If you thought an action camera was just for capturing still images and eye-popping video footage during your extreme adventures such as skydiving, scuba diving and skiing, think again. The latest action cameras from GoPro, DJI, Insta360 and Akaso are also perfect for capturing vacation memories and even everyday photos or video. These devices are small, versatile and extremely durable.
As a result, you can conveniently use action cameras in places where your smartphone camera or point-and-shoot camera can't go. Whatever your photography or videography needs (and budget), check out our picks for the best action cameras available right now. For vacationers and vloggers, for example, we love the new DJI Osmo Pocket 3 Creator Combo. It's easy to hold in one hand, yet it captures beautiful video content at up to 4K (120fps).
Best action cameras of late 2023
With GoPro's flagship camera, the GoPro Hero 12 Black, for example, you can capture incredible photos or visually stunning high definition video from a first- or third-person perspective. However, cameras like the DJI OSMO Action 4, Insta360 One RS, or budget-friendly Akaso Brave 4 Elite each offer a different design and feature set that might better match your personal needs and budget.
Best action camera overall: GoPro Hero 12 Black
Video Resolution: Up to 5.3K (up to 60fps) | Still Image Resolution: 27MP | Display Size: 1.4-inch LCD (front), 2.27-inch LCD touchscreen (rear) | Size: 2.83 x 2 x 1.32 inches | Weight: 5.43 ounces | Waterproof Rating: 33 feet
Out of all the action cameras out there, the GoPro Hero 12 Black currently offers the most flexibility in terms of shooting mode options. And because GoPro has the largest ecosystem of mods (camera upgrades), accessories, apps, and services that work with the company's flagship camera, it can capture still photos or video content from a first- or third-person perspective in almost any type of shooting location. It can also be used for live streaming and capturing subjects from unique angles.
To achieve the best results with the Hero 12 Black, it's essential to pair it with the most appropriate mods, mount and accessories. GoPro sells a selection of optional mods that expand the capabilities of the camera. There's the Media Mod ($80), which features an upgraded multidirectional mic and foam mic cover, ideal for content creators and live streamers. The Display Mod ($48) utilizes an external, two-inch, front-facing, flip-up display that's larger than the one built into the camera. It works in conjunction with the Media Mod. The Light Mod ($50) includes a compact, waterproof and powerful LED light that offers up to 200 lumens of brightness. There's also the Max Lens Mod ($100) that fits over the existing camera lens to offer a wider field of view with better perspective and depth of field.
But that's just the beginning. There are dozens of genuine mounts for the Hero 12 Black. These include optional tabletop tripods, camera handles, boom bars, head straps, bike mounts, chest mounts and unique mounts that allow you to attach the camera to your dog, surfboard, vehicle dashboard or wrist, for example. GoPro also offers a powerful and free mobile app for quickly viewing, editing and sharing still photos or video. With an optional GoPro Subscription, among other things, you get unlimited cloud-based storage for your content and auto uploads from the camera. When shooting, it's possible to control the camera using its built-in touchscreen and buttons, voice commands, or the GoPro mobile app. What's possible with this camera is limited mainly by your creativity and the mods, mounts, and accessories you use with it.
Be sure to check out our hands-onto see how well the camera performed during our testing.
- The new user interface offers simplified controls that will appeal to casual users. More advanced users can switch to the Advanced Controls setting from the camera's menu to gain full control over all of the camera's shooting modes and settings.
- You can shoot video using HDR (high dynamic range) to improve color authenticity and detail. HDR mode works with multiple 4K and 5.3K video shooting resolution options and aspect ratios, including 5.3K, 16:9 and 30fps.
- The GoPro Hero 12 captures even smoother video than the Hero 11 when the camera is in motion.
- When shooting video in 1080p, 2.7K, 4K or 5.3K resolution using the Linear, Wide or HyperWide modes, you now have more frames per second options, in some cases going up to 120 fps.
- A traditional quarter-inch tripod mount has been integrated into the bottom of the camera, along with GoPro's own mounting fingers.
- The Max Lens 2.0 Mod expands the camera's field of view up to 177 degrees at 4K 60fps and gives you the addition of Max Wide, Max SuperView and Max HyperView settings that allow for an even more immersive quality to be incorporated into video content.
- The genuine GoPro camera mods, mounts, accessories, extra batteries and microSD memory cards are each sold separately, which can get expensive.
- Editing 5.3K video using the GoPro Quik mobile app requires a modern and powerful smartphone.
- An updated GoPro Hero Black camera model is released annually, so expect this model to be obsolete within three to four years.
- Extra batteries (and potentially multiple memory cards) are needed to enjoy a full day of filming.
