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Best Cheap Action Camera: Finding the Perfect Camera for the Budget Conscious Buyer

Best Action Camera
Bradley Page
Written by Bradley Page

Action cameras are quickly becoming one of the most desired products across the world, mostly because they can be used by a wide variety of people. But, why are they so popular?

Both travellers and people who play extreme sports have turned the industry of action cameras into a giant, and as different as those two sectors are, action cameras manage to successfully perform perfectly in both of them. That alone shows us just how versatile action cameras can be, and that makes them the perfect option for just about anybody.

Imagine having the quality of a DSLR, but one that can be easily tucked away into your pocket. That’s what it is like to own an action camera, as you can throw it straight into your pocket and go directly on your adventures. You won’t have to worry about bulky camera bags or finding the space for a camera in your own bag.

Best Action Camera

But, action cameras can be incredibly expensive. With the famed GoPro range costing more than a lot of travellers are willing or able to pay. Yet, you can save money on action cameras, as most budget action cameras have similar features to the features that you find on more expensive ranges across the market.

Why should you pay more than you have to for a quality device?

So, if you want to capture your adventures directly from your pocket, with an action camera you can! You won’t even have to worry about getting it wet, as most action cameras are waterproof up to a certain depth.

What is the purpose of an action camera?

To understand the purpose of an action camera, you just have to understand what they were originally designed for. They have been designed for a certain level of compact versatility, and that versatility makes them ideal for use in the great outdoors.

GoPro Action Camera

Whether you backpack across the world, or go hiking high up in the mountains, an action camera would be a good device for you to have on your person.

One of the reasons for this is that an action camera would be notoriously hard to break. If you were to drop something like a DSLR, you would probably end up with one or two issues. But, when you drop an action camera there are usually no issues at all!

The cameras have all been built to be solid, and they can last for years at a time. Remember that a lot of action cameras are used by people who participate in water sports, and other activities that would easily damage the vast majority of cameras.

Action Camera

When you travel across the world, there are usually sights that you want to remember. Sights that you want to remember for the rest of your life, and video footage can help that.

But, you might not have a camera to hand. Your camera might have been too large to take out with you, or it might be tiring to take your camera in and out of your bag over and over again. With an action camera you won’t have to worry about any of that.

Most action cameras are smaller than the average smart phone, and they take high quality video footage. So you won’t have to worry about shaky smartphone footage, instead you can have a clear, high definition piece of footage.

Helmet Action Camera

But, choosing the right action camera can be challenging. As there are a lot of features that some have and others don’t have. Some of these features will be beneficial to you, and others won’t be beneficial. It can vary person to person, depending on what you plan on using the camera for.

What features should a budget action camera have?

Action cameras come with a wide range of features already installed onto them, and you can’t change or alter these features like you can with some larger cameras. There are quite a few features that you need to make sure will work with the footage that you plan on taking, and that will vary person by person.

Video Resolution Quality

When it comes to video quality resolution, even with a budget action camera you can still achieve 1080p at either 60 or 30 frames per second (fps). If you are wanting to film something fast, like sports, then you should aim for an action camera that can shoot footage in high definition quality at 60fps.

Grey Action Camera

That way you can get more frames in each second of footage that you film. A lack of frames can leave fast moving footage looking quite staggered, or stuttered if it is too slow. But, 30fps should be fine for the majority of uses.

You should also remember that most action cameras have multiple different video mode settings, and these can include everything from slow motion video, to video time lapse footage.

Photograph Resolution Quality

Action cameras usually aren’t used for taking photographs, as their primary use is for taking video footage. But, action cameras can be used to take clear photographs. They can be fantastic for scenic photographs, as most action cameras feature a wide-angle lens.

Spring Action Camera

Expensive action cameras actually tend to take lower quality photographs than their budget counterparts. Expensive options usually range up to 10MP, whereas budget action cameras usually go all the way up to 16MP. So if you are looking for an action camera that you can take photographs with, a budget actin camera could be the perfect option for you.

You can even take burst photographs on most action cameras, and use a variety of different self-timer options.

