Capture the action in any environment with our pick of the best action cameras on the market today
The best action cameras are the ideal gadget for documenting the interesting, exciting or downright extreme. Whether you’re going skiing, snorkelling, cycling, or simply looking to record your travels for YouTube or Instagram, there’s a quality action camera for that.
While most of us have a smartphone at the ready to capture the day-to-day, there are certain situations where, unless you’re feeling particularly courageous, you’ll want a camera made of tougher stuff. Action cameras like GoPro’s eponymous Hero have built a reputation on being versatile and reliable, go-anywhere devices. With robust image stabilisation, dedicated modes for slow-motion, timelapse and hyper-lapse shooting, along with a wide range of mounting options, the best action cameras offer near-endless creative possibilities.
If you’re in the market for a Full HD, 4K, 5K or 360-degree action camera capable of going the extra mile then you’re in luck. Here you’ll find our tried and tested roundup of the best action cameras on the market, along with a comprehensive action camera buying guide.
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How to choose the best action camera for you
Who are action cameras for?
Action cameras are designed to go where other cameras can’t. If you’re keen on skiing, white water rafting, mountain biking or skydiving, then an action cam is an obvious accessory. Tough and reliable, you can toss them into just about any situation you’re likely to encounter and trust they’ll get the shot.
Fortunately, for days that aren’t quite so action-packed, action cams are incredibly versatile too. Small and lightweight, action cams are easy to pack and carry, making them ideal for travellers, vloggers and hikers.
The adaptability of their attachments and mounts makes them great for cycling commuters and motorcyclists too, and they can even be employed as dashcams. Their durability and user-friendliness also mean they’re safe in the hands of kids.
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Do I need a 4K action camera?
In a world where most people watch videos on their phones, tablets and laptops, Full HD video continues to be high enough quality for most applications. The price of 4K action cameras has, however, come down markedly in recent years and so, unless you’re on a super strict budget, we’d recommend a 4K-ready model.
4K recording provides you with crisper, more detailed footage, gives you more flexibility in editing, and adds a little more future-proofing. 4K cameras are also fully capable of shooting Full HD when that’s all that’s required.
If you do plan on investing in a 4K action camera then it’s worth noting that not all devices are created equal. Some cheap models may advertise 4K video recording, but may actually just upscale lower-resolution footage. These cameras should be avoided – if in doubt check whether the sensor resolution is specified and avoid if not.
When it comes to true 4K action cameras you’ll still want to check the specific recording options available at that resolution and whether there are any limitations. Top-end cameras like the GoPro Hero 12 support 4K recording at up to 120fps with full image stabilization enabled. You may, however, find that some of the more affordable options limit your frame rate to 30fps while shooting in 4K and/or disable image stabilisation. Decide which features and frame rates you need and narrow your search accordingly.
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How important is image stabilisation important?
Quality image stabilisation is the killer feature that will truly transform the look of your footage, transforming jerky clips into smooth, cinematic-looking videos. It’s an essential feature if you’re filming any activity that’s likely to be action-packed.
Not all image stabilisers work or perform in quite the same way. Some rely entirely on digital stabilisation, while others also employ some degree of lens or sensor stabilisation. Most stabilisation involves some degree of cropping into the overall field of view of your footage, though, so it’s worth checking the details for each particular camera.
Some cameras also offer Horizon Leveling, a neat feature which not only stabilises movement but also keeps your footage level too.
What about slow motion?
Slow motion recording can be an incredibly useful creative tool, allowing you to turn fast action into smooth, flowing shots. It can also make for some pretty impressive B-roll footage for when you want to get a little creative with your editing.
While most action cameras offer slow-motion recording the specifics can vary greatly and so you’ll want to check exactly what frame rates are on offer and in which resolutions. Top-end action cameras can provide up to 240fps in Full HD, allowing for 8x slow-mo footage when played back at 30fps. You may find that some other cameras require you to drop the resolution to 720p to access the highest frame rate options.
Are 360 action cameras worth buying?
Once a little clumsy and complex, 360 action cams have matured into polished, accessible creative tools.
