When you're enjoying the thrill of an adrenaline-rush adventure, you need a camera that can keep up with you, and action cameras are designed to do just that. They capture photos and video in almost any environment from snowy mountaintops to rough rocky terrain, and even underwater. Thanks to their rugged build, they’re difficult to break — and since they have image stabilization on board, you won’t be left with shaky, unusable footage, either.
Action cameras record vibrant video, are compact and easy to travel with, have plenty of mounts, deliver long-lasting battery life, and have software experiences that are intuitive and easy to use. That way you can spend less time transferring and editing footage and more time planning your next adventure.
How We Chose
We’ve evaluated the latest action cameras and even tested one of them on a 30-mile run on the Appalachian Trail. To separate the best from the rest, we sifted through 15 models comparing their specifications and features, and by reading consumer and editorial reviews of them. Our picks can withstand drops, spills, submersion, and survive the elements including dust and dirt, snow, and rain.
Best Action Cameras
Best Overall: GoPro HERO9 Black Action Camera
Best Value: GoPro HERO8 Black Action Camera
Best Interchangeable Lenses: Insta360 ONE R Action Camera
Best Waterproof Camera: Olympus Tough TG-6 Action Camera
For an Action Cam on the Cheap: Akaso Brave 7 LE Action Camera
Be sure to also check out our reviews of waterproof cameras, which are better suited for still photography, along with our reviews of 360 cameras and wearable cameras. Lastly, every action camera on this guide will require a microSD card to store content, so make sure you budget for one. If you plan on shooting 4K video, buy a microSD card with at least 64GB of storage or (preferably) more.
5K video capture at 30 fps, 4K video capture at 60 fps, 2.7K video capture at 120 fps, 1080p video capture at 240 fps
20MP still images, optional RAW format capture, 30 fps bursts
Waterproof up to 33 feet without housing
Stereo audio, 3.5-millimeter audio mic input sold separately
GoPro's range-topping HERO9 Black is the best action camera worth your attention today. It has a sleek yet rugged design, an intuitive touchscreen interface, a convenient front-facing full-color display, and most importantly, it delivers fantastic video and photo quality. It comes with the best selection of mounts and accessories in the industry and is waterproof up to 33 feet.
Reviewers from the Verge, Wirecutter, and Wired praised the camera’s stabilization, its crisp 5K footage, and GoPro’s top-notch editing software. The camera is universally regarded as a top pick in its product category.
When it comes to action cameras, the HERO9 Black is truly second to none. The device features an improved 23.6MP sensor (its predecessor had a 12MP one) which lets it record 5.3K video (5,120 by 2,880 pixels) at 30 fps, when the majority of other action cams record with a 4K resolution of 3,840 by 2,160 pixels.
This higher resolution makes for more detailed and vibrant shots and will give you extra wiggle room for cropping and better framing your footage during the editing process. It also makes it a lot easier to grab still images from video.
The camera has industry-leading, gimbal-like digital image stabilization tech on board. It enables the HERO9 Black to capture incredible content that's in a league of its own in terms of smoothness.
The still photography capabilities of the device include the ability to capture bursts of 30 shots, as well as a dedicated wide dynamic range mode. Advanced photographers will appreciate the option to save images in RAW format for in-depth desktop editing.
Other highlights of the camera include the ability to control it with voice commands, built-in GPS, and a user-replaceable battery. Due to the large battery, the GoPro is a tad heavier than other action cameras, which is about the only fault the camera has.
4K video capture at 60 fps, 2.7K video capture at 120 fps, 1080p video capture at 240 fps
12MP still images, optional RAW format capture, 30 fps bursts
Waterproof up to 33 feet without housing
Stereo audio, 3.5-millimeter audio mic input sold separately
If the GoPro HERO9 Black is too far out of your budget, we recommend opting for its predecessor, the HERO8 Black. Its image and video quality, stabilization, and overall design are quite similar. What differs is the HERO9 is larger (mostly because it has a bigger battery with a 40% greater capacity), the HERO8’s front lens cover isn’t removable, and it can’t shoot in 5K.
This one is capable of shooting 12MP still images that are plenty detailed with a well-balanced dynamic range. It shoots cool slow-motion videos, time-lapses, and has convenient voice controls for times when you can’t use its touchscreen. Speaking of screens, this one also lacks a color front screen like the HERO9, which comes in handy for selfies and framing shots.
There’s still plenty to love about the GoPro HERO8 Black, its footage is crisp and smooth, it’s plenty durable and waterproof, and the software experience is a breeze to use. We’re also fans of the even cheaper HERO7 Black from 2018 that still has some remaining stock left at the time of publishing. The HERO7 has shorter battery life, not as visually stable recordings, and lesser video quality. We say you should spring for whatever GoPro action camera best aligns with your budget.
