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9 best action cameras that will ensure you never miss a shot

Budding vlogger? Avid snowboarder? These are the best bits of kit for high-quality content

Jacob Little
Monday 18 July 2022 09:03 BST
<p>Watch out for the levels of stabilisation if you’re set on taking them out into the wild  </p>

Watch out for the levels of stabilisation if you’re set on taking them out into the wild

Although they haven’t been around for that long, the latest incarnations of popular action cameras from a range of brands have taken the world by storm.

As technology has improved, their popularity has soared, and many bloggers, vloggers, content creators and image-making professionals are sure to pack these portable, high-quality devices as an essential part of their gear.

They’re super lightweight, often shoot amazing 4K footage with a high degree of stabilisation and are as durable, resilient and shock-proof as they come.

With many examples on the market, it’s important to do a bit of research. The market leader is clearly GoPro, a name that has become synonymous with the action camera industry, but other manufacturers are catching up and many offer quality set-ups for similar prices that do the same job.

Almost all action cameras shoot in 4K these days, but watch out for the levels of stabilisation if you’re set on taking them out into the wild or using them for action sports – the quality differs in this respect. We found that those with a front-facing camera are highly useful, especially if you’re vlogging, but you can save a bit of money if you’re prepared to forgo that.

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How we tested

We put each of these cameras through their paces in a number of different lighting conditions (typically an area small sensor cameras like action cameras struggle with), weather conditions and filming set-ups. These ranged from more professional shoots to everyday footage recorded on walks and while exercising. We also tested stabilisation levels and general package design – assessing what comes with the camera in terms of mounts, a key area for the usability of these devices.

The best action cameras for 2022 are:

  • Best ultimate premium action camera – GoPro hero 10 black: £429,
  • Best for latest cutting-edge tech – GoPro hero 9 black: £329.98,
  • Best for 4K video – GoPro hero 8 black: £259.98,
  • Best for 360-degree footage – Insta360 one R: £499.99,
  • Best for all-out action – Garmin verb ultra 30: £389.99,
  • Best for budget-conscious buyers – Akaso brave 7 LE action camera: £139.99,
  • Best for slow motion footage – Sony RX0 II: £608,
  • Best for portability – DJI pocket 2: £339,

GoPro hero 10 black

Best: Overall

Rating: 10/10

  • Weight: 158
  • 4K Footage: Yes, at 120fps; 5.3K at 60fps
  • Waterproof: 10m
  • Stabilisation: Yes

The newest in the line-up of GoPros is undoubtedly its most powerful yet. The all-new processor twinned with the new HyperSmooth 4.0 stabilisation system means you’re guaranteed GoPro’s most effective footage yet – smooth across all frame rates and with a fast user interface backed up by the new processor, which makes a surprising amount of difference. Design-wise, there’s little change, but the changes under the hood make it a worthwhile addition and upgrade for many GoPro fans.

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GoPro hero9 black

Best: For latest cutting-edge tech

Rating: 9/10

  • Weight: 158g
  • 4K Footage: Yes, at 60fps; 5K at 50fps available
  • Waterproof: 10m
  • Stabilisation: Yes

The previous version of the GoPro, as you’d imagine, still packs a punch with 5K recording and the addition of a highly useful front-facing screen. With the new processor included in the 10 Black, the hero9’s touchscreen and general interface response is found a little lacking in comparison, but for most casual or enthusiast users, we don’t think this will be a deal-breaker. What’s more, as it’s slightly older tech, there are some significant deals to be found across retailers.

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Gopro hero 8 black

Best: For 4K video

Rating: 9/10

  • Weight: 126g
  • 4K Footage: Yes, at 60fps
  • Waterproof: 10m
  • Stabilisation: Yes

We rate the Hero8 black as it still offers great camera ability for the price, as well as GoPro’s class-leading capture and stabilisation systems. If you can go without a front-facing screen and a 5K recording mode, which we think most people will, you can get this version for nearly £100 less than the newer Hero9 black model. It still has the same “hyper smooth” technology and can film 4K video up to 60fps.

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Insta360 one R

Best: For 36-degree footage

Rating: 8/10

  • Weight: 121g
  • 4K footage: Yes, at 30fps
  • Waterproof: 5m
  • Stabilisation: Yes

This one is a little bit of a different option, offering a fully modular design that allows a 360-degree lens to be plugged into a conventional core action camera. Perhaps our only criticism is that for the full package, it does seem a little expensive when you compare it with the state-of-the-art GoPro, but we really liked the flexibility and versatility of this camera, providing 360-degree recording, a nice and easy-to-use touchscreen and generally well-thought-out packaging and design.

