The GoPro HERO11 Black action camera.

Action cameras like GoPros are pint-sized powerhouses that can capture high-quality still and moving images in a wide range of conditions. Let’s take a look at some good reasons to invest in a quality action camera.

Your Hobbies Deserve Documenting

Action cameras are versatile, but it helps if you know what you want to do with one before you spend all that money. If you have a hobby that you want to capture that suits the “hands-off” nature of shooting with an action camera, you’ll be able to start making use of your purchase right away.

These cameras can be mounted on the handlebars of a mountain bike or stuck on the hull of a kayak to capture some of your more memorable outdoor pursuits. You can mount them to a helmet if you’re skating or climbing, or even get a chest mount for hiking and trail running. They allow you to capture both personal memories and group activities, like days out with family and friends.

You don’t have to be a whitewater rafter or skydiver to make use of a GoPro or similar and many sedate hobbies pair perfectly with these types of cameras. Mount one on your car or campervan during your next road trip, get a harness for your dog to capture their unique perspective on the world, or simply mount your GoPro on something entirely ordinary (a tennis racket, a shovel, or a metal detector) for fun.

They Can Withstand More Abuse Than Other Cameras

Most action cameras are built to withstand some level of abuse. For example, the GoPro HERO11 Black is waterproof to 33ft (10 meters) and built to withstand knocks and drops without the need for additional housing. With optional waterproof housing, you can go diving to 196ft (60 meters) without worrying about your camera getting damaged.

GoPro HERO11 Black

GoPro HERO11 Black

Get the best action camera money can buy with the GoPro HERO11 Black complete with waterproofing, up to 5.3K video, 27-megapixel stills, interchangeable digital lenses, and unbeatable video stabilization.

Many cheaper GoPro alternatives are also built to be tough, with removable parts (like batteries and memory cards) safely tucked away behind sealed compartments. Action cameras are great for taking to places you might not be comfortable taking more sensitive equipment like a mirrorless or digital SLR camera. You can clamp them securely in place so they won’t fly away like your smartphone would.

Keep your camera in your camera bag and your smartphone in your pocket and let your action camera deal with the dust, sand, rain, and salt water. They’re built for these conditions, and they’d cost less to replace if the unthinkable were to happen. You can save some money by opting for cheaper action cameras, but even a GoPro costs less than a nice camera lens or brand-new iPhone in most cases.

You can give an action camera to your kids (or even introduce it as a first camera) and not worry too much about mishaps. We’ve got all sorts of tips for keeping your smartphone and other tech safe at the beach, but why take chances? With an action camera, you can go underwater, drop it in the sand, and rinse it off when it’s time to go home.

Action Cameras Make Perfect Travel Companions

Action cameras capture both still and moving images. Still images might not hold up well compared with those you’d capture on a dedicated camera, but they’re on a par with many modern smartphones. In the case of the GoPro HERO11, you can capture images of up to 27 megapixels complete with RAW photo support. The GoPro also has dual LCD screens for framing your shot whether you’re in front of or behind the camera.

This makes them versatile travel companions, ideal for capturing video, stills, and even still images while capturing video. They’re pocketable so you can carry them easily and capture media in a hurry, and they’re a lot lighter than many camera lenses let alone a whole camera setup. You can mount them on selfie sticks and tripods, or get something that does it all like a GorillaPod.

Unlike your smartphone, action cameras have swappable batteries and memory cards so that you’re never caught short if you run out of power or storage space. This removes the requirement to share battery and storage with your smartphone, but many still give you the ability to easily import and share images and video wirelessly using an app. GoPro even cuts highlight videos together for you to accelerate the sharing process.

Action cameras even work well in conjunction with an existing digital SLR or mirrorless setup. You can mount an action camera on your standard camera (using the hot shoe adapter, for example) and capture both high-quality still images and video rushes.

Smart Features Now Come as Standard

Just like smartphones, 4K video is now a standard feature, with higher resolution video also possible (like 5.3K on the GoPro HERO11 Black) depending on the model. On top of this, the built-in image stabilization on many models has come a long way, removing the need to use a gimbal to get perfectly steady video. This is ideal for everything from bump descents on a mountain bike to camera operators who lack a steady hand.

