Three best action cameras
Once upon a time, video cameras were both huge and fragile. With the advent of compact, rugged action cameras, you can now record video where nobody would have dared take their video camera before, from skydiving thousands of feet in the air to diving deep under the ocean's surface.
But you don't have to be an adventurer to use an action camera. They're great for day-to-day video recording as well as holiday trips because these cameras are small enough to slip in a pocket and take anywhere.
This quick shopping guide is designed to help you find the perfect action camera to fit your needs.
Considerations when choosing action cameras
If an action camera records blurry, grainy video, it isn't worth the bother. Look for a model that either records 1080p high-definition or 4K ultra-high-definition video. There's no reason to accept anything less from today's action cameras.
One of the big selling points of action cameras is that they should be durable enough to take anywhere. If the camera can't survive a few drops and knocks, you don't want to risk taking it mountain biking or skateboarding. However, not all action cameras are equally durable, so look at the build quality and online reviews by customers to determine if the camera you're considering will stand up to heavy use.
If you'd like to take your action camera in the water, it needs to be fully waterproof. Some action cameras are waterproof as they come, but many others require a waterproof case. It's important to check whether your camera is waterproof, splash-proof, or water resistant. A water-resistant or splash-proof camera might be okay for use in the rain or on a water ride at a theme park, but it won't stand up to true underwater use.
Action camera features
WiFi and Bluetooth: Action cameras with built-in Bluetooth or WiFi let you quickly and easily transfer videos or images to your phone or tablet, making them easier to share on social media. Some models are compatible with an app you can download and use as a remote control.
Stabilization: The better the built-in stabilization, the smoother your video will be when you're on the move. If you' want to mount the camera to your body or another moving object, it's worth spending more to get the best stabilization you can afford.
Still photos: Most action cameras can also take still photos. Some automatically take a still photo every so often when you're shooting video (you can usually select the frequency at which it shoots photos). You can use other cameras much like a standard camera, taking photos even when you're not recording video.
Action camera prices: While you might find some slightly cheaper models, we wouldn't recommend paying less than $70 to $150 for a basic action camera. The cheapest options aren't of great quality. Mid-range cameras range from $150 to $300. You can find some excellent cameras in this price range, and you shouldn't have to pay more for one for casual use. High-end cameras can cost as much as $300 to $700, and these will give you professional-level results in all kinds of conditions.
Q. Do action cameras have a display screen?
A. Some action cameras are as bare-bones as possible and don't have a display screen to view footage as you're recording or play it back on the device. However, you can find plenty of higher-end options that do have a display screen.
Q. What controls come on action cameras?
A. Basic models generally have simple push-button controls. Higher-end models might have touchscreen controls, but even these often have a button to quickly and easily start or stop recording.
Q. What format do action cameras record in?
A. This varies depending on the camera you choose, but most record in either MP4 or .mov format.
Action cameras we recommend
Best of the best: GoPro HERO6
Our take: An exceptional option from the biggest name in action cameras. Rugged and easy to use.
What we like: Records 4K video and takes 12MP photos. Straightforward touchscreen controls.
What we dislike: Too pricey for some budgets.
Best bang for your buck: GoPro Camera HERO+
Our take: One of the more affordable GoPros. It might not have all the features of the top-end models, but it's still a great camera.
What we like: Built-in Bluetooth and WiFi let you connect to GoPro app. Records 1080p60 and 720p60 video and takes 8MP photos.
What we dislike: Performance isn't up to scratch in low light.
Choice 3: Black Box Mobius Pro
Our take: Basic and highly compact, this action camera can be used as a dashcam or to record standard video.
What we like: Motion detection and time-lapse options. Records in 1080p full HD. Wide dynamic range.
What we dislike: Not as durable as some others.
Lauren Corona is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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