Stunts are the easy bit: just open the door, fall out of the plane, pull your parachute cord. The hard part is capturing the whole experience in sufficient quality to impress your mates – and win you legions of social followers.
Want a camera that can record your every adventurous exploit? Whether you’re a skydiver, a freediver or likely to dive over the handlebars if you try mountain biking, the best action cams in 2022 can shoot sharp, stable footage in conditions that would leave your smartphone shattered, soggy and broken.
From the latest GoPro flagship to 360 cameras that can capture everything around you, we’ve rounded up our pick of the top models below. Each one has the durability to go the distance and the smarts to shoot excellent footage on the journey. Chocks away.
Most action cams in 2022 come with some kind of image stabilisation. This magically counteracts bumps and wobbles to make footage more watchable. The smartest software trickery – such as GoPro’s HyperSmooth 4.0 – can eliminate massive amounts of movement, as well as locking onto the horizon to keep the frame level.
The sharpest action cam sensors can record footage at a resolution of 5.3K. This will be overkill for most people, especially if you’ll be sharing to social media, where 4K is more than enough. Frame rates are just as important: some cams can shoot 4K footage at up to 120fps, allowing you to slow footage down for silky smooth slow-mo.
Switch it up
Some of the best action cams feature support for modular elements or accessories. These allow you to easily upgrade or augment the recording experience, whether you want a sharper camera sensor or the ability to attach an external microphone for better audio. 360 cams offer a different kind of versatility, allowing you to shoot with two lenses for full immersion or one for single-sided clips.
Connect it up
Apps are a key part of the action cam experience. Many of the best models in 2022 can connect directly to your smartphone for easy tweaking and sharing. But not all software is created equal. Some favour accessibility over complexity, while others offer a more complex but more powerful experience. Look for streaming support if you need to broadcast live.
Our pick of the best action cameras to buy today
GoPro Hero 10 Black
The Hero 10 Black is easily the best GoPro so far. Disguised as a re-hash of the Hero 9 Black – complete with identical dimensions, screen specs and sensor – it’s actually a very different camera during day-to-day use.
A GP2 processor inside, together with updated photo and video processing, means the Hero 10 Black captures better quality in all conditions. Boosted frame rates are a win for fans of slow-motion, while the feature set has been tweaked across the board. Think better live-streaming and faster wireless video transfer.
It’s also slicker and more responsive than any previous GoPro. It’s nippy, powerful and polished, with a lag-free interface that encourages creativity.
Not everything has been fixed, mind: battery life is still mediocre, low-light performance remains average and there’s noticeable grain in HDR photos. Dynamic range could also be better.
But the Hero 10 Black is still the top GoPro, capable of producing gorgeous 5.3K video at 30fps, supreme 4K slow-mo at 120fps, plus rock-steady shots with magic horizon-levelling. Stump up for a GoPro Subscription and you’ll find it’s comfortably the most complete action cam package to date.
Stuff Says: ★★★★★
More powerful and more polished than ever, the latest GoPro is also the greatest
Video: 5.3K at 30fps • Stills: 23MP • Battery: 1720mAh • Weight: 153g
Insta360 One R
Skydiving one day, scuba the next: a good action cam needs to be versatile if it’s to keep up with all of your rugged pursuits. And if it’s flexibility you need, the Insta360 One R has got you covered. Comprised of three swappable modules (a core, a battery base and a camera), it makes upgrading a cinch.
Despite the adaptable build, the One R is lightweight and pocket-friendly, yet also sturdy enough to survive some rough and tumble (including a dunking down to 5m). The standard battery is good for around an hour, though you can beef this up by switching in the double-size option.
The app can be buggy, but it’s also impressively powerful. From slow-mo to AI shooting modes, there’s plenty to experiment with – even if it’s not quite as polished as GoPro’s software. The reversible touchscreen block means it’s easy to configure the camera itself to suit the shooting scenario.
