The best action camera for 2024: top cameras for adventures

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REASONS TO BUY
REASONS TO AVOID
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REASONS TO BUY
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From surfing to skydiving, shooting adventurous video requires the best action camera. From affordable models to premium options, we’ve extensively tested all of the top action cameras and ranked our recommendations in the expert guide below. Whatever you plan to shoot, we've put together this comprehensive list to help you find the right action camera for your needs and budget.

Based on our reviews, we think the best action camera for most people right now is the GoPro Hero 12 Black. It’s the most accomplished GoPro to date, with remarkable image stabilization and an arsenal of shooting features. Bluetooth audio support is also a welcome addition. If you’re looking for a much more affordable action camera, the Akaso Brave 8 Lite is our top pick for buyers on a budget. With two screens and IPX8 waterproofing, it’s the best cheap action camera you can buy.

Our round-up covers the top action cameras for every buyer. To help you make the right choice, our seasoned reviewers put each model through its paces in a range of real-world scenarios. We test factors such as durability and usability, to ensure every camera can perform in the thick of the action. We also assess image quality and how effectively image stabilization smooths out bumps. We’ve summarized the results below, together with useful buying advice to inform your decision.

Written by
Tim Coleman
Written by
Timothy Coleman

Tim is TechRadar's Cameras editor, with over 15 years in the photo video industry and most of those in the world of tech journalism, Tim has developed a deeply technical knowledge and practical experience with all things camera related. Tim notes, "while GoPro remains the brand to beat in the action camera market, Insta360 is offering serious competition. Its latest model, the Ace Pro, is the first action camera to record 8K video. DJI's Osmo Action series is keeping things interesting, too."

The quick list

If you want a shortcut to the best action cameras, you can use the quick list below for an instant overview of the top options. If you’d like to know more about a specific model, the link beneath each entry will take you to our in-depth summary.

The best action camera in 2024

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Below you'll find full write-ups for each of the best action cameras in our list. We've tested each one extensively, so you can be sure that our recommendations can be trusted.

The best action camera overall

The best action camera for most people

Specifications

Weight: 154g
Waterproof: 10m
5.3K video: up to 60fps
4K video: up to 120fps
2.7K video: up to 240fps
Stills resolution: 27MP
Battery life: 1720mAh

Reasons to buy

+
Versatile mounting options
+
Shoots stable, high-res video

Reasons to avoid

-
Still not great in low lighting
-
Average battery life
Buy it if:

✅ You want to shoot sharp: The Hero 12 Black can shoot  5.3K 10-bit video at 60fps, and 2.7K slow-mo at 120fps.

✅ You shoot for social: Thanks to the 8:7 aspect ratio of its sensor, footage can be easily cropped for different social platforms.

Don't buy it if:

You have a Hero 11 Black: With an identical sensor and dimensions, the upgrades here are useful but modest.

❌ You shoot in low light: Thanks to its relatively small sensor, the Hero 12 Black doesn't handle noise well in low light.

GoPro’s updated flagship isn’t a huge departure from the GoPro Hero 11 Black, our previous top pick. It uses the same 1/1.9in sensor to shoot high-res 5.3K video, with an 8:9 aspect ratio that’s useful for exporting footage to fit different social channels. Besides a speckled casing, the physical design is pretty much identical too. This means the Hero 12 Black works with the same accessories as many previous GoPro models, while gaining a useful 1/4in thread mount for mini tripods.

Low light remains an Achilles heel, but the addition of HDR video and GP-Log support gives filmmakers the ability to capture greater dynamic range. Together with the returning 10-bit color mode, we found the Hero 12 Black capable of producing crisp, supremely smooth footage in bright conditions.

Battery life from the default Enduro battery proved mediocre in our review, but Bluetooth audio support is a welcome addition, meaning you don’t need to buy the Media Mod to upgrade the built-in audio. While these modest upgrades don’t justify switching from the Hero 11 Black, they do make the Hero 12 Black an even more polished, feature-packed yet user-friendly action camera.

Read our in-depth GoPro Hero 12 Black review

The best budget action camera

The best cheap action camera you can buy

Specifications

Weight: 114g
Waterproof: 10m
4K video: up to 60fps
2.7K video: up to 120fps
1080p video: up to 120fps
Stills resolution: 20MP
Battery life: 150 mins

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent value for money
+
Compact, lightweight build
+
Good companion app

Reasons to avoid

-
Quality suffers in low light
-
Poor image stabilization
-
Fragile plastic construction
Buy it if:

✅ You're on a tight budget: The Akaso Brave 8 Lite offers fantastic features and value for a reasonable price.

