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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

Adventure junkies and daredevils turn to action cameras to make sure they never miss a moment out of fear. However, many of you will agree that action cameras can be on the expensive side. Won’t it be nice if you could get an action camera that won’t break the bank? Well it’s a good thing that you can get the best cheap action camera without spending a lot.

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 a budget action camera, as you can throw it straight into your pocket and go directly on your adventures. But how does one shop for a budget friendly action camera? Don’t worry, because we are here to help you out.

Cheap Action Camera

In the first part of this article, we will introduce you to the list of features that you need to take into consideration when shopping for an action camera. After that, we’ll move on to the recommendations which are basically seven of the top rated budget action cameras that you can find in the market. Without further ado.

Our Top Picks

ProductCameraBattery CapacityWaterproofPrice
SJCAM M10 Cube Mini12 MP900 mAh30 m with housingCheck price on Amazon
Polaroid XS 100 Extreme Edition16 MP1200 mAh10 m no housingCheck price on Amazon
Garmin VIRB Elite Dark16 MP2000 mAh1 m no housingCheck price on Amazon
YI 8800116 MP990 mAh40 m with housingCheck price on Amazon
Polaroid Cube6 MP600 mAh10 m with caseCheck price on Amazon
TecTecTec XPro+16 MP900 mAh30 m with housingCheck price on Amazon
Lightdow LD6000 Wi-Fi2 MP900 mAh30 m with housingCheck price on Amazon

Things to Consider Before Buying

Choosing the right action camera can be challenging. As there are many features that some have and others do not. Some of these features will be beneficial to you, depending on what you plan on using the camera for.

Video Resolution

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 want to film something fast, like sports, then you should aim for an action camera that can shoot footage in high definition quality at 60 fps.

Action Camera Video Resolution

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. Nevertheless, 30 fps should be fine for the majority of uses.

Picture Quality

You should expect more out of an action camera’s video picture quality rather than its photo picture quality. Action cameras usually aren’t used for taking photographs, as their primary use is for taking video footage. However, 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. You can even take burst photographs on most action cameras, and use a variety of different self timer options.

Taking Pictures With Action Camera

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

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

Image Stabilization

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

Action Camera Image Stabilization

Action cameras are small devices, and if they are on a mount then the footage could become quite unstable and shaky. Without onboard image stabilization, video footage is shaky, but with it, the footage is smooth and seamless.

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.

Battery

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 backup batteries, and they can usually be bought for good prices online.

Durability

An action camera should always be both durable and versatile. 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.

Action Camera Durability

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.

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.

There’s also the matter of connectivity. Modern action cameras have numerous different connectivity features, and these usually include Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.

Action Camera 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.

Also, 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.

Camera Mount

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.

Versatility

Action cameras have been designed for a certain level of compact versatility, and that versatility makes them ideal for use in the great outdoors.

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

Action Camera

Most action cameras are smaller than the average smartphone, 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.

Best Products on Today’s Market

Now that you know which features determine a budget action camera’s value for money, we’ll move on to our top 8 recommendations.

SJCAM M10 Cube Mini Action Camera

Price: Approx. $79SJCAM M10

Weight: 0.15 pounds

Dimensions: 1.7 x 1.8 x 1.5 inches

Specific features: 1080p video resolution quality, 12 MP photograph resolution quality, onboard image stabilization, 4x digital zoom, waterproof up to a depth of 30 m with the waterproof housing which is included in the package, 170° wide angle lens, 1.5 inch screen, 900 mAh battery capacity

Best use: Long distance footage

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 30 m 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.

The 170° wide angle lens is a marvel of its own. You would not often find a camera that’s capable of capturing such a vast picture. Combine that with the 1.5 inch screen and you will be privy to some seriously immersive experience with this camera.

Unfortunately, the video quality of this camera is not as stellar as its photo capturing capability. The audio is especially lacking. Another notable weakness is its lack of Wi-Fi connectivity capacity.

PROS:

  • Impressively wide angled lens
  • Waterproof up to 30 m of depth
  • Digital zooming capacity
  • Big screen
 CONS:

  • No Wi-Fi connectivity capacity
  • Video audio is lacking

Related: This camera already comes with a USB battery charger of its own, but if you need some spare—either because you lose them rather easily or just as a precautionary measure—you can find what you need in this SJCAM USB Dual Slot Charger.