Best Interchangeable Lenses
4K video capture at 60 fps with wide angle lens, 5K video capture at 30 fps with dual 360 lens
19MP still images, optional RAW format capture, HDR mode, Burst mode
Waterproof up to 16 feet without housing
3.5-millimeter audio mic input
The Insta360 ONE R is one of the most versatile action cameras money can buy. What sets it apart from the GoPro is its modular design, which allows users to swap out various lenses and sensors for different features and shooting options. With the Insta360 ONE R’s interchangeable lenses, it’s truly like two cameras in one, since you can also use it as a standard action cam or a 360-degree camera, depending on which bundle you opt for.
The Twin Edition, our recommend bundle, includes the 4K wide-angle mod, which is the standard 4K action camera lens. It also comes with the dual-lens 360 camera which uses two fisheye lenses for capturing 360-degree video. The camera is water-resistant up to 16 feet and although the GoPro HERO9 Black has a slight edge in video quality, battery life, and overall software experience, it doesn’t offer users the ability to record 360-degree video without the purchase of an entirely separate $300-plus camera.
The more expensive Expert Edition bundle comes with the dual-lens 360 camera and a wide-angle lens with a 1-inch sensor (that’s bigger and better than the GoPro HERO9 Black’s sensor). The improved sensor allows users to shoot 5.3K video at 30 fps, 4K video at 60 fps, and 1080p video at 120 fps. The 5.3K Wide Angle Lens Mod arguably captures the best footage possible on an action camera, especially in low-light conditions. Unfortunately, it doesn’t run cheap. Of course, buyers can always pick and choose what lenses and mods they want and purchase them separately or bundled, depending on their needs and budget.
Overall, the Insta360’s One R is an impressive futureproof camera with unique modular parts that gives you the best of both worlds for recording in ultra high resolution and a 360-degree format.
Best Waterproof Camera
12MP sensor, f/2.0 lens with 4-times magnification optical zoom
4K video recording
Waterproof (up to 50 feet), shockproof, crushproof (up to 220 pounds), freezeproof
Built-in Wi-Fi, GPS, compass, and temperature sensor
The Olympus Tough TG-6 is geared more toward taking photos rather than recording videos, but it exceeds at doing both with excellent quality. The camera has a rich set of features designed for making the most of your adventures, and also has an ultra tough build.
The writers at Digital Photography Review listed the Olympus Tough TG-6 as their top waterproof camera and praised it for offering "impressive rugged specs, very good image quality with RAW support, 4K video, strong battery life and a tracking feature that associates data from environmental sensors."
The TG-6 can capture detailed 12MP stills in up to a whopping 20 frames per second, as well as ultra-crisp 4K video through its 4-times magnification optical zoom lens with f/2.0 aperture. Microscope mode for ultra-close-up shooting is also among the camera's features, as is the ability to capture panoramas and time-lapses. Advanced photographers have the option to save their images in RAW file format for more extensive edits.
Of course, there's also the option to take underwater photos via four dedicated modes. The camera is waterproof up to 50 feet, so you can even take it snorkeling with you.
The rest of the camera's highlights include Wi-Fi for smartphone connectivity, GPS, a built-in eCompass, and a temperature sensor. And the 3-inch LCD display makes navigating through all the camera's features easy, although we do wish it was a touchscreen.
For an Action Cam on the Cheap
4K video capture at 30 fps
20MP still images, time-lapse and slow-motion modes
Waterproof up to 98 feet with housing
Wi-Fi and HDMI connectivity
Priced below $150 with an included waterproof housing, the AKASO Brave 7 LE is a great starter action camera for buyers on a tight budget. It has a sleek design with dual-color displays on each side, intuitive touchscreen controls, and good-enough image stabilization on board.
The Brave 7 LE is equipped with a high-quality Sony image sensor, which allows it to capture 4K video at 30 fps, or 1080p footage at up to a rather brisk 120 fps, as well as nice-looking 20MP still images. The camera's electronic image stabilization won’t compete with the likes of GoPro and Insta360, but it will suffice for most amateur videographers.
Reviewers from Digital Camera World and Tech4All on YouTube liked the action camera for its tough design, its front-facing selfie screen, and its easily adjustable settings. We also were happy to see that it comes with two batteries and a handful of mounts, but wish it used the newer USB-C port for recharging.
There's a plethora of shooting modes to choose from. They include time-lapse, slow-motion, and burst image capture, among others. The gadget has Wi-Fi connectivity, so you can connect it to your smartphone. Overall, it’s an impressive action camera for an affordable price point.
You Might Also Like