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The best action cameras are an excellent way to gather footage wherever you go. Whether hiking, biking or driving, action cameras are rugged and self-contained to handle even the most extreme conditions.
Depending on where you plan to take your action camera, you'll want to consider the types of mounting options available as well as the storage options. This will determine where you can take your camera, as well as how high a resolution you can capture before running out of space.
For more information make sure to check out our digital camera how-to guides.
No microphone input
When it comes to adventure, few action cameras can handle all-weather conditions like the GoPro Hero7 Black. The rugged hardware is waterproof down to 33 feet making it the perfect companion for capturing footage in conditions where a smartphone won't do.
This newest GoPro model incorporates the same 12-megapixel sensor and wide-angle lens as the previous model but adds something new. Say hello to SuperPhoto. In lieu of separately selecting HDR photos when shooting scenes, it’s automatically done for you. The camera now detects when there is low light and reduces frame noise for the best possible photo.
Our testing showed that the HERO7 Black captures 4K video footage at 60fps and gets a huge boost from at least one new piece of technology called HyperSmooth. Equivalent to using a separately attached gimbal, HyperSmooth is a combination of both hardware and software that reduces shaky movement in your recorded video.
That all of the action can be streamed via Facebook Live to show off to family and friends is just icing on the cake of adventure.
"The ability to add external microphones turns the GoPro HERO7 Black from an action camera to a high-quality video camera." — Jeff Dojillo, Product Tester
Rugged and waterproof
Filters are easy to swap
Front and rear displays
Lackluster battery life
No tripod mount
HDR video isn't stabilized
With the DJI Osmo Action Cam, any moment feels like it’s from an action movie. Rugged, durable, and ready for a challenge, the camera can be taken up to depths of 11 meters for underwater filming, and it continues to perform in temperatures as low as -10 degrees Celsius.
Its main calling card may be its dual screens, which let you capture either yourself or your surroundings at 4K/60fps/100Mbps, making it a strong choice for vloggers. Whatever you’re filming, DJI’s RockSteady offers innovative stabilization technology to ensure your image stays clear, and none of the excitement is lost.
Other noteworthy features include 8x slow motion at a resolution of 1080p, thereby preserving the sharpness and details. Timelapse, and custom exposure settings for nighttime shooters, are also included. The camera responds to five basic voice commands, such as those to take photos and turn off the device.
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.
Excellent image quality
Extensive battery life
Vibrant touch screen display
No mounts or waterproof case included
MicroSD slot is difficult to access
The YI 4K is the sleekest and sexiest action camera on the list. It boasts a beautiful, 2.19-inch LCD touchscreen with a 640 x 360 high-resolution display for easy previewing and shooting. The YI 4K is a high-end 12-megapixel action camera that can shoot at a 4K resolution at 30 fps; 1080p at 120 fps; and 720p at 240 fps. Its best feature, the touchscreen, is made with a Gorilla glass retina that resists scratches and dents.
The YI 4K also has built-in Bluetooth and 5Ghz/2.4Ghz Wi-Fi support, so you can connect a remote control and upload and edit your pictures wirelessly with its dedicated camera app.
Comes with a variety of mounting options and carry case
Not full 4K resolution
Difficulties pairing with smartphone app
The APEMAN Action Camera is Amazon’s No. 1 best seller in SLR Film Cameras and is the most affordable introductory action camera on the list. Included accessories are a helmet mount, bike handle mount and waterproof case, so you’ll be ready to take this on any adventure.
The APEMAN Action Camera features a 1080p and 12-megapixel Full HD camera with a 170-degree ultra-wide-angle. This means you’ll be able to capture high-quality pictures and videos of whatever action you have right in front of you. The APEMAN is also water-resistant up to 30 meters and can support a microSD card up to 32GB for further memory expansion. Its back features a 1.5-inch LCD screen that can display a variety of languages and an HDMI output, so you can show your clips on a TV.
All in all, the APEMAN wins for its high-resolution picture and video quality, as well as multiple accessories that are adaptable to the most demanding of activities. Its cons include lackluster audio pickup and relatively cheap body material.
