Reviews

The Best Action Cameras (Review & Buying Guide) in 2021

Don’t just tell the unbelievable story; show it with an action camera

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BY Andra DelMonico / LAST UPDATED ON January 12, 2021

Whether you want to record your epic motorcycle vacation adventure or are just looking for extra security while driving, an action camera is what you need. These small cameras pack a big punch in video quality. What makes these cameras stand out is how compact and versatile they are. They also come with plenty of accessories to give you countless methods for mounting.

 

While all action cameras may be small, some are better than others. You want to purchase a high-quality camera that’s also durable. That way, it won’t let you down when you depend on it the most. This guide will help you understand the difference between a quality camera and one that’s not worth your time by explaining the variances in picture quality and features.

Best Overall
Campark X20 Action Camera
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Summary
Summary

Record in 4K Ultra HD with this waterproof camera. Your footage will look clear thanks to the built-in smart gyroscope. You can record in depths up to 131 feet or 40 meters.

Pros
Pros
  • Touchscreen 
  • Included remote
  • Two batteries included
Cons
Cons
  • Incompatible file formats 
  • Short battery life
Best Overall
Campark X20 Action Camera
Best Value
Piwoka Action Camera
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Summary
Summary

Take this 12MP camera and enjoy the wide-angle lens and 1080p quality. It’s safe for use in water up to 98 feet.

Pros
Pros
  • A lot of included accessories 
  • 2-inch LCD 
  • Long battery life
Cons
Cons
  • Grainy picture 
  • Inadequate zoom feature
Best Value
Piwoka Action Camera
Honorable Mention
GoPro HERO8
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Summary
Summary

This sleek black camera records in 4K Ultra HD video and 12MP pictures. It can also broadcast in 1080p quality for live video.

Pros
Pros
  • Extra battery included 
  • Included 64GB memory card
Cons
Cons
  • Outside feels slippery 
  • Audio drop-out issues
Honorable Mention
GoPro HERO8
Action Camera On Man's Helmet
Amazon

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All of our reviews are based on market research, expert input, or practical experience with most products we include. This way, we offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.

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Benefits of Action Cameras

  • Proof. You get back from an epic adventure with some fantastic stories to tell. Then no one believes it happened. An action camera provides the proof you need. You could also use your action camera on your vehicle, which creates proof should an accident occur. 
  • Compact size. These cameras are small, which makes it easy to bring with you. Traditional cameras and video cameras can’t compete and would be bulky in these adventure activities. The small size makes it easier to hook the camera into compact places. 
  • Quality. The video and picture quality of these cameras is impressive. Some have a wide-angle lens for capturing more of the scenery. The crisp quality makes the video enjoyable and clear to watch.  

Types of Action Cameras

Box

This is the style that most action cameras fall under. This gives you a lot of options if this is the type you want. They are versatile for a wide variety of activities and situations. This makes them ideal for a beginner who wants a simple-to-use camera and doesn’t have any specific needs or uses in mind. 

Cube

This type of action camera is the most portable and compact. They work best if you have limited space for mounting your camera. They typically have limited button functionality because of the lack of physical space on the cube. This type of camera works best for those with limited space or who need a low profile camera that won’t get in the way of your activity. 

Bullet

This type of camera is long and sleek, resembling the shape of a bullet. You won’t find any well-known brands using this style for their cameras. This can make the quality questionable for the cameras you do find. These cameras work well for mounting on an RC or quadcopter because they have even weight distribution and a slim design. 

Top Brands

GoPro

Founded in 2002, the GoPro cameras have become the standard that all action cameras get compared to. The brand is known for producing innovative products that are well worth the expense for their dependability and quality. The GoPro Hero7 both looks stylish and performs well. 

Dragon Touch

Electronics and technology enthusiasts have turned to Dragon Touch products since its founding in 2011. What’s so appealing about its products is the quality achieved for the budget price point. The Dragon Touch 1080P Action Camera creates quality footage at an affordable price.

VanTop

Since its founding in 2017, the VanTop brand has grown from being an electronics startup in China to a worldwide known developer of smart home devices, tablets, dash cameras, and projectors. The VanTop 4K Action Camera comes with everything you need to get started filming. 

Action Camera Pricing

  • Under $50: You can get a decent action camera in this price range. They may not have the best picture or video quality or fancy features. However, they’re durable and dependable. 
  • $50 to $150: Cameras in this price range are durable, dependable, and have several nice features. They’ll range in technology and video quality.  
  • $150 and up: These are the best cameras you can buy and are loaded with features with the best video and image quality. They may have more than what you need or will ever use. 

Key Features

Waterproof

Your action camera should be waterproof. You never know what type of conditions you’ll encounter, so having it be waterproof gives you more versatility. Instead of panicking about your camera getting wet, you can dive right in. Compare what level of waterproofing the camera has. Some are only safe in a splash or light rain. Others can easily continue to record in deep water depths. 

