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GoPro

If you're an athlete or enjoy participating in adventurous sports indoors, outdoors or even underwater, the best action cameras for sports can capture your activities from an immersive first- or third-person perspective in ways no other camera can. These cameras are weatherproof, durable, small and lightweight. Plus, with the right mount, most of them can be securely attached to your head, chest or wrist. However, the majority of the action cameras can just as easily be attached to your equipment -- like your skis, surfboard, bicycle, motorcycle helmet or even your fishing rod. 

Related: How we select our products

The best action cameras for sports can also be held in your hands, mounted on a tripod, or connected to an extendable selfie stick/handle for example. It all comes down to the shooting angle and perspective you want to capture to make your sports or adventure content as exciting and visually compelling to watch as possible.

The best action cameras in 2023

When it comes to capturing all kinds of adventurous activities, GoPro is a pioneer and clear leader in the action camera arena. The new GoPro Hero 12 Black, our top pick for best action camera for sports overall, has proven itself to be one of the most versatile and durable action cameras ever made. When it comes to capturing various sports and adventurous activities, however, you have other options as well. 

For example, for capturing 360-degree video, as well as video or still images from a first- or third-person perspective, we're fans of the Insta360 One RS 1-Inch 360 Edition. However, if you're looking for something ultra compact, the GoPro Hero 11 Black Mini or Insta360 Go 3 are both viable options. Let's take a closer look at these and other action cameras that are perfect for capturing sports and all of your adventures.

Best action camera for sports overall: GoPro Hero 12 Black

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Amazon

Video Resolution: Up to 5.3K (30 fps) | Still Image Resolution: 27MP | Display Size: 1.4-inch non-touchscreen (front), 2.27-inch touchscreen (rear) | Size: 2.83 x 2 x 1.32 inches | Weight: 5.43 ounces | Waterproof Rating: Up to 33 feet without an additional housing

For an adventurous athlete, one of the key things that set the GoPro Hero 12 Black apart from the myriad of other action cameras is the vast GoPro ecosystem. For starters, you can choose between dozens of genuine GoPro Mods, mounts and accessories for the camera. This means that no matter where or what you're trying to capture on video, you can securely set up the camera for that specific situation or activity. 

And then there's the newly enhanced Quik mobile app. It allows you to remotely control the camera from your smartphone (or tablet) and then use powerful (but simple to use) tools to edit and share your content without needing a computer. Rounding out the GoPro ecosystem is the GoPro Subscription. It gives you unlimited cloud storage for your content, a no-questions-asked camera replacement policy and discounts up to 50% on GoPro accessories from the company's own website

While we encourage you to read our CBS News' review of the GoPro Hero 12 Black, this latest model offers everything that the GoPro action cameras are known for, plus a handful of new features and enhancements. For example, you get simplified controls and the ability to shoot video using HDR to capture more incredible detail when filming in 4K or 5.3K resolution. 

The camera's image stabilization and battery life have also been improved, plus you have more options when capturing TimeWarp, Time Lapse or Night Lapse video. The Max Lens 2.0 Mod expands the camera's field of view up to 177 degrees when shooting at 4K 60fps. This gives you access to the Max Wide, Max SuperView and Max HyperView settings that results in an even more immersive quality to be incorporated into video content.

When you embark on your next adventure, it's the GoPro Hero 12 Black you'll want on hand to capture every exciting second with incredibly detailed and smooth video (not to mention high-resolution and richly detailed still images). It's currently available at Amazon for $400.

Pros:

  • The GoPro Hero 12 Black offers an extremely compact, lightweight and durable design.
  • You get access to a diverse selection of shooting modes and options that will capture incredible detail.
  • Compared to older versions of the camera, the GoPro Hero 12 Black is easier to use and offers a longer battery life.
  • The GoPro ecosystem continues to expand, giving users more options and unique ways to mount and use their camera.
  • The Quik mobile app is powerful, intuitive and allows users to add professional touches to their raw content during the editing process.