Best compact action camera: GoPro Hero 11 Black Mini
Video Resolution: Up to 5.3K (60 fps) | Still Image Resolution: 24.7MP (from video only) | Display Size: None | Size: 2.06 x 2.02 x 1.5 inches | Weight: 4.69 ounces | Waterproof Rating: 33 feet
As its name suggests, the GoPro Hero 11 Black Mini is a smaller, scaled down version of the Hero 12 Black camera. This model does not offer either a front or back-facing display. It's designed to be remotely controlled from a mobile device using the GoPro app. More than a dozen voice commands are also supported. Another unique feature is that this camera has two built-in mounting fingers that pop out from the camera body (one on the back and one on the bottom of the camera). This gives you additional options when connecting the camera to an optional mount and then setting the camera to an optimal angle to capture your shots.
The Mini has fewer shooting modes than the Hero 12 Black and can only capture still images from video footage that's already been shot. That said, it can shoot video at up to 5.3K (60fps) resolution. It's also just as durable as the Hero 12 Black and is compatible with more than 40 genuine GoPro mods, mods, and accessories, in addition to hundreds of third-party accessories.
The Mini offers Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity. It comes bundled with a curved adhesive mount, mounting buckle, USB Type-C cable, thumb screw and case. A required microSD memory card is sold separately. This camera is best suited to someone who will be mounting the camera on themselves or their equipment and then controlling it remotely.
- The Mini is more compact than the GoPro Hero 12 Black.
- Dual mounting fingers (on the rear and bottom of the camera) give you extra mounting options to achieve the best shooting angle from this small camera.
- Take advantage of one button operation, plus remote smartphone control.
- The HyperSmooth 5.0 stabilization ensures ultra-smooth video.
- There's no front- or rear-facing display built into this camera.
- The genuine GoPro camera mounts and accessories are each sold separately.
- For just a bit more money, you can buy the more robust GoPro Hero 12 Black, so unless you need the Mini's smaller size for specific types of shots, consider the more powerful camera option above.
Best GoPro for shooting 360-degree video: GoPro Max
Video Resolution: Up to 5.6K (360-degree video), 1080p (video) | Still Image Resolution: 18MP | Display Size: 2-inch LCD touchscreen (back) | Size: 2.54 x 2.72 x 0.98 inches | Weight: 5.43 ounces | Waterproof Rating: 16 feet
The GoPro Max is a tad larger than the flagship GoPro Hero 12 Black camera, but it can also do one major thing that the other GoPro camera models cannot-shoot 360-degree video at up to 5.6K resolution. Using six built-in microphones, the Max captures immersive stereo audio to accompany the stunningly detailed and immersive video. You also get a camera with a waterproof and extremely durable design that's compatible with more than 30 genuine GoPro mounts and accessories.
As with all other GoPro cameras, this one stores recorded content on a microSD memory card (sold separately), but can also auto-upload content to the GoPro cloud-based service when the camera is connected to Wi-Fi or paired with a smartphone with Internet access. A two-inch, full-color touchscreen is located on one side of the camera. It's used to adjust camera settings, as a viewfinder and to preview content after it's been shot. On the Max, you'll discover lenses located on both the front and back of the camera. They're used simultaneously to capture 360-degree footage. Once transferred to a smartphone, tablet, or computer, your content can easily be edited using GoPro's free Quik app.
Shooting 360-degree video isn't Max's only specialty. Using just one of the camera's lenses, you can easily shoot narrow, linear, wide, and Max SuperView (270-degree panoramic) video content or still images. Using the internal 360-degree horizontal lock, it's possible to capture stable and level shots, even if the camera is spinning, flipping or mounted on a subject that's moving quickly on unstable terrain. No matter how you plan to use the Max, you'll quickly discover it's loaded with powerful features and shooting modes that give you maximum versatility and control in any shooting situation.
- Captures traditional photos and video content, plus stunning 360-degree video.
- Uses six microphones to capture stereo audio.
- The Max is compatible with more than 30 genuine GoPro mounts and accessories.
- This camera allows for live streaming at up to 1080p resolution.
- The Max is larger than GoPro Hero 12 Black.
- You get more limited shooting modes than other GoPro cameras.
- Bring along extra batteries and memory cards to extend shooting time.
