The 10 Best Action Cameras

Updated December 22, 2017 by Chase Brush

10 Best Action Cameras
Best High-End
Best Mid-Range
Best Inexpensive
We spent 44 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top choices for this wiki. Forget trying to capture your most adventurous outdoor moments with your phone or a cheap disposal duct taped to your helmet, and invest instead in one of these action cams, which stand apart from traditional devices in their durability, portability, and wide-angle shooting lenses. We've included models appropriate for both the professional videographer and the budget-conscious consumer. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best action camera on Amazon.

10. Legazone Helmet Camcorder

The Legazone Helmet Camcorder offers high-end features in a compact design and carrying case. It's ideal for diving, skiing, and surfing, as it can be fixed onto your helmet vertically or horizontally, and also allows for easy angle adjustments with the included mount.
  • comes in a variety of colors
  • many language options to choose from
  • not for serious videographers
Brand Legazone
Model 4332066614
Weight 1.4 pounds
Rating 4.3 / 5.0

9. Spy Tec Mobius

The Spy Tec Mobius may be mini in size, but it's still pretty mighty in features. It incorporates Wide Dynamic Range for shooting in low light situations, records fast-moving scenes exceptionally well, and even allows you to take still photographs at timed intervals.
  • high bit rate video capture
  • doubles as a powerful car dash cam
  • lens has minimal fisheye distortion
Brand Spy Tec
Model Wide Angle C2 Lens
Weight 2.4 ounces
Rating 4.7 / 5.0

8. GoPro Hero5 Session

Like its larger siblings, the GoPro Hero5 Session offers top-notch image quality, capable of shooting 4K video at 30 fps, and a completely waterproof design for rugged outings. Unlike other models, it packs it all into one of the lightest and most compact bodies out there.
  • single-press button operation
  • highly portable option
  • no lcd screen for viewing
Brand GoPro
Model CHDHS-502
Weight 2 pounds
Rating 4.1 / 5.0

7. TomTom Bandit

From a leading name in GPS technology, the TomTom Bandit offers some pretty cool features, including data visualizations for things like speed and location, and a shake-to-edit function that makes uploading video a breeze. Still, its shape can make mounting a bit tricky.
  • standout white and red design
  • no live-view screen
  • may require separate lens cover
Brand TomTom
Model 1LB0.001.01
Weight 2.2 pounds
Rating 4.2 / 5.0

6. Activeon CX Gold

The entry-level Activeon CX Gold boasts a super lightweight design, and a 2" built-in touchscreen that is easy to use thanks to its intuitive user interface. Plus, it supports four field-of-view options for fully customizable preferences, including lighting.
  • high image quality with vivid colors
  • super wide-angle lens
  • does not include an external charger
Brand Activeon
Model GCA10W
Weight 13.6 ounces
Rating 4.3 / 5.0

5. Garmin VIRB Ultra 30

Built-in GPS and external sensors allow the Garmin VIRB Ultra 30 to record more than just video. Embedded in your movie files you'll find information like speed, elevation, heart rate, and G-force, allowing you to show your friends how calm you are under pressure.
  • voice control capability
  • 3-axis image stabilization
  • smaller touchscreen than gopro
Brand Garmin
Model 010-01529-03
Weight 1.3 pounds
Rating 3.8 / 5.0

4. Kodak PixPro SP1

The rugged Kodak PixPro SP1 is waterproof down to 32 feet, shockproof to 6.2 feet, and freeze-proof down to 14 degrees Fahrenheit, so you can take it on your wildest adventures without having to worry. It's a lot cheaper than similar models, but also quite a bit heavier.
  • built-in display
  • doesn't need a case
  • accompanying android app is buggy
Brand Kodak
Model SP1 with Explorer Pack
Weight 1.5 pounds
Rating 4.8 / 5.0

3. Yi Action

The pocket-sized Yi Action is made by the Chinese tech company Xiaomi, and while that may scare some people off, it really shouldn't. This is a capable -- and affordable -- camera complete with a spacious retina touchscreen and a big battery for hours of recording.
  • high-quality 4k video
  • voice control functionality
  • not dust- or water-proof
Brand YI
Model 91104
Weight 8.6 ounces
Rating 4.7 / 5.0

2. Sony FDRX3000/W

The updated Sony FDRX3000/W not only captures true 4K video, but it does so smoothly and steadily across all recording modes thanks to the company's patented image stabilization technology. Plus, its housing is fully moisture-proof, which means it can shoot underwater.
  • multiple viewing angle options
  • sleek and compact design
  • decent sound quality
Brand Sony
Model FDRX3000/W
Weight 2.7 pounds
Rating 4.8 / 5.0