Cons:

  • With so many onboard shooting options, along with a vast selection of Mods, mounts and accessories, it's sometimes challenging to choose the right combination of settings and additional equipment needed to achieve the desired results (especially when shooting video).
  • While the camera itself is fairly priced, it can get expensive once you start purchasing a selection of genuine GoPro Mods, mounts and camera accessories.
  • The camera's overall functionality is easier and more intuitive than ever, but achieving professional results takes practice. Use the camera in a variety of situations and shooting scenarios so you become familiar with its operation and capabilities.
$400 at Amazon

Best budget action camera for sports: Akaso Brave 8

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Amazon

Video Resolution: Up to 4K (60 fps) | Still Image Resolution: 48MP | Display Size: 1.2-inch (front), 2-inch touchscreen (rear) | Size: 2.48 x 1.44 x 1.77 inches | Weight: 4.05 ounces | Waterproof Rating: Up to 33 feet (without an optional housing), 196 feet (with optional housing)

The Akaso Brave 8 can capture immersive video at up to 4K (60 fps) resolution and offers a nice collection of shooting modes and features, including super slow-mo and 8K time lapse. And whether you're shooting video or still images (at a whopping 48MP resolution), the camera automatically detects faces and adjusts the camera settings for optimal exposure to ensure the people featured in your content are as clear and well lit as possible.

Beyond doing a nice job capturing people within your content, you have the ability to utilize the Super Wide Angle mode that winds up making your video content look even more immersive. There's also a Narrow Angle, Portrait Perspective and Wide Angle mode. Even without using a gimbal, the camera offers really good image stabilizations that utilizes the company's SuperSmooth feature. And of course, the Akaso Brave 8 is waterproof and durable. It's also able to capture stereo sound using its built-in microphones. And like the GoPro Hero 12 Black, the Akaso Brave 8 offers both a front- and rear-facing display.

For about half the price of the GoPro Hero 12 Black, the Akaso Brave 8 gives you pretty similar functionality, but with a few exceptions. You don't get the ability to shoot video at up to 5.3K (30 fps). On the plus side, unlike the GoPro cameras, the Akaso Brave 8 comes with 14 accessories included, so right out of the box you have a wide variety of mounting options that can prepare the camera for wherever your adventures take you. Enhanced battery life (compared to older Akaso models) and the ability to control the camera with voice commands or the Akaso Go mobile app round out the camera's capabilities. 

The camera lists for $400, but Amazon is offering a discount for Prime members and a coupon that brings the final price down to $240.

Pros:

  • The Akaso Brave 8 offers a really good deal, based on camera quality and what you get for your investment.
  • This camera automatically uses AI face metering to focus on peoples' faces.
  • The half-inch 1.6um Quad Pixel sensor does a wonderful job capturing extreme detail and lifelike colors.
  • This is a lower cost alternative to the GoPro Hero 12 Black that comes with a nice collection of mounts and accessories.
  • The camera offers up to 5x optical zoom.

Cons:

  • The Akaso Brave 8 is not able to shoot video at a higher resolution than 4K (60 fps), but when it comes to still images, it blows away the competition with its 48MP resolution.
  • You don't get the same diverse product and service ecosystem with the Akaso action cameras compared to what's offered for GoPro cameras.
$240 at Amazon

Best ultra-compact action camera for sports: Insta360 Go 3

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Amazon

Video Resolution: Up to 2.7K (30 fps) | Still Image Resolution: 2,560 x 1,440 pixels | Display Size: ##-inches (front), ##-inches (rear) | Size: 1 x 2.1 x 0.9 inches (camera), 2.5 x 1.9 x 1.2 inches (Action Pad) | Weight: 1.23 ounces | Waterproof Rating: IPX8 (camera), IPX4 (Action Pad)

What sets the Insta360 Go 3 apart is that it's smaller than most of the other action cameras on the market, yet it's able to securely clip onto yourself, your hat or your equipment using the appropriate mount. It records video up to 2.4K (30fps). When shooting video, the camera uses Insta360's FlowState Stabilization to provide steady and smooth footage, even when the camera is shaken, rolled or bumped while filming. It also utilizes a 360-degree horizon lock, so your footage stays upright, even if you and the camera are upside down.

