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Compare the best action cameras
Capture clear footage of your most extreme adventures.
While you could rely on your smartphone, action cameras are built for rugged adventure — durability and mounting features mean you can take them virtually anywhere. Prices typically range from $150 to $1,000 or more, depending on the number of features, the brand and any additional accessories you may need, like mounting gear, tripods and waterproof cases.
Top HD action cameras
|Waterproof?||Weight (g)||Photo resolution||Purchase|
|SJCAM SJ7 Star||$188.99||Up to 30m||74||12MP||Buy now|
|Olfi One.Five||$179.99||Up to 30m||55||16MP||Buy now|
|Yi 4K+||$219.99||No||93||12MP||Buy now|
|Sony FDR-X3000||$389.99||Up to 60m||114||12MP||Buy now|
|TomTom Bandit||$||No||190||16MP||Buy now|
|GoPro HERO7||$346.67||Up to 10m||116||12MP||Buy now|
|Olympus Tough TG-Tracker||$199.00||Up to 30m||180||7.2MP||Buy now|
|Garmin VIRB XE||$174.95||Up to 50m||151.7||12MP||Buy now|
|GoPro Fusion||$581.00||Up to 5m||220||18MP||Buy now|
Action cams are small, rugged video cameras that can record footage in almost any conditions. They are specifically designed to capture sports, action and extreme activities and can be used hands-free with a range of mounting hardware. They are easy to set up and use, even for the most novice photographers.
The following are some of the best features of action cams:
- Durability. Many action cams are built to withstand mud, sand and freezing temperatures. Others are completely waterproof and can be used down to 200 feet below the surface.
- Ease of use. Action cameras don’t require any previous photography knowledge or expertise. They usually have only a few buttons so that you won’t have to mess around with any settings when you’re in the field.
- Portability. Action cams are smaller than a typical digital camera or camcorder and can typically fit in a pocket or small bag.
- Ultra HD quality. Many action cams shoot 4K or ultra high-definition video and have built-in sensors and stabilizers to give you clear footage — even when the camera is moving.
- Mounting options. Action cams come with a huge variety of mounting accessories including hand mounts, head mounts and chest mounts so you’ll never miss a shot.
While action cams can capture footage of extreme adventures, they don’t always offer the video and image quality of high-end camcorders and digital cameras. Some of the downsides to action cams include the following:
- Fisheye view. Most action cameras have a wide field of view that captures a lot of the action but distorts the footage. Video editing software can help remove the fisheye effect.
- Pricey accessories. Accessories such as tripods, mounts and waterproof casings can help you get the most out of your action cam, but costs can add up quickly.
- Limited battery life. Typically, an action camera battery will last from one to three hours of constant use. If you want to shoot for a whole day, you will need a backup battery or a way to recharge your camera while you’re on the go.
- Limited image quality. Action cams are not generally designed to capture still images and don’t offer the image quality of many digital cameras.
- No preview. Because action cams are small and lightweight, many have very small LCD screens or no screens at all. This makes it difficult or impossible to preview your footage while you are recording.
How to compare action cameras
When you are comparing action cams, consider your budget, level of durability and the features you may need. Take a look at these important camera features:
- Field of view. As we mentioned, most action cams offer a wide-angle field of view. If you don’t want your footage to have fisheye distortion, look for a camera that offers options for a narrow or medium field of view.
- Video quality and resolution. When comparing cameras, you should generally choose whichever camera has better video quality. Look for 4K ultra high-definition.
- Waterproofing. Some action cams are water resistant, while others are completely submersible. Many action cams are also compatible with waterproof cases.
- Images. If you want to use your action cam to take still photos, look for a camera with a high amount of megapixels. This will give you higher photo resolution and allow you to print larger images.
- Storage. Most action cameras store footage on removable SD cards. Some cameras include memory cards with the cameras, while others require you to purchase a memory card separately.
- Accessories. Check out the range of accessories that are compatible with any potential camera. Consider the prices of head mounts, hand mounts, cases, tripods, clamps and anything else you might need.
- Battery life. Look for a camera with a long battery life or easily replaceable batteries so you can swap them out without missing a shot.
- Wi-Fi. If you want to upload your videos straight to social media, look for a camera with built-in Wi-Fi. If your action cam doesn’t have a display screen, Wi-Fi allows you to preview and play back your footage on your smart device.
Which action camera is best for me?
The best action cam for you depends on how you plan to use it. If you need a camera for your next scuba trip, look for something completely waterproof. If you want to capture still images of wildlife, look for an action cam that allows you to save high-resolution photographs.
To help you find the right camera, we’ve compared five of the most popular cameras below:
|The good||The bad|
|GoPro HERO7 Black|
|Yi 4K+ Action Camera|
|Olympus Tough TG-Tracker|
Action cameras can be good equipment to have around if you want to take snapshots or videos of your extreme adventures. But compare your options first so you know you’re getting the right camera for your action-packed needs and budget.
How did we choose these products?
To create our list of the best action cameras, we considered price, image quality, battery life, Wi-Fi connectivity and overall features.
Frequently asked questions
Do action cameras have zoom?
Some do, but it’s rare to find. Most action cameras do not have an optical zoom lens.
How much does a cheap action camera cost?
More affordable options cost around $100 to $150, although there are some smaller models available for around $65.
Do action cams have sound?
Yes — most action cameras record audio. Sound quality can greatly vary from model to model.
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