The best action camera 2018: top 13 cameras rated

Whether you're mountain biking, surfing, snorkelling, skiing or snowboarding, these action cams go anywhere and capture all of your adventures in brilliant detail

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Whether you're surfing or diving, want to record trick shots on an MTB or just want to capture epic views on a hike, an action camera is the next tech accessory you need.

Finding the best action camera for you can be confusing though, considering how many there are now to choose from.  Over the years we have tested a truck-load of action cams, from budget shooters to flagship stunners by the likes of GoPro, Sony and Garmin, so you're in the right place for advice on buying the best action camera for you. 

 

Action cameras are the ideal choice for shooting footage of your epic outdoor adventures. Buy an action cam with a versatile mount system, including a chest harness or helmet mount, and you can wear it while mountain biking to film your gnarly descents or skate tricks. 

Buy one with a waterproof housing and you can take it in the pool, river or ocean to film your surfing, SUP tour or wild swim. There are also action cameras with a degree of waterproofing, such as the GoPro Hero6 Black, our current top pick for the best action camera. This makes it the ideal choice for filming extreme water sports.

The best action cameras allow you to capture footage of your outdoor adventures to keep forever and share with others. Some, like the Tom Tom Bandit come with auto-editing to help you get started if you're new to the world of action cameras.

What is the best action camera?

We regularly test out new contenders for our best action cameras list, and without question our expert recommendation right now is the GoPro Hero6 Black.

Why? For starters it's waterproof to 10 metres without needing an additional casing, making it ideal for surfing, SUP and more. This rugged action camera is also tough enough to survive being mounted to all sorts of outdoor equipment, and even has voice control for hands-free filming.

That said, you might not want the abundance of features packed into GoPro's flagship shooter. And that's fine, as we can suggest some solid alternatives. But first, here's how to make sure you buy the perfect action cam for your individual needs...

How to choose the best action camera for you

There's massive amounts of choice when it comes to buying an action cam now, with big hitters like GoPro and Sony, as well as lesser known brands including Veho and Olfi, all vying to create the best action camera bar none. 

Our selection ranges from affordable cams for simple point-and-shoot footage, to  to expensive flagship models rocking a vast array of pro features. As with all tech, it's worth remembering that you get what you pay for.

Image quality is one of the most important factors when choosing an action camera, and the GoPro and Sony models in our list excel in this area.

It's always worth checking out frame rates rather than max resolution. Why? 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 ones that you can buy to go with it. If you want to take your camera diving, for example, you'll need a waterproof housing (casing). 

If you want to mount your one on your dashboard you'll need a suction mount. Some action cams, such as the Veho and Olfi models, come with plenty of mounts and cases. Other brands are less generous.

Last year, we saw a rise in the number of extra features being added to action cameras. Features like image stabilisation and GPS are mainstays, while newer additions such as voice control might be increasingly important to you depending upon your chosen sport or outdoor pursuit and whether you need to be hands-free to do it.

You probably already knww that GoPro is the clear leader in the field of action cameras, but there are other brands limbering up to give the Hero6 Black and co a run for their money. 

Ready to find out more? Then let's get cracking with our list of the best action cams for capturing you, your life and your epic outdoor adventures...

The best action cameras you can buy today

Best action camera: GoPro Hero6 Black

1. GoPro Hero6 Black

GoPro’s flagship action camera just got even better

Specifications
Weight: 118g
Waterproof: 10m
4K video: 60fps
1080: 240fps
720: up to 240fps
Stills resolution: 12MP
Battery life: 1-3hrs
Reasons to buy
+Great image quality and stabilisation+ Waterproof without housing
Reasons to avoid
-No stabilisation for 4K at 60fps-Expensive

Continuing to reign supreme in the action camera market, the GoPro Hero6 Black brings a bevy of updates to the already superb Hero5. In fact, both cams are still in our line-up, with each suiting different budgets.

Right now the Hero6 Black is the best action camera available bar none, and it's the best GoPro in the entire GoPro camera range.

Waterproof down to 10 metres on its own, you can expand that to an impressive 30 metres with an optional GoPro waterproof housing. Plus, there’s a bigger slew of compatible mounts and extras that work with a GoPro.

One of our favourite features is the ability to record video at frame rates all the way up to 60fps, while image stabilisation (at 30p and below) has been improved to make the need for a gimbal almost non-existent.

There’s a touchscreen on the rear of the Hero6 Black, which has also been improved for smoother gestures. But – and this is where it gets exciting – you can also use your voice to control the action cam. This is handy in situations where you can't physically reach the Hero6 easily, such as when surfing, climbing or snowboarding.

