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Home / Features / Best action camera 2023: top rugged cams from GoPro, DJI and Insta360

Best action camera 2023: top rugged cams from GoPro, DJI and Insta360

How to shoot the rough stuff

Stunts are the easy bit: fall out of the plane, free fall for a bit, then pull your parachute cord. The hard part is capturing cinematic footage of your daredevil antics. Want video to impress your mates and win you legions of internet fans? That’s where the best action camera models come in.

Want the top action camera for recording your adventurous exploits? Whether you’re a skydiver, a freediver or likely to dive over the handlebars if you try mountain biking, the best action cams can shoot sharp, stable video in the trickiest conditions.

From the latest GoPro flagship to 360 cameras that can capture everything around you, we’ve rounded up our pick of the top models below. We’ve tested each camera to its limits, to check it has the durability to go the distance and the smarts to shoot excellent footage on the journey. Chocks away.

Buying tips

Steady up

Most action cams come with some kind of image stabilisation. This magically counteracts bumps and wobbles to make footage more watchable. The smartest software trickery – such as GoPro’s HyperSmooth 4.0 – can eliminate massive amounts of movement, as well as locking onto the horizon to keep the frame level.

Sharpen up

The sharpest action cam sensors can record footage at a resolution of 5.3K. This will be overkill for most people, especially if you’ll be sharing to social media, where 4K is more than enough. Frame rates are just as important: some cams can shoot 4K footage at up to 120fps, allowing you to slow footage down for silky smooth slow-mo.

Switch it up

Some of the best action cams feature support for modular elements or accessories. These allow you to easily upgrade or augment the recording experience, whether you want a sharper camera sensor or the ability to attach an external microphone for better audio. 360 cams offer a different kind of versatility, allowing you to shoot with two lenses for full immersion or one for single-sided clips.

Connect it up

Apps are a key part of the action cam experience. Many of the best models can connect directly to your smartphone for easy tweaking and sharing. But not all software is created equal. Some favour accessibility over complexity, while others offer a more complex but more powerful experience. Look for streaming support if you need to broadcast live.

Our pick of the best action cameras to buy today

GoPro Hero 11 Black review lead

GoPro Hero 11 Black

Another year, another GoPro. But the Hero 11 Black does much more than bump the specs of its predecessor: its sensor now uses an 8:7 aspect ratio. This almost-square approach lets creators losslessly crop footage to fit different frames – whether for widescreen YouTube content or vertical TikTok videos.

That setup is complemented by 360-degree horizon locking, which keeps the landscape level even when inverted. Paired with HyperSmooth stabilisation, it delivers best-in-class steadiness. You also get support for 10-bit video, 5.3K at 60fps and 4K slow-mo at 120fps.

Physically, there’s nothing to distinguish it from the Hero 10 Black. It’s robust, familiar and perfectly functional, even if the DJI Osmo Action 3 has it beat in deep water. Its streamlined interface divides settings by skill level, letting you shoot easy or get granular. Shipped with GoPro’s beefier Enduro battery, it also benefits from better staying power – although you’ll still need spare cells for full-day shoots.

The new sensor is smaller than the 1-inch option for the Insta360 One RS, and low-light performance still leaves a lot to be desired. But with reliable image quality and impressive versatility, the Hero 11 Black is our pick for the best action camera right now.

Stuff Says…

It’s not cheap, but innovative features and an intuitive interface make this versatile action cam a win for creative adventurers

Tech spec:

Video: 5.3K at 60fps • Stills: 27MP • Battery: 1720mAh • Weight: 153g

DJI Osmo Action 3 review lead

DJI Osmo Action 3

Undercutting the Hero 11 Black by a significant margin, the DJI Osmo Action 3 can’t topple GoPro’s flagship when it comes to video quality or social-friendly features. But it does offer great value, combining the best bits of its predecessors in one practical body.

Marginally lighter than the Hero 11 Black, it adopts a similar screen and lens layout, adding useful touch sensitivity to the front display. Better heat management and superior battery life make it more reliable than the Action 2, while its waterproof chops beat every mainstream action cam: it can dive to 16m unshielded.

Unlike the Hero 11 Black, the Action 3 uses a traditional 16:9 aspect ratio, but a bundled Horizontal-Vertical Protective Frame has a side mount for portrait shooting. Despite its larger 1/1.7in sensor, low-light performance is limited and overall video quality it bettered by the GoPro. That said, it remains very good for the price, with 45-degree levelling to keep 4K footage straight in bright conditions. And with a 155º field of view, it’s the top choice for wide-angle coverage.

Stuff Says…

A wide-angle winner with deep waterproofing, the Action 3 fulfils the core action cam requirements at a more accessible price

Tech spec:

4K at 60fps • Stills: 12MP • Battery: 1770mAh • Weight: 145g

GoPro Hero 10 Black

Disguised as a re-hash of the Hero 9 Black, the GoPro Hero 10 Black is actually a very different action camera. While it shares the same dimensions, sensor and display, a powerful GP2 chip means it can capture better results in all conditions.

