Hot Shots: The 12 Best Sports Cameras

Relive your adventures in high-def with these hand-picked video and still cameras
Simeon Chatzilidis/Shutterstock

Everyone loves capturing photographs and videos of his or her sports and outdoor pursuits. Whether you witnessed a spectacular sunrise on your morning loop run or you've just landed a backflip at your local ski hill, you want to be able to relive those moments in high-definition, and share them with your friends as you experienced them. But, let's face it, bringing a camera with you isn't always practical. The good ones are too big and bulky, and the small ones turn out grainy, blown-out photos and video. Right?[slideshow:676]

Not so fast. Today, camera companies are packing more and more technology into smaller, lighterweight, tougher packages. But choosing the camera that's appropriate to your sport can be a real crapshoot. There are thousands of options on the market, and they're all buried beneath a thick layer of jargon and photospeak. So we decided to help you.

Click here for the Best Sports Cameras slideshow.

Here's where to start when looking for a sports camera: First, set aside all technical considerations and think about what you physically need to record your sport. Are space and weight important (hello, runners, we're talking to you!)? Or are you just out for a day hike, and happy to bring a bulky kit in order to ensure quality? Do you want a camera that's waterproof, for surfing, swimming or paddling? Should it be extra rugged, in case you're bumping into a wall on a bouldering route? There are cameras specialized along all of these lines, and we've included many of the best here. Is video more important to you, or still photographs? (Luckily, virtually every one of the featured cameras does both, but hands-free action cameras are best at video and not as good at stills.) Also—and we know you don't need reminding here—think about the price you're willing to pay.

Next, it's time to bone up on some camera technology. Understand that the bigger the image sensor—we've included a diagonal measurement (think of how a TV is measured) for each—and the lower the f-stop, the more expensive a camera will be. Those things greatly affect overall image quality, and it's hard to squeeze that tech into smaller packages. Other important factors are max shutter speed and ISO sensitivity—the higher those numbers are, the better a given camera will perform in low light. Where action video cameras are concerned, high-def footage reigns supreme, but you should also look for solid mounting mechanisms, a durable build for when you inevitably wipe out and, the unsung hero of a great day of shooting, long battery life.

We picked 12 sweet sports cameras that we think are most appropriate for 12 core sports—road running, trail running, surfing, skiing, snowboarding, whitewater paddling, flatwater paddling, hiking, road biking, mountain biking, climbing and (a catch-all) adventure travel. Many of these still and video cameras are appropriate for other activities, too, so we encourage you to explore the capabilities of each. Hopefully, with one of these cameras, you can preserve the moments that make you passionate for your sports, and the outdoors. May your photos be crisp, your video high-definition and your stoke everlasting!

Click here for the Best Sports Cameras slideshow.