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The 10 best action cameras in 2019: cameras you can take anywhere

Best action cam
(Image credit: GoPro)

What's the best action camera for you? There's more out there than just the best GoPro, in fact there's an abundance of quality action cameras from a host of different manufacturers, boasting a huge range of different features and specialities. 

We’ve tested hundreds of models, and we believe that the best action camera right now is the GoPro HERO8 Black. It packs in 4K video at 60fps, is waterproof to 10 metres without a case, and now offers a built-in mounting system (as well as some very clever optional accessories). The arrival of DJI's first action camera, the Osmo Action, feels like that GoPro now has a significant rival, however.

Ultimately though, determining the camera that's right for you will depend pretty heavily on what you plan to use it for. Whether you're a watersports enthusiast, an avid skiier or indeed an amateur filmmaker, your exact action camera needs are going to be different, and that means it's worth taking some time to familiarise yourself with the models that are out there. You might just be looking for the best cheap camera right now, but we also have guides for the best cameras for vlogging. You might want to take a look at our list of best underwater cameras while you're here.

You might get an action camera that's waterproof down to 30m by itself, or one that requires a housing, or indeed an action camera that isn't up to much in water but can take a serious battering without breaking. Maybe wireless functionality is most important to you, or you prize a camera that you can control via your phone using an intuitive app. 

GoPro is undoubtedly the market leader in pretty much every area, however its products do come at a premium price. Could you save a considerable amount of money by shopping around to see if what you're looking for is available at a cheaper price. Yes, you absolutely could!

Whatever kind of adventurer you are, there's an action camera for you. In this article we've put together our top picks of the best action cams right now – and if you'd like to capture the action from the comfort of your car, here's our look at the best dash cams available right now. We can also show you some of the best GoPro accessories out there too.

(Image credit: GoPro)

1. GoPro Hero8 Black

The ultimate action camera has got even better!

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

Super image stabilization
Crisp, smooth 4K video
Built-in acccessory mounts
Screen is smaller than DJI

The 2019 edition of the GoPro dynasty is undoubtedly the action camera specialist's best ever yet. 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 particularly like the Display Mod, which adds a second monitor that is perfect for vloggers. These add-ons cost you more - but you don't buy the Hero8 Black if you are looking of a budget camera - you buy it because it offers the best video footage, and the best image stabilization system we have used to date.

• Read full GoPro Hero8 review

2. GoPro Hero7 Black

The ultimate action camera is here

Weight: 118g | Waterproof: 10m | 4K video: up to 60fps | 1080: up to 240fps | 720: up to 240fps | Stills resolution: : 12MP | Battery life: 1-3hrs estimate

HyperSmooth feature
Great quality 4K video
Screen can be unresponsive
Voice commands need work

The GoPro Hero7 Black is the action camera that brought us  HyperSmooth, a brand new  video stabilization system that's so good that it awakens new creative possibilities. The shake-buster even works up to 4K 60fps. Those using a gimbal on their GoPro can ditch it because HyperSmooth gives even handheld video a silky-smooth look. However, it also brings to life a new possibility; handheld TimeLapse video. Called TimeWarp, the Hero7 Black's 2GB memory allows it to apply HyperSmooth to handheld frame-by-frame time-lapse shooting. As well as these stabilized hyperlapses, the Hero7 Black offers great dynamic range, SuperPhoto, and 12 separate voice commands. It may miss out on the new features and add-ons of the GoPro Hero8 Black, but it is still a fantastic action camera... and is that touch more affordable.

3. DJI Osmo Action

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)

Front color LCD monitor is great for vlogging
Excellent image stabilization
Doesn't have all the accessory options of the GoPro range
The app needs some work

DJI is best known for its camera drones (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 anyone who wants to use an action cam for selfie sequences or for vlogging will love.

Best action cam: Yi 4K+ Action Camera

4. Yi 4K+ Action Camera

Top specs for less, but no waterproofing

Weight: 93g | Waterproof: no | 4K video: up to 60fps | 1080: up to 120fps | 720: up to 240fps | Stills resolution: 12MP | Battery life: 1-2hrs

So easy to use
Detailed 4K/60fps video
Doesn’t GPS tag video 
Accessories not included

Those who want the best-quality action camera typically go for the latest GoPro model. There’s only one problem with that: a high price tag. This much more affordable action camera from Yi Technology gives you almost as much bang for your buck. For example, it’s got a slightly larger touchscreen than a GoPro HERO6 Black, and matches its rival in recording 4K footage at 60fps. The results are detailed, smooth and colourful, and the user interface is both super-fast and super-simple. It doesn’t include a waterproof housing, nor does it have GPS functionality, but those features aside, the Yi 4K+ is a fantastic action camera.

