Best action camera 2020: we rank and rate the most capable action cameras

We run down the best action cameras right now, with feature-packed options from GoPro, DJI, Insta360 and more

Best action camera 2020

The latest and greatest action camera to date however, is the GoPro HERO8 Black. This stunning piece of kit landed late last year and is unrivalled in terms of image and video quality, recording modes, levels of stabilisation, ease of use, durability and just about everything else. As a result, you won’t be surprised to learn that the GoPro HERO8 is our number one choice when it comes to the best action camera you buy.

The best action cameras are super-versatile, and when used with the right mounting system they can be securely attached to anything from bicycle helmets and surfboards, to handlebars and even your pet dog, if you feel so inclined. Invest in some of the best video editing software to bring your adventures to life. 

Beyond GoPro and DJI, there are several other genuinely ace action cams worth checking out, especially if you're on a tighter budget. Because let's face it, not everyone can afford the flagship cameras, nor does everyone need all those hi-tech features. Check out our guide to the best budget action cameras if you're after something less pricey (and if you're after a bargain, make sure you bookmark our Amazon Prime Day deals guide).

Whether you're an MTB rider, a surfer, or you want to capture epic views on a mountainous hike, arming yourself with the right action cam can help you film your adventures to view later, capturing footage to share with family and friends. Buy one with a waterproof housing and you can take your action camera in the pool, river or ocean to film your surfing, SUP tour or wild swim. There are also models with a degree of waterproofing as standard.

Since their growth in popularity, the number of these cams to choose from has increased, so finding the best action camera for you seem a little daunting. Luckily, we’ve done all the testing and research to help you make an easy decision.

The most important things to consider are what you want features-wise and what your budget is. If you want to shoot super-smooth footage in 4K and control the camera hands-free (so using voice control), be prepared to spend upwards of £250, depending on what current deals are being offered.

What's the best action camera right now?

We regularly review new contenders for our expert buyer’s guide, and without question, the best action camera right now is the GoPro HERO8 Black. This action cam doubles down on the success of the GoPro HERO7 Black to bring with it HyperSmooth 2.0, easy to access presets for stills and video, and a new system of GoPro accessories called GoPro Mods. This rugged action camera is tough enough to be mounted to a variety of outdoor gear, and has voice control for hands-free filming.

As incredibly as GoPro's new flagship Hero action camera is, you might not want the abundance of features packed into it. And that's fine, as we have some solid GoPro alternatives in our guide. It's also worth noting upfront that all of the GoPro cams are regularly discounted, so there'll be a deal on whichever one is right for you – see our roundup of the best GoPro deals for all the current offers.

Choosing the best action camera for you

There's massive amounts of choice when it comes to buying an action cam, 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. 

Image quality is one of the most important factors when choosing the right one for you, 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. 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 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 cams. Features 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.

The best action cameras right now – ranked

Best action camera: GoPro Hero 8 Black photographed with its folding finger mounts extended

(Image credit: GoPro)

1. GoPro HERO8 Black

This T3 Award-winner is the best action action camera in the world

Specifications
Weight: 124g
Waterproof: 10m (33ft) without a case
4K video: 60fps
2.7K video: 120fps
1080: 240fps
Stills resolution: 12MP
Battery life: approx 1-3 hours, depending on use
Reasons to buy
+HyperSmooth 2.0+TimeWarp 2.0+Frameless design+Folding mounting fingers

GoPro has done it again, creating a sensational action camera in the form of the frameless GoPro HERO8 Black. This newly crowned T3 Award-winner is the HERO7 Black and then some, bringing to the party HyperSmooth 2.0 and TimeWarp 2.0, as well as enhanced functionality. 

There are lots of easy-to-use presets for enhanced levels of action photography, regardless of whether you’re a beginner or are more experienced. And there’s a new system of GoPro accessories for the Hero 8 Black called GoPro Mods. 

The most obvious thing about GoPro’s new camera is that it has a frameless design fitted with two ‘folding fingers’ at the base. These magnetic fingers lie flat when not in use, but pop them out and you can use the camera with a mount.

