When you think of the best action cameras, you think of GoPro, right? Well, it's. true that GoPro leads the way for conventional action camera design, but while the best GoPro cameras (opens in new tab) are pretty amazing, there are alternatives that are equally compelling in their own way. DJI, Insta360 and Akaso cameras offer features GoPro cameras don't, or at prices GoPros can't match.
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DJI is perhaps GoPro's best-known rival, but certainly not the only one. There's a lot of crossover in this market with other areas like the best 360º cameras, and the newly updated modular Insta360 One RS Twin Edition includes both an action camera module and a 360 module – it's two cameras in one!
And while the GoPro Hero10 Black takes the top spot in our list, don't forget that GoPro keeps older Hero9 and Hero8 models on sale at reduced prices. Or, for a completely different take on the idea of 'action' cameras, check out the amazing Insta360 Go 2, also on our list. We thought we'd also throw you a curve ball with the DJI Pocket 2. It's not a rugged go-anywhere camera like a GoPro, but it's a pocket-sized gimbal camera with stabilization, 'follow' modes and image quality way beyond what its size suggests.
These action cameras aren't the only way to record your adventures. For a step up in quality, check out our guide to the best cameras for vlogging (opens in new tab). Alternatively, for a whole new perspective, we have a guide to the best camera drones, which are like having an action camera in the sky.
But for now, let's get started with our top picks of the best action cams right now…
The best action cameras in 2022(opens in new tab)
Welcome to the newest and best GoPro around. Though launched without much fanfare and looking identical to the Hero9 Black in almost every way, the Hero10 Black is nevertheless a significant upgrade. That’s all down to its use of the all-new GP2 processor, which powers both a speedy user interface, doubles the frame rates and fuels the best image stabilization tech yet.
The highlight is 5.3K video with 60 frames per second, but don’t underestimate the usefulness of GoPro’s new HyperSmooth 4.0 video stabilization – in all modes – alongside 23MP photos and best-ever low-light performance. Add a nifty cable for super-quick camera-to-app content transfer and auto-upload of videos and photos to the cloud while it recharges and the Hero10 Black was worth the wait. It's definitely not the cheapest action camera you can buy, but GoPro is now expert at producing tough, reliable and supremely effective action cameras, and you do get what you're paying for.(opens in new tab)
Is the Insta360 ONE RS a novelty or a serious filmmaking device? Unique in the market, the ONE RS is designed to appeal to anyone who would normally consider a GoPro yet yearns to at least have a go at 360º. The fact that its 360º lens is unchanged from the first-gen version does indicate that the format has settled-in as a nice option for occasional use but one that lacks much more development, which chimes with us. That lens does allow a lot of creative options and we love how the Insta360 app provides templates to create natty 360º sequences from clips, but most users will rely on its 4K Boost Lens. The second-generation camera impresses us with its longer battery life, higher resolution stills and a new widescreen 2.35:1 aspect ratio. Insta360’s FlowState stabilisation is smooth and now more versatile with lots of AI-powered auto-editing features in an excellent smartphone app.
• Read our full Insta360 ONE RS Twin Edition review(opens in new tab)
Leading drone maker DJI forced a re-think for GoPro by introducing a front-screen to their first action camera; a handy innovation for vloggers. The new Action 2 puts even more choice in the user’s hands, coming as a tiny 39x39mm square camera core which can be operated alone or attached (by a magnetic clip) to other units which offer more connectivity, battery life and a front-facing screen. The camera has a 1 / 1.7” sensor and RockSteady 2.0 and HorizonSteady image stabilization. Even paired, it is only around the size of a GoPro, though on the downside the rear touchscreen is only the size of the main camera unit. The modular system is strong, and has immense gadget value (though can get a bit hot when charging), while DJI’s Mimo app makes control via your phone painless. There is an interesting new world of accessories (as well as adaptors for the traditional ‘GoPro’ style ones), making this a hard option to overlook.