Equipped with a pair of wide-angle lenses, 360 action cameras can either be used to record full 360-degree footage for immersive playback. Or, once your 360 video has been recorded, you can pan around and crop your footage in editing, producing “reframed” clips with complex camera movements.
Plus, when full 360 isn’t called for, most 360 cameras allow you to engage one lens only so it can be used as a standard action cam. You will, however, find that most 360 action cameras offer lower resolution and framerate options when compared to comparable single-lens cameras.
While they may not be for everybody, 360 action cameras provide access to a world of creative possibilities that you simply won’t find with any other device.
Are all action cameras waterproof?
A key selling point for action cameras is their go-anywhere durability – and underwater is no exception. While it used to be the case that you’d need an external case before you could get your camera wet, it’s becoming increasingly common to find action cams that feature some degree of waterproofing straight out of the box.
While specific waterproof ratings will vary from one model to the next, GoPro’s Hero 12 Black camera is safe to take down to 10m on its own, and should you need to go deeper, a protective housing is available that’s rated to 60m. You will, however, want to refer to the manual before submerging any action camera as additional maintenance precautions are often necessary.
What additional action cam features should I consider?
Depending on how you plan to use your action cam there are several other features outside of the headline video specifications that you may want to take into account.
On the hardware side of things, you may want to consider a camera that has a touchscreen display for simplified ease of use – or a camera that has a front-facing display if you plan on spending time in front of the lens.
While most action cams share a common two-pronged mount, allowing many attachments to be interchanged, you’ll want to check the compatibility for any specific accessories you plan on using.
On the software side, it’s worth looking at what additional shooting modes beyond standard recording and slow motion are on offer. Advanced time-lapse, hyper-lapse and motion lapse modes are all worth considering, as is whether you can connect the camera to a companion smartphone app for editing and sharing on the go.
How we test action cameras
Every action cam in our roundup has been thoroughly tested by one of Expert Reviews’ resident experts. Each camera has its photo and video capabilities assessed across a wide range of environmental and lighting conditions.
We check that the cameras’ image stabilisation, microphones, and creative features are all up to scratch. We also run battery tests, and look for any limitations that may affect overall performance.
We test action cameras side-by-side against their predecessors and competitors and, as always, you can find the results of our tests detailed as part of our full reviews.
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The best action cameras you can buy in 2023
1. GoPro Hero 12 Black: The best action camera yet
Price: £400 | Buy now from GoPro
GoPro’s latest flagship is the current action camera king. The GoPro Hero 12 Black offers incredible image stabilisation, top-flight photo and video specs and a host of user experience refinements that put it comfortably ahead of the competition.
The Hero 12 Black features front and rear-facing colour displays, built-in mounting prongs, 10m of native waterproofing and compatibility with GoPro’s vast range of mounts and accessories. It utilises a near-square 8:7 image sensor, giving you the ability to crop both landscape and portrait orientation video clips from a single recording. 5.3K video is supported at up to 60fps, 4K at up to 120fps and 2.7K can be captured at up to 240fps for smooth slow-mo playback. The Hero 12’s onboard video stabilisation, HyperSmooth 6.0, is the best we’ve seen yet, capable of smoothing out the most chaotic of clips. There’s also full 360-degree Horizon Lock, ensuring your recordings remain both smooth and level.
GoPro has made several useability refinements for the Hero 12, including a new, more accessible menu system, the addition of Bluetooth audio and some serious improvements to the camera’s overall heat and power efficiency.
If you’re shopping for the best single-lens action camera on the market right now, your search ends here.
Read our full GoPro Hero 12 Black review for full details
Specs – Sensor: 1/1.9in CMOS; Sensor pixels: 27 megapixels; Max recording resolution: 5K (60fps); Size (WDH): 71.0 x 33.6 x 55.0mm; Weight: 155g; Waterproof: 10m (60m with case); Warranty: One-year RTB
2. Insta360 One X3: The best 360 action camera
Price: £460 | Buy now from Amazon
If you’re in the market for a 360-degree video camera then the Insta360 One X3 should be at the top of your shortlist.
