Loved by outdoor sports enthusiasts and travelers alike, action cameras provide us with a unique opportunity to capture life from an entirely new perspective. It’s true that our cell phones are now capable of capturing stunning videos and images, but action cams have the rugged durability to accompany you on every adventure. They are compact and sturdy enough to ride the wave or climb the mountain with you, and advanced enough to capture 4K, high-resolution videos. Whether you want to film your kids skateboarding around the neighborhood, or your next biking adventure, an action camera will be exactly what you need to record every memorable moment.
Brands Reshaping the Action Camera Industry
So, you’ve decided to purchase a new action camera, but how do you know which one is right for you? From weight to image quality to waterproofing, there is a lot to consider. You may be tempted to go with a popular brand like GoPro, and while well-known brands are suitable options, other, lesser-known cameras are making great strides in camera innovation.
For example, the OCLU Action Camera, our best overall action camera of 2020, has a one of a kind, LiveCut feature that allows you to trim your videos of unwanted footage on-the-fly, no computer necessary. This can be done right from the camera and allows you to immediately free up space. OCLU understands that not every shot is perfect. The LiveCut function makes it easy to delete, reshoot, and save your best videos. OCLU is the only action cam on our list with this unique capability.
Below, we outline 6 of the best action cameras on the market. We will look at leading brands, but we will also introduce you to newer brands that are breaking new ground in camera technology. Plus, our buyer’s guide will help you determine the most important features so you can find the best camera for you.
Best Action Cameras At A Glance
- OCLU Action Camera: Best Overall Action Camera of 2020
- GoPro Hero 8 Black: Best Live Streaming Action Camera
- Sony RXO Mark II: Best Slow Motion Action Camera
- Yi 4K+ Action Camera: Best Touch Screen Action Camera
- Olympus TG-Tracker: Most Durable Action Camera
- DJI Osmo Action: Best Vlogging Action Camera
6 Best Action Cameras of 2020
Best Overall Action Camera of 2020
Specifications: Weight: 101g | Waterproof: IPX7 (1m up to 30 minutes), 50m with case | 4K Video: up to 30fps | 1080p: up to 120fps | 720: up to 240fps | Still Resolution: 12MP | Battery Size: 1000mAh
Unique Features: LiveCut feature, customizable toggling, unobtrusive and low-profile design, magnetic charging connection, and interchangeable batteries
Price: $199.00 with promo
Every adventure seeker needs to have the OCLU Action Camera on their radar. This camera has crystal clear video quality and advanced image stabilization, plus a host of user-friendly features. As we mentioned above, the OCLU LiveCut option gives you the ability to quickly remove unwanted content from the camera. This also makes your favorite videos easier to locate. Live editing abilities are a game-changer for both content creditors and sports enthusiasts. The OCLU smartphone app (available on Apple iOS and Android Google Play) links the camera to your phone via Bluetooth or WiFi connection so that you can select shooting modes, track your location, review and trim your clips, and share your content to social media.
The convenience of this camera does not stop with LiveCut. The OCLU also has 4 toggle filming modes that can be preset from 8 different options, including LiveCut, Loop Record, Time Lapse, Video, Photo, Multi Photo, Burst, and Motion Record. This feature allows you to customize the modes you use most frequently. The side toggles are so fast and functional that you don’t have to stop the action to change filming modes. In addition to the camera’s front display screen, the top display allows you to see the action in front of you without holding the camera at eye level. Now, you don’t have to remove the camera from your board or crouch down in order to set up a shot or change filming modes.
When it comes to image quality, OCLU does not cut corners. This camera offers 4K resolution at 30fps and electronic image stabilization with 1080p at 30/60 fps. This ensures that your videos are incredibly detailed and smooth. All of this technology comes in a compact, aerodynamic design that is smaller and shorter than GoPro. The size of the camera allows it to attach easily to all your gear without slowing you down with wind drag like larger, bulkier action cameras. It also has a universal quarter-inch tripod mount in the base, plus two isolated microphones for wind-noise reduction.