There’s no integrated front-facing display like you'd find on the DJI Osmo Action further down this best action camera’s buyer’s guide, but the GoPro Max (in at number 4) has one. That isn't to say you can't have a front-facing display on the Hero 8 Black: you can, via a new GoPro accessory called the Display Mod. This essentially adds a front- or rear-facing flip-up display to the action camera. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to buy one until GoPro makes the Mods available for pre-order in December.

As mentioned above, the HERO8 Black builds upon the success of the Hero 7 Black with next-gen HyperSmooth 2.0 video stabilisation. It now improves pitch-axis stabilisation and works across all frame rates and resolutions as standard. That’s super-cool.

The action camera also features four digital lenses, making it simple to select the ideal field of view for whatever you’re shooting – choose from SuperView, Wide, Narrow and Linear. This literally takes the guesswork out of action photography for everyone. The audio has also been improved, with enhanced wind suppression on the front-facing mic. Again, the incoming Media Mod will boost the HERO8 Black’s audio further by delivering shotgun-mic directional audio performance.

There are all-new capture presets too, which GoPro has created so that you can intuitively select the right setting for whatever activity you're filming. A revamped SuperPhoto feature offers up ghost-free HDR action photos, and all-new LiveBurst captures 1.5 seconds of 12MP (4K 4:3) footage before and after the shutter.

Read more: GoPro HERO8 Black review

Best action camera: GoPro Hero7 Black

2. GoPro HERO7 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

The GoPro HERO7 Black scooped the Best Action Camera award at last year's T3 Awards, and is still an absolutely excellent choice. This cam brought a bevy of updates and refinements to the already superb HERO6 – arguably the most important being stabilisation at 4K60 (more on that shortly).

For a long time GoPro remained truly unchallenged in the action cam arena, but now drone king DJI has come along and royally put pay to that free reign. So much so, it's now a very close call between the Hero7 Black and the DJI Osmo Action, with both landing five-star reviews from us – check out our GoPro HERO7 Black vs DJI Osmo Action if you're having trouble choosing between them. 

Whether this GoPro is the best action camera for you comes down to what type of pursuits you regularly film, and whether a camera's looks and feel, as well as live streaming capability and great app functionality, are important to you. If they are, you're in the right place with the Hero7 Black. 

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 positively gargantuan amount of compatible mounts and extras that work with a GoPro action camera.

One of our favourite features is the ability to record video at frame rates all the way up to 60fps, while image stabilisation has been improved and refined to the point where you don't need a gimbal. We also love the TimeWarp video function, plus the accurate face, smile and scene detection. 

There’s a touchscreen on the rear of the HERO7 Black, which has also been improved for smoother gestures, and you can also use your voice to control the action cam. This is handy in situations where you can't physically reach the Hero7 easily, such as when it's mounted to your helmet during climbing or snowboarding, or fixed on the end of your surfboard.

The hugely useable and creative GoPro QuikStories app is on hand to condense all of your buttery smooth videos and unique shots into one shareable nugget, too, ready to delight your social media fans (and your proud mum, of course). 

Read more: GoPro HERO7 Black review

Best action camera: DJI Osmo Action

3. DJI Osmo Action

GoPro's fiercest competition yet, and a solid choice for vloggers too

Specifications
Weight: 124g
Waterproof: 11m
4K video: 60fps
1080: 240fps
720: up to 240fps
Stills resolution: 12MP
Battery life: 63-135 minutes depending on usage
Reasons to buy
+Impressive image stabilisation+Colour front-facing screen+ease of use

Drone royalty DJI has spent the better part of a decade dominating the world of aerial shooters, developing class-leasing image stabilisation tech and intuitive flight control. And now it has poured that know-how into making its first action camera.

The DJI Osmo Action is fractionally bigger and fractionally heavier than the Hero7 Black, but that’s acceptable considering how it’s packing a colour front-facing screen in addition to a 2.25-inch touchscreen at the back. 