While 360 cameras of old had a reputation for being tricky to work with, the One X3 makes shooting and processing 360 clips straightforward. Using a pair of wide-angle lenses, the One X3 seamlessly stitches together detailed 5.7K 360-degree videos in-camera. An upgrade of its predecessor, the X3 features a larger colour touchscreen, making the camera noticeably easier to handle.
Importing your footage into Insta360’s desktop or mobile app you can apply FlowState stabilisation, lock in your horizon level and apply subject tracking. You then have the option to export your video as a full 360-clip that viewers can navigate around or ‘reframe’ your footage. Reframing lets you crop your 360 footage into a standard 16:9 1080p frame, taking complete control over where you want the camera to face – you can even cut between different angles, mimicking a multi-camera setup.
For more traditional videos, the Insta360 One X3 can also be used in a single-lens mode, recording 4K clips at 30fps. There’s also a ‘Bullet Time’ slow motion mode which records at 4K 120fps and on the stills side, the X3 can create 72-megapixel photospheres.
Those on a tight budget may wish to consider the older, but still highly capable Insta360 One X2, while those with deep pockets may want to look into the Insta360 One RS 1-Inch Edition. For the vast majority of users, however, the Insta360 One X3 is the best 360 camera on the market right now.
Read our full Insta360 One X3 review for full details
Specs – Sensor pixels: 48 megapixels; Max recording resolution: 5.7K (30fps) 360-degree video; Size (WDH): 114 x 46 x 33mm; Weight: 180g; Waterproof:10m; Warranty: One-year RTB
3. GoPro Hero 9 Black: The best budget GoPro
Price: £300 | Buy now from Amazon
While it no longer takes pole position within GoPro’s lineup, if you can live without the blistering frame rates of the flagship Hero 12, the Hero 9 Black is a highly-capable camera at a very competitive price point.
It features both front- and rear-facing colour displays, fold-out mounting prongs and 10m native water resistance without the need for an additional case. The Hero 9 Black is also compatible with GoPro’s latest range of accessory Mods, allowing you to add on external microphones, lights and displays.
For recording options, the Hero 9 Black can record 5.3K videos at 30fps or shoot in 4K at up to 60fps. GoPro’s HyperSmooth 3.0 stabilisation tech is on hand to keep your clips nice and smooth and there’s up to 27-degrees of Horizon Levelling correction too.
Read our full GoPro Hero 9 Black review for more details
Specs – Sensor: 1/2.3in CMOS; Sensor pixels: 20 megapixels; Max recording resolution: 5K (60fps); Size (WDH): 71.0 x 33.6 x 55.0mm; Weight: 158g; Waterproof: 10m (60m with case); Warranty: One-year RTB
4. Insta360 One R: A 4K and 360-degree action cam in one
Price: £399 (Twin Edition) | Buy now from Amazon
A 4K and 360-degree action camera rolled into one, the Insta360 One RS is an incredibly versatile piece of kit. It features a modular design with interchangeable camera modules and battery packs that can be swapped out on the fly.
The camera’s standard “4K Boost” lens supports 4K video recording at up to 60fps as well as a 6K24 widescreen mode that captures video in a cinematic 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The 360 camera module, meanwhile, captures full 360-degree video at 5.7K30 that can be exported in full 360 or reframed using Insta360’s desktop or mobile apps. Insta360’s FlowState video stabilisation is on hand to keep your video clips nice and steady and through the Insta360 app you can apply 360 degrees of horizon correction.
There are plenty of smart features on offer too, including active HDR for videos, a TimeShift hyper-lapse mode and subject tracking for your 360 clips.
If you’re purely concerned with straightforward 4K image quality then GoPro’s Hero 10 Black is still top of the heap. If you’re after flexibility, however, the One RS truly is very tough to beat.
