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, Akaso 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 our guide to the best budget action cameras or today's top GoPro deals.
Best action cameras to buy right now
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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 users the ability to capture Matrix-like 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.
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 and reframe these videos to keep yourself centred.
Read our full Insta360 X3 review.
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. Some serious gains have been achieved in terms of battery life, 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 HERO 10 packs a newer processor, which means this GoPro is smoother and slicker than the one it replaces, with quicker boot times and faster transfers. Frame rates are doubled over the HERO 9 Black at higher resolutions, video tops out at a massive 5.3K, 60FPS, 4K at a blistering 120FPS, and 2.7K/240p, and stills have been boosted to up to 23MP.
Vloggers will appreciate the inclusion of a front-facing live preview screen, introduced with the HERO 9 Black but here smoother and more responsive. It's equally as robust as the other HEROs, but GoPro has here added a hydrophobic, more scratch-resistant lens that watersports fans, in particular, will benefit from. Tweaks and improvements across the board mean features like HyperSmooth and TimeWarp are even better on the H10 than in its HERO siblings, and horizon levelling is now supported up to a massive 45-degree tilt.
Read our full GoPro HERO 10 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.
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.
Insta360 has plenty of experience making dedicated 360-degree cameras, but the Insta360 One R was its first venture into the action cam market. It was replaced by the RS (see above), but the modules are pretty much interchangeable between the two options, so you can mix and match the two.
We were impressed with the excellent quality of the 360-degree video and found it only really falls short of what the GoPro Max can achieve due to its more obvious stitching errors.
The ONE R has a more basic Core processor and battery base than the RS, but the 360 lens and wide angle lens are the same across the two models. To start shooting, decide whether you want to record conventional or 360-degree content, select the relevant lens, and then clip the modules together.
Read our full Insta360 One R review.
It's now been succeeded twice, but the frameless GoPro HERO 8 Black is still an exceptional action camera and perhaps the model that delivers the best value for money... assuming you don't need that front-facing screen. As is the trend with GoPros, this camera improves on almost all the features of its predecessor (the flip side being that almost everything is improved on again in the HERO 9 and 10). There are lots of easy-to-use presets for enhanced levels of action photography, regardless of whether you’re a beginner or more experienced.
There's no integrated front-facing display like you'll find on newer HEROs, but that isn't to say you can't have a front-facing display on the Hero 8 Black: you can, via the 'Display Mod'. This essentially adds a front- or rear-facing flip-up display to the action camera. HyperSmooth 2.0 video stabilisation improves pitch-axis stabilisation and works across all frame rates and resolutions as standard, although you'll need to go for a newer model if you want horizon levelling baked-in. New-to-this-model capture presets enable you to 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 our full GoPro HERO8 Black review.
DJI is better known for being the maker of most of today's best drones. While it can't quite translate that same magic into its latest action camera, the DJI Action 2 is still well worth a look. This is the long-awaited successor to the DJI Osmo Action (further down the list), but it doesn't bear too much of a resemblance. DJI has taken a novel approach and split its camera into modules. The main camera unit is neat and compact, and accessory units – including an extra battery and a front-facing screen – can be snapped on magnetically as required, to extend the camera's capabilities. The main camera unit is water resistant to 10m, as well as being dust- and drop-proof. Head to our DJI Action 2 review to find out more, or see how it matches up against our top pick in our DJI Action 2 vs HERO 10 Black comparison.
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. Find out everything you need to know in our Apeman Seeker R1 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.