Best GoPro alternative with excellent features: DJI OSMO Action 4
Video Resolution: Up to 4K (120 fps) | Still Image Resolution: 10MP | Display Size: 1.4-inch LCD touchscreen (front), 2.25-inch LCD touchscreen (rear) | Size: 2.78 x 1.74 x 1.29 inches | Weight: 5.11 ounces | Waterproof Rating: IP68 / 196 feet (with waterproof case), 59 feet (without waterproof case)
Featuring a camera body design that's similar to the GoPro Hero 12 Black, the DJI OSMO Action 4 is able to capture video at up to 4K (120fps) resolution with an impressively wide 155-degree field of view. Both the front and back of the camera have touchscreen displays used to adjust camera settings, as a live viewfinder and to preview already shot content.
OSMO Action 4 is waterproof and extremely durable. When you're shooting high-action activities with the camera in motion, its built-in, 360-degree "HorizonSteady" and "RockSteady 3.0" image stabilization features ensure your content will remain in focus and ultra-smooth. One unique feature of this camera is its proprietary Magnetic Quick Release mounting system, which works with the camera's various optional accessories.
Meanwhile, whether you're shooting video or still images, the camera's main image sensor (combined with its operating system) take full advantage of an advanced color temperature sensor, so the colors in your content appear vibrant and true-to-life, even when shooting in low light situations or underwater. This camera is loaded with impressive features. When it comes to optional mounts and accessories, the selection is more limited to what's offered by GoPro for its action cameras. However, a chest mount, helmet mount, camera handle, extension rod and a handful of other mounts and accessories are sold separately.
- Capture up to 4K (120fps) video with a stunning 155-degree field of view.
- Color touchscreens on the front and back of the camera let you see what you're filming, regardless of which way it's facing.
- Battery life is up to 160 minutes, but this depends on accessories being used.
- Offers situational image stabilization using the 360-degree HorizonSteady feature.
- Magnetic quick-release mounts make it easy to attach and remove the camera.
- Battery life drains quickly when using both displays.
- Minimum focus distance is 1.3 feet, so the camera is not well suited for macro photography.
Best 360-degree action camera: Insta360 One RS 1-Inch 360 Edition
Video Resolution: Up to 6K (360-degrees) | Still Image Resolution: 21MP | Display Size: 1-inch | Size: 2.09 x 5.09 x 1.95 inches | Weight: 8.43 ounces | Waterproof Rating: IPX3
The handheld design of the Insta360 One RS 1-Inch 360 Edition is unlike any other action camera. Since this camera is capable of shooting detailed, 360-degree video, there's a lens on both the front and back of the camera. It's designed to be held in one hand, or used with the optional and extendable Invisible Selfie Stick ($25), which doubles as a camera. In addition to 360-degree video, it's possible to shoot traditional (wide angle) video and still images with a shooting system and camera technology that was co-engineered by Leica.
Two one-inch CMOS sensors are used to capture an extremely high image quality that showcases extreme detail and accurate colors in daylight or low-light situations. The camera is also equipped with six-axis "FlowState" image stabilization, so your videos always look smooth. While the built-in display can be used to adjust camera settings, the camera can also be remotely controlled using the Insta360 mobile app. The same app is used to watch, edit and share content directly from your mobile device. Meanwhile, the company's free Insta360 Studio software (for Windows PCs and Macs) is equipped with AI-based editing tools and a robust set of easy to use editing features.
For content creators, the Insta360 One RS 1-Inch 360 Edition can be used for live streaming or as a webcam for video calls and virtual meetings. The coolest feature built into this camera kicks in when it's connected to the Insta360 Invisible Selfie Stick. When you use this accessory to capture third-person content, any time the selfie stick (camera extension arm) is caught in a shot, the camera digitally removes it, so it never appears in your content. A small selection of optional mounts and accessories, including an external battery pack (to extend battery life), an external microphone adapter and a Quick Reader for faster file transfers, are sold separately.
- Easily capture traditional or 360-degree video, with time lapse, timeshift and loop recording options.
- Hold the camera in your hands, attach it to the Insta360 Invisible Selfie Stick or mount it on a tripod while shooting.
- The camera's battery lasts up to 62 minutes per charge, but this depends on how it's being used.
- The 360-degree horizon lock features offers added image stabilization.
- There's just one small display on the back of the camera, and no front display.
- The camera is easier to control remotely using the Insta360 smartphone app.
- Insta360 offers a limited selection of mounts and accessories.
- At $800, it's the most pricey option on our list.
Best budget 360-degree action camera: Kandao QooCam 3
Video Resolution: Up to 5.7K (60 fps) | Still Image Resolution: 62MP | Display Size: 2-inch touchscreen | Size: 3.3 x 2.8 x 1 inches | Weight: 12.5 ounces | Waterproof Rating: IP68
The Kandao QooCam 3 easily fits in the palm of a hand and is able to capture traditional video, 360-degree video, or high-resolution still images at a whopping 62MP resolution. And for video, it can shoot up to 5.7K at 60 fps, which makes it one of the highest resolution cameras featured in this roundup. The camera uses two 1.55-inch sensors with an f/1.6 aperture, so it works well in most lighting conditions.