Best action cam: Sony RX0

5. Sony RX0

A slow-motion master that comes at a hefty price

Weight: 110g | Waterproof: 10m | 4K video: With external recorder only | 1080: up to 1000fps | 720: up to 1000fps | Stills resolution: 15.3MP | Battery life: 60 mins

Large Exmor 1-inch sensor
Super-slow motion available
Very expensive
4K requires external recorder

Though the Sony RX0 is a decidedly expensive prospect, the feature-set you get with it means it definitely merits consideration. Being able to shoot short bursts of video at up to 1,000fps is something not to be sniffed at – you certainly can't do that with a GoPro. While the RX0 is capable of producing 4K UHD footage, it can't do so internally and needs to be hooked up to an external recorder, which somewhat limits its efficacy as an action camera. 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. It's recently been updated with a new Sony RX0 II version that adds a tilting screen – but that will mean that the RX0 is becoming better value for money.

Best action cam: Olfi One.Five Black

6. Olfi One.Five Black

A good-value action camera that's especially good for cyclists

Weight: 57g | Waterproof: 30m | 4K video: up to 24fps | 1080: up to 60fps | 720: up to 120fps | Stills resolution: 16MP | Battery life: Not specified

Good image stabilisation 
16MP still images 
Low 4K frame rate
Basic smartphone app

The Olfi One.Five Black is a mild refresh of the Olfi One.Five and doesn't exactly reinvent the wheel, still topping out its 4K capture at a frame rate of 24p, but it does what it does well, and its attractive price point makes it a compelling proposition for those who don't want to pay GoPro-money for an action camera. Vertically oriented, the Olfi One.Five Black is great for clipping to bicycle handlebars, though its 30m waterproofing means it's also great for watersports. The built-in Wi-Fi allows you to take advantage of the Olfi app to control the camera from your phone – the functionality is basic, but works well. A solid inexpensive choice of action camera.

Best action cam: TomTom Bandit

7. TomTom Bandit

Auto-editing makes this bullet-cam stand out

Weight: 190g | Waterproof: no | 4K video: up to 15fps | 1080: up to 60fps | 720: up to 120fps | Stills resolution: 16MP | Battery life: up to 3hrs

Easy editing features
16MP photos
4K restricted to 15fps
Waterproof lens is optional

The TomTom Bandit has all the core features, but they’re here offered in ‘lite’. For example, there’s no waterproofing, but an included splash-proof lens cover will be enough for most users (and a 40m-capable lens cover is available). Ditto the resolutions; 4K at 15fps isn’t great, and effective slow-motion can only be performed in less-than-HD resolution, but neither will be deal-breakers for most. However, the TomTom Bandit has GPS, accelerometer, gyroscope and pressure sensors, and these are used by the smartphone app’s ‘Create a Story’ section to automatically pick out the highlights from your footage. Better still, all it takes is a shake to create a compilation video, which is easy to upload and share. Battery life is also an impressive three hours.

Best action cam: Olympus Tough TG-Tracker

8. Olympus Tough TG-Tracker

A data-hungry and exceptionally tough action camera for extreme climates

Weight: 180g | Waterproof: 30m | 4K video: up to 30fps | 1080: up to 60fps | 720: up to 240fps | Stills resolution: 8MP | Battery life: 90 mins

Action Track Sensors 
Waterproof, drop-proof and freeze-proof
Sensors drain battery 
Basic smartphone app

Designed to cope with the tough stuff, the 4K-capable Tough TG-Tracker is waterproof to 30m without a housing and can perform down to -10ºC. Not only that, but it’s drop-proof from 2m and even crush-proof to 100kg. A flip-out 3.8in screen makes it easy to see what’s being filmed, while an LED headlight makes night shots possible. What’s more, its suite of Action Track Sensors (for GPS, compass, accelerometer, barometric pressure, temperature and water) add data to video. A must-have action camera for those adventuring in extreme climates, this data-hungry, pocket-sized shooter’s only real weak point is its low-resolution photos.

Best action cam: SJCAM SJ8 Pro

9. SJCAM SJ8 Pro

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

Weight: 85g | Waterproof: 30m | 4K video: up to 60fps | 1080: up to 120fps | 720: up to 240fps | Stills resolution: 12MP | Battery life: 90 mins

Stabilised 4K footage
High-quality touchscreen
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 still a great option to consider, especially for the price.

Best action cam: Garmin VIRB XE

10. Garmin VIRB XE

Unbeatable waterproofing and a suite of sensors

Weight: 151g | Waterproof: 50m | 4K video: no | 1080: up to 60fps | 720: up to 120fps | Stills resolution: 12MP | Battery life: 2hrs

Waterproof to 50m 
Bluetooth audio options
Full HD only 

Could you buy an action camera that only deals in Full HD resolution? The Garmin VIRB XE offers a compelling reason as to why you should. It’s waterproof to 50m without a case and can withstand temperatures as low as -10ºC, but this action camera isn’t just made of tough stuff. The Virb XE is also smart, with a suite of G-Metrix sensors that can measure GPS, compass direction, temperature and even speed, which adds an exciting layer of data to video. It can even get data from compatible ANT+ devices, such as heart rate devices and smartwatches. As a bonus, for those who think audio is just as important as video, a Bluetooth microphone can be attached to it.

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