Finding the best action camera for your purposes in a quickly changing market can be a challenge. Luckily, we're here to help. The action camera landscape has completely altered in the space of a few years. Not long ago, every tech brand you can think of had at least three models, but now many have thrown the towel in and vacated the space increasingly dominated by GoPro. At the time of writing, 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, Akaso, Insta360, a handful of others, and a host of unbranded clones, some of which are quite good, some which are absolutely not.
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 difficult to shoot poor video on at all, no matter your skill level. Image stabilisation is quite astonishingly good at times, and quality is right up there with the pros.
We’re going to stick with the best action camera right now being 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 that the cameras down the list aren’t worth a look though, with some offering unbelievable value for money, and others left-field setup and use choices.
You might be getting the picture that GoPro dominates in 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, though, we have a whole separate guide dedicated to the best GoPro alternatives. If price is the deciding factor, you might want to also check out our guide to the best budget action cameras or today's top GoPro deals.
The best action cameras right now – ranked
The GoPro HERO 11 Black was launched in September 2022 as one of a trio of GoPro models, the HERO 11 Black, HERO 11 Black Creator Edition and HERO 11 Black Mini. According to GoPro, the new cameras feature a larger sensor that delivers the highest resolution, highest 10-bit colour depth, highest level of video stabilisation and widest field of view ever featured natively in a HERO camera.
Physically, the GoPro HERO 11 Black is exactly the same size as its predecessor, the excellent GoPro HERO 10 Black (even the batteries are interchangeable). In fact, apart from the new ‘11’ gracing the side of the unit, the two are virtually indistinguishable - more observant users will notice that the GoPro HERO 11 Black’s rear LED appears to be white when off, rather than the darker grey/black of the GoPro HERO 10 Black. It feels the same in the hand, too. The GP2 chip is unchanged from the previous model and the weight, 153 grams, is just a solitary gram lighter than the older model.
The improvements start to become more apparent when you start to use the new camera, where an improved sensor and enhanced battery life are the big gains. The HERO 11 Black has been upgraded with a 1/1.9” sensor, which means the colour palette is considerably boosted - up to 10-bit (providing over 1 billion shades of colour vs. 16.7 million in 8-bit). This very noticeably improves detail in many situations and is arguably the biggest reason to upgrade to the GoPro HERO 11 Black. It opens up a whole new world of “Full-sensor video modes” in 8:7 aspect ratio on top of the usual 16:9 or 9:16, as well as increasing the available photo resolution - now up to 27MP in 8:7. These full-sensor modes include 5.3K30 8:7 video and 4K60 8:7 video too.
There’s also a new iteration of HyperSmooth stabilisation in the GoPro HERO 11 Black (now up to HyperSmooth 5.0, and bragged about as ‘Emmy Award-Winning’). 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 the higher resolutions. With the GoPro HERO 11’s ‘Enduro’ battery you can now get an extra 7 minutes shooting at 5.3K30 (up to 80 minutes for HERO 11 Black vs. 73 minutes for HERO 10 Black), an improvement of nearly 10%, but down in the lower resolutions 1080p60: 89 minutes for HERO 11 Black vs. 80 minutes for HERO 10 Black. This is extra impressive for the fact that it’s been achieved without physically increasing the battery size or capacity. We also note that the Hero 11 is less susceptible to overheating than the 10.
In terms of usability, GoPro have graded the settings on the HERO 11 Black into ‘easy’ (default), and ‘Pro’, (which allows you to unlock presets such as Standard, Activity, Cinematic, Slo-Mo and more, and give you the ability to fine-tune all modes, settings and features). There is also an auto-highlight video setting, which takes a maximum of 75 photos and videos (no limit on length), captured within a 12-hour timeframe and automatically creates a highlights video from them in the cloud.
The GoPro HERO 11 Black is certainly the best action camera currently available, and at a relatively sensible price point (especially when wrapping in the compelling GoPro subscription model), but how much better than the GoPro HERO 11 Black is it? Read our head-to-head comparison here.
The GoPro HERO 10 Black was hands-down the best action camera when it was launched, and it bagged a T3 Award 2022 to prove it, but of course, there is a new kid on the block now in the very similar (identical) shape of the GoPro HERO 11 Black. However, the upgrades featured on the newer model are improvements rather than revolutionary changes, and the HERO 10 remains an excellent choice (especially as you can now find it for a considerably cheaper price).
The HERO 10 was itself an incremental upgrade, and looked very similar to earlier HEROs, but it packs a newer processor that means this GoPro is smoother and slicker, with a quicker boot and faster transfers. As you'd expect, it's feature-packed and ridiculously capable. 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 leveling is now supported up to a massive 45 degree tilt.
On the downside, the battery (which is the same capacity as in the HERO 9 Black) can't struggle to keep up with the rest of the camera. For the full story, you'll need to head to our GoPro HERO 10 Black review. Check out exactly how it compares to the newer model in this toe-to-toe comparison with the GoPro HERO 11 Black, or explore exactly what it offers over the earlier version in our GoPro HERO 9 Black vs GoPro HERO 10 Black showdown.
