Action cameras like the GoPro are one of the coolest modern gadgets right now. These bad boys take up no space at all, can be mounted to just above anything, and record amazing videos without requiring your hand.
Most action cameras (like majority of the GoPro models) cost a good amount though, discouraging a large set of adventurous individuals who would love to record their most daring acts. Fortunately, the past couple of years has seen a surge in the availability of budget action cameras – some of which can be bought for less than $100 bucks.
Best Rated Budget Action Cameras of 2018
The market is full of action cameras, and with so many features and video/imaging technology moving so fast, it’s hard to choose the right one. We’ve compiled a list of what we believe are the best budget action cameras in the market in 2018.
We also have a buyer’s guide at the end of the article to help you refine your search and purchase decision.
Yi 4K Action Camera
The GoPro Killer
The Yi cameras have been long regarded as the best alternative to GoPro action cameras. With the Yi 4K, you get the perfect balance between cost effectiveness and features. The Yi 4K features the powerful Sony Exmor-R sensor, ensuring great video and image quality at a reasonable price.
Incredible Product for the Price
The underrated Campark ACT74 comes with just about everything you’d want in an action camera at an affordable price. Waterproofing? Check. 4K recording? Check. All the accessories you need? Check. It’s a complete package at a fantastic price.
The ever popular Yi 4k Action Camera is one of the most popular GoPro alternatives on the market. Although it isn’t one of the super affordable budget action cameras, its performance can rival some of the lower cost GoPro models in performance.
Yi’s action cam has a great Sony Exmor-R sensor that delivers top notch quality, being able to capture true 4K videos at 30fps. The viewing angle of the lens is 155 degrees; while not as much as some other products in the market, it’s still an adequate viewing angle for the given price.
Yi 4K is the younger brother of the flagship Yi 4K+, and both action cameras have served as the best alternatives to GoPro. The quality is undeniably brilliant, with great performance due to its 2 hours battery life.
The Yi 4K also shoots 2.7K at 60fps, 1080 at 120fps, and features a slow-motion recording mode that shoots 720p videos at 240fps. The only real con with this camera is that it doesn’t have the abundance of accessories that you’d be normally used to with other cameras. Regardless, this is still our top choice for budget action cameras on the market.
- 4K recording
- Great quality images and videos
- Good build and 40m waterproofing with case
- Excellent sensor
- Slow motion mode delivers great eye candy
- Not many accessories
GoPro dominates the action cameras market, and while most of its products are out of reach for individuals on a budget, the Hero5 Session succeeds in offering the signature performance in an affordable and compact model.
This tiny cube offers a lot in such a small package. The brilliant little thing delivers punchy and clear videos at 4k resolution at 30fps. It has excellent stabilization that GoPro is famous for. And to top it all off, the design of the camera is such that it is waterproof up to 33ft without any kind of housing.
The camera also takes high quality 10MP when just a shot will be enough. Additionally, it also allows you to customize your fields of view. The audio quality is superb because of the dual microphones.
Even though its packed with features, the form factor is what makes this one of the best action cameras out there in terms of practicality. It really is a great product in a small package.
So why isn’t it our featured product? Two major reasons: the camera has no navigation other than a single button on it. The other is its price. For a supposed budget GoPro model, it still comes in more expensive than the Yi 4K, which has a screen and excellent recording quality as well.
The GoPro Hero5 Session is the best ultra compact action camera out there, but that doesn’t necessarily make it the best budget action camera. Regardless, it is still deserving of our praise.
- Incredibly compact
- Great quality recording
- Waterproof up to 33ft without any cover
- Signature GoPro level performance
- Great voice control
- Limited battery life
- Lacks a screen
- Only one button on the camera
The Amazon best seller Campark ACT74 is one of the most affordable action cameras out there. Yet it doesn’t skimp on features, packing a 16 megapixel static shooter and 4K video recording.
This is an all-round great package, as it comes with a waterproof design and a 2 inch HD screen. With nearly 3000 reviews on amazon and an average of 4.5/5 rating, it’s not difficult to understand why we chose to include the Campark ACT74 in our list, and it also makes it as our featured product for best budget action cameras due to its perfect mix of affordability and performance.