Video Quality

There’s no point in bringing a camera along to record if the resulting footage is pixelated and blurry. Most action cameras are 4K technology, which gives you clear and crisp footage. This is the highest resolution that you can buy today. It’s also the most expensive. You also need to consider the frame rate. A higher frame rate gives you better video quality and more editing control. 

Accessories

What does your camera come with? Some do not come with anything, so you’re buying just the camera. Now you have to buy all the additional accessories separately. Other cameras come with a few accessories or a complete kit. Look for one that comes with a stand, mounting equipment, and straps to give you the accessories you need for various situations. 

Other Considerations

  • Durability. The whole point of an action camera is that it can record all of your action-filled adventures. This means your camera needs to be durable enough to withstand bumps, drops, and water. Look for a camera that has a strong and durable shell that’s strong enough to protect the sensitive electronics inside. 
  • Battery. How long does it take the battery to charge, and how long does it last once fully charged? These are important and will control the functionality and usability of your camera. A short battery time will have you continually recharging and switching batteries. Some cameras let you adjust the settings to extend the battery time, so consider this when comparing cameras.
  • Size and Shape. Consider the size, shape, and weight of the camera you buy. It needs to be small enough to fit into the places where you want to put it. The same applies to the shape. The weight is crucial if you plan to mount your camera in sensitive places, like on top of your helmet.

Best Action Cameras Reviews & Recommendations 2021

Best Overall
Campark X20 Action Camera

This upgraded action camera comes with the ability to film in wide-angle 4K, 2K, and 1080p. It can take 20MP pictures. The two-inch intuitive and responsive touchscreen makes it easy to navigate between modes and get the perfect shot. Built into the camera is a smart gyroscope to eliminate shaking and give you a stable video output. You can also operate the camera with the included 2.4 G wireless remote or the app. Take the camera in water depths of up to 131 feet or 40 meters. It comes with two batteries and a professional quality accessories kit. 


Unfortunately, you may find that this camera has short battery life. It makes up for this by coming with two. It also produces a unique file format that you have to convert before watching video on other devices.

Best Value
Piwoka Action Camera

This affordable camera lets you record all of your adventures with 1080p video and 12MP pictures. The lens is wide angle at 140 degrees, and it has a double zoom feature. It’s waterproof in depths of up to 98 feet or 30 meters. You can choose from an all-black or black and blue camera housing. The included accessories kit gives you a ton of versatility in how you mount your camera. The backside of the camera has a large two-inch LCD screen for easy viewing of footage. The long-lasting rechargeable battery can last for up to 90 minutes of recording time. Working the camera is easy thanks to the several indicator lights and function buttons. 


Unfortunately, the video quality can be grainy at times. The zoom feature is also not very effective.

Most Portable
GoPro HERO8

This small camera features a streamlined design for use in small places. It records 4K ultra HD video and 12MP pictures. It can also stream live with 1080 p quality video. The camera comes with an additional battery, 64GB micro SD card, and accessories mounting bundle. One standout feature of this camera is the HyperSmooth 2.0 stabilization technology. This makes your video so smooth that even slo-mo looks great. Other unique features are the TimeWarp 2.0, LiveBurst, SuperPhoto, Night Lapse, and digital lenses. 


A potential drawback of this camera is that the surface of it can feel a bit slippery, which can make it hard to hold onto. However, it shouldn’t be an issue if you have it mounted to something.

Best Wide Angle
Apexcam 4K Action Camera

Record your adventure with the extra-wide 170-degree angle lens on this camera. It can record in 4K, 2.7K, 1080p, and 720p video resolutions with 30, 60, and 120 frames per second. It can also take 16MP pictures. Mount your camera with the included mounting accessories, and then control the functions with the wireless wrist 2.4G remote. Preview footage on the two-inch LCD screen. The camera is rated IP68 and is durable enough to work in 130 feet or 40 meters of deep water. Included with the camera are two batteries and a charging dock. 


One drawback of this camera is that the shutter speed is slow, making it difficult to get a perfectly timed shot. It also doesn’t hold a Wi-Fi connection well.

Honorable Mention
HLS Underwater Action Camera

Record in 4K video with this compact action camera. It features a wide 170-degree angle lens, and you can choose from normal, sepia, negative, and black and white modes. The camera is encased in a protective shell that protects it in water depths of up to 30 meters or 100 feet.  You can mount the camera with the included accessories and then control it with the wireless 2.4G remote control. You can also connect it to WiFi. What makes this camera stand out is the hyper stable anti-shaking technology for clear and stable video. Also included with the camera are two batteries and a charging dock.


Unfortunately, you can easily overwhelm this camera by pushing too many buttons at one time. It will cause the camera to freeze up. Avoiding this is easy; only press one button at a time.