Connecting to a smartphone app, the new GoPro QuikStories app condenses all your videos and shots into one shareable nugget, ready to delight your social media fans (and your proud mum, of course).

Best action camera: Sony RX0

2. Sony RX0

A one-inch sensor in an action camera? Say hello to incredible imagery

Specifications
Weight: 110g
Waterproof: 10m
4K video: Yes
1080: 1000fps
720: 1000fps
Stills resolution: 15MP
Battery life: 35mins-1hr
Reasons to buy
+Huge sensor+High-quality Zeiss lens
Reasons to avoid
-Incredibly expensive-Need a costly external recorder for 4K

Sony’s RX range of high-quality cameras have long been impressing. They introduced one-inch sensors into the compact camera market and it hasn't looked back since. 

Keen on making waves in the best action camera market, Sony outfitted the shockproof RX0 with a one-inch sensor; much larger than on other rivals. And all that imaging clout is housed in a body barely bigger than GoPro's Hero 6 Black. Impressive indeed.

A Zeiss lens bolsters the high image quality, above and below the water, while other fantastic features include super-slow video recording and the ability to capture 15MP stills.

The Sony RXO action cam is waterproof down to 10 metres without housing, but snap up a dedicated case and you can punch that range to 100m. 

So far so good, right? Yep, but there is a downside: if you want to capture 4K you’ll have to use an external recorder to do so. And that costs £800. Ouch!

Best action camera: GoPro Hero5 Black

3. GoPro Hero5 Black

More affordable than the Hero6 and still a good choice

Specifications
Weight: 118g
Waterproof: 10m
4K video: 30fps
1080: 120fps
720: 240fps
Stills resolution: 12MP
Battery life: 1-3hrs
Reasons to buy
+4K video with stabilisation+Water-resistant without housing
Reasons to avoid
-Only a few bundled accessories

While the GoPro Hero6 is the current star in GoPro's line up, the Hero5 Black is still in our best action camera line-up because it shares much of the Hero6's bloodline but at a more affordable price.

Surfers, stand up paddle boarders and those of you into snorkelling will enjoy buddying up with this tried and tested action cam, as it's waterproof to 10-metres without a casing. It's just as durable, too, so it can survive some pretty brutal scrapes and knocks during filming. 

Video can be recorded up to 4K at 30fps, and the cam also snaps 12MP stills in RAW format. Battery life varies depending on what settings you're using, but you can expect to get anywhere between one to three hours use per full charge.

For the first time, GoPro's flagship model features a two-inch touchscreen on the rear, making changing settings easier. GPS captures your location and the action cam now utilises video stabilisation for nailing buttery smooth shots.

More experienced photographers can also delve into the photo settings to alter white balance, image sharpness and the ISO. 

As with all GoPro action cameras, the Hero5 Black connects to a smartphone app for remote control, image previews and video playback. There's also micro USB, micro HDMI and a microUSB port.

Read the full T3 review: GoPro Hero5 Black and GoPro Karma Drone

Best action camera: TomTom Bandit

4. TomTom Bandit Action Camera

This bullet-shaped cam makes editing easy

Specifications
Weight: 190g
Waterproof: Splashproof, with lens swap
4K video: 15fps
1080: 60fps
720: 120fps
Stills resolution: 16MP
Battery life: 3hrs
Reasons to buy
+Auto-editing and app+Robust design
Reasons to avoid
-4K at only 15fps-Heavy to hold

Thought TomTom only made sat navs and running watches? Well, you're wrong. They also make this rather rugged action camera. The TomTom Bandit is the perfect, low-profile shape to be strapped to the side of your helmet when you're mountain biking, snowboarding or off-roading.

TomTom's software automatically edits the footage (using GPS and a motion sensor), so it's a good choice for holding your hand if you're new to editing video.

The Bandit is certainly one of the heaviest in our best action camera guide, but it's easy to use and captures great footage. Bonus: it's compatible with GoPro mounts.

Best action camera: YI 4K+

5. YI 4K+

A well-rounded action camera that won't break the bank

Specifications
Weight: 94g
Waterproof: Optional case available
4K video: 30fps
1080: 120fps
720: 240fps
Stills resolution: 12MP
Battery life: 2hrs
Reasons to buy
+4K at 60fps+USB-C
Reasons to avoid
-Only waterproof with housing-Temperamental voice command control

If you like the look and feel of the best GoPro action cams but don’t quite have the budget for one, there are a few lookalikes surfacing...

One that instantly springs to mind is the YI 4K+, a well-featured action camera with the ability to record 4K at 60fps. Video recording is smooth, although admittedly not as impressive as what the GoPro delivers at 4K 30fps.

