Photo by Will Styer

First intended for BASE jumpers, mountain bikers, and skateboarders seeking YouTube glory in crisp HD video, action cameras have grown way beyond their original purpose. Compact and lightweight, they have become an unexpected favorite among daily commuters, casual hikers, and even parents feeding their kids, all looking to capture modest–but, to them, memorable–moments.

As the usage range has broadened, so have the cameras’ functions. Sony recently upped its game with a 4K cam. Polaroid put new durable mounts on its most inexpensive model. And GoPro, the category leader with about 13.7 million cameras sold in six years, installed a faster processor and increased shooting speed from 15 frames per second to 30. Whether you’re a daredevil looking for hi-res glory and crash-proof durability or a lifelogger demonstrating wine-tasting skills, there’s an action camera for you.

1. Polaroid Cube


Polaroid Cube

Price: $100

Max video resolution: 1920×1080 at 30fps

Max photo resolution: 6 megapixels

Max storage: 32GB MicroSD

Battery life: 90 minutes

Best for: Tween summer-camp filmmakers who like one-button recording

2. Sony 4K Action Camera X1000v


Sony 4K Action Cam X1000v

Price: $500

Max video resolution: 1920×1080 at 60fps

Max photo resolution: 8.8 megapixels

Storage capacity: 16GB Memory Stick Micro (Mark 2)

Battery life: 60 minutes

Best for Lifelogging moms and dads who don’t mind fewer mounts but still want great video

3. GoPro Hero4 Black


GoPro Hero4 Black

Price: $500 Max video resolution: 3840×2160 at 30fps

Max photo resolution: 12 megapixels

Max storage: 64GB MicroSD

Battery life: 60 minutes

Best for: Adrenaline fiends who need the most durable–and most expansive–mount collection

This article was originally published in the May 2015 issue of Popular Science, under the title “Tiny, Rugged Cameras For Every Purpose.”