Robust build quality
Mini-USB charging is a bit dated
The SJCAM SJ6 has an intuitive touch-screen interface, making it an ideal purchase for beginners. Even though offers user-friendly controls, the SJCAM doesn’t sacrifice video quality, allowing aspiring videographers to capture cinematic 4K visuals with a 25Mbps bit rate and 24fps.
Additional features include digital stabilization, slow-motion, time-lapse capture (available in HD and low-resolution output options), and mic compatibility should you be shooting a concert or some other event you'd want clear audio for. Admittedly, the SJCAM model doesn’t have the absolute best video quality, but it’s still quite good, considering its affordable price tag.
The SJCAM also comes with a number of accessories, including a variety of mounting arms, tripod adaptors, and a waterproof case that can withstand 10-meter depths. The battery is also fairly strong, allowing for about 75 minutes of filming at 4K resolution.
Slim, sleek form factor
Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity
Live streaming support
Locked at 30FPS
VR and 360-degree video technology are still in such an early stage of development, but fortunately, the consumer-market has just reached a happy medium between quality and price. The Ricoh Theta V is a user-friendly model that still delivers top visual quality with 30fps at 3840 x 1920 pixels. Still images also boast a resolution of 14MP.
Ricoh has made several improvements to their latest model, including a significantly longer battery life — now 80 minutes — and more sophisticated audio-capture quality. The Theta features a 4-channel microphone, that supports 360-degree spatial sound recording. There’s also a 3.5mm jack on the bottom of the camera where you can attach an additional mic if necessary. With 19 GB of memory, the Theta V records up to 40 minutes of footage or 4,800 high-resolution still photos.
The Theta also offers user-friendly controls via its mobile app, as well the industry's first wireless playback remote for a 360-camera. Basically, that advancement in tech allows users to replay their captured footage on a larger screen.
Includes a waterproof case
Still images could be better
If you’re looking for outstanding 4K video and full 1080 video at 120 fps, this is your best bet. The Sony FDR-X1000V impresses with first-rate video quality and SteadyShot image stabilization.
The Sony FDR-X1000V is a splashproof action camera that shoots in an ultra-wide field of view (up to 170 degrees) using its top-notch ZEISS lens. It can be controlled by its included LiveView remote or dedicated app and has a built-in stereo for quality sound pickup (there's even a wind noise reduction feature). One of the most common troubles with action cameras is its video formatting, but this action camera solves that dilemma by saving files in MP4 format, which is perfect for anyone who wants to avoid file conversion when editing down the line.
One of the most unique features of this action camera is its ability to live stream video. Using the Ustream app, you’ll be able to broadcast your action-packed life live to the world. Of course, you’ll need to be near a good Wi-Fi connection for the best video upload quality.
Includes a ton of accessories
Poor video and photo quality
App isn't available on the Android app store
Weighing no more than 11 pounds and measuring 1 x 1.6 x 1.6 inches, the MATECam is a waterproof (up to 30 meters) 16-megapixel action camera that’s capable of shooting 4K video resolutions at 24 fps and a full HD 1080P at 60 fps. It can shoot single photos, burst photos and has a time-lapse mode that allows it to be programmed to shoot photos automatically. With its expandable memory slot, you’ll be able to add up to 128GB on a Class 10 MicroSD card.
Like other action cameras on the list, it can capture a 160-degree wide-angle perspective, so you’ll get a wide field of view with any shot. With its built-in Wi-Fi, you’ll be able to upload your videos and pictures via your mobile devices and computers. Many owners of the MATECAM use it as a dash cam for their car due to its motion detector sensors that make it automatically shoot and continuous loop record, so you’ll always get footage.
Between the amazing video quality and the enhanced HyperSmooth electronic image stabilization, the GoPro HERO7 Black is perfect for adventurers who want to record or even live-stream their most rugged expeditions. It produces beautiful videos with enhanced color and sharpness and is small enough to wear or mount somewhere without it getting in the way.
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.
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.