The best cheap action camera 2018

Curious to capture some footage? Don’t want to spend too much as a first–timer? Then take a look below to discover the best action cameras on a budget

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Whether you’re carving up the mountainside, catching some waves or trekking through spectacular territory, some experiences just shout out for video footage, especially if you’re a budding videographer or keen to launch your vlog firmly off the ground. 

The good news is you don’t have to spend the equivalent of a month’s salary to own a decent action camera these days; you can go even cheaper than a GoPro if you want, though we can’t guarantee that other cheap action cameras will beat its performance. 

How to buy the best cheap action camera

Even if you’re looking for a cheap action camera, there are certain details that you’ll need to look out for. Video quality is the most important one - the highest quality is 4K, and to really close in on the back spray as you carve, you shouldn’t be looking for a camera that shoots any lower than 1080p at 60fps. 

You’ll want to look at the size, shape and weight of the camera, too. If you’re looking to attach your camera to your helmet or equipment, you don’t want it to throw you off balance. You may also want to consider whether you would rather view raw footage via the app or instantly on an LCD screen. 

Most cheap cameras aren’t waterproof, but there’s always the option to purchase a case to make it perfectly safe if you’re looking to record some marine life. Other than that, you may want to consider compatible mounts, photo resolution (if you’re looking to take the occasional selfie) and battery life as the essentials.

So where can you buy the best action cameras on a budget? Amazon is typically the place to head to for the best deals, with prices often coming in cheaper than you’d find at the shops. 

We’ve scoured Amazon to give you the best selection of action cameras you can get for your cash, with a cheeky one from TomTom thrown in too, because, well, it deserves to be there.

The best cheap action cameras

1. GoPro Hero

GoPro’s new sub-£200 camera meets the demands of adrenaline junkies

Specifications
Best for: Quality
Video quality: 1440p
Battery life: N/A
Waterproof: 10m without case
Reasons to buy
+Touchscreen+10 metre waterproofing+Digital video stabilisation+Voice control
Reasons to avoid
-Voice control is less effective in noisy environments-Misses 4K and slow-mo video

GoPro has dominated the action camera world for years, providing adrenaline sports legends and enthusiasts alike with the tools to confidently capture wild footage from unique angles. Aiming to extend their authority into the budget market, the entry-level Hero borrows premium features from GoPro’s flagship Hero 6 and wraps them in a streamlined, wallet-friendly package.

The Hero’s design is identical to the Hero 5 and 6, making it compatible with GoPro’s extensive mount and housing range. The camera is also shock and waterproof (to 10 metres). The responsive, sunlight-friendly two-inch touchscreen provides rapid access to playback and settings, and the replaceable battery dishes out around two hours of use per charge. 

Voice control first appeared on the Hero 5 and, impressively considering the price, it’s included here on the Hero. If the GoPro is mounted to your crash helmet or you’re doing an activity that limits camera access, locating the shutter button can be a pain. Filming is as easy as saying, “GoPro, start recording” and waiting for the beep. On the whole voice recognition is incredibly responsive, although when we took the camera surfing we found that the Hero won’t always pick up commands over the cacophony of crashing waves.

Keeping things simple, the Hero offers just two filming resolutions: 1440 or 1080p at 30 or 60fps, as well as 10MP stills. Granted, most cameras and smartphones now offer 4K as standard, but we’d rather take a GoPro skydiving. From board to bike, footage is crisp and vibrant, and Video Stabilisation mode helps keep clips smooth when things get turbulent. Auto Low Light mode works incredibly well when shooting in darker situations, like under a tree canopy; switch these modes off and you’ll quickly realise the difference they make. Audio reproduction is nothing to get excited about but it does the job. The budget price tag also means GoPro had to cut a few corners, so you won’t find a slow-motion video option in the Hero’s menu.

If you live for cliff diving or base jumping and need to make banging edits to appease your sponsors, you’ll probably find the Hero’s lack of 4K resolution a tad limiting. However, if you’re a part-time adrenaline junkie needing a reliable, easy to operate HD camera to shoot YouTube-ready footage of your adventures (easily edited into shape using GoPro’s Quik Stories app), the GoPro Hero is //the// big-name budget action shooter to beat.

2. Yi 4K acTion camEra

One of the best cheap action cameras for One quality footage

Specifications
Best for: Quality
Video quality: 4K
Battery life: 2 hours
Waterproof: 40m with case
Reasons to buy
+4K recording+Sony Sensor+Slow motion mode
Reasons to avoid
-Not man extra accessories-155- degree field of view

You don’t get much in the box with the Yi 4K Action Camera, but there isn’t much else that can rain on your parade with this affordable device. Yi’s action cam does indeed shoot in 4K, and thanks to an excellent lens and Sony Exmor-R sensor the quality is top-notch. The only downside is that its 155-degree angle of view isn’t as wide as the other models on test. Although there is image stabilisation in resolutions lower than 4K which, combined with the 720p 240fps mode, creates impressive slow-mo footage. 

3. Olfi One Five

A cheap and cheerful camera that lacks the finesse of the GoPro

Specifications
Best for: Value
Video quality: 4K
Battery life: 2 hours
Waterproof: 30m with case
Reasons to buy
+Simple to use+Value for money
Reasons to avoid
-App is basic 

With a Sony Exmor-R sensor and some impressive features, this looks like a good deal. It’s an unusual vertical design in a world of horizontal rectangles, and is simple to use, with a waterproof casing enabling it to dive 30 metres down. Its 4K capabilities are questionable, as it interpolates a 3840x2160 16:9 picture from its 4:3 2880x2160 mode, both at 24fps, but the video quality isn’t bad. Its video is stabilised, and it can sense motion and take 16MP stills. The Olfi’s other trick is Car mode, acting as a dashcam with loop recording. 

