Action cameras are still the best way to get photo & video footage in extreme locations… or just in your backyard!
They’re also great for first-person-view ‘POV’ footage, which makes the viewer feel like they’re part of the action.
GoPro still dominates the action camera market here in 2021, but there are many good GoPro alternatives also available.
5.3K video with double the frame rate, 23 MP photos, enhanced low-light performance, game-changing video stabilization that even works whileive-streaming.
The best action camera needs excellent image stabilization, waterproof housing, slow-motion, 4k video at multiple frame rates and stellar image and video quality.
Some models offer voice control, 5K, touchscreens, GPS, motion sensors, live streaming, 360-degree capture, replaceable lenses and social media connection.
Whether you’re looking for the top model or just a cheap action camera, this guide is all you need.
So, let’s dive into the recommendations.
Best Action Cameras in 2021
GoPro Hero10 Black
- Video shooting in 5.3K
- Best in class video stabilization
- Scheduled capture feature
- 23MP stills in RAW format
- Automatic cloud backups
- Durable & waterproof
- Larger body size
- Mediocre battery life
- More expensive without a GoPro subscription
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: there’s no shortage of excellent GoPro competitors on the market… and yet, the GoPro Hero10 Black takes our number one spot as the best action camera.
Why, you ask?
Firstly, there’s the camera’s undeniable reputation within the action cam market.
The GoPro Hero range is the most well-known for a reason: it’s been around the longest, meaning many iterations of research and development have made it what it is today.
That’s not to say the GoPro Hero is perfect, but the brand has banked up years of valuable experience with action cam technology, plus a great understanding of what its user base wants.
After numerous interactions of GoPro action camera, the Hero10 Black strikes an excellent balance between features, durability and price.
Firstly, you get the superb Hypersmooth image stabilisation 4.0 system for ultra-smooth footage – a feature that, for the first time in GoPro Hero history, works with live video streaming as well.
Horizon-leveling is also spookily good, meaning you’ll have way fewer issues getting straight footage, even after a camera mount mishap!
Then there’s the front-facing colour display for vlogging and selfies and the sturdy body that’s waterproof to 10 meters (33 feet), making it great as an underwater camera too – the hydrophobic coating means less water beading on the lens too.
Video quality is excellent, with 5.3K video at 60 frames per second. At this resolution, you can pull high-quality stills out of your footage when you don’t have the chance to shoot both.
You can even get 120fps at 4K, meaning your slow-motion footage is razor-sharp and also offers the ability to be heavily cropped in post.
Images grabbed from video come out at 19.6 megapixels, in comparison to the camera’s (also excellent) 23.6 megapixel still photography capability. Either way, you can snap some excellent images as well as videos.
If you want to start the camera rolling at times you can’t be there to press the button, engage the scheduled capture feature – perfect for nabbing a timelapse of the sunrise while you’re still snuggled up in bed!
Like the Hero9, the Hero10 features a removable lens cover, meaning you can swap out lens accessories. Add the Media Mod for a directional mic and HDMI port, or the Max Lens Mod to gain an ultrawide view and expand your shooting possibilities.
Add to all of the above some spectacular shooting modes like TimeWarp 3.0, LiveBurst and 8x Slo-Mo, plus wide-ranging compatibility with over 30 mounts and accessories, and the GoPro Hero10 Black proves itself well worthy of being named the best action camera on the market right now.
Insta360 One R Twin Edition
- Interchangeable lenses
- Unique modular design
- 5.7K video quality
- AI-powered subject tracking
- Vlog-friendly reversible screen
- Changing lenses can be fiddly
- Audio quality not great
- Limited to 4K video in wide-angle
Insta360 makes some fantastic action cameras, and the One R Twin Edition is no exception.
What sets it apart is its unique modular design. Transform it from a 360-degree camera to a wide-angle action camera by simply swapping out the interchangeable lenses. It’s a bit like having two cameras in one.
Using the 360-degree module, you can capture stunning Super 5.7K resolution videos that are sharp, vivid and clear.
Video recording drops to 4K at 60fps with the wide-angle lens module – less impressive, though still enough to satisfy the needs of many users.
Insta360’s proprietary FlowState Stabilization is truly excellent at keeping videos silky-smooth, and the horizon leveling on the One R Twin works brilliantly.
