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(Pocket-lint) - Action cameras are a great invention, rugged enough to tackle the elements but small enough to slide into your pocket.

Whether you're snowboarding, surfing, skydiving or just taking a little hike on a drizzly winter day, an action camera is a great choice to capture those moments.

The good news is that these dinky devices are now more capable than ever before, with great image stabilisation, high-resolution options and more mounting options than anyone can count.

There are even modular options that allow you to build the perfect camera for any action-packed moment. With all this choice it can get a bit overwhelming, so we've narrowed down what we believe to be the top picks for anyone buying an action camera.

We've also got a section down below that explains some of the jargon, and how best to find the right model for you.

Without further ado, here are our top picks.


Best action cameras in 2022

  1. GoPro Hero 11 Black
  2. DJI Osmo Action 3
  3. Insta360 Go 2
  4. Insta360 One RS
  5. GoPro Hero 10 Black

Our Top Pick: Best Action Camera

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GoPro Hero 11 Black

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For

  • Best in class stabilisation
  • 10-bit colour video capture with high bitrate
  • Extremely wide HyperView digital lens

Against

  • Fairly bulky
  • Quite expensive

The Hero 11 Black introduces a new 1/1.9-inch 8:7 sensor to the most popular action camera in the world. This new sensor allows for improvements in stabilisation, new shooting modes and the widest FOV we've seen from GoPro to date.

It also introduces 10-bit colour to the camera, which means it's much more suited to professional work than its predecessors. This, combined with an increase in bitrate, makes for the best picture quality that we've seen from an action camera.

If that all sounds a bit advanced, GoPro has got newcomers covered, too. A new Easy Mode makes the menu systems far less complicated, and the ability to access AI-generated highlight reels makes sharing your adventures super-easy.

Action cameras we also recommend

While the GoPro Hero 11 Black is at the peak of this list, it's not necessarily the right action camera for everyone, especially with such a variety of options available today. That's why we've also selected the following devices for you to consider. 

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DJI Osmo Action 3

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For

  • Excellent magnetic mounting solution
  • Extremely wide FOV
  • Handy front touchscreen

Against

  • Needs a bracket for vertical shooting
  • The rubber lens protector can easily be lost

DJI's Osmo Action 3 is a compelling alternative to GoPro's flagship camera, offering a lot of the same features but at a more affordable price point.

That's not to say the Action 3 doesn't offer anything of its own, though. It's the only camera on the market to offer a front-facing touchscreen, so you can easily access your settings no matter where the camera is mounted.

It also utilises the ingenious magnetic quick-release mounting system that we first saw on the Action 2. This makes it super quick to switch between mounting locations, and it has been upgraded, keeping the camera more secure than ever before.

The Action 3 also offers an extremely wide FOV, and it's very close to the width of GoPro's HyperView, allowing for some really exciting shots.

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Insta360 Go 2

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For

  • The tiniest action camera around
  • Versatile magnetic mounting options
  • Great stabilisation

Against

  • Battery life can be limiting
  • Maxes out at 1440p 50fps

The Insta360 Go 2 is one of the tiniest action cameras around, weighing just 26.5 grams. Despite its diminutive size, it is capable of crisp 1440p video and has fantastic horizon levelling image stabilisation.

The size is really what makes this camera so great. You can stick it on anything and barely notice that it's there. The accessories help here, too, with a huge variety of magnetic mounts that allow you to stick the camera anywhere you can think of. Sometimes you don't even need to use a mount, as you can just magnetically stick it to a railing.

One of its key limitations is battery life, lasting just 30 minutes as a standalone unit. Thankfully, Insta360 has been smart about this, and includes an AirPods-like charging case to keep the camera juiced up. The case also acts as a remote and a tripod too, a brilliant 3-in-1 design.

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Insta360 One RS

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For

  • The most configurable of the bunch
  • Robust and waterproof despite modularity
  • Up to three cameras in one

Against

  • Small screen
  • Can't compete with GoPro on image quality

The Insta360 One RS takes modularity to the next level, allowing you to effectively have three different action cameras in one. The 4K Boost module gives you a traditional action camera, the dual-lens mod gives you a full 360 camera and the 1-inch sensor mod gives you 5.3k video and better low-light performance.

You can even unclick the screen and reverse it for vlogging action. Combine this with great features, like being able to pair to an Apple Watch or AirPods, and you have the most versatile action camera on the market.

The One RS makes some significant improvements over its predecessor but it still can't quite match GoPro when it comes to pure image quality. That said, the gap has certainly narrowed. If you need both an action camera and a 360 camera, the One RS offer unrivalled value for money and convenience.

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GoPro Hero 10 Black

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For

  • The best image quality around
  • Incredible image stabilisation
  • Extreme high resolution and frame rate options

Against

  • Relatively heavy
  • Can be prone to overheating

While it has been succeeded by the feature-packed Hero 11, the Hero 10 Black is still a top option, particularly if you can find it at a discount.

