Best Action Cameras for 2021 | Simple, Rugged, and Fun

Updated on May 19, 2021
best action cameras

We review tons of the best action cameras available. These small, rugged devices that are ideal for capturing running, cycling, skiing, sledding, kayaking, etc

You could be forgiven for thinking that a list of the best action cameras is pretty pointless because it’s just going to be dominated by GoPro device after GoPro device, but you might be surprised.

Although GoPro does feature prominently in this list, and pretty highly too, there are plenty of other brands to consider, many of them far cheaper than the average GoPro, and even if you do decide to go for a GoPro hopefully this article will help you decide which particular model would best suit your needs. When it comes to buying an action camera, it makes sense to consider your options as carefully as possible.

Our Evaluation Method

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, it’s worth mentioning that we have taken a very serious approach to putting this list of the best action cameras together. We have judged the action cameras on this list on a wide range of criteria from ease of use to clarity of image, and just about every factor you can think of in between.

That being said, it is fair to say that what constitutes the best action camera will be different for everyone who wishes to purchase one. Some of you reading this may want a camera that is highly waterproof, while others may be more concerned with camera resolution than anything else.

We tried to take all of this into account as we scoured the internet for the best action cameras for 2021 so that you can make a more informed choice when it comes right down to it, but it may be that our number one is not your number one and that’s just fine.

Okay, so let’s get right into it and take a look at our top choices of the best action cameras…

Recommendations of the Best Action Cameras for September 2021

  • GoPro Hero9 Black – The world’s best action camera from the world’s best action camera maker.
  • GoPro Hero8 Black – Tough, stable, and able to produce stunning images, what more do you want?
  • DJI Osmo Action – Great 4K action camera with a small price.
  • GoPro Hero7 Black – If you’re looking for a tough, effective action camera, this is another GoPro that won’t go wrong.
  • Insta360 One R – If you’re looking for an action camera that does it all, look no further.
  • Akaso Brave 7 – If you’re looking for a budget GoPro alternative, you’ll be in safe hands with this one.
  • Sony RX0 Mark II – Premium content creation camera that has a few more tricks up its sleeve than GoPro.

Reviews of the Best Action Cameras for September 2021

Want to know why the cameras above made our list of best action cameras? Read on for more information…

1. GoPro Hero9 Black

GoPro HERO9 Black
The world’s best action camera from the world’s best action camera maker.

Specs

  • Waterproof up to 10m
  • Weighs 158g
  • 5K video (up to 30fps) and 4K (up to 60fps)
  • 1080 (up to 240 fps)
  • 20 MP stills resolution
  • 1-3 hours battery life

Available for approximately $399, this is the gold standard for action cameras. With some of the best features, including a front-facing screen and 20MP photos, and long-lasting batteries, you could say that GoPro has well and truly upped the ante with this one.

If you’re looking at the best action cameras that money can buy, look no further than the GoPro Hero9 Black. Unlike most GoPro’s, this one features a front-facing camera that is more common of vlogging cameras than action cameras, so it surely won’t be for everyone, but if you’re using it to show off your adventures online, and you want a high-resolution device, at 5K, this is the one for you.

If high-resolution isn’t a primary selling point for you, the GoPro Hero9 Black still has a lot to offer, including a brand new sensor that makes it possible to take 14.7 MP grabs. Not only that, but this new model has a huge 2.27-inch screen and 3.0 Hypersmooth video stabilization. It’s also great for taking timelapse photos thanks to the TimeWarp 3.0 tech, and its 360º horizon lock makes light work of those sweeping shots. Basically, if you want your videos and images to look crisp, clear, and frankly unbelievable, this is the action camera for you.

2. GoPro Hero8 Black

GoPro HERO8 Black
Tough, stable, and able to produce stunning images, what more do you want?

Specs

  • Waterproof up to 10m
  • Weighs 126g
  • 4K video (up to 60 fps)
  • 1080 (up to 240 fps) and 720 (up to 240 fps)
  • 12 MP stills resolution
  • 1-3 hours battery life

If you like the sound of the GoPro Hero9 Black, but it’s a little out of your budget, you’ll be delighted to hear that the GoPro Hero8 Black comes in at $299 – that’s $100 dollars less than the Hero9. Considerably lighter than the GoPro Hero9 Black, the GoPro Hero9 Black is great for anyone who’s looking for the best lightweight option of the best action cameras in 2021.

