Finding the best action camera for your purposes in a quickly changing market can be challenging. A swathe of manufacturers, including Garmin, Sony, Drift, Yi and iON, have stopped selling new action cams, leaving the action camera market in the hands of brands including GoPro, DJI, Insta360, and a handful of others, plus a host of unbranded clones (some of which aren't too bad).
The good news is that the best action camera tech has become refined to an impressive point – the GoPro and Insta360 platforms, in particular, are challenging to shoot poor video on, no matter your skill level. Image stabilisation is quite astonishingly good at times, and quality is right up there with the pros.
You might be getting the picture that GoPro dominates the action camera market, and to be honest, you'd be right. Our best GoPro guide runs through the differences between all the available models. Beyond GoPro, we have a separate guide dedicated to the best GoPro alternatives. If price is the deciding factor, you might want also to check out today's best cheap GoPro deals.
Guess what? Black Friday is here, and we expect to see tons of action cam deals popping up during the biggest shopping event of the year. Plus, we just recently added two new reviews of this guide at the top and bottom (GoPro Hero 12 Black and Kandao QooCam 3, respectively), so now you have even more options to choose from!
Best action cameras to buy right now
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The GoPro Hero 12 Black delivers the exact experience we expected from the brand. This new iteration builds on the two decades of innovation that made GoPro the premier action camera manufacturer and adds some exciting new features that will delight amateurs and pros alike.
Better still, the Hero 12 Black is sold for the same price the Hero 11 Black was sold for GoPro Members, but this time around, you don't need the membership to unlock the lower price. Essentially, you get a more competent action camera for no extra money. That's a pretty good deal, people!
Of the new features, the HDR video is probably the one that'll make most people happy. It helps those action shots pop a little bit more, making #shotonGoPro videos even more exciting to look at. Plus, you can record vertical videos on the camera, allowing you to create attention-grabbing footage for social media without post-processing in the Quik app.
If you want the best action camera, you need the GoPro Hero 12 Black. Simple as that.
Read our full GoPro Hero 12 Black review.
The Insta360 X3 retained the superb auto-levelling and image stabilisation technology of its predecessor and offers a multitude of shooting and editing modes, hence why we think it's the best action camera you can buy right now. The huge range of shooting modes remains, too, giving you the ability to capture bullet-time sequences; time-, star- and hyper-lapses; HDR photos and videos; looped recordings (aka dashcam mode); and videos in vivid, standard and log picture profiles. And with the new Insta360 X3 Invisible Dive Case, you can now also shoot unobstructed 360° footage underwater.
Perhaps the most significant new feature is the 4K single-lens mode, which turns off one of the two camera modules to provide a more traditional action cam field of view. There’s also a new vlogging-centric ‘Me Mode’ shooting setting, which keeps the user automatically centred (and selfie stick hidden) in a 180-degree video – it makes things a bit simpler than on previous X cameras, where you’d have to shoot in 360-degree and reframe these videos to keep yourself centred.
Read our full Insta360 X3 review.
Best for vlogging
The GoPro HERO 11 Black has an improved sensor and enhanced battery life compared to the HERO 10 Black. It's also been upgraded with a 1/1.9” sensor, which means the colour palette is now considerably boosted. There’s also a new iteration of HyperSmooth stabilisation in the GoPro HERO 11 Black (now up to HyperSmooth 5.0).
In use, HyperSmooth 5.0 does offer an improvement over HyperSmooth 4.0, but it’s another incremental win - better, but not mind-blowing. Battery life has improved significantly, especially at higher resolutions. Read more about the difference between the HERO 11 Black and its predecessor here: GoPro Hero 11 Black vs GoPro Hero 10 Black.
Read our full GoPro HERO 11 Black review.
The Insta360 One RS takes a different tack to GoPro, with an ultra-flexible modular design that's super fun to play around with. For all configurations, you'll need the ONE RS Core (the control model), Battery module and mounting bracket, but you can swap out various lenses depending on the situation – 4K Boost Lens, 360 Lens or 1-inch Wide Angle Lens (pleasingly, there's also backwards compatibility with the earlier One R model, if you already have one of those).
This premium action camera packs an impressive raft of features, both in terms of hardware and software. We were incredibly impressed with the build and image quality and found the swap-and-switch setup compelling, practical and fun to fiddle with.
Read our full Insta360 ONE RS review.
Best for POV shooting
The Insta360 GO 3 is both a niche action camera aimed at content creators wanting to create POV videos and also one of the most versatile action cameras allowing you to spread your creative wings and capture videos and images in ways you never thought was possible.
Fans of extreme sports and those who prefer most of their footage in the water are better off using a GoPro HERO11 Mini or a similar waterproof action camera than the GO 3. Not just because the Action Pod is only IPX4 rated but also because they can shoot higher-resolution footage.
However, if you produce content for social media (i.e. vertically), often record videos in selfie mode, and like to find unique ways to capture footage, the Insta360 GO 3 is your best bet. Even if you have the GO 2, you might want to consider getting a GO 3; the addition of the Action Pod, the new shooting modes, and the better image quality make it a worthwhile upgrade.