Image Stabilization

Most action cameras actually feature on-board image stabilization, and this really is a feature that most people who are planning to get an action camera will require.

VIRB Action Camera

Action cameras are small devices, and if they are on a mount then the footage could become quite unstable and shaky. Without on-board image stabilization video footage simply wouldn’t look clear, but with it, footage is smooth and seamless.

Connectivity Features

Modern action cameras have numerous different connectivity features, and these usually include Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.

Most can even connect to modern smartphones, meaning that you can view any footage or photographs that you take almost immediately. You don’t have to wait until you get home to upload your footage, and some even have an immediate streaming option.

Battery Life

One thing that you should always remember is that action cameras don’t feature long battery lives. This is the same whether you are buying an expensive action camera, or a budget one.

VIRB Action Camera

Most action cameras can shoot for either an hour or two without dying, sometimes this can be longer. Although it is rare. It is best to make sure that you have back-up batteries, and they can usually be bought for good prices online.

Mounts and Accessories

When it comes to action cameras, the mounts and accessories that you can get really do make them stand out on the market. You can mount an action camera onto almost anything, and everything. The only limit as to what you can mount your camera to is your imagination.

People have been known to hike with them strapped to their chests, or strap them onto their pet’s collars to see what happens when they leave the house.

Durability

An action camera should always be both durable and versatile. Durability is one of the key features of the main design, as action cameras have been built to handle extreme sports. When you partake in an extreme sport, it would be extremely easy to break a standard camera, so an action camera should be almost bombproof.

Nice Action Camera

Most people hold their action camera in their pocket, and if it falls out you don’t want it to smash the way most smartphones would.

Additional Features

Some additional features that you can look for when it comes to action cameras can include things like digital zoom options, full monitoring systems (such as a GPS), and how waterproof the action camera is.

Who would benefit from an action camera?

The reality is that most people would benefit from using an action camera, especially travellers and lovers of sport. Although they can also be great for families, due to their brilliant levels of durability.

Good Action Camera

You can use an action camera to record scenic videos, capture important memories, or even stream your adventures directly onto the internet. Even people who want to see what their pets get up to during the day while they are at work have been known to use action cameras.

Another important use of action cameras is for use as a dash cam, just in case you are ever involved in an accident.

So, whether you’re a traveller, a hiker, or just someone who wants to capture brilliant footage. An action camera could be just the thing that you need.

Our Top Budget Action Camera Reviews

YI Action Camera (Official U.S Edition)

Weight: 0.17 pounds.YI Action Camera

Dimensions: 2.36 x 1.18 x 1.65 inches.

Features: 1080P video resolution quality, 16MP photograph resolution quality, on-board image stabilization, and blur reduction.

Best Uses: The blur reduction feature of this action camera makes it perfect for capturing faster footage.

When it comes to action cameras, the YI Action Camera quickly became an excellent alternative to the market leader GoPro when it came onto the market. It is equipped with an Ambarella A7LS Processor, one of the best processors that is found in budget action cameras.

You can even shoot in 1080p at 60fps with this action camera, so that you can capture fast footage without worrying about it coming out staggered.

With 11 different video modes, and 4 different photo modes you don’t have to worry about options with this camera. It even offers an on-board blur reduction system, to help keep your videos looking smooth at all times. Most people use this camera for travel photography and water sports, including scuba diving.

Check the price on Amazon

SJCAM M10 Cube Mini Action Camera

Weight: 0.15 pounds.SCJAM M10

Dimensions: 1.7 x 1.8 x 1.5 inches.

Features: 1080p video resolution quality, 12MP photograph resolution quality, on-board image stabilization, and 4x digital zoom.

Best Uses: The digital zoom feature of this action camera makes it perfect for capturing footage at a distance.

One of the things that you should remember when choosing an action camera is that it can be difficult to find one that features a digital zoom option. The SJCAM M10 Cube Mini Action Camera stands out on the market for this very reason.

It features a brilliant 4x digital zoom system, and with this you can capture footage that is a lot further away from you. Opposed to having to get right up to it, like you would have to with the majority of action cameras.

