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Best action camera 2020: 10 cameras for the GoPro generation

Best action camera 2020
(Image credit: Future)

Looking to buy an action camera for your next adventure? You've come to the right place – we've tested all the latest ones, from GoPros to the DJI Osmo Action and even 360-degree models, to bring you this list of the best action cameras you can buy.

Your smartphone might now be capable of shooting some impressive video, but an action camera can still be a great investment for a few reasons. Firstly, they tend to be more rugged and waterproof than most phones, which means you can take them to places that your iPhone or Android ally wouldn't dare tread.

Thanks to a wide range of accessories, they can also be attached to helmets, surfboards, cars and other objects. The latest models from the likes of GoPro also offer polished shooting modes like HyperLapses (which are moving timelapses) or, in the case of the GoPro Max, the option to shoot 360-degree video which then allows you to choose where the camera is looking during a scene, after you've shot it. 

Who makes the best action camera? Despite from hot competition from the likes of DJI, GoPro still makes the best all-round adventure cams for most people. The Hero 8 Black is our number one pick thanks to its mix of usability, polished software and excellent video quality. Older models like the GoPro Hero 7 Black, though, offer better value if you don't need the latest features like built-in mounting fingers or compatibility with GoPro's incoming Mods accessories.

If you don't want your action camera pointing in just one direction, though, it is also worth considering a 360-degree camera. Models like the GoPro Max let you create dynamic 2D videos thanks to their ability to capture the entire scene around you, albeit at lower quality than a traditional action camera like the Hero 8 Black.

Insta360 also makes excellent, user-friendly 360-degree cameras, though models like the Insta360 One X aren't in this list because they lack waterproofing, which is a key part of an action camera. That said, its new Insta360 One R does offer both waterproofing and a 360-degree module – we'll be giving our verdict on its very soon. Until then, here are the best action cameras you can buy today.

Best action cameras in 2020

(Image credit: TechRadar)

1. GoPro Hero8 Black

The best GoPro yet

Weight: 126g | Waterproof: 10m | 4K video: up to 60fps | 1080: up to 240fps | 720: up to 240fps | Stills resolution: 12MP | Battery: 1220mAh

Best-in-class digital stabilization
Time-saving Capture Presets
Built-in mounting arms
Improved mic
Picture quality not impressive enough
Poor low-light performance

The baton has been passed: the latest GoPro flagship has stolen the crown from the Hero7 Black as the king of action cameras. The GoPro Hero8 Black is easy to use, has plenty of new features and boasts the best image stabilization tech till date, putting its predecessor to shame. Most importantly, there's a livestream option on board, so you can share your adventures (or misadventures as the case may be) with the rest of the world directly on Facebook if you want. GoPro has even streamlined the app, making it easier to edit and share your clips. It's also easier to mount the camera onto a tripod, thanks to the folding 'fingers' on the bottom of the chassis. All in all, it's a well thought out action camera for pros and beginners alike.

Read our in-depth GoPro Hero8 Black review to find out more

2. GoPro Hero7 Black

The new king of action cameras

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

Great 4K video
HyperSmooth very effective
Struggles with voice commands
Screen unresponsive at times

 While it may share pretty much of the same headline video specs as the Hero6 Black that it replaces, the Hero7 Black offers a number of big improvements. The most significant of this is the addition of GoPro's all-new HyperSmooth image stabilization technology. It really is very impress, delivering gimbal-smooth video footage. TimeWarp video is a further new feature, one that combines the idea of regular frame-by-frame time-lapse shooting (which you can still do separately) with HyperSmooth – essentially, a stabilised hyperlapse, while the user interface has been overhauled for a much better user experience. Delivering buttery-smooth 4K video footage the Hero7 Black is the best action camera you can buy. 

