Action cameras aren’t just ruggedized and protected against the elements, they offer ultrawide viewing angles to capture the full experience of ski runs, skateboard tricks, snorkeling adventures or just pet antics (several companies make harnesses for your dog).
After testing more than a dozen action cameras under a variety of conditions, including a mountain biking trip and a rafting adventure, we consider the GoPro Hero7 Black to be the best action camera overall. It offers the best video quality, has excellent image stabilization, is waterproof to a depth of 33 feet without requiring a protective shell, has a built-in touch screen and responds to voice commands.
If you’re looking for something a bit less expensive, the Yi Lite is our current favorite budget action cam. For less than $100, you get electronic image stabilization, a responsive touch screen and 4K video at 20 frames per second — though you’ll want to stick to 1080p.
1. GoPro Hero 7 Black
The best action camera overall
Max Video Resolution: 4K/60 fps | Max Photo Resolution: 12 MP | Touch Screen: Yes | Battery Life: 158 minutes | Water Resistance: 33 feet | Weight: 4.2 ounces
Pros: Shoots impressively smooth video; Improved touch controls on viewfinder; TimeWarp feature takes great time-lapse videos; Sharp 4K videos; Great price for a full-featured action camera
Cons: Livestreaming could use some tweaks; Fast charging requires you to buy a separate accessory; Still images can be hit-or-miss
GoPro is synonymous with action cameras, and for good reason. The company has always been the first to implement new features, better cameras and better designs, leading the competition to always play catch-up.
GoPro’s latest flagship model, the Hero7 Black, continues that tradition. Building on the Hero6’s design (waterproof to 33 feet, rear 2-inch color touch-screen LCD, voice control), the Hero7 adds 4K video at 60 fps and improved image stabilization that made all our footage look supersmooth. Plus, it can livestream to Facebook using the GoPro app. Once again, GoPro has made the best action camera you can get.
See the full GoPro Hero 7 Black review.
2. Yi Lite
Best under $100
Max Video Resolution: 4K/20 fps | Max Photo Resolution: 16 MP | Touch Screen: Yes | Battery Life: 130 minutes | Water Resistance: None | Weight: 2.8 ounces
Pros: Good-quality video; Inexpensive; 2-inch Gorilla Glass LCD touch screen; Electronic image stabilization up to 1440p/30 fps
Cons: Waterproof case sold separately; Quirky Android app
For less than $100, the Yi Lite is a well-designed camera that can shoot image-stabilized video at up to 1440p; it can also shoot video up to 4K/20 fps, but we found that 1080p mode offered some of the best video. Among budget action cameras, it had the most intuitive interface. Gorilla Glass protects its 2-inch touch screen, though you’ll need to spend an extra $40 to get the camera’s waterproof housing if you plan to take it diving.
See the full Yi Lite review.
3. Rylo 360
Best 360 action camera
Max Video Resolution: 5.8K | Max Photo Resolution: 6K | Touch Screen: No | Battery Life: 60 minutes | Water Resistance: none | Weight: 3.8 ounces
Pros: Intuitive 360 functions for action sports; Pocketable design; Easy-to-use app; Connects wirelessly or via cable; Everyday Case (included) connects to GoPro and Tripod mounts; Image stabilization
Cons: Pricey; Poor-quality video in low-light conditions
The Rylo 360 is just as small as any GoPro, which makes it great for attaching to a helmet, bike, surfboard — whatever. What makes it particularly suited for action sports is its motion-stabilization feature, which keeps the horizon level no matter how bumpy the ride. However, if you’re going to get it wet, make sure to purchase its Adventure Case ($69), since this camera lacks any sort of waterproofing.
See the full Rylo 360 review.