Updated across the board, its feature sheet includes boosted slow-mo frame. It also offers better live streaming and faster wireless video transfer. As we found in our five-star review, the Hero 10 Black is more polished and responsive than previous GoPro models, with a lag-free interface that encourages creativity.

It’s not perfect. Battery life is mediocre, low-light performance average, and dynamic range could be better. But the Hero 10 Black is still a fantastic action camera, capable of producing gorgeous 5.3K video at 30fps. Magic horizon-levelling contributes to rock-steady shots, too. Shell out for a GoPro Subscription and you’ll find it’s close to the complete action cam package.

Stuff Says…

A powerful and polished action camera, bettered only by its successor

Tech spec:

Video: 5.3K at 30fps • Stills: 23MP • Battery: 1720mAh • Weight: 153g

Insta360 One RS

Retaining the modular design and immersive shooting skills of the One R before it, the Insta360 One RS supports swappable camera modules which clip to its Core unit and battery base. These include 360° and 4K Boost lenses, as well as a 1-inch Wide Angle option co-engineered with Leica.

Improvements over the One R are limited but meaningful. There’s an extra microphone, a bigger battery and a beefier processor for enhanced FlowState image stabilisation. The 4K Boost lens also represents a notable upgrade from the previous version, with a larger 48MP sensor capturing detailed, dynamic footage at 60fps.

Stills broadly disappoint, while stitching at the seams of 360 footage is occasionally dodgy. The camera’s own processing also tends to boost colours unnaturally, something that’s best solved by shooting in a flat log profile for later colour correction. But despite the niggles, the One RS is a lightweight, adaptable and accessible action camera with useful software tricks in the partner app.

Stuff Says…

Boosted shooting skills and meaningful performance upgrades make this adaptable action cam a credible modular alternative to a GoPro

Tech spec:

Video: 6K at 25fps (4K Boost Lens) • Stills: 48MP (4K Boost Lense) • Battery: 1445mAh • Weight: 163g (1-Inch Wide Angle Lens)

Best action camera: GoPro Hero 9 Black

GoPro Hero 9 Black

No longer top of the line, GoPro’s former flagship still has serious chops when it comes recording adventurous action. The Hero 9 Black benefits from the same front display, same compact form factor and same capable 23.6MP sensor as the more recent Hero 10 Black – and it has a lot of the same features, too.

HyperSmooth Boost in all modes means you always have the option of supremely smooth footage, while Power Tool settings unlock useful creative versatility. There’s also Horizon Levelling on-board, to keep footage tilt-free.

Frame rates for 5.3K video hit a ceiling at 30fps – versus the 60fps offered by the Hero 11 Black – while 4K tops out at 60fps. Newer models are also faster and more responsive. But pin down a good deal on the GoPro Hero 9 Black and you’re still getting a 5K action cam that can produce sharp, steady results in most shooting scenarios.

Stuff Says…

Not the latest GoPro, polished firmware and 5K footage makes the Hero 9 Black a stellar second-choice if the Hero 10’s too steep for your tastes

Tech spec:

Video: 5.3K at 30fps • Stills: 20MP • Battery: 1720mAh • Weight: 158g

Best action camera: Insta360 One R

Insta360 One R

Skydiving one day, scuba the next: a good action cam needs to adapt to every challenge. And if it’s flexibility you’re after, the Insta360 One R should have you covered. Comprised of three swappable modules (a core, a battery base and a camera), it makes upgrading a cinch. Despite the modular build, the One R is lightweight and pocket-friendly, yet also sturdy enough to survive some rough and tumble. The standard battery is good for around an hour, though you can beef this up by switching in the double-size option.

The app can be buggy, but it’s also impressively powerful. From slow-mo to AI shooting modes, there’s plenty to experiment with – even if it’s not quite as polished as GoPro’s software. The reversible touchscreen block means it’s easy to configure the camera itself to suit the shooting scenario.

And if you want to amp up image quality, you can swap in a different sensor: there’s a dual-lens 360 option for full-round footage, a 4K wide-angle for superior quality, or a 1-inch edition that’s good for 5.3K at 30fps – and better low-light performance than any GoPro.

Stuff Says…

A modular action cam that’s stuffed with features but occasionally stutters. Swap in the 1-inch sensor for superior image quality in all conditions

Tech spec:

Video: 5.3K at 30fps • Stills: 19MP • Battery: 1190mAh • Weight: 158g

Best action camera: DJI Osmo Action

DJI Osmo Action

DJI might be better known for its drones, but it’s learnt enough over the years to produce a top-notch action cam. The Osmo Action’s compact design doesn’t break the mould, but it feels intuitively familiar. A responsive rear touchscreen is twinned with a useful 1.4in front display for framing. A rubberised wrap around the metal shell also makes it suitably sturdy: it’s waterproof to 11m and good at temperatures down to -10°C.