We also love the simple yet powerful AI editing that’s available with the Insta360 app.
Other features worth mentioning include an invisible selfie stick, AI-powered subject tracking, real-time playback, HDR photos and videos, and a range of modes like StarLapse, Slow-Mo, TimeShift and NightShot.
One niggle is that switching the modular attachments can be fiddly. If you’re using the waterproof case (which you may need for rougher water conditions), you’ll need to remove it in order to change the camera set-up.
Still, this little action cam has pretty much all the features you’d want, with the versatility of both 360 spherical footage and wide-angle views.
If you’re the type that likes to fiddle around with multiple lenses, the One R Twin could well be the best action camera for you.
DJI Osmo Action
- Super rugged & waterproof
- Great value for money
- Colour displays on both sides
- Voice control works well
- Excellent image stabilization
- No live streaming
- No tripod socket
- No stabilization in HDR mode
If you’re looking for the best action camera on a budget, check out the DJI Osmo Action.
Coming in at under US$200, it’s considerably cheaper than options like the GoPro Hero while still maintaining a high level of quality.
One of the best things about the Osmo Action is its durability. This little camera is ready to accompany you on your most daring adventures.
Capture underwater scenes or climb snowy mountains: the DJI Osmo Action is waterproof to 11 meters (36 feet) and survives in temperatures as low as -10°C (14°F).
The 2.25-inch rear screen is touch-sensitive and has a waterproof, fingerprint-resistant, hydrophobic coating.
There’s a second (1.4-inch) colour display on the front that isn’t touch-sensitive but is great for vlogging and selfies.
Video resolution isn’t the highest but it’s not at all shabby either: you get 4K footage at up to 60fps and 1080p slow motion at up to 240fps.
On top of that, DJI’s RockSteady electronic image stabilization keeps footage smooth, and a series of voice commands means you don’t even have to touch the camera to start and stop recording, change screens, take pictures, or power down.
You can also use your smartphone to operate the camera remotely via the DJI Mimo app (available for Android and iOS).
If you’re looking for an action camera that offers solid build quality and nifty features at an affordable price, do yourself a favour and check this one out.
GoPro Hero8 Black
- Great value
- 4K at 60FPS looks great
- Doesn’t require special housing for mounts
- Great horizon levelling
- Touch LCD
- Side access to battery & card
- Not as rugged as earlier models
- No front-facing live view
- Slow wi-fi video transfer
You might be wondering why we’ve skipped from the Hero10 to the Hero8 in this guide to the best action camera in 2021.
There’s no doubt that the Hero9 is a great action camera, and one that’s worthy to be here, but thanks to its 2 more recent successors, the Hero8 represents the perfect sweet spot in the GoPro lineup.
You can check our handy GoPro comparison chart for the details, but let’s look first at what the Hero8 has to offer.
First, video and photo specs: the Hero8 records up to 4K in 60FPS and can shoot 12MP HDR and RAWs in all modes.
Hypersmooth 2.0 and in-app horizon leveling keeps your footage straight and buttery smooth, and you even get live streaming and a webcam mode for when you’re stuck in lockdown!
The front LCD screen shows your status (as opposed to a live preview like on the Hero9 and 10), and TimeWarp 2.0, Time Lapse and Night Lapse Modes give you plenty of creative shooting options.
For around $300, you’re getting one powerful little action camera with the Hero8 Black – many users don’t even need the Hero9 or 10, and can save hundreds of dollars by going with this older model.
So, what if you do have the budget and can invest another 100-or-so bucks in the Hero 9… what do you get over the 8?
Well, aside from the aforementioned front-facing live view LCD, the Hero9 shoots up to 5K video at 30fps (4K at 60fps), and captures 20MP RAWs too.
The already-amazing Hypersmooth is updated to v3.0 and the battery life is slightly better, but on the flip side, the size of the GoPro9 is marginally bigger than the 8.
If you don’t really have a need to shoot in 5K (most YouTubers definitely don’t!), our money would be with the Hero8, which is why we’re calling it the best budget action camera right now.
Sony RX0 II
- Pocketable size
- Tactile buttons
- 1″ CMOS sensor
- 180° Tiltable LCD Screen
- Zeiss lens for sharp images
- Waterproof, shockproof & crushproof
- Inferior image stabilisation
- Small, cumbersome controls
Sony billed the RX0 II as the world’s smallest 4K video cam, and it’s certainly won a lot of hearts (or should we say pockets?!) with its compact shape and size.
