10 Best Action Cameras Tested & Fully Reviewed
Since we live in a culture where “pics or it didn’t happen” is a motto most live by, buying an action camera is a must for sports lovers and adventure seekers. It’s true that taking photos has never been easier thanks to smartphones. But an iPhone just won’t cut it when it comes to snapping action shots and filming footage in the great outdoors.
That’s where an action camera comes in.
Action cameras are small and lightweight, ideal for mounting on a helmet, handle bar, and chest. With a little help from housing, they are designed to be tough enough to withstand the elements of the outdoors. They often feature a wide-angle lens to be able to capture all that is going on in the frame, and help to bring a landscapes and activities to life by being able to share footage of whatever action is taking place.
With so many different models on the market, we collected the best of the best so that users can start creating content and sharing it with the world.
- GoPro HERO6
- High quality content
- SJCAM SJ6 Legend
- Touchscreen LCD
- FITFORT 4K
- Variety of accessories
10 Best Action Cameras
The HERO6 is all about improvements, starting with its 4k video frame rate at 60fps. It can also shoot 1080p Full HD video at 240fps. This is all thanks it its GP1 processor that is more efficient and improves performance. This also adds to the camera’s overall better image stabilization. This means fast moving objects or action shots can be captures with less blurring.
It can also shoot 2.7K video at 120fps and 1440p at 120fps, and 12MP photos at 30 fps Burst. The HERO6 also has Linear, Wide and SuperView Field of View for photo and video and Proton for photo and video. Images in general look better compared to the HERO5, and the Hero6 has the new Global Tone Mapping mode that gives greater dynamic range than WDR mode.
The HERO6 has three times faster the Wi-Fi speed compared to the HERO5. Along with its 5GHz support, the Wi-Fi speed also makes it even more quick for the user to use the automatic editing tool QuikStories. The Hero6 has three zoom levels that are easily used by sliding a finger on the touchscreen, it has updated voice control functionality, and multiple modes like Night Photo, and time lapse.
GoPros in general are among the most durable action cameras made. It is waterproof up to 33 feet (10 m) without a case, but has a separate housing that allows the user to go as seep as 196 ft (60 m). The protective case also protest against drops and scratches.
The design of this GoPro remains unchanged to its predecessor. It is the same size at 1.8 x 2.4 x 1.3 inches and weights 4.2 ounces. The HERO6 has a 2-inch touchscreen on its rear and a front LCD. It has a black matte finish with the logo under the lens in grey.
- 4k with image stabilization
- Faster Wi-Fi means faster upload speeds
- New in-house made GP1 processor with 2x the performance compared to HERO5 Black and better quality content
- Touch Zoom feature
- Software can be buggy
SJCAM SJ6 Legend
With its 166 degree adjustable wide-angle lens and its 2.5 aperture, the SJ6 Legend delivers 4K videos at 24 fps, 2K at 30fps, and 16MP HD photos. The 4K videos provides a cinematic look while still being crisp and sharp, and has a fish-eye look. The camera has distortion correction—which comes in handy when filming in 4k. The resolution improves at 1080p at 120fps, and this resolution and lower taps into its advanced gyro stabilization functionality that smooths the footage.
This action camera has external microphone support, a remote control for the wrist, and an accompany app for easily sharing clips. The distortion for fisheye correction keeps images flat without having to edit with third party software or apps. Other features include timelapse, burst images, and slow-motion. It also has a cool car mode that can record video using the LCD located on the back of the camera.
The SJ6 is waterproof up to 100 feet (30 meters) when used with its case. It also comes with another case that isn’t waterproof, perfect for using to protect the camera when shooting on land (or in the air!).
This camera as a touchscreen LCD that is 2-inches, as well as a touchscreen 0.9 front LCD screen (that displays battery life, the shooting mode, and memory). It is box-shaped, comes in black, silver or rose gold and weights 2.89 ounces.
- Great quality and features for a lower price than a GoPro
- Touchscreen LCD
- Advanced gyro stabilization
- 4K has no image stabilization
FITFORT 4K Ultra HD
With its super wide angle lens, this action camera from FITFORT captures 4K video at 25fps, 2.7K at 30FPS, 1080p at 60fps, 1080p at 30fps and 720p at 120fps, and 12MP images. While the 4k video quality isn’t bad, many prefer 1080p for even crisper quality. The quality in general is only slightly lacking behind a GoPro, but for a fraction of its cost, it will be more than satisfactory for those on a budget or beginners into the world of action sports filming.
