The 9 Best Action Cameras of 2021

Capture all your action-packed adventures like never before

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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.

The Rundown
For new GoPro owners, the HERO9 Black offers an amazing set of features.
The GoPro HERO 8 is one of the best on the market.
It's easy to see why the DJI Osmo Action is a worthy competitor of the GoPro brand.
The One X2 offers a great 360-degree camera with impressive stabilization.
Most Popular:
AKASO EK7000 at Amazon
Brings with it a host of contemporary features you've come to expect from a device in its class.
The Sony RX0 II is built to withstand just about anything you can throw at it.
The GoPro HERO7 may be an older model, but that makes it a more budget-friendly option compared to its competitors.
Best 360-Degree Video:
GoPro GoPro MAX at Amazon
he GoPro MAX has a three camera and six microphone array to capture more immersive videos and audio.
Best for Beginners:
Ricoh Theta SC2 at Amazon
The compact Theta SC2 offers great 360-degree video and a simple and functional app.

Best Overall: GoPro HERO9 Black

GoPro HERO9 Black
What We Like
  • 5K at up to 30fps

  • Great stabilization

  • Waterproof body

  • Front-facing full-color LCD

What We Don't Like
  • No protective housing

  • So-so low light performance

  • Middling still image performance

 The GoPro HERO9 Black is a bit of a mixed bag for previous GoPro owners, but it’s still one of the best action cameras you can buy today. GoPro has made several improvements, big and small, like adding support for 5K video at 30fps, and bumping the still image size from 12MP to 20MP. Also improved are the already laudable HyperSmooth feature, which sees a noticeable improvement from version 2.0 to 3.0. TimeWarp, the company’s hyperlapse feature, becomes even easier to use and even gets support for slo-mo in the middle of a recording. And most noticeably, the HERO9 Black gets a full-color front-facing LCD screen with live preview, which is incredibly helpful for previewing and fixing your shot before you start rolling. 

It’s not all good news though—the HERO9 Black is larger than the HERO8, which means that it breaks support for popular accessories like the Media Mod. The Media Mod adds a built-in directional mic, a 3.5mm mic port for your external mic, and an HDMI-out port. So if you’re a current GoPro owner with a lot of accessories, expect to have to purchase most of them again. Also, a bit of a mixed change is that the body itself is now waterproof. Good on paper, but GoPro has also used it as an excuse to drop the protective housing / waterproof case from the included accessories, which you can still buy separately of course.

Ultimately the upgrade from the HERO8 to the HERO9 might simply prove too incremental for most people to consider, especially given the accessories. Those that are buying their first GoPro, or are coming from a much older model, won’t need to have these reservations. The GoPro HERO9 Black is an extremely capable action camera.

“Even when riding on a cobblestone path bumpy enough to give me a headache, the footage itself looked shockingly smooth.” Jonno Hill, Product Tester

What We Like
  • Voice commands

  • 4K capable

  • Active noise suppression

What We Don't Like
  • 60fps lock

  • Case required for shock resistance

  • Pricey


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. 

Best Durable: DJI Osmo Action Cam

DJI Osmo Camera
What We Like
  • Waterproof

  • Voice commands

  • Dual screens

What We Don't Like
  • Pricey

  • 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.

What We Like
  • Amazing image stabilization

  • Fully waterproof

  • Easy 360 footage editing software

  • Pocket-sized design

What We Don't Like
  • Connection issues with app

  • Editing footage is time-consuming

  • Not great in low light

  • Image quality was disappointing

  • Microphone could be better

The Insta360 One X2 adds weather sealing to an already compelling and easy-to-use 360-degree action camera. It’s made to go everywhere you do and record your exciting and important moments without having to worry about perfectly framing the shot. 

The camera is robustly built, though the camera lenses themselves are still somewhat fragile. However, with the included neoprene case you needn’t worry about carrying it in your pocket like a phone, and one of the big advantages of the One X2 is the fact that it’s actually smaller than most phones.

 The big caveats of the One X2 are its less than spectacular image quality from its 5.7k sensor and the steep learning curve for editing 360 footage. However, the One X2 is all about capturing the shot, so the unimpressive image quality can be excused for the camera’s ease of use, and the built-in editing features of the smartphone app help streamline 360 footage editing.

 If you want to capture exciting and spontaneous moments without having to think about the camera, then the Insta360 One X2 is a great solution.

“The image stabilization is good enough that you really don’t have to worry about getting a stable shot even when walking or running on rough ground.” — Andy Zahn, Product Tester

Most Popular: AKASO EK7000 Pro 4K Action Camera

What We Like
  • Comes with 2 batteries

  • Comes with a remote control

What We Don't Like
  • Low-quality audio

  • 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.

What We Like
  • 1000fps slow motion

  • Incredibly durable

  • Shutter speed adjustment

What We Don't Like
  • No voice controls

  • Very expensive

  • 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.

Best Budget: GoPro Hero 7

What We Like
  • Waterproof

  • Voice commands

  • Live streaming capabilities

What We Don't Like
  • 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. 

Best 360-Degree Video: GoPro MAX

What We Like
  • 4K 60fps

  • 1080p live streaming

  • Edit and share directly from app

What We Don't Like
  • 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. 

Best for Beginners: Ricoh Theta SC2

What We Like
  • Compact

  • Easy to use

  • Great app

What We Don't Like
  • Subpar audio

  • No add-on storage option

The Ricoh Theta SC2 is a pocket-sized 360-degree camera that makes taking immersive photos and videos as simple as pressing a button. Unlike clunky 360-degree cameras of the past, the Theta SC2 keeps all the processing behind the scenes and manages to make 360-degree photography and video capture not much different than using a point-and-shoot camera. It's a great option for beginners due to its simple and functional app.

That said, our reviewer found that the image quality lags behind even the most budget smartphone camera systems, but the immersion provided by 360-degree content is undeniably unique and is something no smartphone camera system can replicate.

"It’s a niche product in a niche market, but its ease of use and compact form factor makes it a joy to use."Gannon Burgett, Product Tester

Final Verdict

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.

How We Tested

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.

About our Trusted Experts

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.

Jonno Hill has been a reviewer for Lifewire since 2019. Specializing in photography and video, Jonno has previously been published in PCMag and AskMen.

Andy Zahn has been writing for Lifewire since 2019, specializing in outdoor gadgets, laptops, and gaming.

Gannon Burgett has been contributing to Lifewire since 2018, covering photography, accessories, PC hardware, photo editing software, and more.

What to look for in the Best Action Cameras

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.

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