If you’re looking for the best action camera, then you’ve come to the right place. Action cameras are unlike any other kind of camera. They’re designed to be attached to helmets, surfboards, cars and other objects, and they’re small, tough and simple to operate, with a lens that captures the world in high-definition video.
Their small size and dramatic POV (‘point of view’) footage has made them popular with extreme sports participants, who capture their adventures by attaching cameras to themselves or their equipment. They’re also used by TV production companies where using a regular video camera would be impossible.
You don’t have to be an adrenaline-junkie or filming your own TV show. Action cameras are also great fun for the family, especially on days out or vacations when you simply want to hit record and document you time together.
Who makes the best action camera though? GoPro is without question the market leader – in fact, they invented this whole action camera genre. They’re not alone though, with a number of new rivals out there to tempt you.
When it comes to key features on action cameras, most now shoot 4K footage, though some do these better than others, offering faster frame rates for buttery-smooth footage, while the very best action cameras have slick image stabilization systems to make the most of this.
While action cameras are principally for shooting video, the best action cameras also shoot pretty decent still images as well, though don’t expect anything better than a point-and-shoot compact camera.
Other features to consider when looking for the best action camera include Wi-Fi, GPS and touchscreen control. These all bump up the price, and while they are invaluable in some situations, you can still get great footage without them.
Before we look at our top picks of the best action cameras you can buy right now, GoPro has just announced three new action cameras.
The top of the range GoPro Hero7 Black replaces Hero6 Black and is our best action camera pick right now. We’d even recommend you now avoid the Hero6 Black. Don’t get us wrong, it’s not a bad action camera at all, it’s very good, but with the price of the older model only a little less than the Hero7 Black, you’re better off spending your money on the newer model.
While it may share pretty much of the same headline video specs as the Hero6 Black that it replaces, the Hero7 Black offers a number of big improvements. The most significant of this is the addition of GoPro’s all-new HyperSmooth image stabilization technology. It really is very impress, delivering gimbal-smooth video footage. TimeWarp video is a further new feature, one that combines the idea of regular frame-by-frame time-lapse shooting (which you can still do separately) with HyperSmooth – essentially, a stabilised hyperlapse, while the user interface has been overhauled for a much better user experience. Delivering buttery-smooth 4K video footage the Hero7 Black is the best action camera you can buy.
Read our in-depth GoPro Hero7 Black review
It may have been overshadowed by the new Hero6 Black, but the Hero5 Black still has a lot to offer. Shooting 4K footage up to 30fps, video footage is incredibly smooth, while the ability to shoot stills in raw format brings even more flexibility. Waterproof down to 10m without the need for a protective case, it’s also simple to use, while the addition of a rear touchscreen, voice control and GPS make it one of the most feature-packed cams currently available.
Read our in-depth GoPro Hero5 Black review
Bullet shape cams might have fallen out of fashion recently thanks to GoPro and its box-shaped cameras, but the TomTom Bandit bucks the trend. In fact, the Bandit packs features that other manufacturers will need to follow if they’re to keep up with this newcomer. Taking years of GPS experience, TomTom has built in a series of sensors that not only record location but speed and G-force too, so that when these sensors pick up that something exciting has happened they automatically tag the footage. Back in the pub and with the app open and connected, a quick shake of your phone and the app will automatically edit your footage ready for upload. It really couldn’t be easier.
Read the full review: TomTom Bandit
The TG-Tracker’s futuristic design is hard to miss with an ultra wide 204 degree lens fronting a 1/2.3-inch CMOS sensor. Headline video resolutions include 4k at 30fps, 1080p at 60fps and an impressive 240fps at 720p for slow motion capture. This is an action camera ready for anything and even features a small LED video light built in. Sensors are the big news for the Tracker with GPS, compass, acceleration sensors plus a barometer and thermometer all capturing data from inside the compact case. The intel from these can all be displayed when viewing back the footage or in the video edit so you can show just how extreme you are. What’s more, it’s waterproof to 30m, features built in stabilization and can withstand temperatures down to -10C.
Read the full review: Olympus TG-Tracker
How often do you take an action cam underwater? Most people never will, so in some regard the YI 4K ActionCam is about cutting corners, but what it leaves out – GPS, voice control, auto-upload, and raw shooting – are hardly core features. In fact, it gives as much as it takes, with a large and responsive touchscreen, a big battery and a fast file transfers. It may lack a few niceties – and we would include lens distortion correction and image stabilisation in that list – but the YI 4K Action Cam remains a great value addition to any adventurer’s kit bag.
Read the full review: YI 4K Action Camera
All action cameras are now promising 4K at 30fps, but Sony’s effort is about a lot more than just resolution and frame rate. The diminutive FDR-X3000R’s biggest claim is Balanced Optical SteadyShot (B.O.SS) image stabilization, which works across all resolutions and recording modes. It also includes an underwater housing – a rarity in the action camera market – and comes with a wearable, mountable live view remote, a smartwatch-sized contraption that allows the FDR-X3000R to be operated from afar, and its images previewed in real time.
Read the full review: Sony FDR-X3000R
The original Garmin Virb introduced motion sensors and GPS tracking to action cameras, adding an extra element to capturing the action, like the TomTom Bandit. Building on the solid foundation of the original Virb, Garmin has revisited the design, losing the bullet shape and remodeling the camera around the popular ‘box’ style. This new shape makes chest mounting far easier and, as with the original, the build quality is excellent. The XE offers increased video quality, it’s waterproof without an additional case, features Wi-Fi along with compatible app and software, this all makes the Virb XE one of the best action cameras at present.
Read the full review: Garmin Virb XE
The Hero5 Session follows on from the Hero4 Session, stripping back the action camera concept to its basics, but sharing many of the same specs as the Hero5 Black. That includes 4K video capture up to 30fps, image stabilisation, voice control and is waterproof down to 10m. The large Record button on the top starts and stops recording so there’s no worrying about different modes and options – that’s all handled by the app (though it does have a simple menu system if you wish). Back to basics, but still captures the quality of video that you’d expect from GoPro.
Read the full review: GoPro Hero5 Session
The SJCAM SJ7 delivers some good-looking footage, especially when shooting in 4K. However, this budget GoPro Hero5 rival doesn’t boast the sort of professional features offered by the biggest name in the action camera game, such as voice activation, GPS and the ability to make quick and easy video clips via a smartphone app. If you want a action camera that delivers strong footage at a fraction of the price though, then the SJCAM SJ7 Star is worth a look.
Read our in-depth SJCAM SJ7 Star review
Though not technically a action camera, DJI’s new Osmo Pocket is still going after the same audience. While it’s not as rugged as dedicated action camera rivals, the Osmo Pocket has a clever trick up its sleeve in the shape of a built-in gimbal. Gimbals as designed to counteract unwanted movement and help you shoot super-smooth videos – while GoPro’s Hero7 Black has some clever image stabilization tricks, there’s no substitute for dedicated hardware. The Osmo Pocket features three-axis stabilized gimbal and measures just four inches tall. The 1/2.3-inch sensor is capable of recording 12MP still images and 4K video footage up to 60fps, while there are built-in dual microphones that use advanced noise-canceling algorithms, which DJI says should ensure that you capture high-quality audio to match your footage.
Read our full DJI Osmo Pocket review here