✅ You want dual screens: Despite its low cost, the Brave 8 Lite features front and rear displays to help with framing.

Don't buy it if:

You need reliable stabilization: In shaky scenarios, image stabilization struggles to produce usable footage.

❌ You shoot a lot in low light: Video quality drops off significantly in low-light conditions, with a lot of noise.

A cheaper, lighter version of the Akaso Brave 8, the Lite is an affordable action camera for buyers on a budget. In our review, we noted that the cost savings can be felt in the flimsy plastic construction. Yet we also commented positively on its modern design, compact dimensions and lightweight build. Other takeaways from our testing include the smartphone app, which we found easier to use than the camera’s own interface. In ideal lighting, 4K video footage also proved vivid and accurate, if a little high in contrast.

That’s not the case in lower lighting, where we found that the sensor struggles, with a large amount of noise negatively affecting image quality. Stabilization was disappointing too, with the Brave 8 Lite failing to smooth out camera shake while walking or cycling. At 150 minutes of 1080p footage, battery life wasn’t remarkable either. Yet while its video quality won’t worry premium flagships, we still think the Brave 8 Lite offers fantastic value, with a solid set of specs that’s tough to beat for the price.

Read our in-depth Akaso Brave 8 Lite review

The best premium 8K action camera

The best premium action camera with 8K recording

Specifications

Weight: 179.8g
Waterproof: 10m
8K video: up to 24fps
4K video: up to 120fps
1080p video: up to 240fps
Stills resolution: 48MP
Battery life: 1650mAh

Reasons to buy

+
8K video resolution
+
Great stabilization
+
Good HDR shooting

Reasons to avoid

-
More expensive than rivals
-
Heavier than other options
Buy it if:

✅ You want an 8K action camera: Not everyone will need it, but the Ace Pro is the only action camera capable of outputting 8K footage.

✅ You like the idea of a flip screen: The 2.4-inch rear display flips up to face the front, giving you a high-res framing option in both directions.

Don't buy it if:

You’re on a budget: There’s no denying its top-tier specs, but the Insta360 Ace Pro also demands an asking price that’s the highest in this list.

❌ You want the lightest option: 179.8g is hardly heavyweight, but it is more than the Hero 12 Black (154g) and the DJI Osmo Action 4 (145g).

A wide-angle warrior, the Insta360 Ace Pro is the first action cam to offer 8K video output. That resolution will be overkill for many, as will the 48MP stills it can produce, and the high price tag it demands. But if you want rugged 8K recording, the Ace Pro is the way to go.

Physically, our review found the Ace Pro nicely built. It’s heftier than its competitors, hitting the scales at 179.8g, which makes it feel substantial in the hand. We also rate its flip-up display, which hinges at the top to deliver a selfie experience that’s more responsive than GoPro and DJI rivals. Mounting options are plentiful, too, with a magnetic base plate for quick switching.

As you’d expect of a sensor co-engineered with Leica, image quality is superb. Our tests found results across all resolutions to be excellent, with good clarity, punchy colors and solid noise-handling in low light (aided by AI processing). Active HDR does pretty well at balancing high-contrast lighting, while FlowState and Horizon Lock stabilization are proven performers. Professional filmmakers might wish for log capture and higher 8K frame rates, but this is still a mighty impressive action camera.

Read our in-depth Insta360 Ace Pro review

The best Hero 12 alternative

The best value alternative to the GoPro Hero 12

Specifications

Weight: 145g
Waterproof: 18m (without case), 60m (with case)
4K video: up to 120fps
2.7K video: up to 120fps
1080p video: up to 240fps
Stills resolution: 10MP
Battery life: 1770mAh

Reasons to buy

+
Significantly better image quality
+
Convenient magnetic mounting

Reasons to avoid

-
Average battery life
-
Pricier than predecessor
Buy it if:

✅ You're a watersports fan: The Action 4 has best-in-class waterproofing down to 18m without a case.

✅ You swap mounts a lot: Magnetic quick-release mounts are secure yet make it easy to switch quickly.

Don't buy it if:

You record close-ups: A 0.4m minimum focus distance means objects close to the lens won't be sharp.

❌ You need the best performance: Dated microSD memory limits the Action 4's clip lengths and resolutions.

Like its predecessor, the Action 4 is designed to compete with the latest GoPro. To that end, it addresses the Action 3’s main flaw with a larger 1/1.3-inch sensor. Stills resolution is lower at 10MP, while video res remains the same at up to 4K/120p. The key difference is pixel size: from our tests, the Action 4 is better at gathering light, faring better than the Hero 12 Black in dim conditions.