This action camera comes with a wireless remote control to be able to control it when mounts on a helmet. It has an accompanying app for editing footage, and has a screensaver functionality that helps to save battery life.
The housing of this option is IP68 rugged waterproof certified, allowing consumers to use it up to 100 feet underwater when its case is on. It’s best to be used in its case to protect it from the elements when shooting.
The FITFORT camera’s design resembled the GoPro camera. It has a box shape, comes in black and is ultra-light at 2.24 ounces.
- Extremely affordable
- Decent video quality
- Comes with many accessories
- IP68 certified waterproof
- Accompanying app isn’t great
- Wi-Fi issues for some
The Sony FDR-X300 is equipped with Balanced Optical SteadyShot technology that helps to reduce the amount of camera shaking internally. This results in stable and clear content that is free from shaking and blurs. It has a back-illuminated Exmor R CMOS sensor and an acclaimed BIONZ X processor that produces high resolution with vibrant colors.
It captures 12MP photos up to 10fps, and 8,3MO still over regular intervals for an extended period of time. It also shoots 720p, 1080p at 120 or 100fps and 4K video at 30 or 24fps.
This action camera features time-lapse, lopping, live streaming and burst photos. The user can select Wide, Medium or Narrow viewing angles, it has 3 smooth zoom mode, a built-in stereo microphone with noise and wind reduction, built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth support, and can capture an entire sequence of action in a single frame.
Although this camera is splash-proof, it does come with a waterproof housing case that can be used up to 200 feet (60m) underwater. This makes it stand out since waterproof housing is typically only made for action cameras with a boxed design. The camera is also dust-proof.
Sony ditched the boxed look for a more camcorder design for this option. It’s still lightweight at 4.2 ounces and is 1.9H x 1.2W inches. It comes in white with a shiny finish.
- Impressive optical stabilization
- Water-resistant without case
- Camera gets hot
- Quality slightly lacking compared to GoPros
This action camera is among the cream of the crop when it comes it its image and video quality. Its highest speed setting is at 1080p and 720p, but it also shoots 4k in SuperView at 30fps, which will look smooth and vibrant, as well as many other options such as 4:3 Wide in in 2.7k at 25 or 30fps. It has support to film in Linear, Medium and Wide, as well as take 12MP photos. It is equipped with image stabilization, has RAW photo capture, and Wide Dynamic Range photo capture.
There is no many features that come with a GoPro. The HERO5 has burst modes that can take 5, 5, 10 or 30 pictures per second, as well as a time-lapse mode, video looping, Proton for both photo and video, Night Lapse photo, and more. It has GPS with data overlay, three microphones to ensure great audio, built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, and has the QuiStories feature that automatically sends the footage to the user’s phone already edited.
GoPros are among the most durable action cameras on the market, but when used with its homing frame case. The case will keep it safe from scratches and dents, but it is waterproof on its own up to 33 feet (10 m).
The HERO5 has a large, 2-inch touch display that allows the user to playback, edit and change settings. It has a matte black color and the iconic box shape. It comes with a curved adhesive and flat adhesive mounts, as well as a mounting buckle. It is light at 4.2 ounces and is about as small as a matchbox. It features a large, red button on the top that makes it easy to turn on an start recording.
- Great image and video quality
- Water-resistant without needing a case
- More than one editing app
- Lots of shooting modes
- Battery dies quickly with long use
- Water-resistant, but may still be safer with case
- Camera get hot with long use
Expect great video quality with this option, being similar in performance to a GoPro. It records 4k video at 60fps, as well as 1080p at 120fps, and 12MP photos. It has image stabilization to provide smooth content, but not when shooting in 4k.
The YI 4K camera allows the use to live stream their footage to social media with its accompanying app and built-in Bluetooth support. Other features include the ability to create impressive images in low-light, burst, slow motion, time lapse and more modes. It also has voice control functionality.
The Gorilla Glass Retina on its touchscreen wards off scratches, and it is waterproof up to an impressive 132 feet when using its case. The consumer will need to use a case in order to protect it from damage from accidental drops.
This camera has a large touchscreen that is easy to navigate through the settings and control, with great display quality. It is sleek, begging for it to be showed off. It is lightweight and compact, and features a socket for a tripod.
