With the best action cameras, you can capture spectacular videos and stills of extreme activities and remote places. Built tough, with extensive waterproofing, these hardy little box-like devices can be taken to places you’d never dare take a mirrorless camera or a smartphone, and come back with the high-quality footage to prove it. They’re the best vlogging cameras for those who live life a little more adventurously.

The definition of an action camera is a little broader than one might think. In general, an action camera is a small, wearable device that’s waterproof and can take a bit of a beating. When action cameras are mentioned, most people likely think of GoPro – and the pioneering design of the GoPro Hero. However, as we will see, there are more bands and form factors of action cameras to choose from. This guide is designed to help you sort through what’s on offer.

Best action cameras – our quick list

Here is a quick-reference list of the action cameras we’ve picked for this guide, along with links to get the best prices:

Read on for our full breakdown of each entry, including our review team’s ratings…

The best action cameras to buy – our full list

GoPro HERO12 Black

gopro hero 12 in use with other accessories
Use the GoPro Hero 12 with a tripod or other accessories via the Folding Fingers Image: Jessica Miller

Amateur Photographer verdict

The latest GoPro isn’t much of a wheel-reinvention, but it’s still the best GoPro you can buy. It’s nice to see better battery life and Log support.
  • Superb stabilisation
  • Excellent video and stills quality
  • Improved battery life
  • Not much improvement over HERO11
  • Lots of cheaper rivals

GoPro’s ubiquity in the action camera market has become something of a double-edged sword – many people who use generic knock-off action cameras refer to them as GoPros, and aren’t really aware of the difference. However, once you’ve used the real thing, it’s pretty unmistakeable. GoPro is still at the top of its game, delivering a superb action camera experience with diverse mounting options, excellent video quality and some of the smoothest stabilisation in the business.

The HERO12, released in 2023, was a fairly staid update. Keeping the larger sensor of the HERO11 (designed to facilitate shooting in. multiple aspect ratios, including vertical), the HERO12 mostly adds small but welcome improvements, like a better battery life and support for a flat Log profile. It can also run for longer without overheating, which is certainly welcome.

If you’ve got a HERO11, or even realistically a HERO10, there’s no reason to rush out and upgrade to this one. However, if you’re buying your first action camera (or upgrading from something cheap) the HERO12 is the best you can get – and while it’s more expensive than the competition, the difference isn’t that much.

Read our GoPro HERO12 Black Review.

DJI Osmo Action 4

DJI Osmo Action4 action camera attached to a cars windscreen.Matty Graham
DJI Osmo Action 4. Photo: Matty Graham

Amateur Photographer verdict

A larger sensor powers this upgrade to DJI’s much-admired Action series. The Osmo Action 4 undercuts GoPro on price – but the HERO12 has the edge in quality.
  • Lots of resolutions/frame rates
  • Wide selection of accessories
  • Good battery life
  • No 5.7K video
  • Relatively low-res stills

At a glance:

  • Full HD to 4K resolution
  • Waterproof to 18 metres
  • Weight: 145g
  • Price: $399 / £379

The DJI Osmo Action 4 is mostly the same on the outside to the already-great DJI Osmo Action 3. That’s good news for existing Action 3 users, who already have the correct batteries, cages, mounts and other accessories for the Action 4, which can amount to a fair saving. The Osmo Action 4 also retains the magnetic Quick Release design that has proved popular and enables users to switch from regular shooting to a more social media-friendly portrait format orientation.

Where it improves is image quality. While the older Action 3 packed a 1/1.7-inch CMOS sensor, the new Action 4 increases this to 1/1.3-inch – the same size sensor that appears in the DJI Air 3 drone. The larger sensor means the pixel size levels up to 2.4μm-equivalent and this should result in better image quality – particularly in low light conditions.

Compared to the Action 3, the frame rates are the same, with 4K footage capable of being captured up to 120p. The bump in quality will be welcome news to filmmakers who incorporate action camera footage within their film-making. It’s also worth noting, though, that the Action 4 does not make the leap to 5.7K, which is offered at 60p on the GoPro Hero12 Black.

For a super-tough action camera, with a decent battery life, a wide selection of resolutions and frame rates and with a big range of accessories to pair with the camera, then the DJI Osmo Action 4 is an excellent choice that will not disappoint.

Read our full DJI Osmo Action 4 review.

GoPro HERO11 Black

GoPro HERO11 Black
The GoPro HERO11 Black has significant internal upgrades over previous HERO cameras.