The Action 4 also benefits from DJI’s D-Log profile with 10-bit color. Based on our review, this dramatically enhances color depth and dynamic range, capturing detailed highlights and cleaner shadows. The downside of the larger sensor and wide 155-degree lens is an increased minimum focus distance, making it harder to shoot up close. Outright performance is also throttled slightly by the microSD memory.

Elsewhere, features remain mostly the same as the Action 3, already one of our favorite action cameras. It retains the same small but rugged build, removable battery and versatile magnetic mounting system that we liked so much the first time. Waterproofing is boosted to an even more impressive 18m without a case, making it a winner for watersports.

Read our in-depth DJI Osmo Action 4 review

The best 360-degree action camera

The best action camera for shooting in 360

Specifications

Weight: 163g
Waterproof: 5m
5.6K spherical video: Up to 30fps
1440p 2D video : up to 60fps
Stills resolution: 16.6MP
Battery life: 108 minutes (1440p), 78 minutes (5.6K)

Reasons to buy

+
Shoots 5.6K, 360-degree video
+
In-camera stitching

Reasons to avoid

-
Low-resolution 2D footage
-
Not the best in low light
Buy it if:

✅ You want easy 360 video: On-camera processing and in-app reframing removes many of the pain points of 360 shooting.

✅ You want to mount up: Using the same fingers as other GoPro cameras makes the Max compatible with standard mounts.

Don't buy it if:

You want to shoot flat footage: Designed for 360, the Max's 2D shooting modes can't compete with single-lens rivals.

❌ You plan to shoot in low light: The Max works best in good lighting, struggling to keep things sharp when it's dark.

If you only want to record standard action camera footage at the best possible quality, the GoPro Hero 12 Black is a better choice. But if you like the sound of being able to reframe videos after they've been shot in 360 degrees – and you're looking for great audio quality – then the Max is well worth considering.

GoPro's most expensive action camera uses two fisheye lenses to shoot spherical 5.6K video, which you can later crop into standard 2D video using OverCapture software. In our review, we found that the six-microphone setup records excellent audio, if not quite up to the level of GoPro's 'shotgun mic' claims.

Our tests revealed that it doesn't offer the best 2D video quality, due to the need to convert it from a fish-eye image, and the max 1440/60p resolution. It can't match standard rivals like the GoPro Hero 11 Black in low light situations, either. But it remains the best waterproof, 360-degree action camera around.

Read our in-depth GoPro Max review

The best modular action camera

The best modular action camera with a tiny design

Specifications

Weight: 35.5g (camera), 96.3g (Action Pod)
Max. video resolution: 2.7K
Stills resolution: 6.6MP
Battery life: 43 minutes (camera), 170 minutes (Action Pod)

Reasons to buy

+
Action Pod adds lots of functionality
+
Convenient magnetic mounting

Reasons to avoid

-
Lower resolution than rivals
-
Weak low-light performance
Buy it if:

✅ You want a tiny action cam: The Go 3 is pocket-friendly yet capable of impressive video and versatile shooting.

✅ You like to crop later: FreeFrame mode lets you shoot first them losslessly crop to different aspect ratios later.

Don't buy it if:

You need high-res video: Capped at 2.7K, the Go 3 can't compete when it comes to outright resolution.

❌ You need total waterproofing: The Go 3 itself is waterproof, but the handy ActionPod housing isn't.

What the Insta360 Go 3 lacks in video and stabilization quality, it makes up for in versatility. The core unit can attach magnetically to all sorts of surfaces, something we found super useful during our review. It also ships with a host of modular accessories, including a similarly magnetic Action Pod which adds a flip-out touchscreen to the setup.

That display makes the Go 3 more intuitive to use than the Go 2, especially when framing up vlogs. Even with a few connectivity glitches, we found it responsive to use as a wireless viewfinder, and less clunky than doing the same with a smartphone. We do wish the Action Pod was waterproof like the Go 3 itself, though.

There’s no escaping that the Go 3’s 2.7K resolution can’t compete with the similarly priced GoPro Hero 11 Black, but videos in testing still had decent contrast and competitive dynamic range. We also found its FreeFrame feature a lot of fun, offering the flexibility to reframe stills and video after the fact. If you want a tiny but sturdy action camera with unique magnetic functionality, there’s nothing quite like the Go 3.

Read our in-depth Insta360 Go 3 review

The best tough action camera