The camera's OS offers a handful of shooting modes, which makes it both easy to use and versatile. When capturing 360-degree video, the QooCam 3 enables seamless horizontal correction so what's being shot appears level, even if the camera is in motion.
One cool feature that we've only seen before with the Insta360 action cameras is that this one also offers an invisible selfie stick feature, so if the optional selfie-stick used to capture third-person content winds up in your shot, the camera automatically edits it out during the shooting process. This camera offers a really good value thanks to its versatility. In the box, you get the camera, one battery, a USB Type-C cable, a lens cloth and a soft carrying case. When not shooting 360-degree video, the camera does an impressive job capturing traditional wide-angle video from a first- or third-person perspective. It can also be used as a point-and-shoot still image camera that captures extremely detailed photos. It's a less expensive alternative to the GoPro Max.
- The 2-inch touchscreen is used to control the camera and as a viewfinder.
- The QooCam 3 smartphone app can be used to control the camera remotely.
- The camera uses four internal microphones to record immersive audio while shooting video.
- File transfers to a computer must be done using a USB Type-C cable. It's not wireless.
Best value action camera: Akaso Brave 4 Elite
Video Resolution: Up to 4K (60 fps) | Still Image Resolution: 20MP | Display Size: 1.5-inch LCD (front), 2-inch LCD touchscreen (back) | Size: 2.32 x 1.57 x 0.91 inches | Weight: 5.6 ounces | Waterproof Rating: IPX8 (33 feet)
On the outside, the Akaso Brave 4 Elite might look a lot like the GoPro Hero 12 Black, but there's one major difference: their respective prices. The Brave 4 Elite comes bundled with a handful of mounts, accessories, lens filters and cables, but it's priced two-thirds less than the basic GoPro Hero 12 Black camera. This camera's maximum video resolution is 4K (60fps), which is more than high enough for most videographers. It can also shoot still images at 20MP.
Like the GoPro cameras, the Brave 4 Elite offers image stabilization and both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity. It can pair with and be remotely controlled by a smartphone, but a stand-alone remote control with a wrist strap is included with the camera. Plus, the camera accepts voice commands. Another unique feature of this camera is that it has 64GB of internal storage, along with a microSD memory card slot, so you can shoot video or still images without needing a memory card inserted in the cameras. In all, the camera's operating system supports a dozen shooting modes.
While you don't get the same robust ecosystem of apps, cloud-based storage or genutine mounts and accessories as you get with a GoPro, the Akaso Brave 4 comes with the equipment needed to shoot in a wide range of conditions, whether you opt to hold the camera in your hands, attach it to your body or equipment, or mount it on a tripod or stand.
For the price -- and without making any significant compromises -- the Akaso Brave 4 Elite offers an excellent alternative to the GoPro Hero 12 Black. Be sure to clip the coupon on Amazon before checkout to save an extra $20 off.
- It's much more affordable than the GoPro Hero 12 Black.
- Capture up to 4K (60fps) video, plus still images at 20MP.
- The camera has 64GB of internal storage, but also works with optional microSD memory cards.
- The camera offers multiple shooting modes, including time-lapse, slow motion and long exposure.
- The Brave 4 Elite comes bundled with a generous selection of mounts, accessories and camera housings.
- The camera's menu system is not too intuitive, so it's easier to control from the mobile app.
- The highest possible video and still image resolution is lower than what the GoPro Hero 12 Black is capable of.
Best action camera for vacationers and vloggers: DJI Osmo Pocket 3 Creator Edition
Video Resolution: Up to 4K (120 fps) | Still Image Resolution: 9.4MP | Display Size: 2-inch rotatable touchscreen | Size: 5.5 x 1.66 x 1.32 inches | Weight: 6.31 ounces | Waterproof Rating: Not waterproof
While you can purchase the DJI Osmo Pocket 3 on its own, we recommend the Creator Edition because it comes with a collection of extremely useful accessories for capturing vacation memories or vlogging, for example. In addition to the camera itself, the Creator Edition includes a DJI Mic 2 Transmitter (external microphone) with a windscreen and clip magnet; a wide angle lens; a battery handle; a mini Y tripod; a wrist strap; protective lens cover; USB Type-C to USB Type-C cable; and a carrying bag.
In terms of its capabilities, the Osmo Pocket 3 is extremely compact and can be operated with one hand. The camera is mounted on a three-axis stabilizer that allows for incredibly smooth video to be shot, even without using a tripod. And to ensure you can see everything that you're filming, the 2-inch OLED touchscreen rotates.