4. Yi 4K+
Solid GoPro alternative
Max Video Resolution: 4K/60 fps | Max Photo Resolution: 12 MP | Touch Screen: Yes | Battery Life: 70 minutes | Water Resistance: None | Weight: 3.2 ounces
Pros: 4K/60-fps video; 2.2-inch Retina touch screen; Electronic image stabilization up to 4K/30 fps; Voice control
Cons: Not waterproof without case; Waterproof case sold separately; Quirky Android app
This camera has nearly all of GoPro’s best features: 4K video recording, electronic image stabilization (up to 4K/30 fps), a touch screen and voice control. And, it costs $150 less. And, the quality was almost on a par with the GoPro Hero 6. So, what’s missing? You need a case (sold separately for $40) to bring this camera into the water. And, we found its Android app to be a bit quirky.
See the full Yi 4K+ review.
5. GoPro Hero
Great midpriced shooter
Max Video Resolution: 1440/60 fps | Max Photo Resolution: 10MP | Touch Screen: Yes | Battery Life: 2 hours (est) | Water Resistance: 33 feet | Weight: 4.2 ounces
Pros: 2-inch Gorilla Glass LCD touch screen; Electronic image stabilization up to 1440p/30 fps; Good wind-noise reduction
Cons: Functional yet uninspiring design; No 720p resolution; No slow motion; No HDR photo
For those looking to stay under $200 but still get features such as voice control and motion stabilization, the GoPro Hero is a good option. The camera’s max resolution is 1440/60 fps (image stabilization only works up to 30 fps), and there’s no slow-motion settings, but this Hero is waterproof to a depth of 33 feet without a case and has a touch screen on the back.
See the full GoPro Hero review.
6. GoPro Hero6
Older but still good
Max Video Resolution: 4K/30 fps | Max Photo Resolution: 12 MP | Touch Screen: Yes | Battery Life: 1.5-2 hours (est) | Water Resistance: 33 feet | Weight: 4.2 ounces
Pros: Impressive image stabilization; Touch Zoom feature; High-resolution images, video (4K/60 fps); Good images in low light; Superslick slow motion
Cons: Occasional charging issues; No improvement to battery life over Hero5
GoPro’s last-generation, top-end action camera is still an excellent option. The Hero6 has many of the same specs — 4K/30 fps video, image stabilization and voice control — and is about $50 less than the Hero7 Black. While the camera lacks the ability to livestream video like the Hero7, if you don’t care for that feature, then the Hero6 can save you some money.
See the full GoPro Hero 6 review.
7. GoPro Hero5 Session
Compact action camera
Max Video Resolution: 4K/30 fps | Max Photo Resolution: 10 MP | Touch Screen: No | Battery Life: 120 minutes (est) | Water Resistance: 33 feet | Weight: 2.6 ounces
Pros: More compact than other GoPros; Shoots 4K video; Image stabilization
Cons: No touch screen; discontinued by GoPro
The Hero5 Session offers image quality comparable to its larger siblings (4K/30 fps), but in a much smaller package. It’s waterproof to a depth of 33 feet and includes image stabilization, Bluetooth and voice control. GoPro has phased out its Session cameras, though, so get it while supplies last.
8. Olympus Tough TG-Tracker
Camcorder meets action camera
Max Video Resolution: 4K/30 fps | Max Photo Resolution: 8 MP | Touch Screen: No | Battery Life: 120 minutes (est) | Water Resistance: 100 feet | Weight: 6.35 ounces
Pros: Good color and definition; Waterproof to 100 feet; Built-in 60-lumen light; Fold-out monitor
Cons: Awkward mechanics; Hard to change field of view; Occasional fog buildup on lens
On the large size for an action camera, the TG-Tracker has a flip-out screen so you can easily view what you’re recording. It also has a 60-lumen light that helps illuminate darker scenes, image stabilization and a camera that’s waterproof to a depth of 100 feet. This camera also tracks temperature, elevation, depth, latitude/longitude, distance traveled, barometric pressure and speed, so you can capture more than just amazing videos.
See the full Olympus Tough TG-Tracker review.
Credit: Tom’s Guide