Skip to main content

The Manual may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site.

The 7 Best Action Cameras for Your Outdoor Adventures

Smartphones can do a lot of impressive things these days, from augmented reality and video editing to on-the-fly GPS navigation. But their big screen, the very thing that makes them so usable and nice to look at, holds them back from being an action camera. Sure, you can strap your iPhone to your helmet and bomb down that dirt track on your bike, or throw it on a selfie stick and hit the best ski resorts, but it likely won’t make it out alive.

Action cameras still have their place as a travel essential and required piece of equipment for anyone who wants to jump cliffs, bomb steeps, or do any other activity where bad weather and gnarly crashes are not just possible but likely. For the rest of us, action cameras are compact, shock-proof, slow-mo-capturing video and photo cameras that can go anywhere and do anything. We’ve created a list of the best action cameras to capture all your wild and fun outdoor adventures. Let’s get into it.

GoPro Hero8 Black

GoPro Hero8 Black
Image used with permission by copyright holder

The original action camera, GoPro started it all. The first GoPro was terrible quality with few features but it went anywhere. Eight versions later we have 4K video, stabilization so good it could be on a gimbal, automatic editing apps, 8x slow motion, and 30-foot waterproofing. That’s a mouthful. Let’s unpack all those.

Most video we see these days is between Full HD (1080p) and Ultra HD (4K). The Hero8 easily films them both and they look incredible. You get more slow-motion modes at the 1080p resolution, up to 240 fps (frames per second). This is the way to go if you want slow motion since you can slow it down up to eight times.

The HyperSmooth 2.0 software in the Hero8 takes your shaky, unwatchable footage and converts it (as you record) to silky smooth, professional-looking video. Instead of lugging around expensive, cumbersome equipment to smooth out the camera, it just does it for you.

If that isn’t enough for you, it’s waterproof to 30 feet without a case and can livestream to Facebook and YouTube in 1080p. Not bad for a 4-ounce camera.

DJI Osmo Action

DJI Osmo Action
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Bringing its drone and camera expertise to the action camera market, DJI introduced the Osmo Action camera in 2019. Like the Hero8, the Osmo Action is waterproof to 30 feet, can record up to 4K at 60 fps and 1080p at 240 fps, but it has a few other tricks up its sleeve as well.

To help see yourself when you’re cruising down the powder, the Osmo Action has a tiny screen on the front. With a quick tap of three fingers on the back screen or by holding the QuickSwitch button for 2 seconds, the playback switches to the front screen. The back screen is also larger than a GoPro with smaller icons.

To help with stabilization when you’re running down the mountainside, DJI’s RockSteady software smooths out all your footage. Make sure you update the firmware (easily done through the phone app) after getting yours as there are major improvements to this and other features. Round out the features with a standard camera tripod mount on the bottom and replaceable lens covers and we have a worthy GoPro opponent.


Image used with permission by copyright holder

With the Hero8 and Osmo Action prices rising into the hundreds even when on sale, cheaper alternatives have come to market. AKASO has quickly been deploying action cameras of its own over the past couple of years.

The V50 Pro SE is their top of the line action camera complete with 4K at 60 fps and 1080p at 120 fps. The stabilization and interface isn’t quite GoPro Hero8 level but at half the price, you could buy two V50’s.

One of the best parts of the Akaso cameras is they come right out of the box with a ton of mounts and accessories. GoPro and DJI ship with one mount. The V50 comes with 10 mounting parts, a wrist strap, a watch-like remove, and a small case. The first thing you do with an action camera is to buy extra batteries and the V50 comes with three.

The SE or Special Edition of the V50 bumps up your specs and donates a portion of the sale to Leave No Trace or the Access Fund, a climbing group that protects access to climbing around the U.S.

Insta360 One R

Insta360 One R
Image used with permission by copyright holder

With limited options to innovate left in the action camera world, Insta360 started life with a 360 camera. It records 360 degrees and then you select the thing you’d like to focus on while editing. No need to point the camera at it when shooting.

Insta360’s second camera, the One R, is shaking up the action camera industry with a modular design. A battery module makes up the bottom, then you attach other modules on top. Three different versions let you capture different kinds of footage. You can get one or all three of the modules.

The 4K Edition ($300) comes with a 4K lens module and a screen that can point backward or forwards. This kind of setup is similar to the Hero8 or the Osmo Action. If you want to take 360 footage, then get the 360 Edition ($430) that comes with two fisheye lenses and lets you take the wild-looking 360 footage you can edit and re-edit after you’ve taken it all.

For top-of-the-line action camera quality, the 1-Inch Edition has a massive 1-inch sensor which increases the resolution of the video you can take from 4K to 5.3K. It also puts what might be the highest quality lens on an action camera, a super-wide 14mm lens co-engineered with Leica, the Lamborghini of the camera world.

Sony RX0 II

Sony RX0 II
Image used with permission by copyright holder

In the last few years, Sony has aggressively pursued the camera market, taking over a large chunk of the interchangeable lens space. The brand’s last action camera, the FDR-X3000, was released in 2016.