Check the price on Amazon

Polaroid XS 100 Extreme Edition Action Camera

Price: Approx. $142Polaroid Camera

Weight: 0.3 pounds

Dimensions: 4.25 x 1.65 x 1.73 inches

Specific features: 1080p video resolution quality, 16 MP photograph resolution quality, onboard image stabilization, a distortion free 170° ultra wide angle lens, waterproof up to a depth of 10 m, G-sensor autorotation, low light performance, 1200 mAh built in battery, vibration alert

Best use: 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 Action Camera 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.

On top of that, it is waterproof up to a depth of 10 m without the need to attach any housing to it. Its battery life is also quite admirable. With a capacity of 1200 mAh, it is capable of surviving up to two and a half hours of continuous use. The fact that the battery is built in, however, means you have to treat it with care or risk damaging it beyond repair.

PROS:

  • Very wide lens angle
  • Great low light performance
  • Easy to use due to the single button record function
  • Waterproof up to a depth of 30 m without having to attach a housing to it
 CONS:

  • The battery is built in

Related: This camera is built quite sturdy in and of itself, but you might want to cover it with a protective layer of this Polaroid Camera Protective Silicone Skin just in case. Cameras are quite expensive after all, and you don’t want to have to buy another one just because you accidentally bashed this one against a rock.

Check the price on Amazon

Garmin VIRB Elite Dark Action Camera

Price: Approx. $145Garmin Virb

Weight: 0.39 pounds

Dimensions: 4.37 x 1.25 x 2.08 inches

Specific features: 1080p resolution, 16 MP photograph resolution quality, onboard image stabilization, altimeter, accelerometer, GPS system, ANT+ connectivity, micro HDMI output, 2000 mAh lithium ion battery, waterproof up to a depth of 1 m for 30 minutes

Best use: Hiking, mountaineering

The Garmin VIRB Elite Dark Action Camera has been designed for durability, and it features a wide range of onboard 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. 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 60 fps, and 720p at 30 fps. 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.

When it comes to downsides, there aren’t many. One thing worth noting is this camera’s minimum waterproof capacity. A waterproof rating of IPX7 means that it is only capable of withstanding a submersion of up to a depth of one meter for 30 minutes. This isn’t nearly enough if you plan to use this camera to capture some underwater sceneries.

PROS:

  • Many extra features
  • Very durable and versatile
  • Good image stabilization
  • Cool design
 CONS:

  • The waterproof capacity could’ve been better

Related: To get the highest level of versatility out of this action camera, you should purchase this Garmin Handlebar/Rollbar Mount. With this, you should be able to mount the camera anywhere you want and capture pictures from any angles with ease.

Check the price on Amazon

YI 88001 Action Camera

Price: Approx. $70YI Action Camera

Weight: 0.36 pounds

Dimensions: 0.3 x 0.6 x 0.9 inches

Specific features: 1080p video quality resolution, 16 MP photograph resolution quality, Ambarella A7LS chipset, 990 mAH battery capacity, built in 2.4G Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, 155° wide angle lens, waterproof up to a depth of up to 40 m with YI Waterproof Case

Best use: Traveling, sports

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 onboard Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, and it can be used to stream footage to another device immediately.

This camera is also equipped with Ambarella A7LS chipset – one of the best performing processors of this era, albeit not very well known. With that kind of high performance processor, it is understandable that it would have a huge impact on the battery life.

The battery capacity of 990 mAH isn’t exactly stellar but this camera should be able to last for 95 minutes at full capacity. One notable downside is its image stabilization or lack thereof. Despite boasting an onboard image stabilization, this camera does not do well when used to capture fast moving objects.

PROS:

  • Great processor
  • A lightweight and compact design
  • Great Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity
 CONS:

  • No image stabilization
  • Relatively low battery life

Related: As mentioned previously, low battery life is a caveat that you’d have to contend with if you decide to use this camera. If you plan to take this camera with you on a trip, you’ll want to have a spare YI Action Camera Battery Replacement in your pocket lest the camera dies before you are able to capture all of the precious moments on your trip.

Check the price on Amazon

Polaroid Cube Action Video Camera

Price: Approx. $70Polaroid Cube

Weight: 0.01 pounds

Dimensions: 1.4 x 1.4 x 1.4 inches

Specific features: 1080p video quality resolution, 6 MP photograph resolution quality, onboard image stabilization, one of the lightest budget action cameras, 124° wide angle lens, supports Micro SD up to 32 GB, 90 minutes battery life fully charged

Best use: Sports, outdoor activities

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 fits 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 6 MP. 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.

