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Vloggers and thrill-seekers alike have come to appreciate the durability and convenience that action cameras have to offer; their compact, lightweight designs make them perfect for travel, and they often feature water and shock resistance to protect your raw capture files from being lost to the elements. The best action cameras give you a balance between video quality, durability, and user-friendly controls. Some models have touch screens for more intuitive controls when changing camera settings or shooting modes. Others have simple LCD readouts and push-button inputs for streamlined use. Whether you're vlogging your day trip to a state park or showing off your skydiving, having a camera that can hold up under pressure is important. Some models like the Sony FDR-X3000 at Amazon are waterproof up to almost 200 feet, letting you shoot in the rain or while surfing and scuba diving. Others, like the Sony RX0 II at Amazon, can withstand massive crushing forces, letting hikers, mountain bikers, and skydivers capture their best moments and most embarrassing wipeouts without worrying about the camera.
Manufacturers have started to include Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity in some models, allowing you to instantly playback, edit, and share still images and videos with a companion app, or live stream your day to friends and fans on sites like Facebook, YouTube, and Twitch. Some have begun to make action cameras that can record 360-degree video and stereo sound, allowing you to make VR-ready videos for more immersive playback. No matter what you want your action camera to do, there is a model out there to suit. We've broken down features from our top picks to help you choose which best fits your needs.
For more information make sure to take a look at our digital camera how-to guides before committing to one of our picks for the best action cameras.
Active noise suppression
Case required for shock resistance
Action cameras are perfect for capturing your outdoor adventures or for vloggers who want a compact camera for filming on-the-go. The GoPro HERO 8 is one of the best on the market with three levels of video and image stabilization for crystal clear shots so you never miss a second of action. The intuitive touchscreen lets you quickly and easily select your filming or still image shooting mode, aspect ratio, and resolution. It features active noise suppression to filter out wind, handling noise, and vibrations for clearer audio. With 14 different voice commands, you won't have to worry about stopping your adventures to switch settings on the HERO 8.
Built-in Wi-Fi lets you livestream your video straight to YouTube, Facebook, or Twitch as long as there is an internet connection available. The GoPro app turns your smartphone or tablet into a remote control for the HERO 8 so you can change settings and lens modes on-the-fly without touching the camera. A built-in microSD card reader allows you to quickly and easily store your raw captures for editing later. The HERO 8 lets you shoot in 4K, 2.7K, 1440p, or 1080p so every detail of your experiences is captured clearly.
No live streaming capabilities
It's easy to see why the DJI Osmo Action is a worthy competitor of the GoPro brand. With dual screens, you can easily frame any scene whether it's selfies or point-of-view mountain biking or kayaking videos. The rear screen features touch input capabilities and a hydrophobic coating to protect it from the elements and make selecting shooting modes a breeze. The body of the camera itself is waterproof up to 36 feet and can operate in temperatures as low as 14 degrees Fahrenheit. The Osmo Action can shoot video in 4K up to 60fps and 1080p in a staggering 240fps for ultra-smooth playback.
The 145-degree wide-angle lens allows you to capture a larger view, and with DJI's RockSteady image stabilization technology, you'll get crystal clear video time after time. The DJI Mimo app turns your smartphone into a remote control for the camera so you can quickly and easily change settings and shooting modes without touching the camera. With five different voice commands, you can turn the camera on and off, start and stop recording, or take still photos with just a word.
Comes with 2 batteries
Comes with a remote control
Needs an underwater case
From boutique action camera maker AKASO, the new and improved EK7000 brings with it a host of contemporary features you've come to expect from a device in its class including the ability to shoot 4K video at up to 25fps and 2.7K video at a full 30fps. In other words, you're netting yourself a truly formidable action camera for an economical price.