Its super image stabilization, built-in accessory mount to make managing accessories much easier, and huge number of mods make it a very attractive option for anyone who’s looking for quality but does not require a front-facing 5K camera, as many action shooters will not.

3. DJI Osmo Action

DJI Osmo Action
Great 4K action camera with a small price.

Specs

  • Waterproof up to 11m
  • Weighs 134g
  • 4K video (up to 60fps)
  • 1080 (up to 240 fps) and 720 (up to 240 fps)
  • 12 MP stills resolution
  • 1-2.25 hours battery life

If you’re looking for the best action cameras that won’t break the bank, but which will deliver crisp images and give you a lot of extras to play with, you could do a lot worse than the DJI Osmo Action, which is available for as little as $199. The company may be better known for its drones, but this camera is really great.

What makes it so good? As LCD screens go, its LCD front color monitor, which is ideal for vloggers who want to capture those all-important action shots in all their glory is the main selling point of this particular camera, but it has many more selling points too. Although it may not have all of the features of the average GoPro, and the app can be a little temperamental, the DJI Osmo Action is a worthy competitor for anyone who is working with a tight budget, but is still interested in the best action cameras.

4. GoPro Hero7 Black

GoPro HERO7 Black
If you’re looking for a tough, effective action camera, this is another GoPro that won’t go wrong

Specs

  • Waterproof up to 10m
  • Weighs 118g
  • 4K (up to 60fps)
  • 1080 (up to 240 fps) and 720 (up to 240 fps)
  • 12 MP stills resolution
  • 1-3 hours battery life

This flagship GoPro action camera from 2018 may not have quite as many features as its ancestors, but if you have $299 to spare, it is undoubtedly worth it, especially if handheld time-lapses are your thing.

The GoPro Hero7 Black was the first action camera to use the HyperSmooth video stabilization system, which means that you can trust it to help you to take the best possible action shots. Its shake-buster remains effective up to 4K 60fps, which is something rare in the world of action camera, but which GoPro has perfected.

It is also possible, to create time-lapsed video with the GoPro Hero7 Black by using the readily available TimeWarp technology, and with a memory of up to 2GB, this has never been easier to achieve. As if that wasn’t enough, the GoPro Hero7 will respond to no less than 121 voice commands, so you can take the shots you need to take even when you’re busy with an adventure.

5.  Insta360 One R

Insta360 ONE R
If you’re looking for an action camera that does it all, look no further.

Specs

  • Waterproof 5m
  • Weighs 70g
  • 7K 360 + 4K Wide Angle lens
  • Minimum focal length 1000
  • 70 mins hours battery life

If you are looking for an action camera that does it all and does it all well, you are going to love the Insta360 One R. Although it isn’t cheap, it is well worth the money if you’re serious about taking brilliant action shots, and you want something a little more compact.

What’s so good about it? It’s incredibly versatile for a start. Its unique modular design enables you to swap between camera module so that you can change up which shooting options and features you have access to depending on the project you are working on at the time – there are few other action cams that will enable you to do that!

As it stands, the modules you can choose from a wide range of lenses including a 4K wide-angle, a 360-degree dual-lens camera, and a Leica-engineered camera that features a 1-inch sensor so you can get great quality shorts even in poor light conditions.

If you desire, you can even use this particular device as a webcam, and because it’s fully WiFi enabled, you can also live stream using the 360 camera to show the world what daring feats you’ve gotten yourself into.

6. Akaso Brave 7

AKASO Brave 7
If you’re looking for a budget GoPro alternative, you’ll be in safe hands with this one.

Specs

  • 4K digital zoom
  • Wi-Fi enabled
  • Digital zoom x3
  • Multiple shooting options

If you’re looking for a decent 4K action camera, with great image quality that you can buy for around $150, this one is hard to beat. The Akaso Brave 7 is a water-resistant model that comes with a number of mont options and a wrist remote as well as batteries and charger, which means it is the ideal option for beginners.

Despite it being an entry-level action camera, it is waterproof up to 40 meters and features a surprisingly decent touch screen that makes changing your camera’s settings as easy as can be. It has a number of useful camera mode options, including front-facing, loop recording, time-lapse and slow motion, which should at least cover most of your basic needs.

