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The Best Action Cameras in 2021
Action cameras bring all of the fun of a camcorder in a compact and feature-rich package. When you’re not busy rewatching all of your favorite TV shows (we’re still catching up on the juiciest scandals of Teen Mom 2), try using one of these gems to shoot your own footage. Producers used Go Pros as dashcams to capture all of the on-the-road drama in real-time, but you can use some of these best action cameras vlogging, hiking, and even underwater diving.
Key details to look at in action cameras focus on usability and performance. Build details do a lot in a small package: think mounts, waterproof cases, front-facing displays, or ultra-thin design. HD or even ultra-HD recording options improve with stabilization software. Resolution options and battery performance are also essential to think about when you are considering how you will use them. Compatibility with external microphones or noise cancellation built-in is a must-have for voice recording or special editing effects for premium video content.
The action camera world keeps growing, with brands like Sony, Polaroid, and Olympus entering the playing field. Cameras’ processors and good quality lenses create vivid videos shot in real-time. Now, there’s a broader range of premium cameras available than ever and budget-friendly options with surprisingly great specs.
- Go Pro Hero 9 Black
- Paralenz Vaquita
- Insta360 One R Twin Edition
- DJI Osmo Action
- Sony RX0 II
- Akaso EK7000 Pro
- Polaroid ID922
- Go Pro Max
- Olympus TG-Tracker
- YI 4K Action and Sports Camera
The Best Action Camera You Can Buy
1. The Best Overall Action Camera: Go Pro Hero 9 Black
- Price: $399
- Screen: Dual screen
- Resolution: Max resolution 5K30 video, 23.6 megapixels
- Battery life: 2 hours and 11 minutes
Go Pro’s premium video recording quality and durable exterior make it the household name in action cameras. The Hypersmooth image stabilization software creates true to life action video. In addition, its dual display screens show video and pictures on both the front and the back for ultimate usability and convenience.
New features like a slightly larger body, upgraded resolution, and, of course, the front screen make this model a major upgrade from previous versions. The removable lens cap allows users to replace the filter. Self-portrait geared features like Scheduled Capture, Duration, and HindSight are all-new and make for some exciting captures.
2. Best Underwater Action Camera: Paralenz Vaquita
- Price: $749
- Waterproof/Water-resistant: Yes, up to 350m
- Battery life: Up to 3 hours
- Weight: 240 g (100g underwater)
This waterproof camera is making serious waves in the diving community. Made from 100% light-grade aluminum, it films in 4k, and it is safe for depths up to 350m. The Paralenz Vaquita camera, designed by a startup led by a Danish team and created by divers for divers, lets users capture unique ocean images.
The camera’s shape is cylindrical like a flashlight for easy use underwater, and the compact shape travels easily. With an ultra light-sensitive lens, it registers details with lifelike beauty. Additional features like Wifi uploads and GPS to keep track of your diving location make it simple to use right away. Its app is a virtual dive log that stores information and footage from your camera, and users have the option to share data with researchers to help save the oceans.
3. Best User-Friendly Action Camera: Insta360 One R Twin Edition
- Price: $455.99
- Resolution: 4k video, 18.4 megapixels
- Weight: 6.1 ounces
- Waterproof: Up to 5m
This little camera packs a lot into its capabilities. It has dual cameras and also 360 capabilities to get full shots. Another handy feature is the reversible screen that you can use for front-facing images. One feature in particular that stands out is the panoramic shots, both images and video.
Insta360 offers customizable bundles and lens packages so customers can select what they need in their camera equipment. The FlowState image stabilization software means you can leave the gimbal at home with its precise performance. Built-in editing effects like the “invisible selfie stick,” Dolly Zoom, Stop Motion, Starlapse, and more help your content shine with the help of AI.
4. Best Action Camera for Sports: DJI Osmo Action
- Price: $199.00
- Waterproof: 11m waterproof
- Screens: Dual screens, touchscreen
- Battery life: up to 135 minutes
DJI made its way as a class-leading drone manufacturer, and their high-performance action cameras regularly get high marks. Its star feature is the dual-screen display and user interface, so front-facing vloggers have the best control over the shot. The DJI Osmo Action uses premium image stabilization software, Rocksteady, for crystal-clear footage every time.
Get crisp-looking video without background noise on the slopes with the wind-reduction setting built-in. Other fantastic editing choices are the up to 8x slow motion setting, with 240 frames per second at 1080p resolution. Finally, its battery can withstand subzero temperatures ( -10℃) for even the most intrepid photographers!
5. The Best High-End Camera: Sony RX0 II
- Price: $698.00
- Resolution: 4K, 15.3 megapixels
- Screen: Flip up screen
- Waterproof: 10 meters deep
Sony’s RX0 II camera uses powerful software to do some seriously amazing things in a super small package. Slow-motion videos are shot in bursts of an impressive 1000 frames per second, and its time-lapse options are ultra-customizable. In addition, the LCD screen tilts from 90° downward to 180° upwards so you can have it front-facing to capture the perfect landmark portrait or on the back.
