The Stuff Gadget Awards 2022: Best drone or action cam
Revealing our pick of the little cameras that go above and beyond
Looking to capture videos and photos from odd angles, in fast-moving situations or from hundreds of feet above terra firma? There’s never been a wider choice of tools for the job, thanks to the ongoing proliferation of action cams and camera drones.
It’s never been easier (or cheaper) to pick up a rugged, waterproof camera to mount on your bike/surfboard/head, or a camera with wings that’s easy and safe to fly as it captures gorgeous footage from high in the sky. As such, we’ve had a fair few drones and action cams pass through our reviews section in 2022, and it’s truly exciting to see this market sector (or sectors, if you count drones and action cams as different types of products) is no longer about just one type of product. Within action cams, for instance, you have the GoPro Hero-style models, 360 models, modular models, tiny models and self-levelling gimbal-mounted models.
That being said, our overall winner this year was the latest iteration of a classic action cam, now edging ever closer to perfection. Without further ado, let’s see what it is…
Drone or action cam of the year: GoPro Hero 11 Black
GoPro is to action cams what Kleenex is to tissues and Coca-Cola is to drinks. So us picking the latest model in the American company’s main Hero line as our action cam of the year may seem like a cop-out. It’s not, we assure you: GoPro is the market leader for a reason (or rather a whole heap of reasons) but even by the company’s usual standards, the Hero 11 Black is a banger.
The key change from previous generations of Hero here? A new 27MP 8:7 aspect ratio image sensor, which gives users much more scope when it comes to choosing how they want to crop their footage. It’s an acknowledgement of the 9:16 format beloved of TikTok and Reels creators, of course, but can happily handle 1:1 and 16:9 formats too. The point is that, whichever way you choose to frame your footage, the new sensor has the shape and resolution to make it look fantastic.
You can even lock the horizon in place (at up to 5.3K resolution), which means you can tilt and rotate the camera all you like while you’re filming; the clip will still look level and (thanks to excellent electronic image stabilisation) beautifully smooth. For someone who wants to capture action footage without compromising quality, there’s nothing else out there that hits the spot quite like this.
It’s not cheap and there’s room for improvement when it comes to low light image quality, but the Hero 11 Black’s versatility, features and improvements to picture performance make it the best all-round action cam on the market, and a worthy winner of this year’s award.
Highly commended: DJI Mini 3 Pro
DJI’s latest Mini drone is a tiny miracle: a genuinely great aerial camera that weighs less than 250g, putting in the category where it can be legally flown almost anywhere in the UK. Until now, picking up a lightweight drone has meant major compromises, particularly when it comes to image quality, but you don’t feel like you’re missing out here: while the Mini 3 Pro doesn’t hit the incredible heights of the (much larger) Mavic 3, its 4K footage and 48MP photos are gloriously rich and detailed – provided you stick to good lighting conditions.
Not only that, but the drone’s size, weight, 34-minute battery life and superb obstacle avoidance technology make it easy to live with and even easier to fly. We’re going to come right out and say it: for the vast majority of people, the DJI Mini 3 Pro is the best drone on the market.
Also shortlisted: Insta360 One RS 1-Inch 360 Edition, DJI Osmo Action 3
When it comes to 2022 action cams, GoPro isn’t the only game in town. Two challengers from China have also impressed us this year. The Insta360 One RS 1-Inch 360 Edition certainly nabs the award for most clumsily named action cam of the year, but it’s also a very capable premium camera that uses clever software to take most of the stress out of grabbing great-looking 360 footage. DJI’s Osmo Action 3, meanwhile, delivers a GoPro-style action experience on a more wallet-friendly budget (throwing in a GoPro-beating field-of-view and waterproof diving depth to boot).
About The Stuff Gadget Awards
The Stuff Gadget Awards are where we reward the best tech we’ve seen during the year with gongs that celebrate their status as the cream of the gadgety crop. Read more about The Stuff Gadget awards.