- Video/image quality comparable to the GoPro Hero5
- Large LCD
- Live stream option
- Not water-resistant without a case
- Heats up when long use
Garmin VIRB XE
The VIRB XE takes high definition video in 1440p30, 1080p60 and 720p120, as well as 12MP photos. It has a custom, all-glass wide-angle lens with multiple zoom levels and high frame rates up to 240FPS (480p). The use can also capture images while recording their video.
Along with manual camera controls for adjusting videos from the camera, the Garmin VIRB XE has an extended time-lapse feature, image stabilization to prevent blurry images, and built-in Wi-Fi, Bluetooth-enabled HD audio.
What sets it apart is its G-Metrix tech, that consists of built-in GPS and G-force sensors to track and reveal performance data including speed, heart rate and more in real-time.
This action camera is built tough. It is waterproof, able to dive with the user up to 50 meters deep—without a case. It has a hydrophobic glass lens to ensure crystal clear shots, even underwater without droplets. It has a battery life of up to 2 hours, and includes a rechargeable battery.
Designed similar to a GoPro, the VIRB XE features the popular box design that its processor the original VIRB did not have. It has various decks, including both flat and curved to be attached to handlebars, helmets, chest and more.
- Tracks performance data in real time
- Works well with other Garmin trackers
- Waterproof without case
- Video not as good as the VIRB Elite
- Shorter battery life
DBPOWER N6 4K
The DBPOWER N6 uses its wide-angle lens to record 4K video at 24fps, 2.7K at 30fps, as well as 20MP photos. It supports 64GB microSD card, and is equipped with electronic image stabilization with 3-axis gyroscope to detect motion change. Expect smooth videos even when the camera is shaking.
With its Sony image sensor and 2-layer glass lens, this action camera has a large LCD touchscreen, supports Wi-Fi, comes with and comes with an accompanying app for quick editing. Other features include Anti-shake DSP & WDR for clear motion shots.
The battery life on this camera is about 40 minutes, but it comes include two rechargeable batteries. This is also an ideal option for water and extreme sports since it comes with a waterproof case that can work up to 30 meters (90 ft) underwater. It has a two year warranty, making it a great mid-range option.
Compact and rectangular like a GoPro, this action camera is sleek in its design but can be bulky when in its waterproof case. It has a 2.31-inch screen that is easy to navigate, and all its accessories are compatible with GoPro mounts.
- Anti-shake functionality with image stabilization
- Large touchscreen LCD
- Durable, yet stylish
- SD card compatibility issues can occur
- Max video resolution is more like 2880x2160
The AC-LC2 takes 12MP stills, and has the ability to capture video in 4K. However, this does come at a price—its speed. The 4K video has a slower 25fps bit rate compared to the 60Mbps bit rate when filming in 720p.
Speed aside, this camera has a wide-angle lens that is perfect for getting that sports and great outdoors footage, with a continuous recording time of up to 90 minutes.
This action camera connects to the user’s smartphone via Wi-Fi, allowing them to control the camera even when mounted to a helmet. It includes many different modes such as burst photos, timer photos, time lapse and looped videos. It is waterproof when used with its case, up to the depth of 30 meters (98.4 ft). Plus the camera comes with various accessories including a bicycle bracket and helmet mount.
To best prevent against dings, scratched and water damage, it’s best to use this waterproof case. This will keep it safe from rain, mud, sand and impacts that may occur during filming.
Compact and light at only 2.2 ounces, the AUKEY AC-LC2 features the similar boxed shape of the GoPro. At a fraction of its cost, this action camera is simple to use since it only has four control buttons, but doesn’t feature a touchscreen on its LCD, which can make navigating a bit slower.
- Design similar to GoPro
- Wide-angle fisheye lens
- Comes with lots of accessory
- No image stabilization
- No touchscreen
The TomTom Bandit records at a high-resolution1080p60/720p120 fps, and transfers to the phone with 1,280x720-pixel resolution at a bitrate of about 7.5Mbps. There is also the option to recored at a 2.7K at 30fps, as well as 1080p at 60fps and 30fps along with 720p at 120fps and 60fps. Modes include time-lapse and slow motion.
One of the best things about the Bandit is that when used with its accompanying app, filming and editing videos is easy. The app creates a highlight reel from the footage with the simple shake of the smartphone.