To keep the camera's operation simple, it remembers the last settings used. So when you turn on the camera, it can start recording almost immediately (without you having to tinker with the controls). But if you have the camera mounted and your hands are not free, the Go 3 responds to voice commands too. The camera itself comes with a detachable Action Pad, which makes the unit easier to hold and extends battery life up to 170 minutes of continuous filming (compared to 45 minutes using just the camera). The back of the Action Pad has a flip up display, so you can easily use the camera for vlogging or framing selfie shots.

Whether you're using the Go 3 on its own, or with the camera connected to the Action Pad, both can be used with the quick release stand and mount that's included. Because the camera (with the mount) is so small, it can be placed in really unique positions to capture shots from a wide range of interesting angles. One nice feature is that even when the Go 3 is not within the Action Pad, you can still use the Action Pad's display to preview your shots and remotely control the camera. Both pieces can be submerged and used underwater (down to 16 feet). 

Two built in mics allow you to record clear sound with your videos. And like other action cameras, this one offers a variety of shooting modes, like TimeShift, Slow Motion, PureShot HDR and Timelapse. You can also record video or take still images using a 9:16, 1:1 or 16:9 aspect ratio. A small variety of accessories and specialty mounts are sold separately, including a dive case and Monkey Tail flexible mount. For capturing action-oriented sports and activities, the slightly more expensive Insta360 Go 3 Action Kit ($435) is recommended. It includes the camera, Action Pad, lens guard, one magnetic pendant, one pivot stand, one easy clip and one quick release mount.

Pros:

  • Go 3 is among the smallest action cameras you can buy, so you can be positioned in smaller places that other action cameras can't reach.
  • The camera offers a variety of adjustable shooting modes and video resolution options.
  • The ability to separate the Go 3 and Action Pad expands what's possible using the camera.

Cons:

  • The camera can shoot still images, but this is not its specialty. 
  • The Insta360 Go 3 is not as rugged as a GoPro camera. 
  • The selection of mounts and accessories is more limited than what GoPro offers.
$380 at Amazon

Best budget GoPro Hero action camera for sports: GoPro Hero 11 Black Mini

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Amazon

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

The GoPro Hero 12 Black offers everything most people want or need from an action camera, but when you consider the price of the camera itself, along with all of the mods, mounts and accessories you might need, the whole package can get expensive. The GoPro Hero 11 Mini is a scaled down version of last year's GoPro Hero 11 Black. 

The Mini is certainly capable of capturing the same eye-popping and immersive video -- up to 5.3K (60 fps) resolution -- as the Hero 12 Black. But the Mini lacks certain features. For example, there's no display on the front or back of the camera. Instead, you'll need to remotely frame your shots using your smartphone and the Quik app. And you can't snap still images directly using the Mini. If you want a still image, it can only be acquired from video footage that's already been shot.

Measuring just 2.06 x 2.02 x 1.5 inches, the GoPro Hero 11 Black Mini is smaller than the GoPro Hero 12 Black, but it still works with more than 40 of the same GoPro mounts and accessories. To give you extra creative control and flexibility, the Mini's body has two built-in mounting fingers (one on the camera's back and one on the bottom). It's also waterproof -- it can go as deep as 33 feet underwater. When shooting video with the Mini, you get access to a nice selection of shooting modes (like TimeWarp, Star Trails and 8x Slo-Mo), not to mention image stabilization and horizon lock.

Pros:

  • The Mini is more compact than the GoPro Hero 12 Black.
  • Dual mounting fingers (on the rear and bottom of the camera) give you extra mounting options to achieve the best shooting angle from this small camera.
  • Take advantage of one button operation, plus remote smartphone control.
  • The HyperSmooth 5.0 stabilization ensures ultra-smooth video.
  • Capture video with an even wider FOV using the optional Max Lens Mod ($85).

Cons:

  • There's no front- or rear-facing display built into this camera.
  • The genuine GoPro camera mounts and accessories are each sold separately.
  • For just a bit more money, you can buy the more robust GoPro Hero 12 Black, so unless you need the Mini's smaller size for specific types of shots, consider the more powerful camera option.
$251 at Amazon

Best action camera for 360-degree video: Insta360 One RS 1-Inch 360 Edition

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Amazon

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: 8.3 ounces | Waterproof Rating: IPX3

The handheld design of the Insta360 One RS 1-Inch 360 Edition 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 handle. 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.