The newest version of the cam also gives you a bigger 16MP sensor for better low-light performance and crisp stills. It has built-in electronic image stabilization for shakier shoots, a newly increased 131 feet of waterproof shooting protection, and even an extensive selection of cases and mounts. But, at this price point, Wi-Fi integration is the real killer app. With it, you can use the iSmart DV app to not only monitor the picture you’re viewing in real time, but to transfer photos and videos on the spot, too, for instant shareability.
1000fps slow motion
Shutter speed adjustment
No voice controls
30fps lock for 4K video
Whether you're vlogging your travels and daily routines or seeking thrills in the most extreme environments, you need an action camera that can stand up to harsh conditions as well as accidental drops and occasionally getting caught in the rain. The Sony RX0 II is built to withstand just about anything you can throw at it. It's water-resistant up to 33 feet, drop-resistant up to 6.5 feet, and can withstand 440 pounds of crushing force. Combined with frame rates up to 1000fps, you can capture all of your glorious moments and nastiest wipeouts in extreme slow motion and not damage your camera.
The RX0 II has 10 white balance modes for accurate colors and contrast in almost any indoor or outdoor environment. You can adjust the shutter speed from ¼ of a second to 1/32,000 of a second to capture moments that you can't see with the naked eye. With Sony's Bionz X image processing technology and electronic stabilization, you get smooth, clear video and still images. The camera has built-in Wi-Fi so you can use the companion app on your smartphone to access raw video and photo files as well as adjust camera settings.
Live streaming capabilities
30fps lock on 4K recording
Poor shock resistance
Content creators who are just starting out will be happy to know they won't have to spend a fortune in order to get their hands on a great action camera. The GoPro HERO 7 may be an older model, but that makes it a more budget-friendly option compared to its competitors. And while it may be a bit older, it still gives you a ton of great features. With 16 different voice commands, you can control your camera without having to touch it. The companion app also allows for 720p live streaming to social media or Twitch so everyone can join your vlogs or outdoor adventures.
The 10-megapixel camera can shoot in 4K up to 30fps or 1080p at 240fps for smooth playback. It features the same automatic noise suppression and image stabilization as the HERO 8, letting you capture cleaner audio and jitter-free video no matter what you're doing. The built-in GPS allows you to add information like altitude, speed, and location to your videos so you can show off your skills to the world. The body of the camera is water-resistant up to 33 feet, allowing you to record underwater while you surf, swim, or snorkel. The rear screen allows for touch inputs for faster, easier access to menus and camera settings.
1080p live streaming
Edit and share directly from app
Fast charging adapter costs extra
Poor water and shock resistance
With the rise in popularity of virtual reality, action camera manufacturers have begun to produce models that capture 360-degree video and audio. The GoPro MAX has a three camera and six microphone array to capture more immersive videos and audio than ever before. Four different digital lens modes let you choose your shot angles and focus lengths to create videos and still images that are ready for VR viewing. It features both horizontal leveling and updated image stabilization to give your videos a smooth, cinematic feel to them whether you're base jumping off of mountains or chasing your kids in the backyard.
The GoPro app not only lets you access your raw video and photo files, it lets you edit and share them directly from the app; it also allows for live streaming to social media and other sites in 1080p for incredibly detailed live images. The GoPro MAX can take 270-degree panoramic photos without you having to scan the horizon, giving you distortion-free finished shots. The TimeWarp setting lets you automatically adjust shooting speed based on lighting, scene detection, and motion so you can capture epic moments in slow motion. A fast charging adapter is available to give you more battery life more quickly so you can get back to the action without having to wait all day for the camera to recharge.
Waterproof to 197 feet
Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity
While most action cameras have some sort of waterproofing or at least water resistance, not many are built to withstand continuous, underwater shooting. The Sony FDR-X3000 comes with a case that is waterproof up to an impressive 197 feet; this means that snorkelers, surfers, and scuba divers can capture all of their best moments without worrying about water damage. The camera supports shooting video in 1080p at 120fps and 4K at 30fps for clear, smooth playback. For still images, you can set up the camera to take 10 photo bursts to make sure you get the best shots. With Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity built-in, you can connect the camera to your smartphone's companion app for remote controls as well as access to raw capture files or the available Live-View remote for real-time video monitoring; the companion app also lets you live stream to social media, YouTube, and Twitch so friends and fans alike can stay up-to-date on your adventures and vlogs.