GoPro arguably leads the way in terms of smart features, but don’t write off the DJI Osmo Action 3 or the insta360 ONE RS either. GoPro’s offering features horizon lock, which locks the video perspective to that of the horizon regardless of what angle you’re holding the camera app. You can capture slow-motion video up to 240 fps in 4K resolution on the HERO11 too.

insta360 ONE RS

insta360 ONE RS

The insta360 ONE RS is a modular action camera setup with swappable lenses that features 4K 60 frames per second video, 48-megapixel photos, HDR support, and video stabilization.

On top of this, there are various night modes for better low-light shooting and more creativity, time-lapse functions for condensing minutes or hours of video into seconds, and programmed video starts for capturing sunrises or sunsets without having to operate the camera. Looping mode lets you capture video in segmented loops rather than filling up your whole memory card in the hope that something exciting happens.

You can also transfer and edit using an app, on your smartphone, just as you would with media you’d shot on your iPhone or Android device. GoPro offers automatic cloud backup with an optional subscription to keep footage safe and easily accessible. Use your phone as a remote to control your camera (useful if it’s mounted out of reach), or simply use the voice control features to trigger and end recordings.

On GoPro, you also get access to Protune which captures higher-quality video at the cost of a larger file size. You’ll get a “flatter” image that you can then fine-tune in post, just as you would in a photo editor. If you want to color grade your footage for a specific look and feel, Protune is essential and it doesn’t necessarily require a ton of expertise to use it.

You can get similar results from other cameras, like the Sony RX0. Though Sony’s offering isn’t quite an action camera, it’s about the same size as a GoPro and much of the time works in the same context. It features picture profiles you’d normally find on Sony’s mirrorless setups, complete with S-Log for video that provides huge potential when it comes to color grading.

Endless Accessories for Endless Possibilities

GoPro’s ecosystem has grown steadily over the years and now encompasses a huge range of accessories, both first and third-party. The GoPro mount is now ubiquitous and comes attached to just about every type of harness, strap, sticker, and handle. Many third-party action cameras also use the standard GoPro mount, which means they too can take advantage of these products.

You’ll find a huge range of accessories designed to help you mount or hold your camera in place. These include clamps and grips for attaching to bikes or luggage racks, mounts for your body including chest straps and helmet attachments, tripod mounts for use with standard photography equipment or flexible stands, sticky mounts for surfing or skating, and many more.

Tripods like the GorillaPod (or other ideal iPhone tripods) are perfect for action cameras since they fit the “place anywhere” nature of a small action camera. They allow you to hang your camera upside down, attach it to trees, and much more. You can also use them as handles or stabilizers for shooting handheld content too.

One word of warning: you can save some money on cheaper accessories, but these may be made from more brittle materials that could put your camera at risk if they were to break. If you’re going to mount your GoPro on a dirt bike or a surfboard, it might be worth spending a bit more money on the mount to protect your investment and any footage you might capture.

Video the World

Digital video capture has come so far and there’s never been a better time to buy an action camera, especially a pricier high-end camera like a GoPro. Capturing footage in 4K allows you to capture high-quality video that will look great for years to come. Stabilize your footage in-camera and transfer it wirelessly to your smartphone for editing.

There have never been so few barriers to entry for those looking to capture sports and recreation on an action camera. They’re perfect for your next camping trip, just follow a few simple tips to get the most out of your action camera.

The Best Action Cameras of 2023

GoPro HERO10 Black
Best Action Camera Overall
GoPro HERO10 Black
AKASO V50 Elite
Best Budget Action Camera
AKASO V50 Elite
GoPro HERO11 Black Mini
Best Small Action Camera
GoPro HERO11 Black Mini
insta360 ONE RS
Best 360 Action Camera
insta360 ONE RS
DJI Osmo Action 3
Best 4K Action Camera
DJI Osmo Action 3
GoPro HERO11 Black Creator Edition
Best GoPro
GoPro HERO11 Black Creator Edition
Profile Photo for Tim Brookes Tim Brookes
Tim Brookes is a technology writer with more than a decade of experience. He's invested in the Apple ecosystem, with experience covering Macs, iPhones, and iPads for publications like Zapier and MakeUseOf.
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