Equipped with a 12MP sensor, an f/2.8 lens and a 145-degree field of view, the Osmo Action can capture excellent video in bright light. In dimmer conditions? It’s as bad as any GoPro. Still, while its RockSteady stabilisation doesn’t have the smarts to rival GoPro’s latest horizon-levelling tech, it still produces wobble-free 4K footage which looks like you’ve used a gimbal.

It’s not perfect. App connectivity is terrible and there’s a lag when previewing stabilised 4K/60p footage. But the Osmo Action does deliver on battery life: it’s good for more than 60 minutes of 4K video at 60fps.

Stuff Says…

It has its quirks, but great video quality, nice design and RockSteady stabilisation make the Osmo Action a stellar cam

Tech spec:

Video: 4K at 60fps • Stills: 12MP • Battery: 1300mAh • Weight: 134g

Best action camera: Insta360 One X2

Insta360 One X2

The original Insta360 One X was the first 360-degree action cam that felt user-friendly enough to recommend. Its successor delivers an even more appealing blend of accessibility, portability and durability. It’s still styled like a pared-back puck, with a bulbous lens on either side and two buttons on the body. But there are two key enhancements: it’s now waterproof, and features a small colour touchscreen. So you no longer need to clad your cam in a bulky case to dip it in the drink. And you can frame up footage without tethering to your phone.

The main appeal remains its dual-cam setup, with each sensor covering a 180-degree field of view. The images are stitched almost seamlessly by the camera, ready to share in full 360 or, better yet, get creative with cropping and editing anywhere within the sphere.

Video quality doesn’t seem like much of a leap forward, and it’s definitely not the sharpest action cam around. The companion app is also pretty clunky, with crashes not uncommon. But if you want a waterproof camera that can capture immersive video, it gets plenty right.

Stuff Says…

Occasional app frustrations aside, this engaging box of tricks has all angles covered

Tech spec:

Video: 5.7K at 30fps • Stills: 18.5MP • Battery: 1630mAh • Weight: 149

Best action camera: GoPro Max

GoPro Max

Like the Insta360 above, GoPro’s 360 cam features two lenses facing in opposite directions. It also doubles up as single-lens 2.7K action cam, while its 1.7in self-facing display gives it solid vlogging chops. If you’ve used a GoPro before, the interface will be familiar. So will the flip-out mounting fingers and the control buttons on the body. The lenses on the Max aren’t quite as scratch-resistant as those on the Hero 8 Black, but it’s still pretty durable, with waterproofing to 5m.

360 footage is shot at 5.6K, which gives scope for decent 720p output when you crop down. Colours are a little richer on the GoPro than the Insta360, though there’s no HDR mode. As with all 360 cameras, detail is captured best at the centre of each lens, with fringing worse in low light.

The partner app is a powerful tool for editing spherical footage, allowing you to pan dynamically across the frame. The process can be clunky at times, but it does unlock new ways to creatively capture and tweak content. And straight out of the camera, footage is auto-stitched pretty seamlessly.

Stuff Says…

If you want the ultimate editing flexibility in familiar GoPro packaging, the Max is an excellent tool for capturing 360 content

Tech spec:

Video: 5.6K at 30fps • Stills: 16.6MP • Battery: 1600mAh • Weight: 163g

Best action camera: Insta360 Go 2

Insta360 Go 2

A tiny snapper from the set-it-and-forget-it school of action videography, the Insta360 Go 2 is a camera compact and lightweight enough to go unnoticed. Yet despite its minuscule packaging, it’s fully waterproof to 4m and capable of recording sharp, detailed 1440p footage at 50fps. What’s more, the ultra-portable Go 2 benefits from satin-smooth FlowState stabilisation, which does an immaculate job of eradicating bumps from footage.

There’s no display on the device itself, but the pocketable charging stand adds a status readout, as well as doubling up as a self-contained selfie stand. It also features two buttons, although it’s much easier to fire up the Insta360 app for wireless control from your smartphone.

Some will bemoan the lack of 4K, while the low stills resolution limits its use as a photography tool. But for a such a miniature thing, it gives much bigger action cams a real run for their money.

Stuff Says…

The Go 2 isn’t perfect, but with a tiny form factor and waterproof build, it’s our go-to micro action cam

Tech spec:

Video: 1440p at 50fps • Stills: 9.2MP • Battery: 1100mAh • Weight: 27g
Profile image of Chris Rowlands Chris Rowlands Freelance contributor


Formerly News Editor at this fine institution, Chris now writes about tech from his tropical office. Sidetracked by sustainable stuff, he’s also keen on coffee kit, classic cars and any gear that gets better with age.

Areas of expertise

Cameras, gear and travel tech

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