Unfortunately, this camera does come with a fair share of weak points. It does not support Wi-Fi connectivity and it is only splash resistant. Meaning, you can use it in light rain but it won’t be able to survive a complete submersion. You can fix that by purchasing a waterproof case separately, though.

PROS:

  • Very lightweight and compact
  • Captures surprisingly great video footage
  • Can be mounted anywhere
 CONS:

  • Lower lens quality than the other action cameras on this list
  • No Wi-Fi connectivity capacity
  • Only splash resistant

Related: In case you plan to use this mini camera to capture footage underwater, you’ll have to equip it with this Polaroid Waterproof Shockproof Case. This case grants your Polaroid Cube Action Video Camera the ability to survive a complete submersion up to a depth of 10 m.

Check the price on Amazon

TecTecTec XPro+ Action Camera

Price: Approx. $95TecTecTec XPRO2+

Weight: 0.15 pounds

Dimensions: 1.18 x 2.36 x 1.57 inches

Specific features: 1080p video quality resolution, 16 MP photograph resolution quality, onboard image stabilization, 30 days full refund policy, 1 year warranty, 170° wide angle lens, 900 mAH battery capacity, waterproof up to a depth of up to 30 m with a waterproof case

Best use: Sports, outdoors

When it comes to traveling, a lot of solo travelers 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 16 MP 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.

The general specs of this camera don’t leave much to be desired. Its 16 MP, 170° wide angle lens would allow you to capture high quality pictures. You can also capture fast moving objects thanks to the onboard image stabilization.

Although the battery is not the most long lasting, it should be enough to allow you an hour or two of photo snapping and video recording. It is also waterproof up to a depth of up to 30 m if you use the waterproof case. The downside is that this isn’t the most durable or stable camera around. Its performance is rather finicky.

PROS:

  • Very convenient. Can be activated remotely
  • Features an instant photo playback
  • Feature slow motion filming
  • Good customer satisfaction guarantee policy
 CONS:

  • Not very durable
  • Not very stable. Needs to be handled with care or it will affect the performance

Related: Although this camera is typically used on a traveling or camping trip, it is also perfectly capable of capturing exciting footage of a fast moving animal such as a deer or a boar that you would usually encounter on a hunt. Complete your hunting gear with this TecTecTec ProWild Hunting Rangefinder.

Check the price on Amazon

Lightdow LD6000 Wi-Fi Action Camera

Price: Approx. $50Lightdow LD6000

Weight: 0.13 pounds

Dimensions: 2.3 x 1.1 x 1.6 inches

Specific features: 1080p video quality resolution, 12 MP photograph resolution quality, onboard image stabilization, a motion detection system, 1 year warranty, waterproof up to a depth of up to 30 m, 170° wide angle lens, 900 mAH battery capacity

Best use: Capturing outdoor footage, underwater use, sports

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

The combination of 12 MP and a 170° wide angle lens makes this camera capable of producing beautiful pictures as well as videos. It is also capable of capturing fast moving objects thanks to the image stabilization and 1080p video quality resolution.

It’s durable, shock proof and even waterproof. It has been used to capture some stunning underwater footage. Not many action cameras are built waterproof without any need to attach a waterproof case or a housing to it, and the fact that this one is just drives home how tough this little camera is.

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

As for the downsides, you should note that the audio quality for this camera is quite lacking, especially if you place it in a case. It also has a bad user manual so you’ll probably need to figure out things on your own.

PROS:

  • Very durable
  • Waterproof without needing to attach any housing to it
  • Motion detector
 CONS:

  • The user manual is not very helpful
  • Audio quality is lacking

Related: This camera is compatible with the SanDisk Ultra 32GB microSDHC. It’s a shame that it cannot support memory cards with a bigger capacity, but 32 GB should leave plenty of space for you to fill up with amazing pictures and videos.

Check the price on Amazon

Wrap Up

And that ends our action camera reviews. The reality is that most people would benefit from using an action camera, especially travelers and sports lovers. You can use an action camera to record scenic videos, capture important memories, or even stream your adventures directly onto the internet.

Action Camera

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 60 fps for fast footage but 30 fps will be absolutely fine for almost anything other than that.

Just remember, the only limit is your imagination. So what do you think of our selection of budget-friendly action cameras? Did you find anything you like in our reviews? We’d love to hear from you 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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