The body of the RX0 II features a nifty flip-up screen that helps with framing the shot or shooting vlog-style videos. This leaves more room for the 1″ CMOS sensor and ZISS lens for great image quality.
One downside is that the screen isn’t a touch-screen. Given the tiny size of the camera’s controls and the fiddly settings menu, touch functionality would make operating the camera easier.
However, some users may prefer having actual physical buttons to press, which are definitely more responsive, especially when using the RX0 II with gloves.
Nonetheless, this little action camera has plenty going for it – like a tough body that can handle dives to 10 metres (33 feet), drops from 2 meters (6.5 feet), and the crushing force of 200kg (440lbs).
Then there’s the 1-inch, 15.3-megapixel sensor which makes for far better low-light performance and dynamic range over that of competitors (bearing in mind that most of the best action cameras have 1/2.3-inch sensors).
The Zeiss Tessar T* 24mm f/4 lens is high quality and produces crisp, clear images. Anyone who’s used a Sony Alpha camera can attest to the quality of Zeiss glass, which has achieved a cult-like status among photographers and videographers.
One thing that limits the RX0 II as an action camera is its image stabilisation, which doesn’t cut the mustard in comparison to other cameras in its class – we recommend mounting it to your chest (as opposed to fixing it to a vehicle, for example), so your body can provide some additional dampening to the footage.
Whether this is the best action camera for you will come down to how bumpy you intend to get with it. As a pocketable device for vlogging or travel, it has plenty to offer, and is arguably the best looking action camera of the bunch.
Insta360 GO 2
- Tiny and inconspicuous
- Excellent image stabilization
- Case works as charger and remote
- Good mounting options
- Short battery life
- No screen
In the realm of tiny action cameras, the Insta360 GO 2 is certainly royalty. This screenless cam is properly thumb-sized and weighs in at just 27 grams (under an ounce)!
For comparison, the GoPro HERO10 Black weighs 153 grams (5.4 ounces).
You can mount the Insta360 Go 2 just about anywhere thanks to its small size and feather-light weight, and it comes packaged with three versatile mounting options.
There’s a clip mount, a pivot stand, and a magnetic pendant that cleverly allows you to hang the camera around your neck so it stays put on any clothing.
This action camera also comes with a protective case that acts as a mini-tripod and remote control as well as a battery charger, which functions much like Apple Airpods – a convenient and efficient solution for charging on the go.
On the flip side, battery life is rather dismal, at roughly 150 minutes – double the capacity of the Go 1, but nowhere near as long as the best action camera models available today.
Video quality on the Insta360 Go 2 is commendable given the size of the device. While you won’t get 4K video, you get 1440p plus the benefit of Insta360’s impressive FlowState image stabilization technology.
The Go 2 is fairly rugged and is waterproof to 4 meters (13 feet). Do note that the charging case isn’t waterproof at all, so you’ll have to leave that one on dry land.
Other features include a horizon lock, timelapse and hyperlapse modes, slow motion at 120fps, and easy AI-powered editing using the paired mobile app.
If you prefer a small and versatile device that you can mount in any nook or cranny or even used as a hidden spy camera with live-streaming, this is one to beat.
Oclu Action Camera
- Amazing value for money
- Sleek, low-profile design
- LiveCut feature for editing on the fly
- Easy to mount
- Interchangeable batteries
- Magnetic charging
- Glitchy mobile app
- No 4K image stabilisation
- Mediocre battery life
The Oclu Action Camera is a small, adventure-ready device that makes for a great budget alternative to the GoPro Hero.
In fact, you can grab it right now for under US$200! That’s a pretty great deal, considering all it offers.
Spec-wise, you get 12MP still images and 4K video (maximum frame rate of 30p). Using the action cam’s full HD video mode, you can shoot super-slow-mo at 120fps.
You also get a bunch of shooting modes like timelapse, burst mode, loop recording, and a motion-sensor mode. The latter is great for when you only want the camera to start rolling when the action happens.
The OCLU has a unique feature called LiveCut that allows you to remove unwanted footage on the fly. It’s a great way to save memory card space and come home with only the parts of the action you know are worth keeping.
