If you're planning on shooting action-packed videos for travel or sports, a dedicated action camera can be a valuable piece of equipment. These tiny, rugged, and often water-resistant models are designed for mounting to a wide variety of equipment, from chest and helmet rigs to sports cars and watercraft. The best action cameras offer superior stabilization performance, a wide range of frame rates to record everything from simple slice-of-life videos to smooth slow-motion clips, and are rugged enough to keep up with your adventures, wherever they might take you.
We've tested over 65 cameras, and below you'll find our recommendations for the best action cameras to buy. These picks were selected not only based on their overall performance but also their feature set and price. For more options, see our recommendations for the best sport video cameras, the best cameras for YouTube, and the best cameras.
The best action camera that we've tested is the GoPro HERO10 Black. This premium action camera feels incredibly sturdy and well-built, with a rubberized finish for grip and waterproofing to an advertised depth of 33 feet. You can mount it on any number of compatible mounts or rigs with its pop-out folding fingers. It also has a front-facing screen that lets you monitor yourself in Live View while recording, handy for action and sports vloggers.
The camera supports several frame rate and resolution options, including 1080p recording at up to 240 fps and 4k at up to 120 fps without a crop. It also shoots video in more unconventional resolutions, namely 2.7k at up to 240 fps and 5.3k at up to 60 fps, so you can capture a range of high-resolution video in a variety of frame rates suitable for capturing smooth fast action or generating slow-motion footage. GoPro's 'HyperSmooth' digital stabilization feature also does a remarkable job smoothing out camera shake, though it incurs a noticeable 1.36x crop.
It delivers okay video quality in 4k when shooting in brighter conditions, and it's good relative to other action cameras. However, it's not well-suited to shooting in low light, and its 1080p video quality is sub-par. Its tested battery life in video is also slightly worse than some other GoPros we've tested. However, it's still acceptable, and battery performance can also vary with settings and usage habits. Overall, this is one of the best action cameras you can get, thanks to its dense feature set and excellent action video performance.
If you're looking for something a bit cheaper, consider the GoPro HERO9 Black. It has fewer frame rate options than the GoPro HERO10 Black and uses an older version of GoPro's processor, but it offers many of the same features and has an excellent action video performance. It can record 5k video at up to 30 fps, 4k video at up to 60 fps, 2.7k at up to 120 fps, and 1080p video at up to 240 fps, so you can still capture a range of resolutions and frame rates. Like the HERO10, its digital video stabilization does a remarkable job smoothing out camera shake but incurs a crop when you enable it. It also features a front-facing screen that supports Live View, so you can monitor yourself while recording. That said, its video quality is similar to the HERO10, but it looks slightly noisier when shooting in low light.
Go with the HERO10 if you want a wider range of frame rates to choose from and better low-light performance, but if you're looking to save some money, the HERO9 offers mostly similar features and performance at a lower price point.
The best action camera with a handheld design that we've tested is the DJI Pocket 2. This uniquely designed camera has a built-in three-axis gimbal that helps it to reduce camera shake to a remarkable degree. Its autofocus system also delivers amazing tracking performance, and it has an active tracking feature that allows it to lock onto a moving subject and follow its movement.
It can shoot 4k video at up to 60 fps without a crop and has a dedicated 'Slow-Mo' recording mode in FHD, allowing you to shoot at either 120 or 240 fps and playback footage at 30 fps. There's also a dedicated 'HDR' mode in FHD that should result in video with an expanded color range, though you can only shoot at 24 or 30 fps in this mode, which also incurs a 1.74x crop. Video quality is reasonably good overall, with relatively little noise when recording in darker environments, though object contours and surfaces aren't especially sharp.
Unfortunately, this camera can get very hot with prolonged use. Unlike many other action cameras, it isn't advertised as being water-resistant, though it does still feel amazingly well-built. It also lacks a dedicated continuous shooting mode for snapping clear stills of moving subjects, though it isn't designed for photography. Overall, its unique design and dense feature set make it one of the best cameras for vlogging that we've tested.
The best action camera that we've tested at a budget-friendly price is the AKASO Brave 7 LE. Despite its relatively affordable price point, this camera feels impressively robust and has an IPX7 rating for water resistance. It comes with a protective case advertised to render it waterproof at a depth of up to 131 feet, too. A secondary screen at the front allows you to monitor what's being recorded even when the camera is pointed at you.
Depending on your choice of settings and usage habits, this camera offers great battery life, and if you plan on using it for extended periods, it can be charged while in use via its USB-C port. Its menu system is also highly intuitive, though it lacks a guide mode to walk novice users through basic camera functions. It can shoot at up to 120 fps in FHD, handy for recording smooth action video. It also does an alright job smoothing out camera shake when shooting 4k video and delivers decent stabilization performance when recording in FHD.
Unfortunately, it exhibits a noticeable degree of rolling shutter effect, which can distort subjects when panning from side to side rapidly. Video quality in FHD and 4k is also middling, with significant amounts of noise and softly-rendered object contours and surfaces. It can also only record 4k video at 30 fps, which could be disappointing if you wanted to shoot smooth action video in this resolution. If you're looking for a sturdy, affordable action camera, this isn't a bad choice.
Nov 12, 2021: Replaced the GoPro HERO9 Black with the GoPro HERO10 Black as 'Best Action Camera' and added the HERO9 as 'Cheaper Alternative'. Moved the GoPro HERO8 Black to Notable Mentions.
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 US).
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.