If you’re looking for the best action camera, then you’ve come to the right place. Action cameras are unlike any other kind of camera. They’re designed to be attached to helmets, surfboards, cars and other objects, and they’re small, tough and simple to operate, with a lens that captures the world in high-definition video.
Their small size and dramatic POV (‘point of view’) footage has made them popular with extreme sports participants, who capture their adventures by attaching cameras to themselves or their equipment. They’re also used by TV production companies where using a regular video camera would be impossible.
You don’t have to be an adrenaline-junkie or filming your own TV show. Action cameras are also great fun for the family, especially on days out or vacations when you simply want to hit record and document you time together.
Who makes the best action camera though? GoPro is without question the market leader – in fact, they invented this whole action camera genre. They’re not alone though, with a number of new rivals out there to tempt you.
When it comes to key features on action cameras, most now shoot 4K footage, though some do these better than others, offering faster frame rates for buttery-smooth footage, while the very best action cameras have slick image stabilization systems to make the most of this.
While action cameras are principally for shooting video, the best action cameras also shoot pretty decent still images as well, though don’t expect anything better than a point-and-shoot compact camera.
Other features to consider when looking for the best action camera include Wi-Fi, GPS and touchscreen control. These all bump up the price, and while they are invaluable in some situations, you can still get great footage without them.
Before we look at our top picks of the best action cameras you can buy right now, GoPro has just announced three new action cameras.
The top of the range GoPro Hero7 Black replaces Hero6 Black and is our best action camera pick right now. We’d even recommend you now avoid the Hero6 Black. Don’t get us wrong, it’s not a bad action camera at all, it’s very good, but with the price of the older model only a little less than the Hero7 Black, you’re better off spending your money on the newer model.
1. GoPro Hero7 Black
The new king of action cameras
Weight: 118g | Waterproof: 10m | 4K video: up to 60fps | 1080: up to 240fps | 720: up to 240fps | Stills resolution: 12MP | Battery life: 1-3hrs est
Great 4K video
HyperSmooth very effective
Struggles with voice commands
Screen unresponsive at times
While it may share pretty much of the same headline video specs as the Hero6 Black that it replaces, the Hero7 Black offers a number of big improvements. The most significant of this is the addition of GoPro’s all-new HyperSmooth image stabilization technology. It really is very impress, delivering gimbal-smooth video footage. TimeWarp video is a further new feature, one that combines the idea of regular frame-by-frame time-lapse shooting (which you can still do separately) with HyperSmooth – essentially, a stabilised hyperlapse, while the user interface has been overhauled for a much better user experience. Delivering buttery-smooth 4K video footage the Hero7 Black is the best action camera you can buy.
Read our in-depth GoPro Hero7 Black review
2. GoPro Hero5 Black
If you don’t need the latest and greatest, this is still a good buy
Weight: 118g | Waterproof: 10m | 4K video: up to 30fps | 1080: up to 120fps | 720: up to 240fps | Stills resolution: 12MP | Battery life: 1-3hrs est
Voice activated controls
Excellent 4K footage
Touchscreen fiddly to use
Few accessories included
It may have been overshadowed by the new Hero6 Black, but the Hero5 Black still has a lot to offer. Shooting 4K footage up to 30fps, video footage is incredibly smooth, while the ability to shoot stills in raw format brings even more flexibility. Waterproof down to 10m without the need for a protective case, it’s also simple to use, while the addition of a rear touchscreen, voice control and GPS make it one of the most feature-packed cams currently available.
Read our in-depth GoPro Hero5 Black review
3. TomTom Bandit
Shake-to-edit features could tempt users away from GoPro
Weight: 190g | Waterproof: Splashproof, with lens swap | 4K video: 15fps | 1080: up to 60fps | 720: up to 120fps | Stills resolution: 16MP | Battery life: 3hrs
Clever editing features
Easy to mount and position
Heavy compared with competitors
Requires a lens swap to water proof
Bullet shape cams might have fallen out of fashion recently thanks to GoPro and its box-shaped cameras, but the TomTom Bandit bucks the trend. In fact, the Bandit packs features that other manufacturers will need to follow if they’re to keep up with this newcomer. Taking years of GPS experience, TomTom has built in a series of sensors that not only record location but speed and G-force too, so that when these sensors pick up that something exciting has happened they automatically tag the footage. Back in the pub and with the app open and connected, a quick shake of your phone and the app will automatically edit your footage ready for upload. It really couldn’t be easier.