If you're going to be recording all day and are worried about running out of memory storage and missing epic moments, you can set the camera to record in 5, 20, 60, or 120 minute loops that overwrite previous footage so you can shoot all day without running out of memory. The camera has a micro HDMI output, so you can connect it to your computer or television for high-resolution playback. You can connect up to five cameras to the companion app so you can get multiple angles on your filming area; this is perfect for skaters and vloggers who film in one, confined space.
Continuous loop recording
9 hour battery
Poor water resistance
No on-camera video display
Many action cameras have batteries that only last a few hours at most, meaning you have to take frequent breaks from the action to recharge. The Drift Ghost XL features a rechargeable battery that lasts up to 9 hours, letting you record all day, worry-free. It reaches full charge in as little as 2.5 hours, meaning you can plug it in during a lunch or rest break for a quick top-up on longer filming days. The lens records in 1080p FHD for great detail, and it rotates up to 330-degrees so you can always get straight, level shots whether you've mounted the camera to your mountain bike, helmet, or carry it in your hand. It features a dash cam mode that records in continuous loops and detects bumps and crashes for automatic recording; this is perfect for anyone who wants to record their daily driving for safety purposes.
Built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity lets you use a companion app on your smartphone or the available wrist remote control for easy recording without touching the camera. A low light mode lets you record clear, crisp video in the early morning or late evening without clunky extra lighting. With clone mode, you can connect up to 10 cameras via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, letting you record on all of them or change settings on them all with a single button press.
The GoPro HERO 8 is the best action camera available. It shoots in 4K for crisp, ultra-detailed video and still images. With 14 voice commands, you can easily change settings, shooting modes, and power the camera on and off with just a word. The companion app and built-in Wi-Fi lets you livestream to social media and Twitch. The DJI Osmo Action is a very close second choice when it comes to the best action cameras. It also shoots in 4K for smooth playback and ultra-detailed videos. With dual screens, you can easily center your frame whether you're doing POV video or taking selfies. With 5 voice commands, you can start and stop recording without touching the camera.
Our expert testers and reviewers evaluate the quality of action cameras similar to how we evaluate most cameras, though we put a stronger focus on video recording, frame rate, and durability. We look at physical elements and design features, examining weight, portability, and durability, to make sure an action camera can survive intense scenes. We also look at mount options to see if the camera can clip onto helmets, handlebars, and other areas.
For image and video quality, we test by taking sample shots and video, both indoors and outdoors, in a variety of environments, modes, and lightning conditions. Then we look at the resulting images and video on a monitor to evaluate their sharpness, focus, and color reproduction. When recording video, we also pay attention to frame rates, stabilization, and general clarity. Finally, we take a look at the price and competition to evaluate how much value an action camera offers before making our final judgement. All of the action cameras we test are purchased by Lifewire; none are provided by manufacturers.
Jeff Dojillo is a Los Angeles-based photographer specializing in digital and analog photography. His work is utilized for brand development and marketing, and he has experience teaching digital photography workshops.
Taylor Clemons has over three years of experience writing about games and consumer technology. She has written for Lifewire, Digital Trends, TechRadar and her own publication, Steam Shovelers.
Resolution - There are plenty of action cameras that can record in 4K, however, they can cost considerably more. Also, a camera that's advertised as 4K, may not be a true 4K.
Mounting options - Some cameras come equipped with numerous mounting options right out of the box, and may even include a waterproof case. However, some manufacturers include these separately, making a complete kit a more expensive affair.
Storage - Plenty of action cameras have space for expandable storage, but some feature integral storage only, which severely restricts the amount of space you'll have for photos and videos.