Best action cameras of 2023: GoPro, DJI, Insta360 and more
Aug 08, 2023
By Jason Rich
August 24, 2023 / 9:00 AM / Essentials
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If you thought an action camera was just for capturing still images and eye-popping video footage during your extreme adventures such as skydiving, scuba diving and skiing, think again. The latest action cameras from GoPro, DJI, Insta360 and Akaso are also perfect for capturing vacation memories and even everyday photos or video. These devices are small, versatile and extremely durable.
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As a result, you can conveniently use action cameras in places where your smartphone camera or point-and-shoot camera can't go. Whatever your photography or videography needs (and budget), check out our picks for the best action cameras available right now.
What you need in an action camera will depend on what you plan to do with it. As a vacation camera, for example, you'll want a camera handle and/or selfie-stick accessory, plus a mount to attach the camera to your body (for first-person perspective shots). To capture yourself engaged in a specific activity, choose the right accessories and mounts that give you the most immersive camera angle options and that will hold the camera steady. You'll achieve the best results when you adjust the camera's settings correctly for each particular shooting situation and then choose the most appropriate accessories to control and use with the camera.
All of the cameras in the roundup can shoot video at 1080p resolution or higher and have built in image stabilization. The still photo resolution of each camera varies, so pick one that meets your needs. And don't forget to bring along extra memory cards and fully charged batteries when you go out shooting.
With GoPro's flagship camera, the GoPro Hero 11 Black, for example, you can capture incredible photos or visually stunning high definition video from a first- or third-person perspective. However, cameras like the DJI OSMO Action 4, Insta360 One RS, or budget-friendly Akaso Brave 4 Elite each offer a different design and feature set that might better match your personal needs and budget.
Video Resolution: Up to 5.3K (up to 60fps) | Still Image Resolution: 27MP | Display Size: 1.4-inch LCD (front), 2.27-inch LCD touchscreen (rear) | Size: 2.83 x 2 x 1.32 inches | Weight: 5.43 ounces | Waterproof Rating: 33 feet
With several popular models to choose from, GoPro continues to be a top pick among adventurers, vacationers, content creators and everyday videographers/photographers when it comes to action cameras that offer a vast collection of features, plus accessories that make it easy to use these cameras virtually anywhere-on land, in the sky, underwater and in extreme weather.
Out of all the action cameras out there, the GoPro Hero 11 Black currently offers the most flexibility in terms of shooting mode options. And because GoPro has the largest ecosystem of mods (camera upgrades), accessories, apps, and services that work with the company's flagship camera, it can capture still photos or video content from a first- or third-person perspective in almost any type of shooting location. It can also be used for live streaming and capturing your subjects from unique angles.
To achieve the best results with the Hero 11 Black, it's essential to pair it with the most appropriate mods, mount and accessories. GoPro sells a small selection of optional mods that expand the capabilities of the camera. There's the Media Mod ($80), which features an upgraded multidirectional mic and foam mic cover, ideal for content creators and live streamers. The Display Mod ($48) utilizes an external, two-inch, front-facing, flip-up display that's larger than the one built into the camera. It works in conjunction with the Media Mod. The Light Mod ($50) includes a compact, waterproof and powerful LED light that offers up to 200 lumens of brightness. There's also the Max Lens Mod ($100) that fits over the existing camera lens to offer a wider field of view with better perspective and depth of field.
But that's just the beginning. There are dozens of genuine mounts for the Hero 11 Black. These include optional tabletop tripods, camera handles, boom bars, head straps, bike mounts, chest mounts and unique mounts that allow you to attach the camera to your dog, surfboard, vehicle dashboard or wrist, for example. GoPro also offers a powerful and free mobile app for quickly viewing, editing and sharing still photos or video. With an optional GoPro Subscription, among other things, you get unlimited cloud-based storage for your content and auto uploads from the camera. When shooting, it's possible to control the camera using its built-in touchscreen and buttons, voice commands, the GoPro mobile app or an optional GoPro handheld remote control unit. What's possible with this camera is limited mainly by your creativity and the mods, mounts, and accessories you use with it.
