Action cameras have replaced traditional point-and-shoots and camcorders for many types of underwater and outdoor work. Their small, go-anywhere designs and ultra-wide lenses make them ideal for mounting—whether it be to a surfboard or dive helmet—and they are built tough. While many of these cameras still require an external case to be waterproof, the GoPro Hero8 Black can go down to 33 feet without one, and offers class-leading video stabilization, making it our top pick.

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Before you start digging into the reviews, a few notes on choosing a cam that's right for you. You'll definitely want to consider frame rate, expressed as frames per second (fps). Some action cameras offer up to 240fps recording, while others only go to 30fps. For standard playback, 30fps is perfectly fine. It's when you want to slow footage down in editing to create dramatic scenes that frame rate matters. Footage captured at 240fps can be slowed down and played back smoothly at one-quarter speed. You may also want to go for a cinematic look, in which case you'll want one that has a 24fps capture option, the same speed used by most Hollywood productions.

best budget underwater camera

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