The camera features all the bells and whistles you need from an action cam. It can record 4K at 30fps and boasts and ultra wide angle 170 degrees lens. This little camera also comes with a mountain accessory kit and two rechargeable batteries as well.
The waterproofing with the case is up to 98 feet, which is fantastic for such an affordable device. The batteries are estimated to last 2 hours as well, so you get superior performance for a longer duration than some of the more expensive competitors.
While its video quality cannot match that of GoPro or Yi action cameras, its compact design, affordability, and general performance make it one of the best budget action cameras you can buy. It’s hard to beat the $54 price tag on this bad boy.
- Incredible value
- Comes with a generous amount of accessories
- Excellent waterproofing
- Shoots at 4K
- Has all the bells and whistles you need
- Not as great in performance as the more expensive models
While not as affordable or heavily reviewed as the Campark ACT74, the AKASO EK7000 Plus is still an excellent choice for anyone looking for the complete action camera experience at an affordable price. The AKASO EK7000 Plus is the upgraded version of the regular version, and we feel it is far superior with its new additions.
This nifty little thing comes with a camera remote control, helmet accessories kit, and filters in a complete package that requires little further investment. It boasts water resistance of up to 100 feet with its case, making it versatile for all environments.
Like most of the action cameras on this list, the AKASO EK7000 records in 4K. However, it does so at a slightly lower than usual framerate of 25fps. While 5 frames may not seem much, they are noticeable enough to tell a difference.
The static shooter takes pictures at 16 megapixels, and the viewing angle is adjustable between Super Wide, Wide, Normal, and Narrow modes. It comes with the bells and whistles like Wi-fi control and AKASO’s remote camera app.
The user interface of the camera does tend to be a bit clunky at first. You will need to familiarize yourself with it before you seriously consider purchasing it. You will need some patience to go through the multiple sequences of button presses to get the action camera to do what you want.
All in all, this is a great little package that is well worth the money, despite its flaws. The video and photo quality is really good for the price of the camera, and can be further improved with some tweaking in the settings.
- Great value
- Comes with a large amount of accessories
- Excellent waterproofing
- Decent image quality for the price
- Has all the bells and whistles you need
- Convoluted interface
- 4K is shot at 25fps instead of 30fps
The Yi 4K is our top choice for budget action cameras in the market, but it’s still a relatively expensive product when compared to certain other models on this list. In comes the Yi Action Camera, the youngest brother in the Yi camera line that is available for less than $60 at the time this article was written.
This is a stripped down version of the Yi cameras that have foundations firmly rooted in competing against the successful GoPro. The Yi Action camera doesn’t record in 4K (which you can deduce from its name), but it loses that function and maintains great video and image quality for its price.
There are 11 video modes in the camera to record from, and it still utilizes a high quality Sony lens for capturing cherished moments. It can also take photos at a resolution of 16 megapixels.
The camera is capable of recording 1080p videos at 60fps, 720 videos at 120fps, and features a slow motion capture at 240fps but at a resolution of 848*480. It has in-built Bluetooth and a single band 2.4G Wi-Fi.
This is a stripped down experience that comes with the quality and performance of the Yi series of action cameras, but skimps on 4K recording and no frills – any extras you want will come at an additional cost.
Regardless, given Yi’s reputation and performance, it’s still an excellent choice for an incredibly affordable price.
- Great value
- Good image quality for the price
- Application is easy to use
- Simple and efficient design
- No 4K recording
- Doesn’t come with any accessories
- No waterproofing
While not affordable as some of the other products on the list, the Hawkeye Firefly 8S by Goolsky is a rugged, high quality action camera packed with features. What sets the Hawkeye apart from other competitors is that its video and image quality production is top-notch and can go head to head with some of the best GoPro models.
The camera is capable of recording 4K at 30fps, 1080p videos at 120fps or a 60fps Super-view, and 720p videos at 120fps. While its recording at higher resolutions is excellent and at great framerates for the price, we wish it had a slow motion mode as well.