Video Resolution: Up to 5.3K (60 fps) | Still Image Resolution: 24.7MP (from video only) | Display Size: None | Size: 2.06 x 2.02 x 1.5 inches | Weight: 4.69 ounces | Waterproof Rating: 33 feet
As its name suggests, the GoPro Hero 11 Black Mini is a smaller, scaled down version of the Hero 11 Black camera. This model does not offer either a front or back-facing display. It's designed to be remotely controlled from a mobile device using the GoPro app. More than a dozen voice commands are also supported. Another unique feature is that this camera has two built-in mounting fingers that pop out from the camera body (one on the back and one on the bottom of the camera). This gives you additional options when connecting the camera to an optional mount and then setting the camera to an optimal angle to capture your shots.
The Mini has fewer shooting modes than the Hero 11 Black and can only capture still images from video footage that's already been shot. That said, it can shoot video at up to 5.3K (60fps) resolution. It's also just as durable as the Hero 11 Black and is compatible with more than 40 genuine GoPro mods, mods, and accessories, in addition to hundreds of third-party accessories.
The Mini offers Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity. It comes bundled with a curved adhesive mount, mounting buckle, USB Type-C cable, thumb screw and case. A required microSD memory card is sold separately. This camera is best suited to someone who will be mounting the camera on themselves or their equipment and then controlling it remotely.
Video Resolution: Up to 5.6K (360-degree video), 1080p (video) | Still Image Resolution: 18MP | Display Size: 2-inch LCD touchscreen (back) | Size: 2.54 x 2.72 x 0.98 inches | Weight: 5.43 ounces | Waterproof Rating: 16 feet
The GoPro Max is a tad larger than the flagship GoPro Hero 11 Black camera, but it can also do one major thing that the other GoPro camera models cannot-shoot 360-degree video at up to 5.6K resolution. Using six built-in microphones, the Max captures immersive stereo audio to accompany the stunningly detailed and immersive video. You also get a camera with a waterproof and extremely durable design that's compatible with more than 30 genuine GoPro mounts and accessories.
As with all other GoPro cameras, this one stores recorded content on a microSD memory card (sold separately), but can also auto-upload content to the GoPro cloud-based service when the camera is connected to Wi-Fi or paired with a smartphone with Internet access. A two-inch, full-color touchscreen is located on one side of the camera. It's used to adjust camera settings, as a viewfinder and to preview content after it's been shot. On the Max, you'll discover lenses located on both the front and back of the camera. They're used simultaneously to capture 360-degree footage. Once transferred to a smartphone, tablet, or computer, your content can easily be edited using GoPro's free Quik app.
Shooting 360-degree video isn't Max's only specialty. Using just one of the camera's lenses, you can easily shoot narrow, linear, wide, and Max SuperView (270-degree panoramic) video content or still images. Using the internal 360-degree horizontal lock, it's possible to capture stable and level shots, even if the camera is spinning, flipping or mounted on a subject that's moving quickly on unstable terrain. No matter how you plan to use the Max, you'll quickly discover it's loaded with powerful features and shooting modes that give you maximum versatility and control in any shooting situation.
Video Resolution: Up to 4K (120 fps) | Still Image Resolution: 10MP | Display Size: 1.4-inch LCD touchscreen (front), 2.25-inch LCD touchscreen (rear) | Size: 2.78 x 1.74 x 1.29 inches | Weight: 5.11 ounces | Waterproof Rating: IP68 / 196 feet (with waterproof case), 59 feet (without waterproof case)
Featuring a camera body design that's similar to the GoPro Hero 11 Black, the DJI OSMO Action 4 is able to capture video at up to 4K (120fps) resolution with an impressively wide 155-degree field of view. Both the front and back of the camera have touchscreen displays used to adjust camera settings, as a live viewfinder and to preview already shot content.
OSMO Action 4 is waterproof and extremely durable. When you're shooting high-action activities with the camera in motion, its built-in, 360-degree "HorizonSteady" and "RockSteady 3.0" image stabilization features ensure your content will remain in focus and ultra-smooth. One unique feature of this camera is its proprietary Magnetic Quick Release mounting system, which works with the camera's various optional accessories.