This particular model is also waterproof up to 30m of depth, and it comes with a waterproof housing unit. This means that you don’t have to worry about getting it wet, it also makes it an excellent option for both water sports and bad weather.

Check the price on Amazon

Polaroid XS 100 Extreme Edition

Weight: 0.3 pounds.Polaroid XS100

Dimensions: 4.25 x 1.65 x 1.73 inches.

Features: 1080p video resolution quality, 16MP photograph resolution quality, on-board image stabilization, and a distortion free ultra-wide angle lens.

Best Uses: Low-light situations.

It can be hard to find a budget camera that can work efficiently in low-light situations, most cameras simply produce footage that looks grainy. The Polaroid XS 100 Extreme Edition contains a professional sensor that makes it great for capturing low-light videos.

It even vibrates to confirm functions, so you don’t have to rely on your eyesight to know that it is working correctly.

This camera also features a distortion free ultra-wide lens, and it has the ability to shoot in at up to 1080p without experiencing difficulties. Capturing footage with this camera is easy, as it just has a single-button record function.

Check the price on Amazon

VIRB Elite Dark Action Camera Essentials Kit

Weight: 0.39 pounds.Garmin Virb Elite

Dimensions: 4.37 x 1.25 x 2.08 inches.

Features: 1080p video quality resolution, 16MP photograph resolution quality, on-board image stabilization, and a GPS system.

Best Uses: Hiking, and general mountaineering – due to the expert GPS system.

The VIRB Elite Dark Action Camera has been designed for durability, and it features a wide range of on-board functions that add to this. These functions include a built in GPS, an accelerometer, and an altimeter. It can also handle a wide range of temperatures.

Now the VIRB Elite Dark can handle a wide range of video settings. These include 1080p at 60fps, and 720p at 30fps. It can also perform video time lapses.

The VIRB Elite Dark Action Camera has been designed for durability, and it features a wide range of on-board functions that add to this. These functions include a built-in GPS system, an accelerometer, and an altimeter.

It can also handle a wide range of temperatures. This has made it a popular product with people that enjoy sports, including hikers and cyclists. They can monitor their speed, or their height.

This camera can also handle a wide range of video settings. These settings include 1080p at 60fps, and 720p at 30fps. To help make the video footage that it captures perfect, it also features lens distortion correction. Wide-angle lenses can sometimes make shapes look odd, and this stops that from happening.

Check the price on Amazon

YI 88001 Action Camera

Weight: 0.36 pounds.YI 88001

Dimensions: 0.3 x 0.6 x 0.9 inches.

Features: 1080p video quality resolution, 16MP photograph resolution quality, on-board image stabilization, and a compact design.

Best Uses: This lightweight camera is fantastic for travelling.

The YI 88001 Action Camera is a fantastic example of a lightweight action camera. Its small, compact stature means that it can easily fit inside of any backpacker’s pocket without sticking out. It can film footage at 1080p, but it can also take photographs at 16MP with a CMOS image sensor.

This makes it one of the best action cameras on the market for taking photographs.

This camera also features excellent on-board Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, and it can be used to stream footage to another device immediately.

Check the price on Amazon

Polaroid Cube Action Video Camera

Weight: 0.01 pounds.Polaroid Cube

Dimensions: 1.4 x 1.4 x 1.4 inches.

Features: 1080p video quality resolution, 6MP photograph resolution quality, on-board image stabilization, and one of the lightest budget action cameras.

Best Uses: Due to the tiny nature of this camera, it is perfect for the majority of uses.

As you know, one of the best features that an action camera has is its compact size. The majority of action cameras are relatively small. But, what if you could have a camera that fit snugly into the palm of your hand, and branded itself as one of the cutest lifestyle action cameras?

That’s exactly what has made the Polaroid Cube Action Video Camera stand out among its competitors. It is one of the smallest, and lightest cameras on the market.

Now, it isn’t the best of action cameras for taking photographs as it only features 6MP. But, it can film video footage in high definition 1080p. It can be used to film continuously for around 90 minutes before the battery will die, and a wide variety of people use it.

