The 10 Best Action Cameras

Updated October 04, 2017 by Daniel Imperiale

10 Best Action Cameras
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Stick it on your helmet, stick it on your bike, stick it anywhere you like and record stunning video of your next adventure with one of these action cameras. Perfect for all outdoor activities, including diving, skiing, drifting, and surfing, these cams will let you capture and share stunning photos and videos. 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. Polaroid XS100

The Polaroid XS100 is great for both amateurs and professionals alike. It is equipped with a vibrating feature that confirms activation of the function, and a G sensor for auto rotation, but it is not very stable when mounted.
  • comes in a variety of skin colors
  • dual file recording
  • difficult to set up
Brand Polaroid
Model POLXS100
Weight 1.9 pounds
Rating 3.6 / 5.0

9. Sony FDR-X1000V/W

Capture true 4k video using the Sony FDR-X1000V/W. With the included Highlight Movie Maker software, you can easily edit your best movie clips into one video, but it comes at a high price tag and has a comparatively short battery life.
  • easy to mount on tripods
  • wind filter for better audio quality
  • doesn't have a viewing screen
Brand Sony
Model FDRX1000V/W
Weight 14.4 ounces
Rating 4.2 / 5.0

8. Drift Innovation Stealth 2

The Drift Innovation Stealth 2 offers a unique and aerodynamic design with a rotatable lens. It takes professional-quality footage with its Aptina CMOS sensor, and it has the ability to film in 1080 pixels at 30 frames per second.
  • lighter than normal digital cameras
  • comes with a 1-year warranty
  • enabled for wi-fi streaming
Brand Drift Innovation
Model Stealth 2
Weight 13.4 ounces
Rating 3.6 / 5.0

7. Yi Action

The pocket-sized Yi Action is ready to capture life's moments in HD videos and crystal clear panoramic photos. It comes complete with a selfie stick and a Bluetooth remote that enables you to take photos from up to 32 feet away.
  • 3d noise and blur reduction
  • 11 video modes and 4 photo modes
  • does not include a micro sd card
Brand YI
Model YI-88001
Weight 4.8 ounces
Rating 3.6 / 5.0

6. Legazone Helmet Camcorder

The Legazone Helmet Camcorder offers high-end features in a compact design and carrying case. It is ideal for diving, skiing, drifting, and surfing, as it can be fixed onto your helmet vertically or horizontally. It also allows for easy angle adjustments.
  • comes in a variety of colors
  • many language options to choose from
  • stores away nicely
Brand SOGO
Weight 1.2 pounds
Rating 4.3 / 5.0

5. Activeon CX Gold

The Activeon CX Gold boasts a super lightweight design, with a 2" built-in touchscreen that is easy to control thanks to its intuitive user interface. It also supports four FOV 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 12.8 ounces
Rating 4.1 / 5.0

4. Nikon KeyMission 360

Decidedly unique among action cams, the Nikon KeyMission 360 employs two high-quality 180˚ NIKKOR lenses situated on either side of the camera body to create a full 360˚ field of view for a completely immersive 4K video experience.
  • shockproof to over 6 feet
  • wi-fi connectivity
  • very expensive option
Brand Beach Camera
Model E2NKKM360
Weight pending
Rating 4.1 / 5.0

3. 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 4.5 / 5.0

2. Spy Tec Mobius ActionCam

The Spy Tec Mobius ActionCam may be mini in size, but it's mighty in features. It's superior in low light situations and records fast-moving scenes exceptionally well. Plus, it allows you to take still photographs at timed intervals.
  • high bitrate video capture
  • doubles as a powerful car dash cam
  • lens has minimal fisheye distortion
Brand Spy Tec
Model mobius_wide_angle
Weight 2.1 ounces
Rating 4.7 / 5.0

1. GoPro HERO5 Black

The GoPro HERO5 Black is built for the ultimate extremist with exceptional image quality and 4K video to capture every moment. After a long wait, the brand's loyalists finally have an integrated touchscreen display measuring in at two inches.
  • high performance audio
  • customizable nighttime settings
  • can control using your devices
Brand GoPro
Model CHDHX-501
Weight 1.2 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 October 04, 2017 by Daniel Imperiale

Daniel is a writer, actor, and director living in Los Angeles, CA. He spent a large portion of his 20s roaming the country in search of new experiences, taking on odd jobs in the strangest places, studying at incredible schools, and making art with empathy and curiosity.

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