Whether you’re shredding downhill slopes, scaling mountain trails, or flying experimental aircrafts, an action cam has long been the most reliable way to capture a first-person view of your adventures. With their rugged and weatherized builds, they’re usually the only cameras that can reliably accompany you through every treacherous step and every reckless decision you make out in the wild. Even better, modern action cams are able to do that while capturing intense action scenes that are stable enough to let you watch them without making you dizzy a quarter of the way through.
Of course, you don’t have to get an action cam strictly for extreme sports and other challenging recreational activities. The fact that they can record so well in those settings means they can do the same in less-demanding situations, making them an excellent option when you want a compact camera you can keep in hand at all times.
These are the best action cams in the market today.
Oclu Action Camera
Designed for mounting more discreetly than your typical action cam, this device puts the lens on the side, so you can mount it in a flat position, allowing you to fit it under a helmet visor (among other things) instead of above it. We love that design, as it allows for mounting options that’s just not possible with the standard GoPro form factor. In fact, it’s the main reason why we think people are still drawn to this, despite not having been updated in the few years it’s been out (it’s worth noting, it’s also had its price slashed accordingly).
It can record 4K at 30 fps and 1080p at 120 fps, with very good image stabilization when shooting in 1080p (not available for 4K). Features include microphones both front and top for decent audio recording, IPX7 water-resistance, swappable 1,000mAh battery, motion-initiated recording, and more. Truth be told, if they updated this to shoot in 4K at higher framerates, it would easily compete with the best in the market. As it is, though, it seems they’re sticking with this older model for now, which you can get for a pretty affordable price (arguably, still one of the best at the price point).
While the Hero 10 is, hands down, the best action cam in the market, its predecessor is still good enough that it makes for a great option if you’re looking for something just a little more affordable. It has most of the same hardware as the Hero 10, from the sensor and the dual LCD to the rugged construction, albeit with an older processor. It can shoot 5K video at 30 fps, 4K at 60 fps, and 2.7K at 120 fps, with in-camera horizon leveling up to 45 degrees, so it also has pretty good real-time image stabilization. Suffice to say, it’s still one of the best action cams out there – just not as good as the newer Hero 10.
DJI’s take on the modular action cam starts off as a tiny tile measuring just 1.5 x 1.5 x 0.8 inches (width x height x thickness). Yes, that tile is a full-fledged action cam that you can mount on your helmet, clothing, or monopod all on its own. However, you can reinforce it with other magnetically-attaching modules if you need extra functionality, such as a front touchscreen module, extra batteries, adapter mounts, and more. The camera can shoot 4K video at 60 fps, 4K UHD at 120 fps, and 1080p at 240 fps, although full image stabilization is only available at 2.7K and 1080p, so you’ll probably want to stick with those for your high-speed action footage. Features include a waterproof construction, an onboard battery rated for 70 minutes of recording, and livestreaming support up to 1080p at 30 fps.
The newest version of GoPro’s longstanding action cam further improves on the already-vaunted talents of its predecessors, bringing a faster processor that increases resolution and doubles the maximum framerates for its recordings while boosting the image stabilization to the best its ever been. It shoots 5.3K video at up to 60 fps, although you’ll need to dial down to either 5.3K 30 fps or 4K if you want to activate the image stabilization. Oh yeah, it can shoot 4K at 120fps, allowing you to record your slow-motion captures in full 4K glory, eliminating the usual compromise between resolution and framerate you often have to do with action cameras. Other notable features include improved low-light performance, dual LCD (front and rear), and a waterproof build that allows it to shrug off immersion up to 33 feet.
The One RS is interesting for its modular function that allows you to use it as a 4K action cam, a 5.7K 360-degree cam, and a 5K 1-inch sensor camera with a wide-angle Leica lens. There’s also a Boost Lens mode that turns allows the 4K camera to shoot in cinematic 6K widescreen, in case you’re a fan of that, as well as built-in image stabilization, which is a welcome change, considering Insta360’s previous solutions of doing that in post-production via the companion app. While having to swap modules on the fly may sound confusing, you’ll actually tend to set up what you plan to use at home, then just use that for most of the day. Suffice to say, you can still keep things as simple as a regular action cam. While the Leica module is a little expensive, it easily captures the best video of the lot (arguably, the best in the entire list), so getting that is the main reason why you’ll want to invest in this thing. It’s a different take on the action camera – one that you might appreciate if you want to occasionally shoot spherical footage.
The big selling point for the RXO II is straightforward: it has impressive camera hardware. Yes, that tiny box actually houses a 1-inch 15.3MP sensor and a 24mm F4 Zeiss Tessar T fixed wide-angle lens, ensuring it has the muscle to actually capture high-quality footage. It can record 4K video at up to 30 fps, 1080p at 120 fps, and 720p at 960 fps, all while integrating the same Eye AF function from Sony’s larger cameras. We also love the LCD monitor that can be tilted upwards 180 degrees, turning it into a capable selfie camera. While this easily shoots some of the best videos in the category, that powerful hardware also makes it heat up quite a bit, making it difficult to rely on during intense activities that take just a little bit longer than usual. Still, if you want an action cam that can function as a really good vlogging cam, this fits the bill perfectly.