More impressive is the camera’s GPS and motion sensor functionality that allows the use to tag their clips to be able to find these moments easily later. It has Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, has a built-in mic and the ability to attach an external mic.
The Bandit is slash proof, so a little water flying up when cycling on the dirt trails won’t mess it up. It is waterproof to a depth of 40m with its dive lens on for surfing or underwater shots.
This camera is tiny, with a round and long design opposed to the box-shape of options like the GoPro cameras. It mounts easily and has a quick-release clip. It also is compatible to the GoPro Mount Adapter, as well as other mount accessories that is comes with and isn’t bulky since it doesn’t have an additional protective case.
- Built-in media server for edits on the camera
- App creates highlight reel easily
- Integrated USB port means no cables
- Easy to mount
- No stability control
- Mounts add to shaking
The Criteria We Used For Our Evaluation
Chances are everyone knows GoPro camera. But it takes more than a big name brand to determine which action camera is the best. There are various factors that make an action camera stand out. Along with its image and video quality, it must be durable, have the option of being waterproof and have a decent battery life.
We broke down the criteria we used to determine which is the best action camera below.
Functionality- First and foremost, the camera must shoot and play footage back in high definition. There is no point in filming if the footage is lagging or blurry. Having 4K capabilities is also a major plus for its quality. What is the frame per second rate? Does it feature image stabilization needed for movement shots? What other features does the camera include? It’s also important that the camera and its accompanying app are user friendly.
Durability- Can this action came withstand the conditions of the outdoors? Is it waterproof on its own, or will it need a housing case? Can in take bumps and small drops without breaking?
Design- Is it designed to be portable, lightweight and made for travel? Does its design make it easy to shoot when moving?
Connectivity- Being able to capture footage is one thing, but we all want to be able to share the content. How easy is it to upload pictures and video? Does it feature Wi-Fi or Bluetooth functionality?
Other Important Factors
There are some other things to take into consideration before purchasing an action camera. Since many of the best options come with a hefty price tag for a gadget many will use as a hobby, it’s important to know exactly what to look for in a camera of this kind.
Many options including GoPros come with accessories included with the camera. This generally includes a USB-C cable for connecting to the computer, as well as mounts. Accessories are also sold separately at times. It may or may not come with an underwater cover. Some action cameras might include a remote control.
The sport or activity that is conducted will determine the kind of mount the user needs. The common ones include:
- Helmet / head camera attachment- Used for surfing, skiing, snowboarding, mountain climbing, zip lining.
- Handlebar attachment- Used for bicycle, mountain biking.
- Protective housing- Used to waterproof, dust-proof, damage-profs the camera.
- Chest mounts – Great for running, hiking
- Wrist mounts – Used for diving and underwater activities.
The kind of lens is important because the user will want to be able to capture the full scene or surroundings. Many feature a wide-angle lens, and some even include a fisheye lens to give wide images with a cool effect.
No matter how great the camera, the consumer will have to practice a bit with their filming skills in order to achieve what they aim to do. Make sure to familiarize with the editing software, or get an option that allows editing right from the camera. Try different angles when filming, and keep clips short and sweet for easy editing and uploading.
Q: What kind of SD card is recommended?
A: It’s best to purchase a SD card from a well-known brand in either 16 or 32GB sizes. Examples include: Sandisk C6 16GB, Sony C10 32GB and Samsung EVO C10 32GB.
Q: Is this action camera waterproof?
A: This depends on each specific camera. However, many are waterproof, although it may require using a cover or housing that protects to from water damage.
Q: How do you mount an action camera to a helmet?
A: Many action camera come with a helmet mount with the product, or sell then as a separate accessory. Attach the mount to the helmet using its adhesive and allow to stick. Then attach the camera and adjust accordingly for best angle.
Q: Why use an action camera?
A: Action cameras are great for recording sport tricks or to take on adventures when trying new activities. Used by pro athletes and every day users, these are ideal for skiing, surfing, biking, running, hiking, and more.
Q: Can I use GoPro mounts with this action camera?
A: This depends on the action camera, but many options are compatible with GoPro mounts and accessories.
Q: Can I charge the camera while filming or editing?
A: For many cameras, it is possible to do both.
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- Action Cam Accessories Buyer’s Guide, Informational Video Website, Apr 20, 2015 ,
- 21 tips from the pros on getting the most from your action cam, Informational Tech Website, Apr 24, 2016 ,