A few years ago, advice on finding the best action camera would be pretty simple: find a GoPro. But the market has changed, and a number of competitors have caught up to the venerable favorite. If you’re looking to document your adventures in the wild and share them with friends, family, and followers, you now have a pretty sizable number of options to choose from.
Narrowing down our list to the 10 best models of action cameras wasn’t easy, but we’ve written a review for each of the 10 best action cameras. We’ve also compiled together a guide that you can read to understand what separates a good action camera from the best action cameras.
- The 10 Best Action Cameras
- 1. AKASO EK7000 4K Ultra HD Sports Action Camera
- 2. GoPro HERO 7 Black
- 3. Campark ACT74 Action Camera
- 4. GoPro HERO6 Black
- 5. AKASO Brave 4K Wi-Fi Sports Action Camera
- 6. YI 4K Action and Sports Camera
- 7. Dragon Touch Vision 3 4K Action Camera
- 8. Crosstour 4K Action Camera
- 9. YI Lite Action Camera
- 10. New EKEN H9R Action Camera
- Action Cameras Buyer’s Guide
The 10 Best Action Cameras
1. AKASO EK7000 4K Ultra HD Sports Action Camera
GoPros are some of the best action cameras around, but they certainly don't come cheap. If you're willing to sacrifice just a bit in terms of features and quality, Akaso's EK7000 can provide you with a sensible budget alternative. The $60 price tag is the obvious selling point here, but this actions cam is built in with some standard features that can make it the right choice for more casual consumers.
Time lapse and burst photo functions are built right in, and the four top buttons that handle all the navigation are easy to read and simple to operate. And the video here can't stand up to most action cams, but given the fact that it comes in at a fraction of the price of most of its competitors, the quality is pretty solid. Just bear in mind that it doesn't come with any image stabilization options.
2. GoPro HERO 7 Black
For better or worse, the Hero 7 Black GoPro cam is the standard by which even the best action cameras will be judged. This camera has undoubtedly earned that designation. The Black may be an expensive action camera, but its features and quality are unrivaled. 4K video and stills both are among the best in the business, and this camera offers an incredible stabilization system to keep the Black's footage looking smooth even when the roads or waves get rocky.
Just as cool is the navigational interface. The Black's LCD touchscreen is easy to read even in the most hazardous conditions, and you can even activate voice control to get it to do what you want without having to free up your hands. The Hero 7 Black also makes use of TimeWarp video to essentially offer stabilized time lapse footage and provides streaming options through its exceptionally stable wireless interface.
3. Campark ACT74 Action Camera
The Campark ACT47 bears a price tag that's actually cheaper than the Akaso EK7000, but it actually manages to compete with it in terms of performance. This may be a cheap camera, but it offers possibly the best value in a pure comparison of cost to features. It can shoot slow motion time lapse footage in addition to 4K at up to 30 frames per second. This won't keep pace with the best in class Hero 7 Black or any other Go cameras, but it's a tremendous accomplishment for a camera so cheap.
What it will work as a first action camera for kids or amateurs. The low cost means that there's little risk involved with an investment, and the interface is generally clean and easy to understand. Wi-Fi capabilities allow you to easily upload footage to friends and families, and it can be submerged in water to 30 meters.
4. GoPro HERO6 Black
The GoPro Hero 6 Black isn't quite on par with the Hero 7, but these two go cams comfortably occupy the upper echelon of the best action camera market. You can pick up this model used for half the price of its bigger brother, and while it doesn't come with all the bells and whistles, this version of the Black is still the next best action camera by a long shot. So what are you missing out on? A mid-range video resolution, short clips, and in-camera image and video enhancement.
The 6 also has a few steps back in terms of general improvements. The frames per second aren't quite on par, the stabilization is a bit weaker, and the menus aren't quite intuitive. But the Hero 6 has an upper hand in terms of battery performance, so you can operate a longer action session without having to recharge.
5. AKASO Brave 4K Wi-Fi Sports Action Camera
The Akaso Brave 4 is fundamentally an upgrade of the previously mentioned Akaso model, but 10 more dollars gets you some decent improvements that make this action model worth your attention. It's a camera that's cheap enough and sturdy enough for the whole family. You probably won't want to take it with you on action adventures if you're a serious YouTuber, but if you're trying to introduce your kids to the joys of action videography or just capture some fun footage, it's one of the best action models to pursue.
So what does the Akaso Brave 4 add to Akaso's existing action camera? For one, image stabilization. That's a big win that can greatly increase its image quality documenting extreme situations. Then there's the inclusion of a new IPS screen that offers significantly savvier methods for manually capturing footage and adjusting the settings to meet your needs.
6. YI 4K Action and Sports Camera
The YI 4K action camera isn't a GoPro Black, but it does an awfully good impression of one for a budget priced action camera. It offers best in price features like live streaming and voice controls for a price that's half or less that of many comparable action models on the market. Available in both night black and white pearl, it also sports a stylish design that makes it easily one of the most fashionable action cameras at any price point.
But it's more than just a looker. Gorilla Glass protects the Yi 4K action camera's touchscreen from damage and daily impact, and the inclusion of both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth makes it easier for you to review your footage and share it. There's also a wide range of shooting modes that include slow motion, time lapse, and burst photography. It's an easy camera to review and an easier one to recommend.
7. Dragon Touch Vision 3 4K Action Camera
The Dragon Touch Vision 3 is another budget priced model that comes in for under $50. There's no arguing that this is the best action cam around, but it does provide a breadth of settings and a respectable image quality that goes beyond the standard expectations. Many of these can be found with a careful review of comparable models: a 4X zoom, a wrist-mounted remote control, and Wi-Fi connectivity. It's also water resistance to depths of 30 feet.