 Read our in-depth GoPro Hero7 Black review 

3. GoPro Hero5 Black

If you don't need the latest and greatest, this is still a good buy

Weight: 118g | Waterproof: 10m | 4K video: up to 30fps | 1080: up to 120fps | 720: up to 240fps | Stills resolution: 12MP | Battery life: 1-3hrs est

 Voice activated controls 
Excellent 4K footage
 Touchscreen fiddly to use
 Few accessories included 

It may have been overshadowed by the new Hero6 Black, but the Hero5 Black still has a lot to offer. Shooting 4K footage up to 30fps, video footage is incredibly smooth, while the ability to shoot stills in raw format brings even more flexibility. Waterproof down to 10m without the need for a protective case, it's also simple to use, while the addition of a rear touchscreen, voice control and GPS make it one of the most feature-packed cams currently available.

Read our in-depth GoPro Hero5 Black review

4. TomTom Bandit

Shake-to-edit features could tempt users away from GoPro

Weight: 190g | Waterproof: Splashproof, with lens swap | 4K video: 15fps | 1080: up to 60fps | 720: up to 120fps | Stills resolution: 16MP | Battery life: 3hrs

Clever editing features
Easy to mount and position
Heavy compared with competitors
Requires a lens swap to water proof

Bullet shape cams might have fallen out of fashion recently thanks to GoPro and its box-shaped cameras, but the TomTom Bandit bucks the trend. In fact, the Bandit packs features that other manufacturers will need to follow if they're to keep up with this newcomer. Taking years of GPS experience, TomTom has built in a series of sensors that not only record location but speed and G-force too, so that when these sensors pick up that something exciting has happened they automatically tag the footage. Back in the pub and with the app open and connected, a quick shake of your phone and the app will automatically edit your footage ready for upload. It really couldn't be easier.

Read the full review: TomTom Bandit

Olymous TG-Tracker

5. Olympus TG-Tracker

The next generation of sensor enabled action cameras has arrived

Weight: 180g | Waterproof: 30m | 4K video: 30fps | 1080: up to 60fps | 720: up to 240fps | Stills resolution: 7.2MP | Battery life: 3hrs

Packed with Sensors
Easy to use
Heavy compared with competitors
No in app auto editing

The TG-Tracker's futuristic design is hard to miss with an ultra wide 204 degree lens fronting a 1/2.3-inch CMOS sensor. Headline video resolutions include 4k at 30fps, 1080p at 60fps and an impressive 240fps at 720p for slow motion capture. This is an action camera ready for anything and even features a small LED video light built in. Sensors are the big news for the Tracker with GPS, compass, acceleration sensors plus a barometer and thermometer all capturing data from inside the compact case. The intel from these can all be displayed when viewing back the footage or in the video edit so you can show just how extreme you are. What's more, it's waterproof to 30m, features built in stabilization and can withstand temperatures down to -10C.

Read the full review: Olympus TG-Tracker

6. YI 4K Action Camera

A 4K action camera at a cheap price

Weight: 94g | Waterproof: N/A (optional case available) | 4K video: 30fps | 1080: up to 120fps | 720: up to 240fps | Stills resolution: 12MP | Battery life: Up to 2hrs

Detailed 4K footage
Bigger touchscreen than a GoPro
No voice activated controls
Too easy to switch on and off

How often do you take an action cam underwater? Most people never will, so in some regard the YI 4K ActionCam is about cutting corners, but what it leaves out – GPS, voice control, auto-upload, and raw shooting – are hardly core features. In fact, it gives as much as it takes, with a large and responsive touchscreen, a big battery and a fast file transfers. It may lack a few niceties – and we would include lens distortion correction and image stabilisation in that list – but the YI 4K Action Cam remains a great value addition to any adventurer's kit bag.

Read the full review: YI 4K Action Camera

7. Sony FDR-X3000R

Action camera with a remote live view display

Weight: 114g | Waterproof: 60m (case included) | 4K video: 30fps | 1080: up to 60fps | 720: up to 120fps | Stills resolution: 8.2MP | Battery life: 1-2hrs

Image stabilization
Remote monitoring
Expensive
Live View drop-outs

All action cameras are now promising 4K at 30fps, but Sony’s effort is about a lot more than just resolution and frame rate. The diminutive FDR-X3000R's biggest claim is Balanced Optical SteadyShot (B.O.SS) image stabilization, which works across all resolutions and recording modes. It also includes an underwater housing – a rarity in the action camera market – and comes with a wearable, mountable live view remote, a smartwatch-sized contraption that allows the FDR-X3000R to be operated from afar, and its images previewed in real time.

