The best action cameras on the market stand out from competitors with features like easy hands-off control, portability, and versatility for use in any weather.
But before all else, an action camera must be able to capture moments without blur or lag. Plus, recorded footage must be crystal clear at a high resolution.
Also: The best movies and shows to stream right now
Action cameras differ from standard compacts or DSLRs because they focus on live-action capture rather than stills for portraiture or street photography. If you're on the hunt for an action camera, consider what activities you'll be using the camera for, like hiking, biking, swimming, and extreme sports. Plus, decide whether or not you'll want a video feature.
While GoPro remains a force to be reckoned with in the action camera space, rivals worth their salt have joined the market over the past few years. Here are ZDNET's recommendations for the best live action cameras in 2022.
- Upgraded image sensor
- Robust image stabilization
- Expensive outside of sales events
- 27-megapixel capture
- 5.3K(60fps) + 2.7K(240fps) video
- HyperSmooth 5.0 video
- Waterproof to 33ft
The GoPro remains one of the best action cameras. They aren't cheap, but in this case, you get the high-quality service you pay for.
The GoPro HERO11 is the vendor's flagship device, and the latest iteration has improving image quality and smooth transitions. Plus, it comes complete with a large 27-megapixel sensor, Hypersmooth technology, and a rugged chassis for use while swimming, biking, and more.
You can pick up a GoPro HERO11 Black with a discount at $399, if you subscribe to the yearly GoPro service. Alternatively, if you're willing to wait, GoPro is releasing the HERO11 Black Mini on October 25.
Read the review: GoPro Hero 11 Black first look: The world's best action camera gets even better
- Excellent viewfinder
- Versatile accessories
- Video capture could be improved
- Sleek, modern design
- 360-degree field of view
- 5.7K capture (24fps) / 4K (30fps)
- AI tools
Insta360 is a relatively new entrant to the action camera market, but it's popular. The Insta360 X3 camera, which ZDNET considers a "joy to use," has a sleek form factor and a 360-degree field of view for capturing footage up to 5.7K via two 48mp image sensors (F1.9).
This device combines user-friendliness with great video capture and effects. The downside, however, is that Insta360 falls short when it comes to storage and transfers.
Read the review: Insta360's X3 360-degree action cam will blow you away
- Excellent battery life
- Image stabilization isn't quite on the same level as GoPro
- 4K video capture (120fps)
- Waterproof to 16m
- Cold resistant
- Dual touchscreens
While DJI has been associated with drones and aerial shoots in the past, the vendor has branched out into action shoots on the ground -- and the Osmo Action 3 is a prime example.
This device is able to capture video in 4K at an impressive 120 frames per second and includes HorizonSteady technology, which automatically balances footage while you move. That means your footage stays steady whether you're busy rafting, biking, skiing, or otherwise.
The quick-release design also allows users to quickly switch between horizontal or vertical capture.
While image stabilization has improved in the Action line, users report that there is still room for improvement. Keep in mind, you will need to buy your own SD card for storage.
- Excellent image stabilization
- 45-degree image tilt
- Strong live streaming capabilities
- Poor battery life
- Some users report poor results in low-light situations
- 5.3K(60fps) + 4K(120fps) video resolution
- 23-megapixel photo capture
- Hypersmooth 4.0 image stabilization
- Waterproof up to 33ft
The GoPro HERO10 Black is an excellent option for action camera enthusiasts who want their device to tick every box. This camera sports excellent video resolution, strong still image capability, and a host of fun action features, including slow motion mode. This GoPro is also compatible with a variety of accessories and mods.
Considering the slightly lower price point compared to the HERO11 Black, we recommend the HERO10 Black if you want to try the GoPro without splurging on the most expensive option.
The GoPro HERO10 Black is $50 cheaper than the HERO11 Black, and while older, still remains an excellent action camera for your adventures. You can also save $150 if you sign up for a GoPro subscription.
Read the review: GoPro Hero10 Black hands-on: A true jack of all trades
- Rugged chassis
- More options for still photography than typical action cameras
- Bulky design
- Fewer features than dedicated action cams
- Waterproof to the depth of 15m
- 4X optical zoom f/2 lens
- Five underwater shooting modes
- 4K & HD video
- 12MP BSI CMOS sensor, up to ISO 12800
- TruePic VIII image processor
The Olympus Tough TG-6 is a hybrid option for those who want a point-and-shoot that can handle rough environments.
This compact camera is protected against water, dust, and scratches. It truly shines in underwater photography and video capture, sporting five different shooting modes that function in low-light conditions.
Also: Looking for a cheap digital camera? These are all priced under $450
ZDNET ranks the GoPro HERO11 Black as the best action camera currently on the market, due to its versatility. You can use this action camera to capture live events, sports, vlogs, and more. Plus, if you sign up for the subscription, it makes on-the-go uploads and editing a breeze.
If you're interested in premium features, you may want to opt for a camera with a subscription option. These services often provide cloud uploads, advanced editing, storage, and more. However, we've also selected action cameras suitable for entry-level photographers and enthusiasts, who may not need advanced features to enjoy a new action camera.
Best action camera
Premium or entry-level friendly?
GoPro HERO11 Black
Osmo Action 3
GoPro HERO10 Black
Olympus Tough TG-6
The best action camera for you depends on how you want to use it. If you plan to focus on slow-motion videos and stills, for example, Olympus may be the best fit for you. If you plan to record underwater swimming, consider the Osmo Action 3 -- it may be your best bet. If you enjoy extreme sports, a GoPro is usually the way to go.
Choose this camera action…
GoPro HERO11 Black
Are a professional user
Want a sleek, multi-function action camera
Osmo Action 3
Are a beginner and want an entry-level camera
GoPro HERO10 Black
Want a slightly cheaper entry into GoPro cameras
Olympus Tough TG-6
Want a point-and-shoot with action features
Brands including GoPro and DJI have established their reputations over many years, but newer entrants like Insta360 have also captured the interest of consumers. When selecting our top picks, ZDNET focused on user experience, price point, video capture quality, and durability as important factors to keep in mind.
Today, we are surrounded by a massive variety of cameras. Our smartphone cameras improve every year, while DSLRs are becoming smaller and more portable. Plus, mirrorless cameras are taking the market by storm.
However, if video capture in fast-moving situations is what you are most interested in, your mobile device or mirrorless will only go so far. Action cameras are built for just that: high-speed, gritty footage of action in motion -- and this is rarely a priority for other types of camera.
While GoPro still dominates the market, vendors including Insta360 and DJI can design and deliver excellent action cameras.
Each rival has its own take on what an action camera should look like. They prioritize different features like video capture, underwater use, and editing. It's up to you to decide what appeals the most.
4K, also known as Ultra High Definition (UHD), is a step beyond 1080p (HD) video. You'll find 1080p in many older digital cameras and DSLRs.
4K resolution packs far more information into footage, which increases content quality, sharpness, and color accuracy.
The best action cameras today offer 4K recording, although some cheaper and more budget-friendly entry models will only be able to record in 1080p.
With so many vendors now developing cameras designed for extreme sports and activities, there are more options than ever before. We can't showcase every worthy camera available, but the alternative options below are also worth considering for your next adventure.