But, one of the best and most unusual features of this camera is the way that it mounts onto other things. It doesn’t use the variety of mounts that you often see on the market for action cameras. Instead it comes with a ‘mounting magnet’, you can literally stick it to anything metal and start recording.

Check the price on Amazon

TecTecTec XPRO+ Action Camera

Weight: 0.15 pounds.TecTecTec Action Camera

Dimensions: 1.18 x 2.36 x 1.57 inches.

Features: 1080p video quality resolution, 16MP photograph resolution quality, on-board image stabilization, and the ability to connect directly to a smartphone or a tablet.

Best Uses: This camera is a fantastic option for anyone wanting to use multiple mounting systems.

When it comes to travelling, a lot of solo travellers find that they need a camera that they can access remotely, that way they can take photographs of themselves with stunning sights. The TecTecTec XPro+ Action Camera can be accessed directly via a smartphone or a tablet, and it also has an efficient self-timer mode (as well as a battery saving mode).

A lot of action cameras don’t let you view your photographs until you upload them to another device either. But, this action camera allows you to view your 16MP photographs immediately on either the camera or your smartphone. It also comes the ability to film in slow-motion, as well as time lapse mode.

Check the price on Amazon

Lightdow LD6000 WiFi Action Camera

Weight: 0.13 pounds.LIGHTDOW LD6000 WIFI ACTION CAMERA

Dimensions: 2.3 x 1.1 x 1.6 inches.

Features: 1080p video quality resolution, 12MP photograph resolution quality, on-board image stabilization, and a motion detection system.

Best Uses: Capturing outdoor footage, or underwater footage.

The Lightdow LD6000 Wi-Fi Action Camera is currently one of the best budget cameras on the market for people who enjoy sport activities. With the on-board ability to detect motion, and reduce shake you can be travelling as quickly as you like without affecting the footage.

It’s durable, shock-proof and even waterproof. It has been used to capture some stunning underwater footage.

It also features a Car DVR mode, and a rotating screen. As well as date stamping, which can help you record your memories.

Check the price on Amazon

Choosing Your Action Camera

So, when it comes to action cameras, there are a lot of options that you can choose from. Most of them are just as good as their expensive counterparts, and they feature similar on-board specifications.

With an action camera you won’t have to worry about accidental breakages, or not being quick enough to capture the footage that you want. With just one button, you won’t miss that footage ever again.

Just remember that you should always check for the durability of an action camera, and make sure that it features everything that you need. Aim for 60fps for fast footage, and 30fps will be absolutely fine for almost anything other than that.

Mini Action Camera

If you need to connect your action camera to your phone while you’re on the go, then make sure that it features a Bluetooth connectivity feature.

Just remember, the only limit is your imagination.

So, what adventures do you think you will take your budget action camera on? We would love to know, let us know in the comments below!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Bradley Page
Bradley Page

With several decades of experience as a backpacker and outdoor adventurer, Bradley is an open encyclopedia when it comes to gear, clothes, and other items that matter on the trail. He tested hundreds of shoes, pants, jackets, and backpacks in his long career and is always up to date with the new appearances in the niche. His experience makes him one of the authority figures in backpacking and he can help anyone to get prepared for a great adventure!

  • John Millard

    I bought the Polaroid XS 100 Extreme Edition a few years ago and I am still using it, so it has served me well. It’s a really neat little camera. It’s sturdy, but not to heavy to have on your helmet. The mic also dampens the sound of the wind so audio quality on playback is pretty good, too.

    • Bradley Page

      I remembered the time when we found the Polaroid a pretty neat camera with the instant film coming out. Now, it has made some starling innovations that are just as impressive. I’m glad that you chose the Polaroid, which is a great camera and affordable, too.

  • Greg Jones

    There are an absolute ton of cheap action cameras on the market today, so choosing one was pretty difficult! After a lot of research, I bought the YI 88001 Action Camera. The image quality has been good and it’s easy to use and also easy to set up.

  • Bradley Page

    Good choice of an affordable camera Greg. It does the job well and it’s compact and lightweight, as well. Easily transfers footages via bluetooth or wifi. Great to take along in any adventure. Fun and a no-brainer to use.

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