Read the full review: Sony FDR-X3000R

Garmin Virb XE

8. Garmin Virb XE

Capture your action, speed and location at the same time

Weight: 152g | Waterproof: 50m | 4K video: No | 1080: up to 60fps | 720: up to 120fps | Stills resolution: 12Mp | Battery life: 2hrs

GPS and other motion sensors
Waterproof without additional case
Bulky compared to competitors
Less suitable for vehicle mounting

The original Garmin Virb introduced motion sensors and GPS tracking to action cameras, adding an extra element to capturing the action, like the TomTom Bandit. Building on the solid foundation of the original Virb, Garmin has revisited the design, losing the bullet shape and remodeling the camera around the popular 'box' style. This new shape makes chest mounting far easier and, as with the original, the build quality is excellent. The XE offers increased video quality, it's waterproof without an additional case, features Wi-Fi along with compatible app and software, this all makes the Virb XE one of the best action cameras at present.

Read the full review: Garmin Virb XE

GoPro Hero4 Session

9. GoPro Hero5 Session

Back-to-basics box-shape action camera

Weight: 74g | Waterproof: 10m | 4K video: 30/25/24fps | 1080: up to 90fps | 720: up to 120fps | Stills resolution: 10MP | Battery life: 1.5-2hrs est

Compact design
Simple one button control
App required to adjust settings
No screen

The Hero5 Session follows on from the Hero4 Session, stripping back the action camera concept to its basics, but sharing many of the same specs as the Hero5 Black. That includes 4K video capture up to 30fps, image stabilisation, voice control and is waterproof down to 10m. The large Record button on the top starts and stops recording so there's no worrying about different modes and options – that's all handled by the app (though it does have a simple menu system if you wish). Back to basics, but still captures the quality of video that you'd expect from GoPro.

Read the full review: GoPro Hero5 Session

10. SJCAM SJ7 Star

Yet another 4K action camera to rattle GoPro

Weight: 58g | Waterproof: 30m (case included) | 4K video: 30fps | 1080: up to 120fps | 720: up to 120fps | Stills resolution: 12MP | Battery life: 1-2hrs

Slick 4K footage at 30fps
Rear touchscreen
No image stabilization at 4K
Barrel distortion blights stills

The SJCAM SJ7 delivers some good-looking footage, especially when shooting in 4K. However, this budget GoPro Hero5 rival doesn't boast the sort of professional features offered by the biggest name in the action camera game, such as voice activation, GPS and the ability to make quick and easy video clips via a smartphone app. If you want a action camera that delivers strong footage at a fraction of the price though, then the SJCAM SJ7 Star is worth a look.

Read our in-depth SJCAM SJ7 Star review

Also consider

DJI Osmo Pocket

A pocketable DJI gimbal that records 4K video

Weight: 116g | Waterproof: N/A | 4K video: up to 60fps | 1080: up to 120fps | 720: N/A | Stills resolution: 12MP | Battery life: Up to 2hrs

Miniaturized gimbal stabilization
Records 4K video up to 60fps

Though not technically a action camera, DJI's new Osmo Pocket is still going after the same audience. While it's not as rugged as dedicated action camera rivals, the Osmo Pocket has a clever trick up its sleeve in the shape of a built-in gimbal. Gimbals as designed to counteract unwanted movement and help you shoot super-smooth videos - while GoPro's Hero7 Black has some clever image stabilization tricks, there's no substitute for dedicated hardware. The Osmo Pocket features three-axis stabilized gimbal and measures just four inches tall. The 1/2.3-inch sensor is capable of recording 12MP still images and 4K video footage up to 60fps, while there are built-in dual microphones that use advanced noise-canceling algorithms, which DJI says should ensure that you capture high-quality audio to match your footage. 

Read our full DJI Osmo Pocket review here