Keep in mind, this handheld camera is not designed to be mounted to you or your equipment. Thus, during outdoor adventures and high-intensity activities, it works best when you have at least one hand free to hold the Invisible Selfie Stick's handle with the camera mounted at the opposite end of it. This is a different shooting approach to what's possible using other action cameras.

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. 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 1-Inch 360 Edition 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 other 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.

Pros:

  • Easily capture traditional or 360-degree video, with time lapse, timeshift and loop recording options.
  • Hold the camera in your hands, attach it to the Insta360 Invisible Selfie Stick, or mount it on a tripod while shooting. 
  • The camera's battery lasts up to 62 minutes per charge, but this depends on how it's being used.
  • The 360-degree horizon lock offers added image stabilization when shooting video.

Cons:

  • There's just one small display on the back of the camera, and no front display.
  • The camera is easier to control remotely using the Insta360 smartphone app.
  • Insta360 offers a limited selection of mounts and accessories.
  • At almost $800, this action camera is the most pricey option on our list.
760 at Amazon

Best GoPro action camera alternative for sports: DJI Osmo Action 4

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Amazon

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)

Most people should think of the DJI Osmo Action 4 as a viable alternative to the GoPro Hero 12 Black, but with some limitations. It's 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. The GoPro Hero 12, for example, also has two displays, but only the rear display is a touchscreen. Keep in mind, the GoPro Hero 12 Black can also capture 5.3K (60 fps) video, but not everyone needs their content to be captured at this high of a resolution. Meanwhile, the still image resolution offered by the Osmo Action 4 is just 10MP, which is nothing special.

The 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 remains 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) takes 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. When it comes to optional mounts and accessories, the selection offered by DJI is more limited than what's offered by GoPro for its action cameras. A chest mount, helmet mount, camera handle, extension rod and a handful of other mounts and accessories are sold separately.

Pros:

  • Capture up to 4K (120fps) video with a stunning 155-degree field of view.
  • Color touchscreens on the front and back of the camera let you see what you're filming, regardless of which way it's facing.
  • Battery life is up to 160 minutes, but this depends on accessories being used.
  • The camera offers situational image stabilization using the 360-degree HorizonSteady feature.
  • Magnetic quick-release mounts make it easy to attach and remove the camera.

Cons:

  • Battery life drains quickly when using both displays.
  • Minimum focus distance is 1.3 feet, so the camera is not well suited for macro photography.
$400 at Amazon

Best point-and-shoot action camera for sports: OM System Tough TG-7

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Amazon

Video Resolution: Up to 4K (25 fps) | Still Image Resolution:12MP | Display Size: 3-inches | Size: 4.48 x 2.59 x 1.29 inches | Weight: 8.79 ounces | Waterproof Rating: Up to 50 feet.

So you've probably not yet heard about the OM System Tough camera brand. However, this is just a rebrand of the Olympus "tough" point-and-shoot action cameras. The new OM System Tough TG-7 is waterproof, shockproof, crushproof and freezeproof, but it's meant to be held in your hands (not attached to your body or equipment) while you're shooting. Like other action cameras, the Tough TG-7 can be remotely controlled from a smartphone using a proprietary app.

The Tough TG-7 has enhanced GPS capabilities built in for outdoor adventurers on the go, so you can track where every shot was taken. At the same time you're shooting video, the camera can also capture and display barometric pressure, altitude and water depth. A variety of optional accessories are available for the Tough TG-7, including a silicone jacket, float strap, underwater housing (for scuba divers) and a variety of interchangeable specialty lenses.

While the Tough TG-7 can be set to full Auto mode when shooting video or taking still images, it does have a manual focus mode (but not a manual exposure or shutter priority option). The lens offers 25 focus points and a maximum aperture of F2-4.9. You can choose between six white balance presets. Maximum shutter speed is 1/2000 second and minimum shutter speed is four seconds. As you prepare to shoot, the camera offers a handful of specialized subject and scene modes. And unlike other action cameras, this one has a built-in flash. The camera's burst shooting mode can capture up to 20 frames per second, but there is no self-timer option. While not for everyone, if you're looking for a point-and-shoot style camera that can handle even your most intense adventures, the Tough TG-7 is a really good option.

