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The best action cameras in 2021: action cams you can take just about anywhere

GoPro Hero10 Black
(Image credit: GoPro)

You may think that a list of the best action cameras would just be GoPro, GoPro, and more GoPro. But this isn't the case! While it's true the action camera giant does dominate, and you'll see the best GoPro cameras well represented in our guide, there are loads of fabulous action cameras out there from many different brands. What's more, many of them are significantly cheaper than the market leader, so those looking to make a saving would do well to consider their options.

With all that said, if you're looking for the absolute best action camera you can buy right now – spoilers – we think it's pretty unquestionably the GoPro Hero10 Black. This tiny wonder is able to shoot 5.3K video at 60fps and is also waterproof down to 10m. Also, taking a cue from one of its biggest rivals, the DJI Osmo Action, it and the previous GoPro Hero9 Black have a front-facing screen that is perfect for vloggers, making it easier than ever to record yourself and produce incredible content for social media and YouTube.

DJI is not the only rival on the scene, however. There's a lot of crossover in this market with other areas like the best 360º cameras, and cameras from the likes of Insta360 are often capable of shooting in action-camera conditions. This company now makes the modular Insta360 One R Twin Edition, which includes both an action camera module and a 360 module. Of course, GoPro has hit back with its own 360º models, most recently the GoPro Max, so you really are spoiled for choice

The fact of the matter is that the best action camera will be different for most users. Depending on whether you need the most resolution, the best waterproofing, the hardiest shock proofing or just the lowest price tag, there's a wealth of choice out there. That's why it's great to have a good guide to the best action cameras out there, so you can make an informed choice.

We've scoured the internet for our favorite models. We've taken into account all sorts of different factors when making our picks, including price, so you can be sure you're getting a good deal. We'll never include a camera we don't think is worth buying. 

If you're more video-focused, you may also want to check out our guide to the best cameras for vlogging. Alternatively, we have a list of the best waterproof cameras for those who want more options for shooting under the sea.

But for now, let's get started with our top picks of the best action cams right now…

The best action cameras in 2021

Editor's Choice

(Image credit: GoPro)

The new flagship action camera with a new processor

Specifications
Weight: 153g
Waterproof: 10m
5K video: up to 60fps
4K video: up to 120fps
1080P: up to 240fps
Stills resolution: 23MP
Battery life: 1-32hrs estimate
Reasons to buy
+Faster user interface+Increased frame rates+Hydrophobic lens coating
Reasons to avoid
-Incremental upgrade on Hero9 Black-Bigger than the Hero8 Black and Hero7 Black-Not compatible with older batteries

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. 

(Image credit: GoPro)

2019’s flagship is now excellent value

Specifications
Weight: 158g
Waterproof: 10m
5K video: up to 30fps
4K video: up to 60fps
1080: up to 240fps
720: up to 240fps
Stills resolution: 20MP
Battery life: 1-3hrs estimate
Reasons to buy
+Front-facing screen+20MP photos  +14.7 MP grabs from video
Reasons to avoid
-Larger physical size than other GoPros-5K video takes up a lot of memory

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-style features like 360º horizon lock and an ultra-wide 155º Max SuperView mode. 

• Read full GoPro Hero9 review

(Image credit: GoPro)

A great value and smaller, lighter alternative to GoPro’s new flagship

Specifications
Weight: 126g
Waterproof: 10m
4K video: up to 60fps
1080: up to 240fps
720: up to 240fps
Stills resolution: 12MP
Battery life: 1-3hrs estimate
Reasons to buy
+Super image stabilization+Crisp, smooth 4K video+Built-in acccessory mounts
Reasons to avoid
-Screen is smaller than DJI

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. 

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

DJI's entry in the action cam market brings a front-facing selfie screen

Specifications
Weight: 134g
Waterproof: 11m
4K video: up to 60fps
1080: up to 240fps
720: up to 240fps
Stills resolution: 12MP
Battery life: 1-2.25hrs (est)
Reasons to buy
+Front color LCD monitor is great for vlogging+Excellent image stabilization
Reasons to avoid
-Doesn't have all the accessory options of the GoPro range-The app needs some work

DJI is best known for producing some of the best drones around (and to a lesser degree for its handheld gimbal camera stabilizers) – but has turned its attention to the action camera market with the arrival of the Osmo Action. It look and feels like it has been made to be a direct competitor to the GoPro Hero7 Black – and does a real good job of giving the GoPro a run for its money. We particularly like the addition of a full-color front LCD display – which makes it one of the best action cams for selfie sequences or vlogging.

