Choosing the right action camera used to be simple: Go with GoPro. It’s still good advice. The GoPro ranks high on our list and is our top pick for most people. But we’ve finally found a few worthy competitors.

To figure out which camera is the best, we tried them all. We dove with them, climbed with them, biked with them, and handed them to reckless 9-year-olds on bikes. We found a number of great options that will record, and survive, your future adventures.

If an action cam isn’t your speed, be sure to check out our Best Compact Camera, Best Mirrorless Camera, and Best Instant Camera guides as well.

Updated September 2021: We’ve added the GoPro Hero 10 camera and updated pricing throughout.

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  • Photograph: GoPro

    Best Overall

    GoPro Hero 10 Black

    The Hero 10 Black (8/10, WIRED Recommends) builds on the foundation of its predecessors with a new processor that speeds up capture times, ekes more resolution out of the 23.6-megapixel sensor, and adds much-improved image stabilization. You could say the Hero 10 is like a Hero 9, but it goes to 11.

    The Hero series has always stood above its competitors when it comes to image stabilization, often the most important feature in an action camera. The Hero 10 Black improves on this by bringing HyperSmooth 4 (GoPro’s name for its image stabilization software) to 5.3K, 30-fps video. Not only do you get gimbal-like smoothness at 5.3K, but you still have room to crop and export to 4K.

    Also new in this update is video tone mapping for pulling out details in shadows and the ability to pull 19 MP still images from video. The Hero 10 also offers better noise reduction, higher image resolution, and a water-shedding lens cover.

  • Photograph: Insta360

    Best for Those Who Want It All

    Insta360 One R Twin Edition

    Do you want an action cam? How about a 360-degree cam? The answer is, you want both, and now you can get both. Insta360’s One R (8/10, WIRED Recommends) eliminates this debate by bringing interchangeable lenses to the action camera. 

    There are three lenses, or “mods”: a 4K mod that mirrors what you’ll get from the other cameras on this page, a dual-lens 360-degree camera, and a wide-angle Leica lens paired with a 1-inch sensor that’s capable of capturing 5K video. The best value lies in pairing the 4K mod with the 360 mod, but if you can afford it, the Leica 1-inch mod delivers the best image and video quality I’ve seen from an action camera.

    Insta360 has released a series of firmware updates for the One R that have greatly improved low-light performance, and added a slew of new features, like the ability to turn your One R into a webcam. Not only is it nice to get some new shooting capabilities, but it’s also nice to see this level of ongoing support in a world where some companies churn out a new model every year.

  • Photograph: GoPro

    Best Value

    GoPro Hero 9 Black

    Our previous top pick, the Hero 9 (9/10, WIRED Recommends), was a huge update for the Hero camera line. GoPro brought in a new 23.6-megapixel sensor, which is still the sensor in the Hero 10.

    If you don’t need the stabilized 5.3K video, higher resolution JPG stills, or faster frame rates, the Hero 9 is a better value. It’s still got great stabilization, shoots 5.3K video (without stabilization), captures 20 MP still images, and can extract 14.7-MP images from that 5K video.

    The Hero 9 can do 80 percent of what the Hero 10 can do, and it’s usually $100 cheaper. That’s great value for the money, and even more so if you wait for Black Friday when it will likely be on sale.

Source: Capture Your Daring Feats With Our Favorite Action Cameras

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