Amateur Photographer verdict

Adding a larger-format sensor that allows for easy cropping into footage, the GoPro HERO11 Black was a big hit with the TikTok crowd – but it’s great for stills too.
  • Support for multiple aspect ratios
  • Handy Horizon Lock
  • Great stabilisation (as ever)
  • Battery life not the best

At a glance:

  • 5.3K 60p video
  • 27MP photos
  • Natively waterproof to 10m
  • Weight: 154g
  • Price: $349 / £325

Iterations of GoPro HERO cameras tend to focus on one specific improvement rather than a design overhaul. Previous iterations have introduced features like the famous HyperSmooth stabilisation, now a GoPro fixture, which makes video footage super-smooth even when the camera is moving.

For the HERO11 Black, the upgrade was the sensor. This version sports a brand new 1/1.9-inch sensor capable of producing 5.3K video in a near-square 8:7 aspect ratio. This makes your footage much easier to crop into for vertical video formats, providing TikTok-ready clips straight out of camera. Fear not though – you can also use the HyperView digital lens to create footage in gorgeous, cinematic 16:9, if you feel for the more traditional.

With other minor but welcome upgrades across the board, including Horizon Lock for stabilisation and improved battery life, the GoPro HERO11 Black is an excellent GoPro to buy, even after the release of the HERO12.

Find out more about the GoPro HERO11 Black.

DJI Osmo Action 3

DJI Osmo Action 3 in use, with battery removed by person wearing gloves.
The DJI Osmo Action 3. Photo credit: DJI

Amateur Photographer verdict

While it’s outclassed by more recent releases, the DJI Osmo Action 3 is a still a solid action camera in its own right, with excellent battery life and a dedicated vertical mode.
  • Cheaper than more recent cameras
  • Battery lasts well and charges fast
  • Tops out at 4K
  • And just 12 MP

At a glance:

  • 4K 120p video
  • 12MP stills
  • Natively waterproof to 16m
  • Weight: 145g
  • Price: $329 / £309

Never ones to back down from a fight, DJI released its long-awaited Osmo Action 3 on the same day as GoPro took the wraps off its HERO11 Black. A return to the traditional action camera format after the odd modular departure of the DJI Action 2, the Osmo Action 3 undercuts GoPro on price, and gains a few enticing features of its own.

The big one is battery life. DJI crammed into the Osmo Action 3 a 1770mAh Extreme Battery, rated for up to 160 minutes of continuous recording and able to function in temperatures as low as -20°C. It’s also quick-charging, able to gas up to 80% in 18 minutes and 100% in 50 minutes.

Like GoPro, DJI also noticed that a lot of the kids these days are mostly watching video in a vertical 9:16 format, and most of the adults are too, for that matter. As such, the Osmo Action 3 features a dedicated vertical recording mode, and can be mounted vertically to facilitate using it.

It’s not got the raw resolution of GoPro’s latest Hero, with video resolution topping out at 4K (albeit with a lovely 120p option) and stills resolution at 12MP. Still, it’s significantly cheaper than the latest GoPro, even after the latter received a significant price slash, and along with the newer Osmo Action 4, is one of the most compelling Hero alternatives on the market.

Find out more about the DJI Osmo Action 3.

Insta360 X3

Insta360 X3
Insta360 X3. Photo credit: Insta360

Amateur Photographer verdict

The Insta360 X3 is tremendous fun for creating 360-degree footage, which you can crop into if desired. Its battery life is good, and it’s impressively portable.
  • Impressive 360-degree quality
  • Battery does well
  • Enjoyable editing tools
  • In-camera processing is quite sluggish
  • Other cameras better for ‘straight’ footage

At a glance:

  • 5.7K 360-degree video
  • 72MP 360-degree stills
  • Natively waterproof to 10m
  • Weight: 180g
  • Price: $449 / £459

As the name implies, Insta360 specialises in putting 360-degree imaging in the palm of your hand – to capture it, well, instantly. The Insta360 X3 is a palm-sized action camera, waterproof down to depths of 10m, which can be extended to 50m with the ‘Invisible Dive Kit’.

The video the X3 captures with its dual 1/2-inch sensors is 5.7K 360°, which can be used either to create immersive virtual reality content, or simply crop into the parts where the action happened. The X3 can also capture 4K footage with a more standard ‘action camera’ field of view – those who want this above all will get more value out of a GoPro or DJI camera. However, if you’re up for experimenting with 360° content, the X3 is a blast. It’s got generous battery life (rated to 81 minutes!), effective stabilisation and fun editing tools that make fiddling about with your clips genuinely enjoyable.