7. Sony RX0 Mark II

Sony RX0 II
Premium content creation camera that has a few more tricks up its sleeve than GoPro.

Specs

  • Waterproof up to 10m
  • Weighs 110g
  • 4K (up to 30fps)
  • 1080 (up to 1000 fps) and 720 (up to 1000 fps)
  • 215.3 MP stills resolution
  • 60 mins battery life

This great little action camera may well have been further up the list if it wasn’t for the fact that it is so expensive for what it is, coming in at around $700. It features a sizeable Exmore 1-inch sensor, and front-facing vlogging screen, which make it very attractive for the pros, as does its super slow-motion capabilities, and smooth footage capture, which will certainly make for some amazing social media videos on the likes of Facebook, Instagram, and Youtube, but as we said, the price can be off-putting for many.

As well as the above, the  Sony RX0 II is able to capture short snippets of slo-mo right up to 1000 fps, which not even any of the GoPro models featured can offer. It is also able to take amazing pictures in low-light conditions due to its built-in sensor. So, if you’re looking for a camera that will enable you to take stunning pictures and you don’t mind spending a bit of money, this premium device is the ideal content creation tool for you.

Frequently asked questions

Is there a better action camera than the GoPro?

Most people who are aware of action cameras will immediately think of the GoPro brand when they are looking into the prospect of buying an action camera. It is only natural to ask yourself “Is there a better action camera than the GoPro?” because it is so ubiquitous and so many bloggers, vloggers, and adventurers have one strapped to their helmets, so let us provide you with an answer.

If you have read our list of the Best Action Cameras for 2021, you will see that there are no less than 3 GoPro cameras listed, with two of them taking the top spot and all coming within the top four. This would suggest that there is no better action camera than the GoPro, but if you look at our list, you will also see that the Sony RX0 Mark II does a few things that the GoPro cannot, which means it could technically be considered better.

It really depends on what you want from a camera, and what your budget is. If you’re looking for a camera under $400 with tons of features and great image quality, then no, the GoPro cannot be beaten.

Are action cameras worth it?

That really depends on what you are going to be using them for. There is no point in buying an action camera if, for example, you aren’t going to be shooting anything particularly active.

Action cameras are designed to capture a wide range of motions, which is why they are so popular with vloggers, Youtuber’s and other social media users who need to film on the move or while they’re climbing mountains and surfing the seas.

If you are likely to be doing any of those things, and you want to capture your movements in high-quality high definition, then yes, action cameras are absolutely worth it. If you are not, then maybe you’d be better off with a different kind of camera.

Are GoPros worth the money?

We would say that, yes, if you are serious about shooting great action footage, GoPro’s really are worth the money. They have a wide range of features, including 5K shooting and, in the case of the GoPro Hero 9 Black, one of the best front-facing vlogging cameras currently available. In fact, we think the GoPro Hero9 Black is currently the world’s best action camera, and at just under $400 it is not even the most expensive action camera you can buy in the United States, not by a longshot. 

What is the best alternative to a GoPro?

This is a tough question because, again, it all depends on what you are looking for in terms of an action camera, and everybody has different needs when they’re shooting. If you’re looking for a budget version that does all of the same basics as a GoPro, but maybe not with quite as many features, Akaso Brave 7 is a good shout, but if you’re looking for something that’s just as good, but not a GoPro, the Insta360 One R or Sony RX0 Mark II could be a good fit, but they are expensive.

What you really need to do is take a look at the various GoPro specs and note down which you require, then you can look for an action camera that has all of the specs you require, but from a different brand. Think of this list as a good place to start and take it from there.

Conclusion

As you can see, there are several very impressive action cameras available right not win 2021, and we think we’ve picked out the very best of the bunch, hopefully ensuring that we’ve included something for everyone in the process. However, before you buy an action camera you should be sure to take your time, do your research, and ensure that you pick up a camera that meets your own personal needs as closely as possible. That is the only way to truly ensure that you make the right choice and buy a camera you truly love.

Article by:
Louie Lovoy
As the editor of Netbook News, when he's not editing articles on the latest tech trends, you can find him spending time with family and friends, cheering at his boys' little league games, or backpacking in the North Georgia mountains.

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