The more recent RX0 II straddles the line between action camera and ridiculously small travel or adventure camera. Sony doesn’t say it’s an action camera but it sure looks like one. Out of the box, it is waterproof to 33 feet, shockproof for 6.5-foot drops, and can withstand crush forces of up to 440 pounds per square foot.

Inside the tough body, there is a 1-inch sensor capable of 4K 30 fps video and 15 MP photos. The Zeiss 24mm is not very wide when it comes to action cameras but a perfect focal length for walking around and taking photos. At much lower resolutions it can shoot up to 1,000 frames per second for extremely slow motion.

If those aren’t action-worthy camera specs, I don’t know what would be.

Olympus Tough TG-6

Image used with permission by copyright holder

The Tough TG-6 is technically a point-and-shoot camera, but it brings some action cam features to the table that make it great for adventurers. Built to endure the elements, the Olympus Tough TG-6 is tough and rugged enough so you don’t have to worry about dropping the camera on the sand, water, or snow.

While it’s bigger compared to the other options we’ve listed here, what you’re getting in return is a bigger sensor along with better optics. It also boasts sensor-shift image stabilization and is able to shoot bursts of up 20 fps for action sequences. The microscope mode is also an incredible function that can capture images super up-close, a feature that isn’t present in action cameras yet.

GoPro Hero7 Black

Image used with permission by copyright holder

Another great contender aside from the GoPro Hero8 listed above is the GoPro Hero7. This action camera is built to last with its rugged and waterproof exterior. The Hero7 can survive under 33 feet of water without an additional housing, so you can capture your underwater adventures without any worries. On top of that, you get smooth footage with the GoPro Hero7’s gimbal‑like stabilization. Your time-lapse videos can also be stabilized as you move around with its TimeWarp feature.

Share your experiences outdoors with GoPro’s Livestream option. Forget about blurry, pixelated footage. With the GoPro, you can show your scenery live in high-definition 720p quality. Aside from taking top-notch videos, the GoPro Hero7 doesn’t disappoint when it comes to capturing crisp photos. The SuperPhoto feature automatically reduces noise and optimizes your pictures. If you want a camera that balances out great action footage and photos, the GoPro Hero7 is worth the investment.

Ross Collicutt
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Ross is an outdoor adventure writer, amateur photographer, and computer programmer based on Vancouver Island, British…
The best luxury camp gear to elevate your outdoor experience
Splurge on yourself with top-of-the-line outdoor gear
A couple car camping

Camping sure does require a lot of “stuff.” Even the most bare-bones backcountry setup means packing all the essentials, such as clothing, toiletries, food, water, sleep gear, a first aid kit, fire-building sundries ... and the list goes on. If you’ve tried out camping, you'd know this.

Car campers, and even “soft” campers (i.e. those who aren’t into roughing it), know that it's important to bring the basic camping gear, such as a warm sleeping bag, a comfortable sleeping pad or air mattress, and maybe plenty of beer. You should have a mental or handwritten checklist of everything you'll need for a weekend away.

Read more
Your winter gear deserves serious protection: The best ski and snowboard bags
Pack your snow-riding equipment in these bags
A house covered in snow in the winter

Winter is still here, and that means skiing and snowboarding season is too. While a good bag is excellent for getting your gear to the mountains and ski resorts, it's also a great way to store your ski or snowboard until the weather turns cold again and the ski resorts reopen. Keep moisture and dust off your gear so when you pull it out next season it'll be ready to go.

In addition to a good waterproof duffel bag, ski and snowboard bags are essential for travel to avoid dinging and denting your expensive equipment, and many are padded, offering additional protection. This is especially if you plan to travel. Not sure where to go? Colorado is a great ski destination and you can even stay in Hunter S. Thompson’s cabin while you're there. Wherever you decide to go, here are our picks for the best ski and snowboard bags you can buy, covering soft shells, hard shells, and rolling models for both snow sports.

Read more
The 7 best mountain bike brands in 2024
A man riding a Specialized mountain bike down a difficult trail.

If you want to choose the best mountain bike of any given day or month, one of the better ways to do so is to look to great brands and see what their newest bikes are. But what brands are consistently trusted year over year? There are certainly famous bike brands like Schwinn, but nowadays we're featuring them more for things like their recumbent stationary bikes for seniors and less so for their mountain bike prowess. Instead, check out the following brands that have stand out mountain bikes on a recurring basis.

With prices that range from the hundred to the thousands and names ranging from 'Rockhopper' to 'Stumpjumper', the Specialized line is built to endure a tough mountain or trail. While each of their mountain bikes are specialized in some way or another to take a beating on the trail, there are some features you should know about that appear time and time again. The first is their SWAT technology, which appears on their biking apparel and mountain bikes. This puts a storage pouch inside the metal frame of your bike without sacrificing frame integrity. It's perfect for your energizing snacks. The other is their 'Body Geometry' system, which designs bicycles to fit the specifics of the human body. Check out their mountain bikes by tapping the button below and you'll see a ton of information about each mountain bike's specific measurements and parameters. They really care about this stuff.

Read more