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Garmin Virb ultra 30

Best: For all-out action

Rating: 8/10

  • Weight: 88g
  • 4K footage: Yes, at 30fps
  • Waterproof: No (40m with case)
  • Stabilisation: Yes (not in 4K)

A nice large touchscreen and voice-activated operation make this offering from Garmin a good choice for those looking to record action quickly and easily. It doesn’t have stabilisation at 4K, which is a shame, and you do have to purchase the case separately, but in general we found footage from this camera to be excellent and the voice-operated “on/off” more useful than you might expect.

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Akaso brave 7 LE action camera

Best: For budget-conscious buyers

Rating: 7/10

  • Weight: 127g
  • 4K Footage: Yes, at 30fps
  • Waterproof: 1m without case and 30m with included case
  • Stabilisation: Yes

We’ve included this as a more of a budget option, but in all honesty, although it’s affordable compared with other options, it’ll be perfect for most people and adequately filmed what we wanted it to in a number of different situations. It can shoot 4K and 20MP stills, and we thought its front screen was a really nice added extra for the price. There are downsides – the stabilisation is perhaps not quite what others offer – but in general, this is a great package that anyone starting out in the world of action cameras would be wise to consider.

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Sony RX0 II

Best: For slow motion footage

Rating: 8/10

  • Weight: 110g
  • 4K Footage: Yes
  • Waterproof: 10m
  • Stabilisation: Yes

Sony’s offering provides a 1in sensor and the ability to shoot incredible slow-mo in 1000fps bursts, which is a market leader in this respect. It’s an ultimate premium model – and very expensive – but we’d recommend this as the camera to look at if you’re dedicated to professional shooting and are looking for image quality, especially when it comes to slow-mo and low-light conditions, over anything else. As we said, it’ll set you back, but there are some deals to be had at the moment so it’s definitely worth considering.

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DJI pocket 2

Best: For portability

Rating: 9/10

  • Weight: 117g
  • 4K footage: Yes, at 60fps
  • Waterproof: No
  • Stabilisation: Yes

We really like the lightweight nature of the DJI pocket 2, which we felt more than lived up to its name. With full three-axis stabilisation, activetrack 3.0 and a handy AI editor for edits and cuts on the fly, it’s a worthwhile addition to any action camera fan’s arsenal. It offers 4K footage at 60fps and can also capture 64MP photos, which is incredibly handy for those looking for an alternative to the filmmaking focus of other cameras on this list.

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Action cameras FAQs

What to look for in an action camera?

  • Resolution – It probably goes without saying, but if you want crisp, clear photos and footage, you’ll need the highest resolution possible, 4K, and luckily, all our top picks fall into that category.
  • Stabilisation – Vloggers, action sports enthusiasts and basically anyone using their camera in motion will need a high degree of stabilisation. This allows for seamless image and footage capture that doesn’t blur even at high speeds.
  • Weight – This will depend on where you plan to mount your camera. If you’re attaching it, say, to your helmet, you’ll want it to be as light as possible. That said, the lightest and most compact models are a safe bet, as you’ll probably prioritise their portability regardless of where they’re mounted.
  • Waterproofing – Going for a dip? Capturing underwater shots, or just protecting your kit against the rain, will mean it needs to be waterproof. Think about how deep you’ll be diving too – some of our top picks can make it down to 11m, though you can often buy a case for non-waterproof models, which offer protection as low as 30m down.
  • Battery life – If you’re using a high-resolution camera, your battery will not last long, maybe two to three hours at most. You can opt for those with longer battery life, but they will set you back a bit. That’s why it’s a good idea to instead take a few extra batteries with you and change when you run out of juice.
  • Memory – A good memory card is a must. If it’s too slow it could lead to crashes, freezing and even data loss. Look for “speed class”, which will be marked on the card itself as anything from two to eight, the higher the better, but also the more expensive, so you will need to weigh this up before buying.
  • Mounting system – Pretty much all action cameras can be mounted to almost anything: helmets, handlebars, wrists, and shoulders, which is great if you want to go hands-free.
  • Wireless connectivity – If you can’t wait to see your images and footage in all their glory on a bigger screen, you’re in luck, as most action cameras come with wifi connectivity, so you can upload images or video to your phone or laptop while on the go.

The verdict: Action cameras

The best camera in the test is the GoPro Hero10 black, the latest incarnation of GoPro’s famous line and in many respects the best one they’ve released. It’s got a super slick user-interface, and its GP2 processor marks a significant improvement compared to the Hero9 black.

If you’re prepared to forgo the very latest model, we still think the Hero8 black, for the price, is a worthy contender and still produces amazing results. This is the one we’d go for if you’re on a bit more of a budget.

Or, if you’re in the market for a professional set-up, and have the budget, we’d recommend Sony’s offering, but if you’re just starting out, the Akaso option available from Amazon really impressed us and is a fraction of the price of many other options.

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