Designed for vloggers, the Sony RX0 II has an options VCT-SGR1 Shooting Grip and an included microphone jack for premium audio quality. Sony’s signature eye autofocus feature creates perfect selfies every time. It also has SteadyShot image stabilization for clearer videos, and the body is shockproof, crushproof, dustproof, and waterproof.
6. Best Budget Action Camera: AKASO EK7000 Pro
- Waterproof: 40 m
- Price: $74.99
- Battery Life: 60-70 minutes
- Resolution: 4k, 16 MP
The Akaso EK7000 Pro has some excellent action camera features in a package that costs less than $100. Its bright display screen uses touchscreen technology. The wifi capability can also connect to smartphones to use as a viewfinder.
A waterproof housing case is included with the camera’s package as well as an additional battery. Included stabilization software helps reduce shaking in images. Overall, the Akaso EK 7000 Pro is a solid, inexpensive action camera with a considerable following.
7. Best Action Camera for Kids: Polaroid ID922
- Resolution: 4k or 18 megapixels
- Weight: 12.3 ounces
- Screens: Dual Screen
- Price: $59.99
Polaroid’s action camera line comes in durable bodies with bold colors. While it can be used and enjoyed by any age, it has various playground-ready features and a parent-friendly price point that makes it a top pick for youngsters. For example, the included bicycle mount makes filming trail rides a breeze, or attach it to the helmet mount (also included) while skating. Another cool feature is the magnetic mount that attaches to anything metallic. It’s built to be sturdy and it is shockproof as well as dustproof.
The ID922 is fun to use, with both a front and back screen. You can view all of your pictures with the 1’4″ front selfie screen or 2″ rear screen. The lithium-ion battery is rechargeable via a wall plug and photos transfer over WiFi. Pair it with accessories like the waterproof case or tripod for more versatility.
8. Best 360 Action Camera: GoPro Max
- Price: $499.00
- Resolution: 16.6 MP or 5.6K 30fps
- Battery: one hour (removable)
- Waterproof: 5m without case
The GoPro Max features back and front cameras that create a seamless panoramic or 360 action shot effect. Many features are upgraded with this “3-in-1” camera system, most notably the Max HyperSmooth image stabilizer. GoPro’s software package and app, including unlimited storage, also includes four digital lens options.
It’s primarily a video camera and has two filming options: hero mode or 360 mode. The dual two f/2.2 lenses capture images at 5.4k at either 30 fps for 360 mode or 24 fps, 30 fps, 50 fps or 60 fps for hero mode. Fun features like the power panorama mode, time warp, and time-lapse result in unique and eye-catching photos.
9. Best Rugged Action Camera Olympus TG-Tracker
- Waterproof: 30 meters
- Resolution: 4K, 8.30 megapixel
- Weight: 6.4 ounces
The TG-Tracker by Olympus is a camcorder-style action camera built for performance in tough conditions. It can withstand temperatures as low as -10 C° and is crushproof up to (220lbf). Adventurous souls from hikers to researchers really dig all of the built-in data metrics it includes. You’ll find an accelerometer, barometer, e-compass, GPS, and thermometer as well as video and still photo options.
Video quality is spectacular, rendering ultra HD footage with the 204° extreme angle wide F2.0 lens. An included front LED headlight helps get great shots in any light conditions. The built-in wifi and app connect directly to your smartphone with the Image Track app and updates with relevant environmental data and media.
10. Best Versatile Action Camera: YI 4K Action and Sports Camera
- Resolution: 4k video and 12 MP
- Battery life: 120 minutes
- Weight: 3.53 ounces
Lightweight and durable, the YI 4K Action and Sports camera is made with quality components. Its sensor is the Sony IMX377 image sensor which renders sharp photos even in low light. The retina display touchscreen uses Gorilla glass for premium performance, and the lens glass has seven layers.
Nine pre-programmed shooting modes, including time-lapse, slow motion, and still mode, help you to get precisely the shot you want. The Wifi enabled camera makes it easy to share photos, and Yi sells a waterproof case accessory.
Our Hot Take
People of all ages can find the right color action camera for their needs. Whether you’re a professional content creator or a hobbyist, so many of these cams have full performance features and the latest technology. Interest-specific cameras, like the diver’s camera or rugged builds, can safely travel in the most extreme conditions, while vlogger-built cameras with selfie screens get flattering shots every time. Plus, most cameras wirelessly upload to computers or smart devices to get your content seen, fast. Action cameras offer photographers to truly share their worlds from their point of view and are a valuable accessory.
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