The OCLU camera has IPX7 water-resistance (1 meter up to 30 minutes). With the OcShell waterproof case, this increases to 50 meters without compromising image quality or your ability to toggle between shooting modes. The OcShell waterproof case features hydrophobic coating too, so that water won’t compromise your film or photo clarity. The OcSnap magnetic connection makes charging and data transfer fast and easy without having to actually “plug” the camera in. The OCLU camera also comes with a removable 1000mAh battery, so you can always have a backup battery with you.
OCLU offers a range of high-quality accessories. The OcBond adhesive mount has FirmFlex technology to keep the camera safely and securely in place no matter where you mount it, including flat, curved, and angled surfaces. This allows you to easily attach the camera to your surfboard, skateboard, helmet, or bike. Their Ride, Snow, Ocean, Moto, Insta, and Adventure bundles make it easy to select accessory packages that are tailored to your hobbies.
What’s more, the OCLU fits well into every budget. It currently has a $199 price point after their $100 off promo, making it the most advanced and affordable camera on our list. The impressive image and video quality, easy to use functions, and streamlined design make this our favorite action camera of 2020.
Best Live Streaming Action Camera
Specifications: Weight: 126g | Waterproof: 10m | 4K Video: up to 60fps | 1080p: up to 240fps | 720: up to 240fps | Still Resolution: 12MP | Battery Life: 1220mAh
Unique Features: Live streaming, touch screen, and voice command
The Hero 8 Black is GoPro’s newest upgrade. Although it is similar to the Hero 7, the Hero 8 has some impressive new features. Like the Hero 7, this camera also has a 4K resolution, but instead of 30 fps we get 60 fps with the Hero 8. The still image quality has also been increased from 10mp to 12 mp with improved HDR. The Hero 8 comes with better stabilization with HyperSmooth technology and a TimeWarp feature that allows the camera to adjust to speed and light automatically. Each Hero 8 includes a built-in foldable mount too.
Like the Hero 7, this camera comes with an LCD screen, GPS tracking, and voice control capabilities. The Hero 8 Black has its own line of accessories called Mods. However, these accessories are not interchangeable with any of the other GoPro cameras.
The GoPro Hero 8 is the best GoPro so far, but it does come with a big price tag ($399). It offers some newer features, such as live streaming and touch screen, but each person will have to decide whether those options are worth the extra cost. Overall, it’s a great camera. You can’t go wrong with a GoPro, and this newer model has a lot of features. However, you will want to ensure that the additional cost makes sense for you.
Best Slow Motion Action Camera
Specifications: Weight: 110g | Waterproof: 10m | 4K Video: up to 30fps | 1080p: up to 1000fps | 720p: up to 1000fps | Still Resolution: 15.3MP | Battery Life: 60 mins
Unique Features: Short burst video up to 1,000fps, flip action front-facing screen
Price: $698.00 on Amazon
The Sony RXO Mark II offers 4K resolution and 30 fps. It also comes with a flippable front-facing screen that is ideal for taking selfies and vlogging. However, Sony’s most significant point of difference with the RXO II is the ability to shoot super slow-motion video at a frame rate of 960/1000fps. This feature produces slow-motion and time-lapse content that is vibrant and clear.
Since the RXO II has a wide-angle design, it also comes with Zeiss Tessar T* 24 mm F4 lens to reduce peripheral distortion. To capture small movement details and improve low light abilities, it features a 1-inch Exmor sensor for HDR video and still images. The RXO II is very durable, with a water resistance up to 33’, shock resistant for all drops up to 6.5’ high, and crush resistance for up to 440 lbs. By connecting via WiFi, you can also use your smartphone as a remote control for the camera and to fine-tune focus.
However, these features don’t come cheap. The Sony RXO II has a price point of $698, the most expensive on our list. If the ability to capture high-quality slow-motion content is essential to you, you may find it worth the extra cost.
Best Touch Screen Action Camera
Specifications: Weight: 93g | Waterproof: only with optional case | 4K Video: up to 60fps | 1080p: up to 120fps | 720p: up to 240fps | Still Resolution: 12MP | Battery Life: 2 hrs
Unique Features: Touch screen, 40mb/s USB connection
Price: ~$250.00 on Amazon
As its name suggests, the Yi 4K+ features 4K resolution, but it also offers up to 60fps for seamless video playback. Filming modes can be adjusted on the camera’s 2.2-inch retina touch screen. This screen also allows you to preview and playback content right from the camera. It has 40mb/s data transferability that makes uploading your content and charging the camera super fast.