Read our full Insta360 One RS review for details
Specs – Sensor: 1/2in (4K build), 2 x 1/2.3in (360 build); Sensor pixels: 48 megapixels;Max recording resolution: 6K (25fps) or (5.7K 30fps in 360 build); AV connections: USB-C; Size (WDH): 70 x 33 x 49mm (4K build) or 70 x 43 x 49mm (360 build); Weight: 126g (4K build) or 136g (360 build); Waterproof: 5m (60m with case); Warranty: One-year RTB
5. DJI Pocket 2: The best stabilised pocket camera
Price: £320 | Buy now from Amazon
The DJI Pocket 2 is a complete stabilised video platform that’s small enough, as the name suggests, to fit in your coat pocket. The camera module sits on top of a dedicated, lightweight 3-axis motorised gimbal. This set-up allows the Pocket 2 to achieve rock-steady shots while on the go, superior to those you’d get from digital stabilisation and all without the bulk that’s usually involved in using a motorised stabiliser.
While the Pocket 2 is a standalone camera in its own right, it can also be connected directly to your smartphone. Once paired up you can use your smartphone can take full control of the device, playback your footage and even share directly to social media.
As for the performance, it shoots up to 4K video at 60fps and adapts extraordinarily well under low-light conditions; auto exposure works a treat. There’s also a wealth of smart shooting modes allowing you to easily create time lapses, panoramas and hyper lapses. The only downside is that it’s not waterproof unless you pop it in a case. The Pocket 2 is also compatible with a range of accessories including a wireless transmitter, wireless microphone, wide-angle adapter, ND filters and a charging case.
Read our full DJI Pocket 2 review for details
Specs – Sensor: 1/1.7in CMOS; Sensor pixels: 64 megapixels; Max recording resolution: 4K (60fps); AV connections: Apple Lightning output, USB Type-C output; Size (HWD): 125 x 38 x 30mm (total); Weight: 117g; Waterproof: No; Warranty: One-year RTB
6. Insta360 Go 2: The best micro action camera
Price: £294 | Buy now from Amazon
As small as your thumb and weighing in at a mere 27g, the Insta360 Go 2 is a fantastically versatile action camera.
Thanks to its unique form factor the Go 2 can be mounted in places that other action cameras simply can’t, opening up a whole new world of creative possibilities. It’s compatible with a range of different mounts for attaching to windows, helmets and bags, while its magnetic base and medallion allow you to wear it directly on your chest.
As for recording, resolutions of up to 1440p at 50fps are available along with HDR video at 24fps. 120fps is possible at 1080p for slow-motion footage and Insta360’s FlowState technology provides excellent electronic stabilisation and keeps everything level.
There are a few compromises: due to its small size the controls can be a little fiddly, storage is limited to 32GB, and with a maximum resolution of 1440p it’s not the highest specced action camera at this price point. However, if you’re prepared to work around the niggles, no other action camera can offer this level of image quality in a comparable form factor.
Read our full Insta360 Go 2 review for details.
Specs – Sensor: 1/2.3in CMOS; Sensor pixels: 9 megapixels; Max recording resolution: 1440p (50fps); AV connections: USB Type-C; Size (HWD): 52.9 x 23.6 x 20.7mm (total); Weight: 26.5g; Warranty: One-year RTB
7. DJI Osmo Action 3: A solid GoPro alternative
Price: £309 | Buy now from Amazon
Offering competitive specs at an attractive price point, the DJI Osmo Action 3 is a worthy rival to GoPro’s venerable Hero. It supports 4K video recording at up to 120fps and Full HD clips can be captured at up to 240fps for dramatic slow-motion playback.
Onboard it packs DJI’s latest stabilisation tech, ensuring your recordings are nice and steady, no matter the activity you’re recording. It also offers 360-HorizonSteady, so you can keep your clips level too (this is limited to 45 degrees of correction when recording in 4K).
The Action 3 stands out from the competition thanks to its innovative quick-release system. This allows you to switch between accessories quickly and easily without needing to screw and unscrew the mount each time. It also manages to one-up GoPro’s latest cameras by offering touch-sensitivity on both its front and rear-facing displays, as well as an impressive 16m of water resistance without the need for an additional waterproof case.
Read our full DJI Osmo Action 3 review for more details
Specs – Sensor: 1/1.7; Sensor pixels: 12 megapixels; Max recording resolution: 4K (60fps); AV connections: USB-C; Size (WDH): 44 x 77 x 33mm; Weight: 145g; Warranty: One-year RTB