And if you want to amp up image quality, you can swap in a different sensor: there’s a dual-lens 360 option for full-round footage, a 4K wide-angle for superior quality, or a 1-inch edition that’s good for 5.3K at 30fps – and better low-light performance than any GoPro.
Stuff Says: ★★★★★
A modular action cam that’s stuffed with features but occasionally stutters. Swap in the 1-inch sensor for superior image quality in all conditions
Video: 5.3K at 30fps • Stills: 19MP • Battery: 1190mAh • Weight: 158g
GoPro Hero 9 Black
The Hero 9 Black is no longer top of the GoPro pile, but it’s still got some serious chops when it comes to recording adventurous action. It benefits from the same front display, the same compact form factor and the same 23.6MP sensor as its successor.
It’s got most of the same features, too. HyperSmooth Boost in all modes means you always have the option of supremely smooth footage, while Power Tools add impressive versatility to its arsenal. There’s also Horizon Levelling on-board, to keep footage tilt-free.
What are the differences? While the maximum frame rate for 5.3K video is the same, the Hero 9 Black’s 4K skills hit a ceiling at 60fps, versus the Hero 10 Black’s silky 120fps. The newer model is also faster and more responsive to use.
If you don’t need 5K, you’ll save more by shopping for a GoPro Hero 8 Black. But pin down a good deal on the GoPro Hero 9 Black and you’re getting a 5K action cam that can deliver the goods in most shooting scenarios.
Stuff Says: ★★★★★
Not the latest GoPro, polished firmware and 5K footage makes the Hero 9 Black a stellar second-choice if the Hero 10’s too steep for your tastes
Video: 5.3K at 30fps • Stills: 20MP • Battery: 1720mAh • Weight: 158g
DJI Osmo Action
DJI might be better known for its drones, but it’s picked up enough filming skills over the years to put out a top-notch action cam. With a similar design, comparable specs, RockSteady stabilisation and a neat front display, it’s a worthy rival to the GoPro Hero 8 Black.
A rubberised wrap around its metal shell means the compact Osmo Action is suitably sturdy: it’s waterproof to 11m and good at temperatures down to -10°C. Its design doesn’t break the mould, but the benefit is that it all feels familiar. The responsive 2.25in rear touchscreen is twinned with a useful 1.4in screen up front for framing.
Equipped with a 12MP sensor, an f/2.8 lens and a 145-degree field of view, the Osmo Action can capture excellent video in bright light. In dimmer conditions? It’s as bad as any GoPro. Equally comparable is the RockSteady stabilisation, which matches up well with GoPro’s HyperSmooth system, producing footage that’s gimbal-smooth and wobble-free.
It’s not perfect: app connectivity is terrible and there’s a lag when previewing 4K/60p footage on the touchscreen with RockSteady enabled. But the Osmo Action does deliver on battery life: it’s good for more than 60 minutes of 4K footage at 60fps.
Stuff Says: ★★★★★
It has its quirks, but great video quality, nice design and RockSteady stabilisation make the Osmo Action a stellar cam
Video: 4K at 60fps • Stills: 12MP • Battery: 1300mAh • Weight: 134g
Insta360 One X2
The original Insta360 One X was the first 360-degree action cam that felt user-friendly enough to recommend. Its successor delivers an even more appealing blend of fuss-free filming, rugged build, portability and immersive shooting modes.
It’s still styled like a pared-back puck, with a bulbous lens on either side and just two buttons on the body. But there are two key enhancements: it’s now waterproof, and features a small colour touchscreen in place of the original’s LED display. So you no longer need to clad your cam in a bulky case to dip it in the drink. And you can frame up footage without tethering to your phone.
The main appeal remains its dual-cam setup, with each sensor covering a 180-degree field of view. The images are stitched almost seamlessly by the camera, ready to share in full 360 or, better yet, get creative with cropping and editing anywhere within the sphere.