YI technology makes a big deal about the 4K+'s voice command function, but we that it can be a little patchy. The screen is crisp and easy to read, which is handy for viewing and framing in sunlight. 

Unlike the GoPro Hero 6, the YI 4K+ isn't waterproof and requires a waterproof casing before you can take it beneath the waves. Not necessarily a deal breaker, but it adds an extra layer of faff and cost that might put you off.

Best action camera: Olympus TG Tracker

6. Olympus TG Tracker Action Camera

Get past the odd looks and you'll discover a decent GoPro challenger

Specifications
Weight: 180g
Waterproof: 30m
4K video: 30fps
1080: 60fps
720: 240fps
Stills resolution: 7.2MP
Battery life: 3hrs
Reasons to buy
+Waterproof to 30m without a case+Decent price for the tech packed in
Reasons to avoid
-Heavy and chunky-Sideways screen

Looking like a miniature version of old school video cameras, the Olympus TG-Tracker is a bit of an oddball compared to the rest of our best action camera picks.

Still, it’s compact, rugged and waterproof, and the screen flips out to the side to give you a different viewpoint (not including selfies as it doesn’t face forwards). Some will like the sideways screen, some won't.

The TG Tracker sports a wealth of interesting features, including an ultra-wide lens with full 204-degree viewing angle. It records at up to an impressive 240fps if you drop down to 720p HD, making it suitable for mountain biking, snowboarding and ziplining. 4K is available at up to 30fps.

Video quality stands up against some of the big action camera names here, and the comparatively low price most certainly makes it a juicy option for those of you who want a good all-rounder action cam. 

Best action camera: Drift Ghost 4K

7. Drift Ghost 4K

The best low-profile action camera for cyclists and bikers

Specifications
Weight: 120g
Waterproof: No
Recording modes: 4K UHD/30fps, 2.7K/60fps, 1080P/120fps, 720P/240fps
Stills resolution: 12MP
Battery life: 2hrs
Reasons to buy
+Low-profile design+Impressive audio
Reasons to avoid
-Fiddly controls-No stabilisation above 1080p

A range of resolution and frame rate options ensure you bag the best footage for any situation. When shooting more sedate activity, the max 4K Ultra HD resolution dialled to 30fps makes your antics shine on screen. 

Digital image stabilisation kicks in below 1080p, taming the vibrations of more high-octane action and producing smooth footage.

The camera’s low-profile design and rugged outer shell make the Ghost 4K ideal for two-wheeled adventures (mounted to bars or helmet), or accessorise with Drift’s waterproof housing to explore depths of up to 40m.

Some action cameras fall short when it comes to audio, but not the Ghost 4K. The camera houses dual microphones, front and rear, which enhance sound quality and help combat pesky wind interference.

Best action camera: Garmin Virb Ultra 30

8. Garmin Virb Ultra 30

One of the most fully featured action cameras we've tested

Specifications
Weight: 88g
Waterproof: With included case
4K video: 30fps
1080: 90fps
720: 60fps
Stills resolution: 12MP
Battery life: 2hrs 15mins
Reasons to buy
+Voice control+So many features!
Reasons to avoid
-4K lacks stabilisation-Battery life so-so

The original Virb introduced GPS and motion sensors to the action camera pie, and the Virb Ultra 30 builds on that with 3-axis image stabilisation, a 1.75-inch touchscreen, GPS capture, high-quality microphones and a G-sensor.

Those of you who ride downhill will get the most of out of the G-Matrix tech, as it captures performance data including speed, altitude, G-force and heart rate; the latter if you pair the action cam with a compatible heart rate monitor. 

As with some of our newer best action camera choices, voice control is one of the Ultra 30's key features. You can tell it to start, stop or pause filming, as well as “remember that” to make finding specific events easier.

Video quality is good with 4K at 30fps and 1080p at 60fps, and the Wi-Fi connection and compatible app are well designed.

Best action camera: Sony FDR-X3000 4K

9. Sony FDR-X3000 4K

This bullet-shaped action camera crams in Sony's imaging nous

Specifications
Weight: 114g
Waterproof: 60m with included case
4K video: Yes
1080: 120fps
720: 240fps
Stills resolution: 8MP
Battery life: 2hrs 5mins
Reasons to buy
+Slim, streamlined design+Powerful Zeiss lens and Exmor sensor
Reasons to avoid
-Limited included accessories-No screen to frame shots

Another 4K offering, this time from Sony. The 4K Action Camera is designed to be three times more stable than previous Sony action cams, thanks to advanced SteadyShot system. A ZEISS lens ensures your video is sharp and free from glare.