Pros:

  • Take advantage of a 4x optical zoom that offers a 35mm equivalent focal length between 25mm and 200mm.
  • The Tough TG-7 is ideal for capturing video and still images when you're engaged in outdoor or underwater activities that involve having at least one hand free to hold and operate the camera.
  • This ultra-durable, point-and-shoot style camera offers a modern looking, handheld design with a camera body that's available in red or black.
  • GPS capabilities are integrated into the camera, as are microphones for capturing stereo sound with video content.
  • ISO can be set to Auto or between 100 and 12,800.

Cons:

  • The main Tough TG-7 camera (without optional accessories) is more expensive than most of the other action cameras in this roundup.
  • The camera's rear display is not a touchscreen.
$550 at Amazon

12 quick tips for capturing the best possible video using an action camera

Regardless of what or where you'll be shooting with your action camera, these 12 tips will help ensure you consistently capture the best possible content.

  1. Once you purchase your new action camera, take the time needed to familiarize yourself with what the camera is capable of and all of its features and functions. Practice switching between shooting modes and familiarizing yourself with the different ways to adjust camera settings before you start filming important content.
  2. Plan out your video shooting strategy and objective in advance based on your location and conditions. Consider what you want to capture and then select the best shooting perspective, camera angle and shooting mode to accomplish your objective(s). Think about what story you want to tell to your audience using the first- and/or third-person perspective content you're about to film. 
  3. Select the most suitable camera mount and accessories for the task at hand. Before you start shooting, make sure the camera is securely held in place within the mount and that the mount is securely attached to your body, equipment, the selfie stick/handle or tripod you'll be using.
  4. When securing your action camera to the appropriate mount, make sure it's tight and that the camera is angled properly. Confirm the angle and perspective of your shot by looking at the viewfinder, either on the camera or by remotely accessing the viewfinder via your smartphone. If the camera angle is off by just a few degrees, it could result in footage that doesn't focus on you or what's directly in front of you.
  5. Be sure to fully charge the camera's battery before you start shooting. Always bring along at least one extra, fully-charged battery so you can continue shooting for as long as you need.
  6. Set the camera to the appropriate video resolution, field of view and frames per second, based on what will achieve the best results during the activity you'll be filming and how you want the video to look when it's later played back and viewed by your audience. If you're not sure which shooting mode or settings to use, check the Help/Support section of your action camera's website.
  7. If you're shooting video in low-light, at night or underwater, be sure to adjust the camera's settings properly. 
  8. Check the available storage space on your camera's microSD memory card. Transfer old content to the cloud, your computer, or to a mobile device to free up space for your new content. Now that extra memory cards have become so affordable, it makes sense to always have at least one or two spares on hand. Remember, storing 4K or 5.3K video content requires a lot more storage space on your memory card than 1080p footage, so plan accordingly.
  9. If you're using any optional accessories that connect to the camera, such as an external light or microphone, make sure that equipment is properly connected to the camera and functioning. Always record a quick test video (at least 15 seconds long) and play it back to make sure everything is set up and working properly. 
  10. When you're done filming, always playback your video content to confirm you've captured all of the shots and footage you wanted, using the camera angle(s) and field of view that will make your footage look as immersive and compelling as possible. Transfer your raw footage to your mobile device or computer and preview it on a larger screen before making the decision about what moments to keep or delete.
  11. Always create a backup of your content as quickly as possible -- and before you start editing. Keep in mind, the proprietary mobile app or desktop software for your particular action camera, such as the Quik app for GoPros, are designed to handle the wide angle, high-resolution, immersive content that your action camera captures. Even if different shooting modes, fields of view, frames per second or shooting angles were used in video clips that will ultimately be edited together, the specialized app or software for your action camera can make that content look seamless.
  12. When adding music to your edited video productions, if you plan to share that content on social media, make sure the audio you choose is either in the public domain or permissible to use on that platform. Otherwise, your video could be taken down or all audio from it could be muted by the social media service you published it on due to copyright infringement. 

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