Two gripes with the OCLU Action Camera: the battery life runs down quickly when using particular functions, and the image stabilisation is only available at 1080p (in other words, 4K video isn’t stabilised).
On the plus side, image quality is clear and bright with vibrant colours, and the size and shape of the camera makes it easy to mount and less likely to be knocked out of place.
There’s also a useful magnetic battery charging function, although we couldn’t get the file transfer to work via the magnetic cable and had to use an SD card reader instead.
The OCLU Action Camera has an IPX7 standard waterproof rating (1 meter for 30 mins). Add the OcShell waterproof case (sold separately for approx. US$39.99), and you can take it to depths of 50 meters (164 feet).
All in all, if you’re looking for a great action camera for an affordable price, the OCLU is a great pick.
Akaso Brave 4
- 4K video & 20MP images
- Adjustable view angle
- 19-piece accessory kit included
- Inferior stabilisation
- Poor audio quality
Looking for the best budget action camera under $100? Say hello to the Akaso Brave 4.
The form factor is clearly derived from the GoPro Hero range, with a boxy design and two screens (rear IPS screen and a small front-facing screen which shows recording stats and battery life).
The camera has a 20MP sensor, with 4K video resolution and a built-in gyroscope – pretty crazy for under 100 bucks!
However, while the image stabilisation and gyroscope do smooth out camera shake somewhat, they’re definitely not up to the level of more expensive alternatives.
Still, image quality is good for what you pay, and you can definitely have plenty of fun with this affordable device.
The Brave 2 comes with a number of modes including Video, Photo, Burst, Time-lapse, Loop, and Underwater.
Another neat feature is that the view angle of the camera is adjustable, with 170°, 140°, 110°, and 70° views to choose from.
The Akaso Brave 2 comes with a wrist strap that acts as a wireless remote. While the strap isn’t waterproof, it does make it super easy to start and stop recording from afar.
The camera isn’t waterproof either, but with the included waterproof housing you can go diving up to 30 meters (100 feet).
The Akaso Brave comes with a bounty of accessories, including two rechargeable batteries that give you a commendable battery life (you can shoot an hour of 4K video).
Overall, the video and sound quality of the Brave 4 won’t rival those of the best action cameras from brands like GoPro, but it’s a fun, entry-level product for an extremely affordable price.
Dragon Touch 4K
- Ridiculously cheap
- 4K video
- Wireless remote controller
- Waterproof housing included
- Good battery life
- No image stabilization
- Not Mac compatible
On a really tight budget? How about an action cam that costs less than US$70?!
Sure, it’s never going to perform as well as the others on our list of best action cameras, but that’s a compromise you make for the ultra-low price.
Still, you get 4K video (limited to 30fps) and 16MP stills. One thing you don’t get is image stabilisation.
Like other action cameras, the Dragon Touch 4K has multiple modes – driving mode, image rotation, time-lapse, loop recording, and slow-motion among them.
The Dragon Touch 4K comes with a waterproof housing (rated for 30 meters/100 feet), a wrist strap-style wireless remote controller (not waterproof), and a bunch of mounts, clips, tethers and other accessories – amazing for under $70!
The camera body features a 2-inch LCD display on the back but no front screen – you might remember that it wasn’t long ago that no action camera models featured a front-facing screen!
Battery life is good, with two rechargeable batteries that last up to 90 minutes each. Use them together for a combined 180 minutes of run time.
Bottom line: This action camera won’t nab you the smoothest footage, but if you’re looking for a fun camera at a bargain price, it’s worth a look!
Olympus Tough TG-6
- Extremely tough build
- Superior underwater performance
- Fantastic macro capabilities
- Image stabilisation
- Advanced features
- Not as small as other action cams
- Unintuitive menu system
We tend to think that the best action cameras have to be the smallest, but that really depends on how you intend to use them.
The Olympus Tough TG-6 is comparatively large – it’ll fit in your palm much like a small point-and-shoot. If that’s not a dealbreaker, read on: it has plenty to offer.
First and foremost, it really is built tough. It’s waterproof to 15 meters (50 feet), freezeproof down to -10C (14F), shockproof from drops of 2.1 meters (7 feet), and crushproof to 100kg (220lbs).
It’s also arguably the best action camera for shooting underwater, due to its larger maximum lens aperture.