It still shoots all the way up to a staggering 5.3K resolution at 60fps and even 4K at 120fps.

Stabilisation is excellent thanks to HyperSmooth 4.0, which offers horizon levelling at up to 45 degrees. 

The lens has a hydrophobic coating to ward off droplets, and, while this sounds minor, anyone who has shot a video in the water will know it's a must-have.

Somehow, they have managed to add all of this whilst shaving off 5 grams of weight, though it is still pretty heavy.

Other products we considered

When trying to figure out what we believe to be the best action cameras currently available, we spent hours testing the devices in real-world scenarios and comparing the results. We consider a range of factors when it comes to recommending devices - and also when a new device enters our top five selections. We don't just factor in our own testing, either, but also consumer reviews, brand quality and value, too.

In all of our roundups, there are also many products we test that don't make the final cut. Since they may be the right fit for some people, however, we've listed them below.

How to choose an action camera

With action cameras now coming in so many different shapes, sizes and price ranges, it can be especially difficult to find the right one for you. Before you commit to a camera, we've laid out some things to think about as well as explaining some of the more common features found on action cameras today.

Image stabilisation

Image stabilisation is one of the key things that sets the premium action cameras apart from the no-name cheaper options. When done well, it makes your footage look steady and smooth like it was shot on a gimbal - even when you're hurtling through the woods on a mountain bike.

The big players all have their own version of this, and, while some excel in certain areas over others, they all do an outstanding job. GoPro calls it HyperSmooth, Insta360 calls it FlowState and DJI calls it RockSteady. A few short years ago, none of this was possible without external accessories, and it really opens up a whole new world for these diddy cameras. 

All of these systems are capable of horizon levelling, too. This means when you tilt the camera off-axis the image will stay perfectly level. The more premium options tend to have a larger angle at which they can keep the horizon locked, whereas more entry-level cameras will have to stay fairly level for the feature to work correctly.

Resolutions and frame rates

Action cameras can now shoot at incredibly high resolutions up to 5.3K. You might be thinking to yourself, "How can I even watch the content of this quality when my TV is only 4K?".

Well, the truth is, you probably can't.

The reason for these high resolutions is editing flexibility. For example, if you export your video at 4K, the extra resolution allows you to crop in and reframe your footage with zero loss of quality.

The same goes for high frame rates. Almost no one wants to watch 120fps footage at full speed, but it gives you the flexibility to have incredibly smooth slow-motion shots. The higher the frame rate, the smoother the slow-mo.

It's important to think about whether you will need the higher resolutions offered today. If you'll mostly be posting on Instagram, then 5K video is total overkill and takes up a huge amount of storage space on both your SD card and hard drives. In this case, you might be able to save some money by going for the last generation GoPro, rather than the flagship, for example.

Durability

Of course, it wouldn't be an action camera if it wasn't durable. We want these things to be water-proof, drop-proof, everything-proof!

As well as the general build quality of the device, it's important to think about repairability. For example, many of the options on our list have swappable lens protectors. In the event of a smashed lens, you can unscrew the protector and replace it with a new one.

Some, like the DJI Action 2, have the lens built-in and the only way to repair it is to send it off to DJI to be fixed up. It's still very durable thanks to Gorilla Glass but if you're doing something very dangerous like slapping it on the outside of a rally car, then it should be a consideration.

Size and weight

You might not think it's a huge deal, since all the cameras are pretty tiny but, in practice, it can make a huge difference. If you're doing something particularly challenging, the added weight on your helmet can be quite distracting. Similarly, if you're strapping the camera to a drone or RC plane then the extra weight can throw off the flight characteristics quite dramatically.

Of course, they're all still lightweight and if the main purpose will be something like travel vlogging, an extra few grams isn't likely to matter that much. It will always be handier than lugging around a DSLR, but getting the lightest and the most portable camera can often mean that it gets used more.

More about this story

Every product in this list has been tested in real-life situations, just as you would use them in your day-to-day life. We've put the cameras through their paces out in the field in all weather and lighting conditions, before analysing the results back in the office.

When you buy an action camera, you want to be sure it will stand up to the toughest of conditions, and do so reliably for years to come. Not only that, but it needs to look great too, or no one will want to watch it.

That's why we considered everything from battery life and durability to image quality and stabilisation when making our selections. As well as analysing customer feedback, brand quality and value for money.

In all of our buyer's guides, including this one, we tend to skip over the spec comparisons and marketing spiel; we just want to provide an easy to understand review that gives you an idea of what it's going to be like to use.

Our verdicts are concise, but this is in the interest of brevity - rest assured all the things on this list have been fully tested. You can also check out our cameras reviews section for more in-depth coverage of all the top devices. 

Writing by Luke Baker.