• Read our full DJI Action 2 review(opens in new tab)
The Insta360 Go 2 is a long way from the rugged adventure cameras in the rest of this guide. It's a cute and tiny wearable camera you can clip to your clothing, snap to a magnetic pendant around your neck, prop up on our own desk in its own holder, stick to a car dash or window... and more. Capable of unique immersive POV shorts and also worth considering as a minimalist rig for vloggers, the lightweight Insta360 Go 2 has some surprisingly big features for such a small camera. Excellent image stabilisation, ‘horizon lock’ and a multi-functional battery case make this versatile clip-on camera more than just a novelty item. It's not an action camera in the same sense as the rest, but its tiny size means it can film things you might never have attempted before.
• Read our full Insta360 Go 2 review(opens in new tab)
GoPro’s first action camera to feature a vlogging-style front-facing screen is now better value than ever. It allows you to frame yourself while vlogging, when used as a webcam, or just for selfies. The resolution got a boost too, with 20 megapixel stills capability and a 5K video shooting. The latter will be overkill for many, but it also allows 14.7 megapixel grabs from video, which could be hard to resist.
It’s also got a larger 2.27-inch display than the older GoPro Hero8 Black, super-smooth Hypersmooth 3.0 video stabilization, TimeWarp 3.0 for handheld time-lapses, a travel case. There’s also a Max Lens Mod accessory that will bring GoPro Max (opens in new tab)-style features like 360º horizon lock and an ultra-wide 155º Max SuperView mode.
• Read full GoPro Hero9 review (opens in new tab)(opens in new tab)
Is the DJI Pocket 2 an action camera? Well, it's not rugged and waterproof, but it's pocket-sized, simple to operate and does many of the jobs you might have bought an action camera for – and with superb stabilization, smooth 'follow' modes and flip-around selfie shooting. There’s also a handy ultrawide lens attachment that definitely drops quality, but adds field of view. Despite some real highlights: shallower depth of field than expected and nippy focusing, not to mention great object tracking and color reproduction, noise handling isn’t a highlight on the Pocket 2. That aside, the convenience, versatility, and stabilization offered by the DJI Pocket 2 can’t be overstated. After all, nothing much can do all the things it can and still slip into a jacket pocket. You can even plug it into your smartphone and get big-screen control and playback via the DJI app.
Read more: DJI Pocket 2 review (opens in new tab)(opens in new tab)
If you need a front screen for vlogging - or to ensure you stay in shot as you film yourself skiing down a slope with a selfie stick – then this is a bargain buy. It has the same killer feature found on the GoPro Hero 9 and the DJI Osmo Action, but the second screen comes at a fraction of the cost. You get 4K shooting and 20 megapixel stills - plus a capable 6-axis image stabilization system. There is a good range of accessories in the box too - including a second battery, mounts and an underwater housing. Note, though, that unlike with many rivals you need to use this housing before you take your action cam into the water.(opens in new tab)
It’s now over two years old, but if you’ve no need for 5K or a front-facing screen, the smaller, lighter GoPro from 2019 could be perfect for you. Like many camera makers, GoPro keeps older models on sale at reduced prices, giving users a range of price points.
A key difference from its predecessors is that there are fold-out feet that means that you have a camera mount built-in. And then you can accessorize the Hero8 Black even more with a new series of beautifully designed optional extras called Mods; we like the Display Mod, which adds a second monitor that is perfect for vloggers (something built-in to both the Hero9 Black and Hero10 Black). These add-ons cost you more, but with a price-cut the Hero8 Black seems a good value option given its excellent 4K video and impressive image stabilization system.
• Read full GoPro Hero8 review (opens in new tab)
How we test cameras
We test cameras both in real-world shooting scenarios and, for DSLRs and mirrorless cameras, in carefully controlled lab conditions. Our lab tests measure resolution, dynamic range and signal to noise ratio. Resolution is measured using ISO resolution charts, dynamic range is measured using DxO Analyzer test equipment and DxO Analyzer is also used for noise analysis across the camera's ISO range. We only use real-world testing for our guides to instant and compact cameras - comparing results against similar models that we have tested.