Honorable Mention
VanTop Moment 3

The transparent protective case that surrounds this camera helps to protect it and make it more durable. It can film video in 4K and take 16MP pictures. This camera stands out because it also has a highly sensitive Sony sensor that improves image focusing and processing speeds. The lens is an extra-wide 170 degrees for capturing everything. You can safely use this camera in water depths of up to 30 meters or 100 feet. Included with your camera is a wireless remote control and carrying case. The case is compatible with GoPro cameras for conveniently carrying all of your action camera equipment and accessories. 


The downside of this camera is that the app is a bit slow and tends to lag. This can make viewing and editing your videos difficult.

Honorable Mention
Akaso Sports Action Camera

You’ll love the large handle on the mounting hardware that’s included with this camera—no more fumbling around with tiny parts. The camera itself is also impressive with Wi-Fi, 4K ultra HD video, 12MP pictures, and 30 frames per second filming. Included with your camera is a wireless remote that lets you control the filming frame by frame. What makes this camera stand out is the long battery life that achieves 90 minutes of continuous recording. It also comes with two batteries for double the recording time. Your camera is safe for use in water up to 100-feet deep. Finally, you get to choose from black, gray, and bright blue for your camera color. 


Unfortunately, while the camera may be 4K, the lens on it tends to hinder the video quality. It also lacks stabilizing ability, which can lead to shaky footage.

Honorable Mention
Crosstour Sports Action Camera

Take this 4K video and 20MP picture camera anywhere with its secure case and included mounting hardware. It has two batteries for extended recording time. There’s also a wireless remote for remote operation of your camera. You can dive with this camera in depths of up to 40 meters or 131 feet. The case is IP68, making it safe for use in water, rain, and snow. It has built-in Wi-Fi for easy transfer of footage. This camera stands out because it has lens distortion correction to fix the fish-eye effect caused by the wide-angle lens. 


One drawback of this camera is that its frames per second are slow at 24, limiting the video footage you can achieve. The protective case can leak, causing it to fill with water if you don’t close it correctly.

Honorable Mention
Victure Action Camera

Take this camera on all of your adventures with its 4K and 30 frames per second video recording ability. Take 20MP pictures with its fish-eye lens. It comes with a waterproof case that protects your camera in water depths of up to 40 meters or 130 feet. To help your footage look clear and stable, there’s built-in electronic image stabilization. What makes this camera stand out is the external microphone. It comes with hardware for mounting on your helmet. However you use it, the additional microphone helps you to achieve better sound quality. A wireless remote also comes with your camera. 


One problem with this camera is that the battery housing latch isn’t hinged, making it hard to open and securely close. If you don’t use the external microphone, you may find the sound quality lacking. 

Honorable Mention
Dragon Touch 4K Action Camera

This action camera is ideal for those looking to mount it on their car. It comes with several unique and useful features, including 4X zoom, slow motion, and driving mode. It also has all of the standard features, including Wi-Fi, a two-inch viewing screen, and a 170-degree wide-angle lens. You’ll enjoy 4K video quality and 16MP pictures. Included with your camera are two batteries and a huge professional quality mounting accessory kit. Use your camera in water depths of up to 100 feet. You can control your camera with the included wireless remote that works within a range of 33 feet. 


One drawback of this camera is that it doesn’t record at a steady 60 frames per second. This can make editing your video difficult. However, if you aren’t planning on doing detailed video editing, this isn’t a big deal.

Tips

  • Test out your action camera before you get out there and want to use it. That way, you don’t get bogged down figuring out how to work it when it matters the most. 
  • Buy an extra battery and memory card for your action camera. That way, when your battery dies, you can easily switch them out. When your memory card gets full, you can switch that out too. 
  •  Consider buying an accessory kit for your camera. These come with various mounts and stands to give you more functionality and versatility for your camera. 

FAQs

Q: Is there a better action camera than GoPro?

It can be hard to find another action camera that combines the same level of technology, size, and quality. That’s what makes GoPro so popular. Although, if you’re willing to compromise on those qualities, then you can find a better camera for a lower price. 

Q: Is an action camera worth it?

If you don’t need motion sensors or GPS technology, then an action camera is worth it. Their small size and video quality make them perfect for taking on any adventure. The image quality alone makes them perfect for capturing even the less exciting moments in life. 

Q: Can you use an action camera as a normal camera?

Of course! All you need to do is point it at your subject and turn it on. Many action cameras come with a stand or mount to make using it even easier than a traditional camera. 

Final Thoughts

The Campark X20 Action Camera is a smart choice with its 4K ultra HD video capabilities, easy-to-use touchscreen, and included accessories. The more affordable Piwoka Action Camera is the ideal budget camera with a 12 MP camera and large LCD.