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Three-in-one 16.6-megapixel camera takes crisp photos, records 5.6K video, and captures 360-degree footage. Video is very smooth. Camera includes Bluetooth and Wi-Fi for 1080P livestreaming. Six mics record 360-degree audio. Camera is waterproof.
Expensive and perhaps a bit too much for hobbyists. Some have found the settings difficult to use.
Offers decent resolution for a very attainable price. It's easy to operate with the wireless wrist remote. Viewing angle is a wide 170 degrees. Camera is waterproof up to 98 feet. Comes with 2 rechargeable 1050mAh batteries.
Battery life could be better. "4K" picture is actually interpolated 1080P, so it's not quite as crisp as true 4K.
The 12-megapixel digital camera records 4K video with a 145-degree viewing angle. Features displays on the front and back for ease of use. Waterproof to 36 feet. Able to record in 8x slow motion. Durable casing. Video remains stable under heavy action.
No GPS or HDMI port. Display tends to lag when image stabilization is turned on.
A small unit with a ton of features. Includes 4K action camera and 360-degree camera capabilities. Easy to set up and swap lenses. AI-powered stabilization smooths out rough video. IPX8 waterproof. Shot Lab app allows you to quickly edit footage.
Expensive. Editing app requires latest smartphone.
Shoots 4K video up to 60FPS with additional time-lapse, slow-mo, and 16-megapixel still shot capabilities. Wireless wrist control allows you to take pictures and video without sacrificing safety or concentration. Waterproof up to 30 meters for rafting trips and diving adventures. Great for outdoor shoots.
Video quality is nice, but at the lower end of quality compared to more expensive action cameras. Also not Mac compatible.
We recommend these products based on an intensive research process that's designed to cut through the noise and find the top products in this space. Guided by experts, we spend hours looking into the factors that matter, to bring you these selections.
Whether you attach an action camera to a drone to capture a scenic view or clip it to your helmet as you cycle through rush hour, the obscure and fantastic footage caught on action cameras today is must-see viewing.
As early as the 1960s, photography enthusiasts who wanted to take their hobby to the next level began attaching cameras to helmets. That was the beginning of a change in the camera industry that eventually lead to tiny cameras that could produce quality videos in the most rugged of conditions. Today, action cameras are popular among those who want to record moving images as if they were in the action themselves.
The product list above details our five favorites, and the shopping guide below covers answers to consumer questions and tips for making your shopping decision easier.
So focus your lens, zip up your jacket, and head out into the elements with us as we explore the best products in the action camera field.
If you’ve ever shopped for a regular camera, you know there are certain features you just have to have … and some you can do without. An action camera is no different. Depending on how and where you plan to use your action camera, certain features will come in handy.
Because you want your footage to be lifelike, image quality makes all the difference. Most action cameras have at least HD, which produces images of 1080p. The photos and video that you take with an HD action camera will have the crisp, share-worthy quality so many photographers crave. Ultra HD and 4K produce sharper images that are even more vibrant. Thanks to these higher resolutions, there is very little pixel graininess in these images.
Megapixels (mp) are also worth considering when it comes to image quality. Eight mp is fairly standard for cameras and smartphones, so it’s a good idea to use that as a guide when choosing an action camera. An action camera with lower than eight mp may look grainy compared to what you’re used to with your smartphone or digital camera.
Whether you are zooming through the woods on your mountain bike or scuba diving in the ocean, you want action photos and videos that are smooth and free of blur. That’s where stabilization comes into play. Action cameras have both built-in stability control and the stability they get from being fixed to the moving object. Higher-end models have enhanced stabilization that makes shooting images in motion easy to do.
If you’re headed outdoors to catch the action, you’ll want to think about the build quality of your action camera. Budget models are typically less durable, while higher-end options have exteriors that are designed to withstand the bumps and drops that inevitably occur in action-packed situations.
Most action cameras have some degree of waterproofing. While many models can be submerged once placed in special waterproof covers, others are submersible to around 10 meters (about 33 feet) without a special case. The latter type of action camera tends to cost more, but it’s worth it for avid snorkelers, swimmers, and divers who have a flair for photography.
Though action cameras have varying degrees of built-in storage, SD cards are required for added space. Choosing a camera with more GBs of storage space will grant you longer recording time and fewer SD card changes. Notably, the higher the HD resolution, the more storage space your images will require.
Not all action cameras have both Bluetooth and WiFi connectivity, but these features come in handy when sharing, saving, and emailing your favorite images. They’re must-haves for live streaming that make it easy to share your videos and photos without the need for an SD card or reader.
It’s common for action cameras to come with some of the basics, such as adapters and rechargeable batteries. Some models come with accessory packages or can be purchased in bundles. These added accessories may include various attachment brackets, SD cards, headstraps, cases, and more.
Whether you’re a beginner looking for an easy-to-use action camera or a near-pro who wants a more sophisticated camera, there’s something for everyone on the action camera market.
Action cameras that fall on the lower end of the price scale – between $75 and $150 – are affordable and easy to use, but they tend to lack some handy features, such as high-resolution imagery and WiFi connectivity. They are also somewhat less durable than higher-priced options. However, you can still find affordable waterproof options.
In the mid-level price range, you’ll find action cameras that cost between $200 and $350. These are more durable than their low-cost competitors and offer more features, including sharper video quality and reliable waterproofing. Hobbyists with slightly more photography knowledge than beginners would do well with a mid-priced action camera.
High-end action cameras in the $400 to $700 range are ideal for frequent users, those who wish to capture extreme motion, and even professionals. They typically feature ultra HD images, superior stabilization, reliable Bluetooth and/or WiFi capabilities, spacious storage capacity, and rugged build quality.
Q. Why would I need an action camera if I already have a smartphone camera?
A. If you want a hardy device that can record “action” without breaking easily, an action camera should be on your shopping list. A smartphone camera simply can’t withstand the rigorous environments (high speeds, extreme weather, and so on) that an action camera is designed to handle.
Q. Can I edit my footage while in the device?
A. Possibly. It depends on the software that comes with each camera and whether it needs to be connected to a computer or not.
Q. What happens if I record more footage than the device can hold?
A. Usually the device will stop recording and give you some kind of indication that the memory card is full. Always begin a recording session with an empty card.