Just like the GoPro, the Osmo Action offers a range of control options, including voice activation. There are two built-in microphones, but we’d recommend adding an external microphone to enjoy the best audio quality.

As you’ll see from our full review of the Osmo Action, in terms of spec there’s little separating it from the Hero7 Black. Considering the pretty even match, the DJI is £50 cheaper and offers that front-facing screen, which is ace for vloggers or any pursuit where you want the camera trained on you and need to see how you're framed. 

However, there is no live streaming support on the Osmo Action, so if that’s important to you, choose the Hero7 Black. Similarly, if you want the widest field of view possible, choose the Hero7 Black with its SuperView wide angle mode. The Osmo's Mimo app is also limited compared to the established GoPro companion app, and its range of accessories are dwarfed by the GoPro canyon. That said, the Osmo Action is compatible with some third party mounts.

Ultimately, the Osmo Action is simple to use, produces excellent images and benefits from RockSteady electronic image stabilisation. It should be attractive to vloggers looking for a rugged, reliable and easy setup. Like the GoPro, this DJI will rock out with you in the surf, at the bike park and when skateboarding, so it’s an ideal playmate for extreme sports too.

Read more: DJI Osmo Action review

GoPro Max

(Image credit: GoPro)

4. GoPro Max

The best dedicated 360-degree camera on the market

Specifications
Weight: 154g
Waterproof: 5m without a case
360-degree video: 6K 30fps
4K: N/A
1080: 60fps
Stills resolution: 18MP
Battery life: 1.5–2hrs
Reasons to buy
+Stunning 360-degree video+360 degree photos+Sturdy construction
Reasons to avoid
-Conventional video resolution is lower than rival-Image stitching can look glitchy

Released around the same time as the Hero 8 Black, the GoPro Max shares many design cues with its conventional stablemate and addresses the issues that marred GoPro’s original 360-camera – the Fusion. The Max also boasts some of the Hero 8 Black’s excellent video capture facilities such as HyperSmooth image stabilisation and TimeWarp video sequences, as well as a user interface that operates in the same intuitive manner.

The offset front and rear mounted lenses allow you to easily create stunning 360 visuals via the in-built software that stitches together what each lens is capturing. The only way to see the live, stitched together, 360-degree view though is via the GoPro app on your smartphone – which handily also allows you to operate the camera remotely.

Once you’ve captured your content, downloading to it your phone allows you to use the powerful app to get seriously creative and create kaleidoscopic stills, mesmerising videos with shifting POVs and much more.

The Max’s only weak spot is that it can’t shoot conventional footage in 4K, but despite that, it’s still the best and most feature-rich 360-degree action camera available.

Read more: GoPro Max review

Insta360 One R

(Image credit: Insta360)

5. Insta360 One R

A modular 360-degree camera to rival the GoPro Max

Specifications
Weight: 130g
Waterproof: 5m without a case
360-degree video: 5.7K 30fps
4K: 30fps (4:3)
1080: 200fps
Stills resolution: 12MP
Battery life: 1hr
Reasons to buy
+Clever modular system+360-degree live previews on device+Flippable screen for vlogging+Easy to upgrade or replace modules
Reasons to avoid
-Stitching errors on 360 content

Insta360 has plenty of experience making dedicated 360-degree cameras, but the Insta360 One R is its first venture into the action cam market. The One R’s headline feature is a totally modular system, in which the camera comes as four separate modules: a processor and touchscreen, battery base, wide angle lens and a twin-lens for 360-degree capture.

To start shooting, decide whether you want to record conventional or 360-degree content, select the relevant lens, then clip the modules together. The system works really well and enables you to add additional parts and upgrade or replace as necessary.

The quality of the 360-degree video is excellent and only really falls short of what the GoPro Max can achieve due its more obvious stitching errors. However, the Insta360 One R can record conventional video in 4K, albeit at a 4:3 ratio at 30fps, which trumps the Max’s highest conventional resolution of 1440P at 60fps. If you’re looking for the most versatile action camera system available, the Insta360 One R is for you.

