If you're planning on shooting action videos, a dedicated action camera can be an invaluable piece of equipment. These tiny, rugged, and often water-resistant models are designed to mount to a wide variety of equipment, from chest and helmet rigs to sports cars and watercraft. A high-quality action camera should provide superior stabilization performance, a wide range of frame rates for smooth action and slow-mo shots, and be rugged enough to keep up with your adventures, wherever they may take you.
We've bought and tested over 80 cameras in our lab, and below, you'll find our recommendations for which action camera to buy, depending on your needs and budget. We've stuck to dedicated action cameras here, but if you're looking for a camera to shoot sports or fast action from the sidelines, you can look at our recommendations for the best sports video cameras. For more action cam options, you can also check out our picks for the best GoPro alternatives. Or, if you want a camera more suited to vlogging or content creation, try our best cameras for YouTube.
Although it's been replaced by the GoPro HERO11 Black, the GoPro HERO10 Black is still the best action cam we've tested and offers plenty of bang for your buck. It's a notable step up from its predecessor, with a brand-new processor that boosts its low-light performance, stabilization, and frame rate options. With 5.3k at up to 60 fps, 4k at up to 120 fps, and 2.7k/1080p at up to 240 fps, you can capture high-resolution slow-mo and super slow-mo videos.
You're also getting GoPro's reliably sturdy build quality, with waterproofing down to 33 feet (10 meters). HyperSmooth video stabilization works like a dream to ensure your footage is buttery smooth. On top of that, the camera's front-facing Live View screen lets you easily monitor yourself, making this a solid vlogging camera too.
If you want something more affordable than the GoPro HERO10 Black, the older GoPro HERO9 Black is a great deal nowadays. It has a near-identical design with the same reliable build quality, complete with waterproofing down to 33 ft for underwater recording. It was also the first GoPro to feature a front-facing Live View screen for easier self-recording. Overall, you're getting most of the same features as the HERO10 at a lower price point.
The biggest difference between the two cameras is that the HERO9 uses an older processor, resulting in worse low-light performance. You also don't have quite as many frame rate options, but with 5k up to 30 fps, 4k up to 60 fps, and 2.7k and 1080p up to 240 fps, you still have plenty of frame rates to work with. If that sounds like overkill for your needs, you can look into older models like the GoPro HERO8 Black, which will save you even more money but doesn't have a selfie screen.
If you're on a tighter budget, the AKASO Brave 7 LE is a solid GoPro alternative that won't break the bank. Despite its relatively affordable price point, this camera feels well-built and has an IPX7 rating, meaning it can withstand submersion in 1m of water for up to 30 minutes. However, you'll need to put it in the protective case for more extensive waterproofing for scuba diving and underwater adventures.
Like the GoPro HERO10 Black and GoPro HERO9 Black, the Brave 7 LE has a secondary front screen that's helpful for vlogging. Its stabilization feature works well overall, though it imposes a severe 1.6x crop and isn't as effective as pricier cameras. The other trade-off is in frame rates, which max out at 30 fps in 4k, although you can still record 120 fps slow-motion footage in 1080p. If those aren't dealbreakers, this is a great action cam for the price.
There are plenty of cheap GoPro knockoffs, but the best cheap action cam we've tested is the AKASO V50X. It's a solid camera if you want something highly portable and affordable. It doesn't feel as premium as a GoPro. However, it comes with a protective case, just like the AKASO Brave 7 LE. Unlike that model, however, the camera itself isn't IPX-rated, so you'll need the case for any underwater recording.
On the upside, this thing comes with plenty of mounting accessories in the box and has a simple user interface that's easy to use, making it incredibly easy to get out and start shooting right away. Frame rates are limited, especially compared to the extensive options offered by a top-tier camera like the GoPro HERO10 Black, but you still get 4k at 30 fps and 1080p at 30 or 60 fps. Bottom line: if you're looking for a straightforward camera for action video that won't cost you a fortune, this is a solid option for the price.
If you need something portable, the Insta360 GO 2 is the way to (excuse the pun) go. Marketed as the world's smallest action camera, this tiny camera will appeal more to vloggers and content creators than rugged adventure-seekers. However, it's a unique option that can fit into the tightest spaces. It also comes with a magnetic pendant necklace that lets you discreetly shoot chest-level footage.
On top of that, it has some neat features you can access through the Insta360 companion app, including a built-in editing suite and video stabilization that you can apply after the fact. That said, unlike the GoPro HERO9 Black, which falls around the same price point, the GO 2 can't record 4k video; it's limited to a max resolution of 1440p and has fewer frame rate options. Still, if you're looking for an extremely portable, minimalist solution for on-the-go video, this is a nifty little camera with tons of extra features.
Calling the DJI Pocket 2 an 'action camera' might be a stretch, but this pocket camera stands out for its built-in gimbal, which lets you shoot buttery smooth handheld footage of action or sports. The gimbal works incredibly well and can stabilize the camera across three axes, which you can configure in a few different ways. So, for instance, you can lock the horizon or prevent the camera from tilting and rolling.
On top of its stabilization, the camera has an active tracking mode that can lock onto a specific subject and automatically follow them. You don't get as many frame rate options as you do with the GoPro HERO10 Black, but the camera's 1/1.7-inch sensor gives it a leg up on most action cameras for video quality and low-light performance. Overall, it's a great portable camera for those who want to shoot stabilized handheld video without carrying extra gear like gimbals or monopods.
Apr 18, 2023: Added the DJI Osmo Action to Notable Mentions.
Feb 06, 2023: Replaced the DJI Osmo Action with the GoPro HERO9 Black as the 'Best Mid-Range Action Camera' and removed the GoPro HERO8 Black from Notable Mentions.
Dec 08, 2022: Minor touch-ups to text for clarity; no change to recommendations.
Oct 12, 2022: Restructured article and updated picks to re-align with user expectations and market developments.
Mar 02, 2022: Ensured picks are still accurate and available.
Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best action cameras for most people to buy, according to their needs. We factor in the price, feedback from our visitors, and availability (no cameras that are difficult to find or almost out of stock in the U.S.).
If you would like to choose for yourself, here's the list of all our action camera reviews. Be careful not to get caught up in the details. There is no single perfect camera. Personal taste, preference, and shooting habits will matter more in your selection.