But Dragon Touch pulls off some special tricks with this action cam too. The 30 fps frame rate for 4K video is relatively impressive, and the XDV app works in conjunction with the Wi-Fi connectivity. It's not the best action cam app on the market, but it's certainly a great inclusion and an easier way to read your image or video footage without having to connect to your desktop or laptop.
8. Crosstour 4K Action Camera
Practically any damage you dish out to the Crosstour Action cam, it can handle. It's a strong contender for the best action camera in its price range due to its sturdy build and its ability to shoot reliable 4K footage without costing you more than $40. With a standard retail price of three times that, that's an absolute steal. Six separate layers of glass produce higher image and video quality in any outdoor session, and it continues to perform well both in water and in frigid conditions.
It's an incredibly easy action camera to control as well. The Wi-Fi connectivity works brilliantly in conjunction with the iSmart DV app, and it also comes with a wrist remote if you decide you want to put your phone away and not hassle with the app. And the customer service team provides assistance 7 days a week.
9. YI Lite Action Camera
The YI Lite trims down a few of the things components of the traditional Yi action camera and manages to trim down the price tag at the same time. It still gets the essentials right on the money, and if you're looking for something a little more budget conscious, it could be the best camera for your needs. Nine different shooting modes are supported so you can get the right image regardless of the situation you're in or your preferred style.
On top of that, this camera has some great wireless options built in. The Wi-Fi connectivity lets you communicate through your phone up to 330 feet away, while the Bluetooth 4.0 connection lets you be tethered to a distance of up to 33 feet. And despite being a small and lightweight camera, YI has still managed to pack in a touchscreen that's easy to read.
10. New EKEN H9R Action Camera
The New Eken H9R is another action oriented camera that's best catered to the needs of amateur photographers. It finds one of the best sweet spots around between pricing, ease of use, and functionality, but it won't offer a level of performance that will stand up to the needs of professionals in the same way that a GoPro Hero Black will.
Best of all, the New Eken H9R comes loaded to bear with accessories, and the mounts are even compatible with most other cameras if you're looking to make an upgrade to the best quality models on the market. The functions here are pretty stellar too. Slow motion photography and time lapse images are complemented by live streaming so you can share your footage directly with your fans. The only thing it's missing in terms of the best functions around is the presence of voice control.
Action Cameras Buyer’s Guide
Our reviews for the best cameras can help you understand what options you’re working with, but a review only tells one part of the story. Our guide will help you understand the best shopping options for adventure cameras. Let this guide help you understand what the best model is for you, then narrow down your results to the best review for your situation.
The (Overrated) Importance of Megapixels
If you want to take stills or use burst mode, the highest level of image integrity is going to be important. If you just listen to the manufacturer, you might consider megapixels to be the be all and end all of how good stills look, but that’s not the case. Megapixels merely tell you how many pixels can fit onto the face of a sensor, and density is more important than sheer numbers.
Larger sensors need more megapixels to produce equivalent results, and the best camera models combine high megapixel counts with the best components available. Don’t rule out megapixels as a factor when weighing a review, but don’t let them be the be all and end all, especially when weighed against the video resolution.
The Importance of Video Quality
There are a few factors to keep in mind when evaluating the video quality of a camera based off its review. The most obvious is resolution. Like megapixel counts, it tells you how much detail the camera can pack into a screen. Unlike megapixels, the best is pretty much absolute. 4K will generally look standardized regardless of the sensor shooting it.
What you should factor in is the frame rate, measured in frames per second. This tells you how quickly the camera records. If you pause any 4K footage at the same point, that still may look equivalent, but the frames per second tell you how smoothly it looks in action. Lower fps rates will look significantly choppier, while the best speeds will come across as seamless.
One last factor to consider is HDR video. HDR is a standard that allows you to get the best color contrast and white levels. If resolution refers to the detail of the picture, and the fps factors in how well it looks in motion, HDR can bring the vibrancy of the footage to a whole new level. Of the action cameras on our list, only GoPros support HDR video, but that’s just another reason why the Hero 7 and Hero 6 Black are well regarded in every review featuring them.
Is it Tough Enough?
The best cam in the world won’t do you much good if it can’t follow you wherever you want to go, so it’s crucial to consider the durability in each review and compare it to what you’ll be using it for. If you’re just attaching a GoPro for your afternoon jog, waterproofing won’t be a big deal. If you’re going surfing with it, that’s a whole other story. Athletes living exceedingly aggressive lives should dig past the review to check out more detailed information on exactly what each of these cameras can withstand.
Also keep in mind that a camera that offers protection on its own is generally going to be better than one that comes with a protective case. These cases may provide shielding from the elements, but they can also make it harder to manipulate the buttons underneath them.
Finally, consider whether or not you need your cameras to be mounted. Many of these action cameras come with their own mounting tools, but the best ones are compatible with multiple cameras so you can continue to use the mounts even if you make an upgrade.
There are a lot of GoPro alternatives out there, and if they prove anything, it’s that the market is large enough to support a more diverse variety of price ranges and designs than it was just a few years ago. If you’ve been thinking about trying out action cams, there’s never been a better time. You don’t need the best model to experience what these cool gadgets can offer, and you don’t have to spend more than $100 to get a decent model.
We hope you find a review that suits your needs. And if you decide you’re looking for something a little less action-packed, check out our guide to the best budget cameras of 2020.