Beyond being waterproof, it performs well in low light thanks to that f/2 lens, shoots in RAW, and has superior white balance and colour management.
(It’s a dedicated camera, after all – not an action camera that’s trying to be as small as possible, sacrificing some image quality in favour of tiny dimensions.)
You can also finely control saturation, contrast, sharpness and noise reduction in-camera, which makes a huge difference in the quality of your shots.
Considering that you get 4K video, built-in image stabilisation, and exceptional build quality, the TG-6 is worthy of being considered one of the best action cameras.
How do I Choose an Action Camera?
Really, the best action camera is the one that’s best for you. So what do you look for, and how do you determine which action cam suits your needs?
Here are some things to consider:
1. Video quality
Resolution and frame rate are two of the terms you’ll hear the most when on the hunt for an action cam. Not surprising given you want to get clear, usable footage from your investment!
Video quality keeps improving: 4K video is about the minimum you can expect from an action camera in 2021.
As for whether you need more than that, it depends. If your concern is getting pro-grade footage or buying the best possible specs so your action cam keeps you going for years without an upgrade, look for 5K video quality and above.
Otherwise, 4K video will serve you well.
Frame rates vary across cameras depending on which resolution you choose to shoot at, but as a general rule, 30fps is a good minimum to aim for.
Higher frame rates will allow you to slow down your footage, which can be handy for shooting fast-paced action.
Action cameras are made to be tossed about, dropped and dragged through the mud. That said, not all are created equal when it comes to durability.
With that in mind, look for one that matches your needs and interests.
Want to take it scuba diving? Check the waterproof rating.
Want to mount it to your helmet while you go cross-country skiing? Check what temperatures it can withstand, etc.
3. Form Factor
How and where do you intend to mount your action cam?
Action cameras come in all shapes and sizes. Boxier, bulkier action cams work well with helmet or chest mounts; bullet or oblong-shaped ones can fit well on handlebars, seats and a range of unconventional places.
When deciding where to mount it, think about the story you want to tell and the perspective you want to give the viewer.
Also bear in mind that the smallest action cams have to sacrifice something to achieve their tiny size. That sacrifice may be on battery life, front and/or rear displays, or something else.
It’s up to you to decide what matters to you most.
4. Battery Life
Even the best action cameras are nothing impressive when it comes to battery life. That’s simply a result of the size and type of camera we’re dealing with here.
Still, some action cams give you more juice to run off than others.
If you know you’ll be travelling or doing activities where you won’t have the opportunity to recharge, consider checking battery life before buying – or at least finding out whether you can purchase spare battery packs.
5. Extra Features
Which action camera features are non-negotiable in your eyes?
Maybe you want the best video stabilization possible so you can get smooth footage of your adrenaline-fuelled adventures.
Or maybe you want a camera with exceptional time-lapse capabilities, superb image quality for stills, above-average audio quality, or a front-facing screen so you can vlog to your heart’s content.
There are so many different features available in action cams nowadays.
Our advice? Write a list of the ones that appeal most to you and use it to quickly and easily filter through the options.
Frequently Asked Questions about Action Cameras
Which action camera is best for beginners?
Any action camera with an Auto setting will suit beginners, but if budget is a consideration, the GoPro Hero8 Black represents the perfect sweet spot in terms of bang for your buck,
Are action cameras worth it?
For shooting fast-paced action and adventure sports or capturing first-person ‘POV’ footage, action cameras are definitely worth it. Their size, durability, mounting options and feature set make them especially suited to these uses and they’ll far outperform a smartphone.
What are action cameras good for?
Action cameras are perfect for capturing immersive action shots, hence why they’re popularly used for action sports. Beyond that, they’re also great for vlogging, creating travel videos, as dash cams, or even for mounting to pets or taking fun family footage with the kids.
With so many action cams on the market, it can be difficult to choose the best action camera for you. Hopefully, this guide helped you narrow it down!
If you have any questions, leave them below and we’ll do our best to help you out. Also, feel free to share your own recommendations and experiences!
5.3K video with double the frame rate, 23 MP photos, enhanced low-light performance, game-changing video stabilization that even works whileive-streaming.
Disclaimer: All recommendations are impartial and based on user experience, with no bias to the products or the brand. The products in this post may contain affiliate links.