Best for watersports
The DJI OSMO Action 3 is an excellent action camera that offers plenty of features and rugged build quality for less money than its main rival, which, admittedly, makes it more appealing in the eyes of many. Better still, most of the shortcomings are not significant and will only affect a small number of shooting modes/people.
Sure, the OSMO Action 3 isn't as good in low-light conditions as the GoPro HERO 11 Black, but how often will you use it in the dark? Not often, and it's not like you'll do cool tricks on your MTB/skateboard at night, risking injury. The main features this action camera has to offer will provide enough functionality for most users – again, at a much wallet-friendly price point. That's a win in our books.
Read our full DJI OSMO Action 3 review.
Best budget GoPro
We loved this action cam for being both extremely easy to use for beginners and still astonishingly capable for the pro – an impressive balance. This was the first HERO to feature that long-awaited front-facing screen, previously only available with the addition of a Mod. That means for anyone who wants to be able to frame themselves in the shot, it's the oldest GoPro you'll want to go for. There's also a removable lens cover, which is handy... although it's not hydrophobic as in the HERO 10.
Elsewhere, the GoPro HERO 9 Black appears similar to the HERO 8, with the bunny-ears mount present, along with caseless waterproofing to 10m. Look closer, though, and the improvements are many and varied. Under the hood, there's a bigger sensor (23.6MP), which means this cam can now shoot 5K/30 video and 20MP stills, and a very welcome 30% battery boost. Incredibly impressive horizon levelling now comes baked in, although you won't be able to tilt the camera quite as much as you can with the HERO 10 Black.
Read our full GoPro HERO 9 Black review.
The DJI Osmo Action 4 is a fine all-round action camera with some excellent accessories and ease of use. Able to go deeper underwater than ever, its larger CMOS sensor addresses a problem with the DJI Osmo Action 3. However, it arguably achieves very little more than its predecessor, so it could be argued that unless you do plan to use the DJI Osmo Action 4 deep underwater and/or in the twilight, it’s probably not worth paying extra for.
That said, with excellent image stabilization, ease of use and a brilliant magnetic mounting system for accessories, the DJI Osmo Action 4 is an excellent rugged action camera that loses out to the likes of GoPro Hero 11 Black only in its lack of 5.7K video resolution. If that’s not important to you, then you’ll love the DJI Osmo Action 4.
Read our full DJI Osmo Action 4 review.
Best for cyclists
Not so much an action camera as a bike rear light with a lot of benefits, the Apeman Seeker R1 4K Smart Cycling Camera seems like a ludicrous cycling accessory, but there's every chance you're going to love it. Essentially it's a bulky rear light that houses a removable action camera, and it's a whole lot of fun to use. It's relatively easy to set up, and once you're up and running with the Apeman App on your phone (which you can attach to your handlebars with an included mount), you can enjoy a live rear view wherever you go.
The camera can shoot 4K and has a few shooting modes, including Vivid Sport, 6x Slow Motion, Time Lapse and Burst, and delivers clear, quality imagery. It'll also keep going for ages; the built-in 5,000mAh battery allows you to record footage uninterrupted for 300 minutes, but be aware that you'll have to supply your own micro SD card to store everything. One final neat extra: laser bike lane projection! Admittedly it's useless in daylight, but it's a great way of marking out your space on the road when it gets darker.
Read our full Apeman Seeker R1 review.
Best budget 360°
The Kandao QooCam 3 heavily relies on the fact that it costs less than big-ticket competitors, such as the Insta360 X3 and the GoPro Max. And for the price, it offers a decent level of functionality and shooting modes, albeit nothing mind-blowing. Build quality is excellent, and thanks to the large sensor, low-light performance is also pretty good. Plus, Kandao supports its products in the long run via software updates. If you come across a good Kandao QooCam 3 deal and are on a tight budget, we'd recommend at least considering getting one.
Read our full Kandao QooCam 3 review.
How to choose the best action camera for you
There's a huge amount of choice in this market, which can make finding the best action camera for your needs a little difficult. Image quality is one of the most important factors to consider, and it's always worth checking out frame rates rather than max resolution. This is because while a lot of cameras shoot in 4K resolution, some cheaper models use a frame rate of 15fps, which makes the video look jumpy. If you're shooting in 4K you want at least 30fps, or just shoot in 1080p HD at 60fps.
The best action cameras also come bundled with accessories and a versatile system of mounts – or least have the option to buy the ones you want. Waterproofing without a case comes as standard with some models, but with others you'll probably want to invest in waterproof casing to safeguard your cam for everything from watersports to an unexpected downpour.
Because things can get expensive at the top end of the market, it's key to consider which features are most important for how you're going to actually use your cam. Things like image stabilisation and GPS are mainstays, while newer additions such as voice control might be important to you depending upon your chosen sport and whether you need to be hands-free to do it.
What's the best action camera?
The best action camera is the GoPro HERO 11 Black, closely followed by its immediate predecessor, the GoPro HERO 10 Black – although it’s a tough battle with the Insta360 One RS. The GoPros win out by being easier to get the best out of, an understated trick that GoPro has perfected over the years. This doesn’t mean other cameras aren’t worth a look, though, with some offering unbelievable value for money and others left-field setup and use choices.