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. In our Insta360 ONE RS review, our tester was especially impressed with the build and image quality, and found the swap-and-switch setup compelling, effective and fun to fiddle with. See how it compares with the best GoPro has to offer in our GoPro HERO 10 Black vs Insta360 ONE RS faceoff.
It's no longer the newest GoPro on the trails, but the HERO 9 Black, released in September 2020, remains one of the very best action cameras you can buy. This was the first HERO to feature that long-awaited front facing screen, previously only available with the addition of a Mod. That means means for anyone who wants to be able to frame themselves in 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 (check out our GoPro HERO 8 Black vs HERO 9 Black showdown for a direct comparison). 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. Hindsight and Scheduled Capture tools add new opportunities to get creative, and Hypersmooth and Timewarp features – upgraded over the HERO 8 but not quite as good as in the HERO 10 – remain excellent.
In our GoPro HERO 9 Black review, we praised this action cam for being both extremely easy-to-use for beginner, but still astonishingly capable for the pro – an impressive balance.
Insta360 has plenty of experience making dedicated 360-degree cameras, but the Insta360 One R was its first venture into the action cam market. In 2022, it was replaced by the RS (higher up this list), but the modules are pretty much interchangeable between the two options, so you can mix and match between the two. 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, then clip the modules together. In our Insta360 One R review, our tester found that the system worked really well. 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 its more obvious stitching errors. 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 a versatile action camera system, Insta360 is an excellent choice.
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 are more experienced. The HERO 8 Black was also the camera to introduce a new system of excellent GoPro accessories known as the GoPro Mods.
Design-wise, the most obvious thing to change with the GoPro HERO 8 Black is that it was the first HERO to go frameless. Rather than having to add a case when you want to mount it, the camera – and all subsequent GoPros – is fitted with two folding fingers at the base. These 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'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. Head to our GoPro HERO8 Black review for the full low-down.
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.
Despite being the lowest-specced GoPro you can easily get hold of, the GoPro HERO 7 Black is still a very capable action cam. The H7 brought with it stabilisation at 4K60, and while it's not as impressive as newer Hypersmooth versions, it's still good enough that you don't need a gimbal. This rugged action camera is waterproof down to 10 metres on its own, you can expand that to an impressive 30 metres with an optional GoPro waterproof housing. The H7 was the last HERO not to sport that frameless design – no bunny ears here – but it'll still work with the wide range of mounts and extras in the GoPro ecosystem if you add a case first.
The touchscreen is decent, although not as smooth and slick as the newer GoPros. As for the voice control, it's not perfect (in fact, still not in the current flagship), but it does come in handy in situations where you can't physically reach the HERO 7 easily, such as when it's mounted to your helmet during climbing or snowboarding, or fixed on the end of your surfboard.
When it first launched, the HERO 7 Black was locked in a close fight with the then-new DJI OSMO action (replaced in 2021 by the Action 2, further down this list), although in our GoPro HERO 7 Black vs DJI Osmo Action comparison, the GoPro won in the end. Check our GoPro HERO7 Black review for more of what we thought when we tested it out.
The Akaso Brave 8 has a decent spec-list, which we’ll get into in a moment, but was hindered at launch by buggy software. However, there’s a lot of positives to a camera that throws the kitchen sink at nearly every challenge, and does it on a slim budget to boot. With good stabilisation, 16x Slo-mo and impressive resolution – 4K 60fps video and 48M photos – there’s lots to capture the attention. The dual-battery charger is unusually handy and hassle-free to operate, and a final point in favour is the extensive set of mounts that come supplied. These make it easy to attach the Akaso Brave 8 to pretty much anything, straight out of the box; no more urgent Prime deliveries of obscure mounts for the weekend’s fun. Head to our Akaso Brave 8 review to see more of what we thought.
Released around the same time as the Hero 8 Black, the GoPro Max (opens in new tab) 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
The DJI Osmo Action launched around the same time as the HERO 7 Black, and was the first rival to give GoPro a real run for its money. The standout at the time was the inclusion of a colour front-facing screen in addition to the 2.25-inch touchscreen at the back. Indeed, that's still a draw for vloggers and the like, but you'll now also find this feature on the latest GoPros. This model has since been replaced by DJI Action 2 (higher up the the list) but is still fairly easy to get hold of, and remains worthy of inclusion amongst today's best action cameras.
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. In terms of spec, there’s little separating it from the HERO 7 Black, although obviously newer HEROs are more impressive. Other downsides to consider are the lack of live streaming support, and relative limitations when it it comes to mounts and accessories.
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
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 (opens in new tab) 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 voice control and native waterproofing (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.
Want your own camera crew? A seriously impressive 360º camera as adept with creating widescreen action camera-style video as it is wraparound imagery, the Insta360 One X2 is all about 'shoot first, edit later’. The editing suite is comprehensive, permitting everything from third-person perspective video, time-lapses and hyperlapses to freeze-frames, 'smart track’ face recognition and much more besides. Waterproof and with new modes for vlogging and for instant panoramic photos, the pocket-sized camera is processing-intensive, with editing on a phone a battery-hungry exercise, but here’s a 360º camera that will exceed the expectations of anyone trying to do something new and expansive-looking without the need for drones and a camera crew.
Read our full Insta360 One X2 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.