Meanwhile, whether you're shooting video or still images, the camera's main image sensor (combined with its operating system) take full advantage of an advanced color temperature sensor, so the colors in your content appear vibrant and true-to-life, even when shooting in low light situations or underwater. This camera is loaded with impressive features. When it comes to optional mounts and accessories, the selection is more limited to what's offered by GoPro for its action cameras. However, a chest mount, helmet mount, camera handle, extension rod and a handful of other mounts and accessories are sold separately.
Video Resolution: Up to 6K (360-degrees) | Still Image Resolution: 21MP | Display Size: 1-inch | Size: 2.09 x 5.09 x 1.95 inches | Weight: 8.43 ounces | Waterproof Rating: IPX3
The handheld design of the Insta360 One RS is unlike any other action camera. Since this camera is capable of shooting detailed, 360-degree video, there's a lens on both the front and back of the camera. It's designed to be held in one hand, or used with the optional and extendable Invisible Selfie Stick ($25), which doubles as a camera. In addition to 360-degree video, it's possible to shoot traditional (wide angle) video and still images with a shooting system and camera technology that was co-engineered by Leica.
Two one-inch CMOS sensors are used to capture an extremely high image quality that showcases extreme detail and accurate colors in daylight or low-light situations. The camera is also equipped with six-axis "FlowState" image stabilization, so your videos always look smooth. While the built-in display can be used to adjust camera settings, the camera can also be remotely controlled using the Insta360 mobile app. The same app is used to watch, edit and share content directly from your mobile device. Meanwhile, the company's free Insta360 Studio software (for Windows PCs and Macs) is equipped with AI-based editing tools and a robust set of easy to use editing features.
For content creators, the Insta360 One RS can be used for live streaming or as a webcam for video calls and virtual meetings. The coolest feature built into this camera kicks in when it's connected to the Insta360 Invisible Selfie Stick. When you use this accessory to capture third-person content, any time the selfie stick (camera extension arm) is caught in a shot, the camera digitally removes it, so it never appears in your content. A small selection of optional mounts and accessories, including an external battery pack (to extend battery life), an external microphone adapter and a Quick Reader for faster file transfers, are sold separately.
Video Resolution: Up to 4K (60 fps) | Still Image Resolution: 20MP | Display Size: 1.5-inch LCD (front), 2-inch LCD touchscreen (back) | Size: 2.32 x 1.57 x 0.91 inches | Weight: 5.6 ounces | Waterproof Rating: IPX8 (33 feet)
On the outside, the Akaso Brave 4 Elite might look a lot like the GoPro Hero 11 Black, but there's one major difference: their respective prices. The Brave 4 Elite comes bundled with a handful of mounts, accessories, lens filters and cables, but it's priced two-thirds less than the basic GoPro Hero 11 Black camera. This camera's maximum video resolution is 4K (60fps), which is more than high enough for most videographers. It can also shoot still images at 20MP.
Like the GoPro cameras, the Brave 4 Elite offers image stabilization and both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity. It can pair with and be remotely controlled by a smartphone, but a stand-alone remote control with a wrist strap is included with the camera. Plus, the camera accepts voice commands. Another unique feature of this camera is that it has 64GB of internal storage, along with a microSD memory card slot, so you can shoot video or still images without needing a memory card inserted in the cameras. In all, the camera's operating system supports a dozen shooting modes.
While you don't get the same robust ecosystem of apps, cloud-based storage or genutine mounts and accessories as you get with a GoPro, the Akaso Brave 4 comes with the equipment needed to shoot in a wide range of conditions, whether you opt to hold the camera in your hands, attach it to your body or equipment, or mount it on a tripod or stand.
For the price -- and without making any significant compromises -- the Akaso Brave 4 Elite offers an excellent alternative to the GoPro Hero 11 Black. Be sure to clip the coupon on Amazon before checkout to save an extra 5% on this action camera model.
Jason R. Rich (www.JasonRich.com) is an internationally recognized consumer technology expert with more than 30 years' writing experience. He's also an accomplished author and photographer. One of his most recently published books, The Remote Worker's Handbook: How to Effectively Work From Anywhere ($24.99, Entrepreneur Books) is now available from Amazon and wherever books are sold.
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