Insta360 GO 3

Insta360 go 3 in palm of hand
Photo: Jessica Miller

Amateur Photographer verdict

Tiny like you wouldn’t believe, the Insta360 Go 3 is a camera you could wear all day quite comfortably, and even packs in features like stabilisation
  • Mounts magnetically
  • Natively waterproof
  • Tiny and very light
  • Only 2.7K and 9MP
  • Battery life not the best

At a glance:

  • 2.7K 30p video
  • 9.2MP photos
  • Natively waterproof to 4.87m
  • Weight: 35g
  • Price: $400 / £399 (64GB version)

The Insta360 GO series is a leftover from the era of ‘lifelogging’ cameras, a brief period when a few dedicated manufacturers and enthusiasts envisaged everyone wearing cameras at all times to record the minutiae of their day. That didn’t really happen (turns out we’re all quite boring and no one wants to watch us walk to the shops!), but a few of the cameras did survive. The Insta360 GO 3 is the latest incarnation of probably the most wearable camera out there – at an incredible 35g in weight, you could pin it to your chest and forget it’s there.

This model still has action camera credentials: waterproof down to almost 5m and the ability to shoot 2.7K video at up to 30p. It can capture stills too, and can even do so in DNG RAW format; though even by RAW standards these files need a good edit, with heavy black vignette in the corners. There’s also the option of the Action Pod housing, which the GO 3 snaps into and makes it look and feel a little more like a traditional action camera – it adds a flip-back screen for capturing the perfect selfie. The FlowState stabilisation also works well, helping keep footage smooth when you’re on the move.

It’s neither as tough nor as powerful as the other cameras on this list – but as far as portability goes, a camera that weighs about the same as a pack of crisps is in a league of its own.

Read our Insta360 GO 3 review.

OM-System Tough TG-7

OM System Tough TG-7 in red. Photo Joshua Waller
OM System Tough TG-7 in red. Photo Joshua Waller

Amateur Photographer verdict

With raw shooting, an optical zoom lens and a number of dedicated underwater modes, the TG-7 has a lot going for it – though it’s not an action camera in the traditional sense.
  • Optical 4x zoom lens with f/2
  • Does great with macro
  • Built-in GPS
  • Bigger and bulkier than action cameras
  • Raw needed for best results

At a glance:

  • 4K 30p video
  • 12MP photos
  • Natively waterproof to 15m
  • Weight: 250g
  • Price: $489 / £399

While the Olympus (or OM-System) Tough TG-7 doesn’t quite fit the definition of an action camera, it performs many of the same functions and is a compelling alternative for anyone who prefers the idea of a more traditional camera format. The Tough TG-7 is a tough compact, meaning it can take an absolute pounding and a soaking – there are a few of these on the market, but the TG-7 is generally regarded as the best.

As well as a more comfortable, grippable form factor, the TG-7 has one key advantage over traditional action cameras – a 25-100mm f/2-4.9 equivalent zoom lens, giving you much more compositional flexibility and an ability to get in close to distant subjects. It’s also got a nice big 3-inch 1.04m-dot LCD screen, which provides a much more pleasant composing experience than any of the small screens on traditional action cameras. It allows you to capture stills in raw format, and this is worth doing if you want to get best results (though it will of course mean you need to spend some time post-processing).

Of course, the TG-7 is not nearly as wearable as a GoPro, DJI or Insta360 camera, and isn’t as good for capturing POV footage. There is some built-in stabilisation, though it’s not on the level of GoPro’s or DJI’s.

Read our full OM-System Tough TG-7 review.

How to choose the best action camera

Choosing an action camera means weighing up a few different features. You’ll want to pay attention to the top video resolution – while you don’t always need to shoot at the maximum resolution, it’s useful to know how many pixels you have to work with, especially if you’re creating content for professional clients. If you’re going to be capturing photos as well as videos, it’s also worth being aware of the maximum photo resolution.

Stabilisation is an important part of an action camera’s make-up, as it makes POV footage much more pleasant to watch. You may also want to consider the weight of the camera if it’s something you intend to wear.

Shooting under water? The level of waterproofing is a factor and varies. Many action cameras can be bought with optional housings that extend the depths to which they can be submerged – others can’t be submerged at all.

Related reading: If you’re looking for a mirrorless or compact camera for video, have a look at our guide to the best cameras for video, or why not have a look at the best waterproof cameras.

Follow AP on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and TikTok.