Read more: Insta360 One R review

(Image credit: SJCam)

6. SJCAM SJ8 Pro

Pro video quality on a tighter budget? This is the action cam for you

Specifications
Weight: 85g
Waterproof: 30m (in supplied housing)
4K video: 60fps
1080: 120fps
720: 240fps
Stills resolution: 12MP
Battery life: 90 minutes
Reasons to buy
+Excellent video quality+Large 2.33-inch IPS touchscreen+Includes dashcam ‘car mode’+USB-C charging

If you’re on the hunt for GoPro-matching 4K60fps resolution at a snip of the price of our number one action camera, the SJ8 Pro is a worthy contender. This stealthy cam offers plenty of other resolution options too, including 1080p120 and 720p240 for capturing ace slo-mo shots.

With a clear focus on shooting the best quality video footage possible, the SJ8 Pro’s lens comprises 7 layers of glass for added clarity and reduced distortion, alongside a fixed 2.8mm focal length, f2.8 aperture and 170° field of view. Driving the show is a powerful Ambarella H22 S85 chipset and SONY IMX377 sensor.

An ace up this camera’s sleeve is the 8x digital zoom function, on-hand to capture those extreme action close-ups. To cap it all off, 6-axis image stabilization helps smooth out footage during the bumpiest activities.

Out back is a 2.33-inch IPS Retina touchscreen for crystal clear playback and tweaking settings. The SJCAM Zone app (iOS/Android) is a simple affair, but makes post production and sharing easy – footage transfer takes place over 2.4GHz or zippy 5GHz connections.

It might lack the voice control and native waterproofing of the GoPro Hero7 Black (the SJCAM is waterproof down to 30m once nestled in the supplied case), but the SJ8 Pro is a great little shooter if video quality is the main requirement of your next action camera.

Sony RX0 II review

(Image credit: Sony)

7. Sony RX0 II

A one-inch sensor in a 'tiny tough' camera? Say hey 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+Flip-up screen for vlogging+Very rugged build

The Sony RX0 has long sat in our best action cameras buyer's guide, and now it has been reimagined into the Sony RX0 II, a 'tiny tough' cam with a super-rugged build to help it to withstand knocks, bumps and scrapes during your outdoors adventures and everyday use. 

While Sony's camera features its own take on electronic image stabilisation (EIS), plus some nifty imaging tech, when we tested the RX0 II, we found that overall it's just too fiddly to use for capturing properly spontaneous bursts of action like the other cameras featured above. Why do we say that? It's because you need to get used to surfing through detailed menus using buttons – there's no touchscreen here! – and you'll need a tripod if you want properly smooth footage (which the likes of the GoPro and DJI don't).

However, if you want a super-tough outdoors-friendly compact camera for capturing fantastic stills plus video (if the camera is stabilised by a tripod), the RX0 II can be relied upon due to its monster 1-inch sensor. It also features a 180-degree tiltable 1.5-inch rear screen, which is handy for vlogging as you can see whether you're in frame.

Read more: Sony RX0 II review

Best action camera: GoPro Hero5 Black

8. 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 there are newer and fancier models the GoPro lineup, the GoPro HERO5 Black still features in our best action camera ranking because it offers a decent amount of features for an affordable price. Surfers, stand up paddle boarders and snorkellers 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.

This GoPro 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 more: GoPro HERO5 Black and GoPro Karma Drone review

Best action camera: YI 4K+

9. YI 4K+ Action Camera

A well-rounded action cam 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, here's a good lookalike. The YI 4K+ is 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 HERO6, 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

10. 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

11. 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

The Drift Ghost 4K offers 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

12. 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 Garmin 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

13. 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 Sony FDR-X3000 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. This 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: Nikon KeyMission 360

14. 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 this brand pop up in the action cam game too. There's a trio of KeyMission cameras available, but the Nikon KeyMission 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.