Read the full review: TomTom Bandit
4. Olympus TG-Tracker
The next generation of sensor enabled action cameras has arrived
Weight: 180g | Waterproof: 30m | 4K video: 30fps | 1080: up to 60fps | 720: up to 240fps | Stills resolution: 7.2MP | Battery life: 3hrs
Packed with Sensors
Easy to use
Heavy compared with competitors
No in app auto editing
The TG-Tracker’s futuristic design is hard to miss with an ultra wide 204 degree lens fronting a 1/2.3-inch CMOS sensor. Headline video resolutions include 4k at 30fps, 1080p at 60fps and an impressive 240fps at 720p for slow motion capture. This is an action camera ready for anything and even features a small LED video light built in. Sensors are the big news for the Tracker with GPS, compass, acceleration sensors plus a barometer and thermometer all capturing data from inside the compact case. The intel from these can all be displayed when viewing back the footage or in the video edit so you can show just how extreme you are. What’s more, it’s waterproof to 30m, features built in stabilization and can withstand temperatures down to -10C.
Read the full review: Olympus TG-Tracker
5. YI 4K Action Camera
A 4K action camera at a cheap price
Weight: 94g | Waterproof: N/A (optional case available) | 4K video: 30fps | 1080: up to 120fps | 720: up to 240fps | Stills resolution: 12MP | Battery life: Up to 2hrs
Detailed 4K footage
Bigger touchscreen than a GoPro
No voice activated controls
Too easy to switch on and off
How often do you take an action cam underwater? Most people never will, so in some regard the YI 4K ActionCam is about cutting corners, but what it leaves out – GPS, voice control, auto-upload, and raw shooting – are hardly core features. In fact, it gives as much as it takes, with a large and responsive touchscreen, a big battery and a fast file transfers. It may lack a few niceties – and we would include lens distortion correction and image stabilisation in that list – but the YI 4K Action Cam remains a great value addition to any adventurer’s kit bag.
Read the full review: YI 4K Action Camera
6. Sony FDR-X3000R
Action camera with a remote live view display
Weight: 114g | Waterproof: 60m (case included) | 4K video: 30fps | 1080: up to 60fps | 720: up to 120fps | Stills resolution: 8.2MP | Battery life: 1-2hrs
Live View drop-outs
All action cameras are now promising 4K at 30fps, but Sony’s effort is about a lot more than just resolution and frame rate. The diminutive FDR-X3000R’s biggest claim is Balanced Optical SteadyShot (B.O.SS) image stabilization, which works across all resolutions and recording modes. It also includes an underwater housing – a rarity in the action camera market – and comes with a wearable, mountable live view remote, a smartwatch-sized contraption that allows the FDR-X3000R to be operated from afar, and its images previewed in real time.
Read the full review: Sony FDR-X3000R
7. Garmin Virb XE
Capture your action, speed and location at the same time
Weight: 152g | Waterproof: 50m | 4K video: No | 1080: up to 60fps | 720: up to 120fps | Stills resolution: 12Mp | Battery life: 2hrs
GPS and other motion sensors
Waterproof without additional case
Bulky compared to competitors
Less suitable for vehicle mounting
The original Garmin Virb introduced motion sensors and GPS tracking to action cameras, adding an extra element to capturing the action, like the TomTom Bandit. Building on the solid foundation of the original Virb, Garmin has revisited the design, losing the bullet shape and remodeling the camera around the popular ‘box’ style. This new shape makes chest mounting far easier and, as with the original, the build quality is excellent. The XE offers increased video quality, it’s waterproof without an additional case, features Wi-Fi along with compatible app and software, this all makes the Virb XE one of the best action cameras at present.