Video quality doesn’t seem like much of a leap forward, and it’s definitely not the sharpest action cam around. The companion app is also pretty clunky, with crashes not uncommon. But if you want a waterproof camera that can capture it all, this is the one to beat.
Stuff Says: ★★★★★
Occasional app frustrations aside, this engaging box of tricks has all angles covered
Video: 5.7K at 30fps • Stills: 18.5MP • Battery: 1630mAh • Weight: 149
GoPro’s version of a shoot first, frame later 360 cam takes a similar approach to the Insta360 above. It has two lenses facing in opposite directions and auto-stitches the resulting footage pretty seamlessly. It also doubles up as single-lens 2.7K action cam, while its 1.7in self-facing display gives it solid vlogging chops.
If you’ve used a GoPro before, the basic interface will be familiar. So will the flip-out mounting fingers and the control buttons on the body. The lenses on the Max aren’t quite as scratch-resistant as those on the Hero 8 Black, but it’s still durable enough, with waterproofing to 5m.
360 footage is shot at 5.6K, which gives scope for decent 720p output when you crop down. Colours are a little richer on the GoPro than the Insta360, though there’s no HDR mode. As with all 360 cameras, detail is captured best at the centre of each lens, with fringing worse in low light.
The partner app is a powerful tool for editing spherical footage, allowing you to pan dynamically across the frame. The process can be clunky at times, but it does unlock new ways to creatively capture and tweak content.
Stuff Says: ★★★★★
If you want the ultimate editing flexibility in familiar GoPro packaging, the Max is an excellent tool for capturing 360 content
Video: 5.6K at 30fps • Stills: 16.6MP • Battery: 1600mAh • Weight: 163g
Insta360 Go 2
A tiny snapper from the set-it-and-forget-it school of action videography, the Insta360 Go 2 is a camera compact and lightweight enough to go unnoticed. Yet despite its minuscule packaging, it’s fully waterproof to 4m and capable of recording sharp, detailed 1440p footage at 50fps.
What’s more, the ultra-portable Go 2 benefits from satin-smooth FlowState stabilisation, which does an immaculate job of eradicating bumps from footage.
There’s no display on the device itself, but the pocketable charging stand adds a status readout, as well as doubling up as a self-contained selfie stand. It also features two buttons, although it’s much easier to fire up the Insta360 app for wireless control from your smartphone.
Some will bemoan the lack of 4K, while the low stills resolution limits its use as a photography tool. But for a such a miniature thing, it gives much bigger action cams a real run for their money.
Stuff Says: ★★★★☆
The Go 2 isn’t perfect, but with a tiny form factor and waterproof build, it’s our go-to micro action cam
Video: 1440p at 50fps • Stills: 9.2MP • Battery: 1100mAh • Weight: 27g
GoPro Hero 8 Black
GoPro’s Hero 8 Black has been around for a few years now. So, no, it doesn’t offer the very latest horizon-levelling smarts or 5K video quality. But it’s still a former flagship action cam, which means it can capture crisp 4K footage, steadied by HyperSmooth 2.0 image stabilisation – and it’s better value than ever.
From slow-mo to TimeWarp 2.0, the Hero 8 Black offers no shortage of creative shooting modes. Plus easy smartphone connectivity means it’s simple to edit your video clips through the Quik smartphone app. The Hero 8 Black was also the first GoPro to ship with fold-out feet for easy mounting to tripods and accessories.
There are still some drawbacks: stills quality isn’t the best, while low-light performance leaves quite a bit to be desired. The display could be bigger as well, although the touchscreen interface is responsive and easy to use. But the nuts and bolts are bang on. If you want an authentic action cam experience without splashing out on the very latest GoPro, this is the camera for you.
Stuff Says: ★★★★★
Better value than ever, the Hero 8 Black still produces superb 4K footage with outstanding stabilisation
Video: 4K at 60fps • Stills: 12MP • Battery: 1220mAh • Weight: 126g