For capturing still images, the Yi 4K+ comes with a 12 megapixel resolution and RAW format capabilities. RAW formatting allows you more editing options once images are uploaded. If you are someone who likes to fine-tune image detail yourself, this might be the camera for you. Optional accessories for the Yi 4K+ include a waterproof housing and a handheld gimbal. You can also live-stream your content via the camera’s WiFi connection.
Most Durable Action Camera
Specifications: Weight: 180g | Waterproof: 30m | 4K Video: up to 30fps | 1080p: up to 60fps | 720p: up to 240fps | Still Resolution: 8MP | Battery Life: 90 mins
Unique Features: GPS and e.Compass capabilities, freezeproof, and shockproof
The Olympus TG-Tracker is a camera with rugged durability. For those who like to venture into extreme weather conditions, this camera is waterproof up to 100 feet, freezeproof at 14 degrees, shockproof at 7 feet, and crushproof up to 220 lbs. The camera’s 5 Action Track Sensors indicate your direction, altitude, and g-force. Plus, the barometric pressure sensor measures and records water depth.
In addition to its durability, it also has 4K resolution with 30fps, plus the option to shoot in Full HD 1080. The tilt-out LCD monitor allows you to change settings and adjust the camera’s LED headlight quickly. The 204-degree Extreme Angle lens gives you the ability to capture images with a panoramic feel. It also comes with a narrow-angle view for closeup underwater shooting. You can use the Olympus app to change settings, store images and videos, and share content with your family and friends.
Best Vlogging Action Camera
Specifications: Weight: 124g | Waterproof: 11m | 4K Video: up to 60fps | 1080p: up to 240fps | 720p: up to 240fps | Still Resolution: 12MP | Battery Life: 1300mAh
Unique Features: Forward-facing monitor and motion stabilization
Known for producing high-quality drones, DJI has now ventured into the world of action cams. The DJI Osmo Action Camera has a full-color LCD front facing monitor that gives it a camcorder feel that vloggers will love. It also has a 2.25-inch touchscreen in the back of the camera. The touchscreen puts a range of filming modes at your fingertips, including Hyperlapse and one touch-recording.
The Osmo Action also comes with their RockSteady image stabilization, voice activation, and two built-in microphones for noise control. You can add an external microphone to the camera for additional audio clarity. Like the OCLU, the Osmo Action has a removable battery that allows you to have a backup battery when out shooting. Although accessories for the Osmo Action camera are limited, DJI does offer a handheld gimbal stabilizer.
What to Keep in Mind When Shopping for an Action Camera
Live streaming and GPS abilities are handy, but they are not essential when producing quality videos or images. So what features should your new camera have? Below we include 6 important factors to keep in mind when shopping for an action cam.
Ease of Use
Above all, you want to be sure that your camera is straightforward and easy to use. Any awkward mechanics or hard to change functions and filming modes will make using your camera challenging. You might end up spending more time fumbling with the camera than actually filming your activities.
You also want to ensure your photos and videos will not require extensive editing and adjusting after shooting. Anything that can be done directly on the camera will make it that much easier for you to quickly produce and sort through content you are proud of.
If the camera comes with a smartphone application, check that the user interface is simple, effective, and suited to your specific needs.
After ease of use, the image quality of your new action camera is likely at the top of your priorities list. You’ll want to be able to capture footage that is detailed and sharp, without requiring additional editing. A 4K resolution will do just that. This is an extremely high resolution and has become increasingly popular among top action camera brands. For most users, 4K video is all you’ll ever need.
Since you can capture so much detail with a 4K resolution, you will also want to be sure the camera has a frame rate of at least 30 fps (frames per second). This will allow you to record videos that playback smoothly and clearly. A camera with 4K and 30 fps will have stunning image quality, especially with slow-motion and time-lapse videos.
You should also expect to be able to capture still images that are as vibrant and focused as your videos. Therefore, check that your new camera can shoot at least 12-megapixel images.
