Read our full DJI Osmo Action 3 review.
With the GoPro Hero9 Black, GoPro not only took the criticism of the Hero8, but also added a much-needed feature: A front-facing display. This small screen now shows a live preview, making it much easier for selfie artists and bloggers to frame themselves in photos and videos.
In addition, the Hero9 has a removable lens, so you can once again add filters, such as GoPro's new Max Lens Mod, which enables you to take really wide and stabilized video. It can also shoot at resolutions up to 5K, and its larger battery will perform better in colder temperatures. Our one criticism is that it's pretty heavy, so you'll notice it if you attach it to a helmet.
With the introduction of the Hero11 Black, the Hero9 Black has been discontinued by GoPro, but it's worth checking out if you can get it for less than $300.
Read our full GoPro Hero9 Black review.
The Olympus Tough TG-Tracker looks more like a mini-camcorder than a traditional action camera, which is both good and bad. It's much larger than a GoPro-style camera, so it's too bulky to mount to, say, a helmet. However, the TG-Tracker has a nice, expansive flip-out touchscreen, so you can easily view what you're recording.
It also has a 60-lumen light that helps illuminate darker scenes, image stabilization and is waterproof to a depth of 100 feet—three times that of the GoPro. The TG-Tracker also tracks temperature, elevation, depth, latitude/longitude, distance traveled, barometric pressure and speed, so you can capture more than just amazing videos.
Read our full Olympus Tough TG-Tracker review.
How to choose the best action camera for you
When it comes to action cameras, GoPro is the dominant brand, and with good reason: It makes the best action cameras around, and has been for a number of years. With few exceptions, if you're thinking of buying an action camera, you should look to GoPro first, and look for the camera that best fits your budget.
In the past, we've tested a number of sub-$100 action cameras, but have found them to be average to middling at best. It's worth spending a little bit more for a reputable brand.
After that, it's a matter of choosing the specs that you want. Most action cameras will record 4K video, but only the newer models will support frame rates of more than 30 fps.
Another feature that's becoming standard is electronic image stabilization—key for when you're filming bumpy exploits, like mountain biking. However, the newer the model, the more sophisticated its motion stabilization will be, which means smoother video for you.
Action camera design has progressed to the point where most are water-resistant to around 33 feet; if you want to go any deeper, though, you'll need to get a case.
Because of the popularity of GoPros, most competing action cameras and third-party accessory makers have adopted the GoPro-style mount, two semicircular tabs that slot into add-ons such as selfie sticks, waterproof cases, and helmet mounts.
Due to their nature, some of the best action cameras are also among the best cameras for vlogging, so if that's something that interests you then they're well worth bearing in mind. How to use your GoPro as a webcam
How we test action cameras
We've got to be honest: It's a lot of fun testing action cameras, because it lets us get outdoors and go biking, skiing, swimming, and more. While we're out enjoying what Mother Nature has to offer, we put the action camera through its paces. We see how well it records video in a variety of lighting conditions; if it has features such as HDR, we see how it handles both light and dark areas in the frame. If the camera has motion stabilization, we take it over bumpy terrain to see how well it smooths things out.
During the review process, we also take a look at the camera's ease of use. As you're going to be using it in less-than-ideal environments, it should be easy to turn on and off, and start recording, even when you're wearing gloves. And, while an intuitive on-screen interface is important for any device, it's even more crucial with an action camera, as it has such a small display.
Be sure to check out all of our camera picks:
Best cameras | Best DSLR cameras | Best waterproof cameras | Best point-and-shoot cameras | Best instant cameras | Best mirrorless cameras | Best cheap cameras | Best GoPro camera | Best GoPro accessories | Best drones | Best 360 cameras | Best iPhone lenses | Best iPhone tripods |DSLR vs. mirrorless | Best Nikon accessories | Best Sony a6000 accessories |Best ring lights | Best ring lights for phones | best cameras for vlogging
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