Read the full review: Garmin Virb XE
8. GoPro Hero5 Session
Back-to-basics box-shape action camera
Weight: 74g | Waterproof: 10m | 4K video: 30/25/24fps | 1080: up to 90fps | 720: up to 120fps | Stills resolution: 10MP | Battery life: 1.5-2hrs est
Simple one button control
App required to adjust settings
The Hero5 Session follows on from the Hero4 Session, stripping back the action camera concept to its basics, but sharing many of the same specs as the Hero5 Black. That includes 4K video capture up to 30fps, image stabilisation, voice control and is waterproof down to 10m. The large Record button on the top starts and stops recording so there’s no worrying about different modes and options – that’s all handled by the app (though it does have a simple menu system if you wish). Back to basics, but still captures the quality of video that you’d expect from GoPro.
Read the full review: GoPro Hero5 Session
9. SJCAM SJ7 Star
Yet another 4K action camera to rattle GoPro
Weight: 58g | Waterproof: 30m (case included) | 4K video: 30fps | 1080: up to 120fps | 720: up to 120fps | Stills resolution: 12MP | Battery life: 1-2hrs
Slick 4K footage at 30fps
No image stabilization at 4K
Barrel distortion blights stills
The SJCAM SJ7 delivers some good-looking footage, especially when shooting in 4K. However, this budget GoPro Hero5 rival doesn’t boast the sort of professional features offered by the biggest name in the action camera game, such as voice activation, GPS and the ability to make quick and easy video clips via a smartphone app. If you want a action camera that delivers strong footage at a fraction of the price though, then the SJCAM SJ7 Star is worth a look.
Read our in-depth SJCAM SJ7 Star review
10. GoPro Hero7 Silver
Weight: 118g | Waterproof: 10m | 4K video: Up to 30fps | 1080: up to 60fps | 720: up to 60fps | Stills resolution: 10MP | Battery life: 1-3hrs est
Pleasing 4K video quality
Easy to use
LCD can be unresponsive at times
Limited image capture control
While the Hero 7 Black is the top of the GoPro pile, the Silver fills the void beneath this and while it can’t quite pull off all the fancy tricks as its big brother, it’s priced far aggressively, especially once you see just how much tech you still get.
This includes stabilised 4K video recording, waterproofing down to 10m, together with a 2-inch touchscreen on the back and Voice Control that allows you to instruct the camera to perform almost all main functions without you raising a finger. A fine choice for first-time users.
11. GoPro Hero (2018)
Back to basics, and all the better for it
Weight: 118g | Waterproof: 10m | 4K video: N/A | 1080: up to 60fps | 720: N/A | Stills resolution: 10MP | Battery life: Up to 2hrs
Easy to use
No exposure control
No sub-Full HD quality options
We can’t all afford a GoPro Hero7 Black, but you can still grab yourself a relatively recent GoPro Hero model if you’re on a budget. Understandably, this cost-effective alternative misses out on a handful of features, like 4K video recording and HyperSmooth stabilization, but it still captures good Full HD footage and is waterproof straight out of the box, with the 2-inch touchscreen that graces the back making it just as simple to operate as its bigger brothers.
DJI Osmo Pocket
A pocketable DJI gimbal that records 4K video
Weight: 116g | Waterproof: N/A | 4K video: up to 60fps | 1080: up to 120fps | 720: N/A | Stills resolution: 12MP | Battery life: Up to 2hrs
Miniaturized gimbal stabilization
Records 4K video up to 60fps
Though not technically a action camera, DJI’s new Osmo Pocket is still going after the same audience. While it’s not as rugged as dedicated action camera rivals, the Osmo Pocket has a clever trick up its sleeve in the shape of a built-in gimbal. Gimbals as designed to counteract unwanted movement and help you shoot super-smooth videos – while GoPro’s Hero7 Black has some clever image stabilization tricks, there’s no substitute for dedicated hardware. The Osmo Pocket features three-axis stabilized gimbal and measures just four inches tall. The 1/2.3-inch sensor is capable of recording 12MP still images and 4K video footage up to 60fps, while there are built-in dual microphones that use advanced noise-canceling algorithms, which DJI says should ensure that you capture high-quality audio to match your footage.
Read our full DJI Osmo Pocket review here