One big advantage to this action camera is the built-in measure. This reduces wind noise so the audio on your videos should be clear. This could be particularly important to those of you looking for a camera to take on climbing trips.

The Sony 4K Action Camera also has a waterproof case, micro HMDI output, micro USB, and a microSD card slot, so you're up and running straight out of the box.

Best action camera: GoPro Fusion

10. GoPro Fusion

A rugged 360-degree action camera for capturing the whole picture

Specifications
Weight: 200g
Waterproof: 5m
Recording modes: 5.2K/30fps, 3K/60fps
Stills resolution: 18MP
Battery life: 1hr 15 mins
Reasons to buy
+Fantastic image quality+Excellent video stabilisation+Fusion Grip handle included
Reasons to avoid
-Bulky and heavier than regular action cams

An action-ready 360-degree camera was the logical next step for GoPro. The rugged, waterproof GoPro Fusion shoots stunning 5.2K spherical video up to 30fps via dual fisheye lenses front and back. 

Settings are accessed via a pair of buttons on the camera body or, far less fiddly, through the GoPro app. Once you’re ready to roll, there’s a single button for instant shooting, or voice commands for deeper control.

For playback, the digitally stabilized footage from both lenses is stitched together. Image quality is excellent and it’s possible to explore every corner of your video within the app or with VR goggles. 

GoPro’s OverCapture software (mobile and desktop) is incredibly clever too. Choose the best angle from your footage and OverCapture flattens the video ready for sharing.

Best action camera: Nikon KeyMission 360

11. Nikon KeyMission 360

This action camera makes you the centre of the action

Specifications
Weight: 189g
Waterproof: 30m
Recording modes: 2160/24p, 1920/24p, 960/25p, 640/100p, 320/200p
Stills resolution: 30MP
Battery life: 1hr 10mins
Reasons to buy
+360-degree video+Waterproof without casing
Reasons to avoid
-Flaky companion app-Short battery life

Nikon is a key player in the standard camera market, so it’s not much of a surprise to see them pop up in the action cam game too. 

It’s got a trio of KeyMission cameras available, but the 360 makes our best action camera round-up because it offers something just that little bit different...

VR content is on the rise, and if you’re interested in creating immersive action videos, then something like the KeyMission 360 is a good choice to enable you to do just that. As the name suggests, it has a completely spherical field of view - so you better make sure you’re not pulling any funny faces when recording your movies.

The KeyMission 360 also boasts waterproofing, as well as 4K video recording. As there’s no space for a screen or a huge array of buttons, you’ll need to make settings changes via an app - which is the KeyMission’s letdown, as it can be on the flaky side.

Best action camera: Olfi One.Five Action Camera

12. Olfi One.Five Action Camera

Excellent value for money, and a quirky design to boot

Specifications
Weight: 55g (110g with housing)
Waterproof: 30m with included case
4K video: up to 24fps
1080: 60fps
720: 120fps
Stills resolution: 16MP
Battery life: 2hrs
Reasons to buy
+Amazing value+Stabilisation and HDR
Reasons to avoid
-Quality isn't as good as GoPro-Only waterproof with a case

The Olfi One.Five offers amazing 4K HDR video recording at a very reasonable price of £149.99. That's not all this impressive little action camera offers - there's also a rear LCD screen, super slow motion 240fps video mode and gyro stabilisation.

We're digging the design, and it like how it comes with a hard case plus a selection of mounts. Although this is a budget device, it certainly doesn't feel cheap.

Best action camera: Veho Muvi K2 Pro Action Camera

13. Veho Muvi K2 Pro Action Camera

A solid cam with bundled accessories for a bargain price

Specifications
Weight: 84g
Waterproof: With optional case
4K video: 15fps
1080: 60fps
720: 120fps
Stills resolution: 12MP
Battery life: 4hrs
Reasons to buy
+Free accessories+Great image quality
Reasons to avoid
-Not waterproof without case-Fiddly buttons

The Muvi K2 Pro is Veho's latest and most advanced action camera, packing a new XA-9 processor capable of capturing 4K video at 15fps, 2.7k at 30fps, or 1080p at 60fps.

Veho's flagship action cam sports built-in Wi-Fi (up to 60 metres range), and is designed with an LCD touchscreen for clearer visibility, enabling you to better frame your shot and to preview videos and stills. There's a nifty suite of modes to explore too, including time lapse, high speed photo burst and 180-degree rollover mode. 

That 1,500 mAh battery should last for up to three hours, giving you plenty of opportunities to nail the perfect shot.

Unlike the GoPro, the K2 Pro Pro ships with a load of accessories, including a rugged carry case, tripod mounts, flat and curved adhesive pads and much more.