1. GoPro Hero6 Black

With exceptional image quality and 4K video to catch every moment, the GoPro Hero6 Black is built for the ultimate extremist. The latest flagship model from one of the top names in the business boasts HDR photo capture, advanced stabilization, and automatic footage upload.
  • high performance audio
  • features 5 ghz wifi
  • 2-inch display with touch zoom
Brand GoPro
Model CHDHX-601
Weight 1.1 pounds
Rating 4.6 / 5.0

Seeing Everything, Everywhere

It's somewhat shameful to admit, but I–a grown man, mind you–still pinch my nose shut and close my eyes when I jump into water. If something truly amazing were happening beneath the surface, I would need special equipment to see it. The birth of the action cam followed a similar path of logic, that in order to truly appreciate the world around us and our most extreme interactions with it, we had to get a clear set of eyes involved.

Fortunately, all of the action cams you'll find out there are splash resistant in their body design. What's more, they all either come with waterproof cases included in the package or the brands have them available to you for purchase.

Modern action cameras have to fit a lot of high tech photographic equipment in a small space, which means cutting down on the size of the lens. A camera's lens is, more than anything else, what determines the quality of its images. This is the biggest pitfall in using a cell phone to capture video, and it's why such enormous rigs exists to augment the quality of the factory cell lens.

An action cam's lens, though small, packs a punch. They're traditionally very wide-angle focal lengths, which allow you to capture much more of the scene than you otherwise could. They also produce what's called a fish-eye effect, making the edges of your images appear curved toward you. The good news is that, now that so many of these cameras shoot in 4K resolution, you can crop in to eliminate that curved effect by slicing those warped edges away.

Accessories Make The Cameraman

Action cams require much more than just the camera body itself to get you started, and figuring out which brand is right for you involves pricing out all the little extras you're going to want and need along the way.

The necessities include a slew of backup batteries and memory cards. These cameras chew through batteries faster than squirrels chew through acorn shells, so you'll want at least two fully-charged batteries in reserve.

Buying the right memory card comes down to its size and its speed. If your memory card is too slow, it won't allow you to record at the highest video quality. The higher the video quality, the more space that video takes up, so you need a card that's fast and spacious. For 4K video, you can film about 1 hour's worth of footage on a 64GB micro-SD card if you're shooting for playback in slow-motion. You can get a little over 2 hours out of the card if you shoot for regular motion.

Speed-wise, you'll see two kinds of class ratings on the faces of any memory card. One looks like an over-drawn C or like a circle that didn't quite get closed on the right side, and there's a number inside it. This number needs to be 10. Anything less than 10, and you're wasting your time. There should also be a U on the card with a number inside it, usually a 1 or a 3. Go for the 3 if you want to shoot in 4K. Anything less, and you won't be able to reach the heights these cameras offer.

The last thing to consider are the available mounts and accessories for each brand. Some of the other brands out there have done a decent job catching up to the variety GoPro has to offer, but the king is still the king. Ask yourself what kind of footage you specifically want to capture, and make sure the system you might buy has good quality mounting hardware to achieve it.

Poetry In Motion-Capture

The worlds of athletics and poetry rarely collide. Not only are they two very different approaches to the beauty and mystery of life, they also each require a level of dedication that costs the practitioner the time to develop both sensibilities to equal proficiency.

Until recently, this separation of worlds was of great consequence, as those experienced in the thrills and wonders of extreme athletic endeavors had only limited means available to them by which they might impart some sense of their experience on the layman.

Then, in 2002, a surfer-turned-entrepreneur named Nick Woodman got fed up with the deplorable state of surf photography and began designs for what would become the GoPro, our first, and most iconic action cam.

In the time it took Woodman's company to become the multi-billion dollar entity it has, the rest of the market responded with a slew of competitive products. Some of these are direct ripoffs of Woodman's design, so similar in appearance that you might only tell the difference when comparing video quality.

Others sought to improve on Woodman's design shape, fashioning action cams more like the models by Sony and Polaroid, whose elongated designs resemble the spy cameras of the early digital photography era, and claim more ergonomic mounting possibilities than GoPro's square body could achieve.

Despite the increase in competition, GoPro's name recognition and significant head start in both the camera itself and the design of its various mounts keeps it at the top of the action cam market. You see them almost everywhere you go, capturing not only the most unthinkably dangerous extreme sports, but also the mundane, quotidian, poetic details of our lives.

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Last updated on December 22, 2017 by Chase Brush

Chase is a freelance journalist with experience working in the areas of politics and public policy. Currently based in Brooklyn, NY, he is also a hopeless itinerant continually awaiting his next Great Escape.

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