One feature that vloggers will appreciate is the full-pixel fast focusing, which means that the camera can be focused on a subject's face, but when that person holds up an item to the camera, the camera instantly focuses in on that item. But, as soon as the item is lowered, the camera returns to focusing on the vloggers face quickly and automatically.
Meanwhile, using the ActiveTrack 6.0 feature, when the camera is mounted on a tripod, the Face Auto-Detect and Dynamic Framing features are used to keep a moving subject on the center of the frame. When 4K video is being recorded, it's captured at 3,840 x 2,160 pixel resolution with a 16:9 aspect ratio. In Parorama mode, the camera's field of view is an impressive (and extra wide) 180-degrees.
- The camera utilizes a one-inch CMOS image sensor.
- The built-in lens is 20mm, f/2.0.
- The two-inch OLED display (with a maximum brightness of 700 nits and 314 x 556 pixel resolution) makes it easy to see what you're shooting.
- The battery offers up to 166 minutes of operating time per charge.
- The three integrated microphones allow or stereo audio recording.
- Still image resolution could be higher.
Best super-small (but mighty) action camera: Insta360 Go 3 Creator Kit
Video Resolution: Up to 2.7K (30 fps) | Still Image Resolution: Up to 2,936 x 1,088 pixels | Display Size: 2.2-inch touchscreen | Size: 1 x 2.1 x 0.9 inches (camera), 2.5 x 1.9 x 1.2 inches (Action Pod) | Weight: 1.23 ounces (camera only), 3.4 ounces (Action Pod only) | Waterproof Rating: IPX4
What's unique about the Insta360 Go 3 is that its modular and incredibly small. It's also rather easy to use and responds to voice commands. It's great for capturing hands-free first- or third-person video, because the camera easily attaches to your body or equipment and is waterproof. For example, the camera comes with a magnetic pendant, so it can be worn around your neck, but several other mounts are also included.
The Go 3's rechargeable battery lasts for up to 45 minutes of continuous shooting, but this gets extended up to 170 minutes using the Action Pod. What you need to understand about the Go 3 is that the camera is a stand alone unit that can be used on its own to capture video. The camera, however, fits into the included Action Pod, which contains a 2.2-inch touchscreen display that flips up. When you want to hold the camera in your hand or connect it to a tripod, for example, it gets placed within the Action Pod. The camera's two integrated microphones capture clear and immersive sound when shooting video.
As raw video content is exported to your mobile device or computer for editing, you can choose between a 16:9, 9:16 or 1:1 aspect ratio. When the Go 3 camera itself is mounted on someone or something, the Action Pod can be used as a remote viewfinder fro up to 33 feet away. As a still image camera, the Go 3 uses PureShot HDR that's powered using AI. While shooing video, a variety of shooting modes are available, including TimeShift and Timelapse. If you're looking for an easy to use and versatile action camera that's extremely small and lightweight, the Go 3 is your perfect choice.
- The Go 3 utilizes FlowState stabilization to ensure smooth video, even when the camera is in motion.
- The camera alone (without the Action Pod) can be mounted almost anywhere and at any angle. A variety of mounts are included.
- The camera itself offers one button control to start shooting, or you can use voice commands.
- In addition to the viewfinder / menu display, the Action Pod gives the camera extended battery life (up to 170 minutes).
- Both the camera itself and the Action Pod are waterproof (IPX4 rated).
- You don't get 4K video shooting capabilities.
- The rechargeable batteries in the camera and Action Pod are not swappable.
- The camera comes preinstalled with 32GB, 64GB or 128GB of internal storage and does not use a memory card. One the storage is filled, the content needs to be exported out of the camera.
What to consider when shopping for an action camera
What you need in an action camera will depend on what you plan to do with it. As a vacation camera, for example, you'll want a camera handle and/or selfie-stick accessory, plus a mount to attach the camera to your body (for first-person perspective shots). To capture yourself engaged in a specific activity, choose the right accessories and mounts that give you the most immersive camera angle options and that will hold the camera steady. You'll achieve the best results when you adjust the camera's settings correctly for each particular shooting situation and then choose the most appropriate accessories to control and use with the camera.
All of the cameras in the roundup can shoot video at 1080p resolution or higher and have built in image stabilization. The still photo resolution of each camera varies, so pick one that meets your needs. And don't forget to bring along extra memory cards and fully charged batteries when you go out shooting. These cameras also have built in microphones for capturing stereo (or in some cases) surround sound in conjunction with video. But, depending on the content you're creating, an optional external microphone could give you enhanced audio quality.
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