Over the past decade, action cameras have gone from a niche piece of hobby tech to something everyone and their dog knows about. These pint-sized cameras are designed to be strapped to your helmet or backpack, so you can capture your lines while skating, document your hike through a national park or relive your summer surf trip.
As their popularity has grown, so too has their technology. Modern action cameras offer up a range of features, sturdy designs and can usually record footage in crisp 4K.
Unfortunately, a good action camera doesn’t come cheap. You’ll be looking at prices in the ballpark of $500, which can be a bit of a commitment if you don’t know what’s worth picking up. The good news is that these things are designed to last, so you’ll get plenty of use out of your brand new action camera if you treat it right.
To help you capture every moment, here are five action cameras we recommend picking up.
When people think of action cameras, they’re most likely thinking of a GoPro. Which is fair, the brand’s range of Hero cameras certainly lives up to the hype.
In our review of the GoPro Hero 9 Black review, we were pretty impressed by this instalment of GoPro’s Hero line: “The video footage this camera shoots looks stunning, the stills are bigger and better, battery life is longer, and the new features are genuinely useful.”
The GoPro Hero 9 is a handy little cam with a 23.6MP sensor that will let your record footage in up to 5K or livestream up to 1080p video. It comes with a front-mounted screen, so you can make sure you’re in the frame when filming selfies. We also have a first-hand account of how sturdy the Hero 9 Black is.
Looking for a GoPro alternative? DJI has you covered. While it’s mostly known for its range of drones, DJI’s action cameras are worth your time.
The DJI Action 2 uses a 12MP camera with a 155-degree field of view and can capture video in 4K @ 120fps. If you’re after an action camera that captures great video, then you don’t need to look past this one. In Gizmodo’s review of the DJI Action 2, we noted how good the video we recorded looked:
On a sunny morning the DJI Action 2 captured beautiful footage of a morning drive with excellent colour saturation, exposure, and colour temperature adjustments all handled automatically.
The Action 2 only weighs 56g, and uses a magnetic interface system to connect to other modules and mounts. Once you attach it to its magnetic lanyard and an adapter mount, it’s easy to forget that it’s there. It’s also waterproof up to 10m, so if you’re looking for a camera that can take a few splashes of water, the Action 2 won’t disappoint.
The biggest draw of the GoPro Max is its ability to capture eye-popping 360-degree video (6K source, 5.6K stitched). It uses a 16.6MP camera and comes with Max HyperSmooth stabilisation feature to help keep your video levelled and shake-free.
The Max will also automatically stitch together the footage captured from its front and rear-facing cameras and does a pretty solid job of hiding the stitch lines. It does struggle to stitch underwater footage perfectly, though, so you might want to leave it home when you go on your next scuba dive.
It’s can also use as a traditional single-lens action cam, like one of GoPro’s Hero cameras, although with a lower max resolution of 1440p. Still, if being able to capture 360-degree footage is at the top of your list of features for an action camera, we can easily recommend the GoPro Max.
The DJI Pocket 2 doesn’t look like your average action camera. What makes it unique is that it includes an in-built three-axis gimbal stabiliser, resulting in some buttery smooth footage. In terms of output, this handy action camera will let you take 64MP photos and capture 4K Ultra HD video @ 60fps. Its ActiveTrack 3.0 feature will also keep your subject in focus and frame, making it a great option if you’ll be filming any fast footage.
If you find its display screen a bit too small for your liking, the Pocket 2 can also be attached to your smartphone via an adapter. Once connected, you’ll be able to use your phone’s screen as a viewfinder, making it a lot easier to notice the details in your footage.
When compared to the other action cameras on this list, the Insta360 GO 2 certainly stands out. This compact camera will let you capture footage in 1440p @ 50fps, and is small enough to fit into the palm of your hand.
Its horizon-lock will help keep your footage level too, and it can also record in HDR, capturing video at a max resolution of 1440p @ 25fps. Depending on what mode you’re recording in, its maximum clip lengths range from 10 to 30 minutes. It’s waterproof up to 4m, although you’ll need a lens guard attached if you want to record footage while underwater.
The G0 2 also comes with a charging case, which will give you 2.5 hours of playtime off a 30-minute charge. The charging case also doubles as a monopod and tripod, so you can easily set your camera up to record while stationary. It also comes with a magnetic pendant, so you can hang the camera around your neck while you’re out hiking or biking.