Action Camera Design and Durability
The bulkier the camera, the harder it will be to mount to your equipment. Look for a camera that has a compact, durable design so that you have the option of attaching it to all types of surfaces. If the camera is small and sleek, it will also be less likely to get hit or knocked off your equipment. You want an action camera that is small enough to stay securely attached no matter the environment but sleek enough to reduce wind drag.
Another important point to consider is the camera’s functionality. Cameras with touchscreens can be cumbersome because they are difficult to use if you’re wearing gloves, or your hands are wet or cold. On the other hand, a camera with buttons will allow you to conveniently change settings without having to slow down or stop the action.
Lastly, be sure to consider the camera’s water resistance. Most high-quality action cameras come with an optional waterproof case. But, depending on your hobbies, it is good to have a camera that has some built-in water resistance. This minimizes the risk that you’ll damage your investment.
By itself, your new action camera may have certain limitations. To achieve different points of view and lens protection, you will want a camera that is compatible with a variety of accessories. Many brands design their cameras to work only with their own accessories, but this can become costly and inconvenient. A camera with a universal mount gives you the ability to connect with 3rd party accessories. The flexibility to try out different attachments will offer you more options in various price ranges.
Depending on your favorite activities, you will want the right accessories that help you protect your camera and safely attach it to any surface. A high-quality mount can also increase the camera’s stability, ensuring that your images and videos are always crystal clear.
Below is a list of mounts and attachments that you may want to purchase, or at least have the option of purchasing, for your new camera. It is also helpful to remember that adhesive, suction, and magnetic mounts will make attachment easy and fast.
- Waterproof housing
- Coupling mounts
- Chest mounts
- Gimbal mounts
- Dashboard mounts
- Wrist attachments
- Handlebar mounts
- Helmet attachments
- Extendable grip mounts
- Carrying cases
- Spare batteries
- Spare SD cards – 32GB, 64GB, & 128GB
Action Camera Battery Life
Filming at 4K will use more battery life than a lower resolution setting. So, you will want a camera that offers you at least an hour of shoot time. Since most cameras with non-removable batteries don’t provide endless hours of battery life, it is helpful to opt for a camera with a removable, interchangeable battery. Having an interchangeable battery option for your action camera can be a lifesaver when you are out shooting. From our list above, the OCLU, GoPro Hero 8 Black, and DJI Osmo all have removable batteries.
It is also helpful to avoid inconvenient connections that force you to open ports in the camera. A magnetic connection is faster, more streamlined, and helps to keep dust, dirt, and water from getting inside. Over time, debris can buildup and cause internal damage. The OCLU camera is the only camera on our list with a magnetic charging connection.
Action Camera Cost
As you begin to shop for a new action cam, it will be helpful to determine your budget first. The cost of an advanced action camera will run upwards of $700. However, even the best action cams on the market don’t need to break your budget. Additionally, action cameras tend to take a beating, some even become lost. Therefore, you don’t want to come out of pocket too much.
Ultimately, you want a camera that is going to add to your experiences. Whether you snowboard, wakeboard, skydive, or enjoy any number of outdoor adventures, an action cam with good durability, functionality and image quality will give you the most value for the money. Based on our review, the OCLU Action Camera delivers the best user experience and offers exceptional quality at the best price.
Our list below will give you a clearer picture of how the 6 cameras on our list compare on cost.
- OCLU: $199 with promo (best value)
- Yi 4K+ Action Camera: ~$250 on Amazon
- Olympus TG-Tracker: $349
- DJI Osmo Action: $379
- GoPro Hero 8 Black: $399
- Sony RXO II: $698 on Amazon
With so many different features, it may be hard to decide which of the best action cameras is actually the right choice for you. As you shop, consider which functions are most likely to enhance your experience. You want something that is small enough to stash away in your backpack or even your pocket, yet functional enough to keep you immersed in the action. The most important thing is that your new action camera fits seamlessly into all of your favorite activities.
While things like live streaming can amp up the fun factor, they are not necessary for creating impressive, high-resolution images and videos. Above all, your new camera should be easy to use, durable, and help you capture every memorable adventure!