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Action cameras are specifically designed to clearly capture fast-moving shots and subjects, and pair perfectly with sports, travel or even vlogging or streaming at home.
Of course, the best mini action cameras may be small, but don’t let the size mislead you into thinking they’re lacking in features or quality. These can rival full-size cameras, and even use their size as an advantage when it comes to shooting subjects at high speeds and at odd angles.
If you’re fired up and ready to start filming, take a minute and consider the attributes that’ll help you choose the best mini action camera for all your needs.
Mini Action Cameras Buying Guide
Resolution: As a general rule, higher resolution is always better. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll need the latest and greatest. While the current standard on YouTube is 1080p, creators have already started producing video content at 4K, and the number keeps creeping up exponentially, with the newest generation of high-end cameras currently capable of shooting at 8K. We recommend choosing something that can film, at the very least, in 4K 1080p.
Sensor: A larger sensor, along with high-res, adds a noticeable burst of deep color, especially when capturing anything outdoors. It’s especially important if you’ll be producing super high-quality content and going above 4K.
FPS: Frames per second (or FPS, for short), also can come in handy, particularly if you’re filming slow-motion shots. Depending on what you’re doing, aim for something in the range of 30-120fps (or above).
Stabilization: Automatic image stabilization has gotten better with each generation, and it’s at the point now where you won’t always even need a gimbal to keep things steady. If you’ll be recording with a mostly stationary cam on a tripod, this won’t matter much, but for action shots in motion, good stabilization can really make or break your footage.
Battery: When your battery dies during an outdoor shoot, all the cool features in the world don’t matter. Battery life is crucial, and these aren’t like your smartphone — they don’t last all day. At the minimum, it should give you a few hours, but it also heavily depends on how often and how intensely you’re using effects and other mods, which drain batteries and cause the cam to heat up. When you don’t always need to be keeping one worrisome eye on a battery, you can focus more on capturing what’s in front of you.
Editing: Even on an action cam with endless options, you still might want to change it up and experiment with your filming and effects in an editing program afterwards like Adobe Premiere. Most cams allow for different degrees of this, and some even have their own designated editing programs and apps. But to really get the most out of it, go for one that’s designed for experimentation in post-production — it’s one of the best ways to learn.
Budget: Action cams aren’t cheap, but fortunately, a well-built one should give you many years of creating the content you’re envisioning, and bring it to life for others to see.
What Are the Best Mini Action Cams?
1. Insta360 One R Twin Edition
The Insta360 One is an all-around awesome option for creating content in 4K resolution at 60fps. This is a modular system, and lets you customize things like various lenses to get wider, tighter, and 360-degree shots. The tiny-but-detailed detachable screen can be flipped, so you can clearly see what you’re filming, even if it’s yourself.
It’s easy to attach a mic to it and get great audio, and this is IPX8 waterproof, meaning it can stand up to some serious submersion — up to five meters.
The Flowstate Stabilization is a top-notch feature, and footage looks amazing without the need for a gimbal. Autoframe also does an excellent job of tracking your subject no matter how fast they’re moving, so you won’t need to do it manually. Beyond extreme activities, this functions well for casual situations like livestreaming, too.
2. GoPro Hero 9
It’d be hard to talk about action cams without mentioning GoPro. This is what arguably started and popularized the modern movement of action cams, so much so that it’s become a verb in itself to describe any action cam in general.
But GoPro is still continuing to grow the quality and quantity of its cameras’ features, all in a small package with the Hero 9. This films in gorgeous 5K video, capturing even the smallest details of texture, light and color. It’s also up to the challenges of livestreaming, with the ability to stream in 1080p.
A small touchscreen (yet larger than previous gens), along with a front screen, lets both you and your subject see themselves to make sure your shot is lined up exactly how you want it.
The HyperSmooth 3.0 video stabilization is pretty incredible here, and does a superb job of steadying even shaky images. For still shots, the 20MP SuperPhoto snaps pro-level pictures, and can select the best ones to use. Meanwhile, the TimeWarp 3.0 feature makes it simple to record time-lapse scenes, ideal for things like documenting travel. Best of all, it’s built to stand up to damage, and waterproof up to 10 meters deep — even in the ocean.
3. DJI Osmo Action 4K Digital Camera
You may know DJI as one of the world’s top drone and gimbal manufacturers, but the company also has a solid mini action camera. The Osmo features a front-facing screen, and it can safely dive up to 11 meters.
Slow-motion shots are simple and steady, at 1080p and 240fps, as is doing a time-lapse effect with the image stabilization that DJI has become known for. The Osmo is a nice option for those who might first be getting into action camera filming, or photographers/videographers who don’t need all the latest bells and whistles, but still want a reliable cam with plenty of cool features. The 12MP sensor still takes photos, and 4K HDR video looks amazing, with a 145-degree wide-angle lens that lets you capture more in the frame.
4. Akaso Brave 4 Action Camera
The Akaso Brave packs a range of cool features that make it a fun cam to use. The remote control wristband is a nice addition, as is the enclosed case for underwater diving up to 30 meters, with a designated diving setting that filters out red light. A built-in gyroscope helps provide basic stabilization, and the bundle comes with an extra rechargeable battery too.
This can shoot in 4K at 24fps, 2K in 30fps, and 1080p in 60fps, and lets you set the timeframe to a variety of fractions of a second. When you’re done and want to review everything, connect it up to your PC/TV via an SD card, WiFi or HDMI cable.