The camera itself comes with a 90 degree FOV, which doesn’t make it ideal for wide angle shots, but the quality of the videos and images are nothing short of fantastic. There is a 170-degree FOV version available as well, but is currently out of stock at Amazon.
Goolsky takes pride in its product’s performance under low light, and the Hawkeye Firefly 8S certainly delivers in that regard.
The best feature is its superb stabilization that results in almost no distortion whatsoever. This ensures the Hawkeye has competitors beat in its video production and even trumps many costlier action cameras.
The Hawkeye Firefly 8S is also waterproof (up to 20 meters or 66 feet), sand-proof, and dustproof thanks to the included case that comes with the camera. You get just about everything you need inside the box, ensuring you never have to spend an extra dollar on additional accessories.
There’s very little negative to say about the Hawkeye Firelfy 8S, and for that reason it should make every list of the best budget action cameras on the market.
- Incredible video and image quality for the price
- Rugged design
- Comes with all the accessories you’ll need
- Fantastic video stabilization
- Great value for performance
- No slow motion recording
- Takes some time to understand the interface
The recording resolution and the framerates are one of the most important things you need to consider when you’re buying an action camera. It’s not necessary to have a camera that records at 4K (especially if you don’t have a 4K TV), but having one is greatly beneficial.
Arguably more important than resolution though is the framerate. 4K recording at less than 20fps makes the 4K recording feature essentially useless. As a rule of thumb, you don’t want to buy any camera that cannot record 1080p videos at less than 60fps.
Another important thing to realize is whether a camera has interpolated 4K or true 4K. Interpolated 4K won’t ever bring the crisp clarity associated with 4K recording and is just an inch away from false advertising.
Another extremely important consideration during your purchase should be the camera accessories. Some products come with all the necessary accessories included in the box, while others will only come with the camera and charger.
Whichever one you buy, it’s important to ensure you have all the options you need. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t buy a camera that doesn’t come with any accessories – just make sure the ones you want can be bought separately whenever you need them.
Many people won’t even need accessories, and for them cameras that don’t come with any should be the ideal choice, as it is much more bang for buck.
Two very underrated and overlooked aspects of actions cameras are weight and size. Remember: you’re buying an action camera because it’s supposed to be portable, lightweight, and used in situations where recording from your phone or a larger videocam is just not possible.
The size of the camera thus makes a huge different in where you can take it, what you can mount it on, and where you can store it. The GoPro Hero5 Session is almost unbeatable in that aspect, but if you want a camera with a screen and a few more buttons, there are several that compact but boast those features.
Weight is a little less essential but can sometimes be equally important if you plan to mount your camera on a helmet or on your arm. A well balanced camera will allow for better recording, better image stabilization, and a generally more comfortable experience.
Lastly, you should always be careful and check the accessibility of the camera. Accessibility means remote control capability, compatibility with apps, and the quality of its native app. These things certainly add up in the overall experience and ease of use of a camera, so ignore them at your own peril.
What kind of person are action cameras for?
Although action camera commercials generally identify with adventurous and athletic individuals, the truth is they are useful for everyone. They are incredibly compact and lightweight, allowing you to record anything and everything at ease. We can’t think of anyone who won’t benefit from them.
Can I mount an action camera on a drone?
Certain action cameras can be mounted on a drone, yes. The Hawkeye Firefly 8S, for example, is compatible with certain quadcopters. You’ll have to research whether your camera can be mounted on one easily.
Does date of release matter?
We believe it does. Anything older than a year should only be bought if it is still popular and in demand. There’s a simple reason for this: video and imaging technology is rapidly evolving, and so are cameras. Two years back no one could dream of having an action camera that could shoot 4K for less than $100.
Do I need all the accessories that can be bought for my cam?
No. It’s recommended you only buy the accessories you’ll need and nothing more. Some cameras on the above list come with just about everything you’ll ever need, ensuring you don’t need to spend a penny more. Others skimp on accessories. For the latter, you should only get what you absolutely need to make the camera perform the tasks you want.