(Image credit: Insta360)

A unique proposition of both 4K and 360 action cams

Specifications
Weight: Not specified
Dimensions: 72 x 48 x 32.4 mm
Waterproof: 16 feet (optional housings also supported)
Stills resolution: Not specified
Video resolution: 5.7K
Memory: MicroSD
Mount: Bespoke mounting bracket
Battery life: Not specified
Reasons to buy
+4K and 360º lens options+RAW photos and 100mbps video+Optional 1-inch action cam mod
Reasons to avoid
-Small-ish touchscreen

Released at the start of 2020, the Insta360 ONE R Twin Edition is a very enticing proposition indeed, because it can be used both as an action camera and a 360 camera. Essentially it's called "Twin Edition" because it's two cameras in one, coming with two lens modules that are easy to swap between. One turns it into a straight 4K action camera, the other gives it 360º-shooting capability, and it's got loads of extra features too, including 5m of waterproofing (which can be extended with a special housing). AI-powered algorithms also augment the various shooting modes, and particularly impressive Auto Frame  mode, which can automatically find and pick out the action in a 360º video. There is also 1-inch Leica camera mod gives you another option – you can swap out the 360 module for a high-quality action cam. The Insta360 ONE R Twin Edition is a great buy if you want to take your action camera footage in all sorts of different directions.

Read more: Insta360 ONE R Twin Edition review

(Image credit: Akaso)

6: AKASO EK7000 Pro

Best budget-priced action camera

Specifications
Weight: 61g
Waterproof: Yes, to 40 metres
4K video: At 25fps
1080p video: At 60fps
720p video: No
Stills resolution: 16 megapixels
Battery life: Up to 90 minute per charge
Reasons to buy
+4K video capture, +Remote operation 
Reasons to avoid
-No Bluetooth connectivity

This upgrade of the 2016 EX7000 model sticks a ‘Pro’ suffix on the name and shoehorns in 4K shooting. In fact we appear to get a decent return for our cash as this model also features 16MP photos and two-inch touch screen. There’s anti shake too, albeit of the electronic variety, while waterproof housing enables it to withstand depths of 131ft (40m) and a selectable diving mode allows users to compensate for a lack of red light for underwater scenes. Images are saved to optional microSD card, which is obviously an extra cost. Included in the box is a remote controller that can be strapped to your wrist, plus various mounts and tethering cables and the two lithium polymer batteries it requires. As the above suggests, Wi-Fi is included here, as is the ability to achieve time-lapse special effects, so in all this is an option worth further investigation. 

(Image credit: Sony)

6. Sony RX0 Mark II

The RX0 Mark II gets much needed internal 4K recording

Specifications
Weight: 110g
Waterproof: 10m
4K video: 30p
1080: up to 1000fps
720: up to 1000fps
Stills resolution: 15.3MP
Battery life: 60 mins
Reasons to buy
+Large Exmor 1-inch sensor+Super-slow motion available+Front-facing selfie/vlogging screen
Reasons to avoid
-Ridiculously expensive

The Sony RX0 II is expensive but comes with features that make it definitely worth considering. Being able to shoot short bursts of slo-mo video at up to 1,000fps is one of them – you certainly can't do that with a GoPro. And while the RX0 was capable of producing 4K UHD footage only to an external recorder, the RX0 Mark II can record 4K internally (and about time too). The 1-inch sensor produces beautiful images, whether shooting stills or video, expands the camera's low-light efficacy and provides gorgeous dynamic range. It's an expensive proposition to be sure, but if you need gorgeous slow-motion footage then there's nothing better and you're looking for ultimate image quality above all else, this is one the best action cameras to get right now. The Sony RX0 II also gets a flip-action front-facing screen, which makes it much more effective as a premium-quality vlogging and content creation tool.

(Image credit: Akaso )

A twin-screen action cam for less

Specifications
Weight: 61g
Waterproof: 3ft/1m (131ft/40m with supplied casing)
4K video: At 30fps
1080p video: At 60/30fps
720p video: 240/120/60fps
Stills resolution: 20 megapixels
Battery life: Up to 90 minute per charge
Reasons to buy
+Front LCD screen+4K video capture+6-axis stabilization+Low price
Reasons to avoid
-Needs to be put in case to be fully waterproof

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.

8. SJCAM SJ8 Pro

A great-value 4K action camera offering surprisingly high-quality footage

Specifications
Weight: 85g
Waterproof: 30m
4K video: up to 60fps
1080: up to 120fps
720: up to 240fps
Stills resolution: 12MP
Battery life: 90 mins
Reasons to buy
+Stabilised 4K footage+High-quality touchscreen
Reasons to avoid
-Clunky waterproof housing-Basic smartphone app

Taking more than a few cues from GoPro, the SJCAM SJ8 Pro provides plenty of the functionality of top-quality Hero cameras but at a significantly friendlier price point. It's not only got 4K footage at 60p, but this footage also benefits from six-axis image stabilisation, which really comes in handy in action-shooting situations. The standard GoPro-style mount allows the SJ8 to be mounted to anything you might want to mount it to, and there's also decent slow-motion if you drop the resolution down to 1080p or 720p. The waterproof housing is a little clunky in use, with a lever lock system that can be tricky to operate, but this is arguably the best action cam at this price.

Best budget action cameras under $100/£100

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