While it can’t compete with the SJCAM’s 30fps, the Olfi One Five can still shoot in 4K quality, making it a great rival to our top two cams. A simple menu function enables you to flick through the various settings, however things do get a bit clunky when it comes to using the app for editing.  

4. KaiSEr BaaS x4

The best cheap action camera is you have wobbly hands

Specifications
Best for: Image stabilisation
Video quality: 4K
Battery life: N/A
Waterproof: 40m with case
Reasons to buy
+Grippy case+Great stabilisation+4K at 30fps
Reasons to avoid
-Weird conntrols

This rubbery feeling action cam has ridged sides to lessen the chance of you dropping it. Controls are located a little strangely, with the Wi-Fi button on top, the power button and indicator lights on the front, and up/down selectors on the side, but it only takes a moment to get used to. The X4 shoots pleasing 4K video at 30fps, along with 12MP stills, and has built-in video stabilisation to smooth out the shakes and bumps. It’ll shoot slow-mo HD video at 120fps, and can go underwater to 40 metres with the included case. 

5. GoPro Hero Session

Awesome things come in small packages, so they say

Specifications
Best for: All-rounder
Video quality: 4K
Battery life: 1.5-2 hours
Waterproof: 10m
Reasons to buy
+Compact+Easy to use
Reasons to avoid
-Basic control via the camera 

This little cube has a lot to say for itself, including a 4K video, voice control and waterproofing up to 10m without a case. Designed for capturing incredible moments on the move, this action camera features superior image stabilisation technology for smooth footage and awesome playback quality, and a 10mp camera for when nothing but a still shot will do. Vloggers will love the fact that it automatically uploads footage to a cloud account so editing is painless, with the Quik GoPro app enabling you to edit on the go – great if your friends and family are on tenterhooks as they wait for your next travel blog entry.  

6. aKaSo EK7000

It's super cheap

Specifications
Best for: Super-tight budget
Video quality: 4K
Battery life: 1.5-hours x2
Waterproof: 40m with case
Reasons to buy
+Lots of accessories+Remote+Spare batteries
Reasons to avoid
-Interpolated 4K

While it doesn’t admit to it on the box, we highly suspect the EK7000 of interpolating its 4K output. It uses the same Sunplus 6350 chipset as the Barracuda in a slightly smaller package, and offers the same selection of recording modes as the more expensive camera. Both cameras also come with a wide array of accessories in the box, including a waterproof housing that’s useful down to 30 metres. Both include spare batteries, but the Akaso wins out by bundling a 2.4ghz wireless remote along with the straps, clips, mounts and pads. 

7. GoExTrEmE Barracuda 4K

Got fat fingers? This is the best budget cam for you

Specifications
Best for: Fat-fingered
Video quality: 4K
Battery life: Unknown
Waterproof: 10m without case
Reasons to buy
+Lots of accessories+Large easy controls
Reasons to avoid
-No case included-Interpolated 4K

The Barracuda interpolates its 4K video from a lower resolution, making it slightly soft, but its low price still makes it a tempting proposition. It will output 4K at 25fps, 2.7K at 30fps, 1080p at 60fps, and 720p at 120fps. Waterproof to 10 metres without a case, it feels quite large for a modern action cam, though is still fairly light. The battery is interchangeable, and it shoots 16MP stills (20MP with some more interpolation), but in this group test it feels like a bit of an imposter. Still, it’s decent enough, even if there is a cheaper option... 

8. SJCAM SJ7 Star

A decent rival to the GoPro Hero Session; just a few compromises here and there

Specifications
Best for: GoPro rival
Video quality: 4K
Battery life: 1-2 hours
Waterproof: 30m with case
Reasons to buy
+Films 30fps+Up to 16mp images (via interpolation)
Reasons to avoid
-No image stabilisation at 4K 

If you’re not looking to delve into your pockets quite so much for your first action camera, this SJCAM SJ7 Star is a good compromise. The great thing is, you can still shoot in 4K, however the stabiliser isn’t quite up to the mark, and won’t be any use over 1080 resolution. It’s leg up is its 16mp image sensor, which means it can catch higher quality snaps if you’re looking for an action camera that can do a bit of both. Unlike the GoPro, there’s an LCD screen on which to view footage and photos, however the compromise is the usability of the editing app isn’t quite so refined.  

9. TomTom Bandit

Couldn’t look any different to the GoPro, but it’s tech is certainly a match

Specifications
Best for: Efficient editing
Video quality: 4K
Battery life: 3 hours
Waterproof: 40m with case
Reasons to buy
+Up to 3 hours battery life+Built-in action sensors
Reasons to avoid
-Heavier than others 

While its 4K capabilities don’t quite match up to it’s rivals, there’s no doubt that the true potential of this action camera comes in the form of it’s additional features, such as its in-built action sensors which pick up on speed, g-force, altitude, rotation and heartbeat, allowing for an almost instant editing process. Thanks to the cable-free Batt Stick, it offers up to 3 hours of battery life when shooting in HD, and with spares available, this is a great action camera if you know that you’re going to be off grid for a while. There’s a host of cool accessories, including a Bluetooth heart rate monitor to catch the adrenaline shots and a dive lens for shooting 40m below the ocean surface.  

10. APEMAN Action Camera

Did you know you can buy an action camera with nothing more than your spare change?

Specifications
Best for: Budget
Video quality: 1080p
Battery life: 1 hour
Waterproof: 30m with case
Reasons to buy
+Very cheap+Records in HD
Reasons to avoid
-Short battery life 

For beginners, this is the perfect entry-level device, as it’s cheap, and does what you need it to do. While it doesn’t record in HD, users still commend the footage quality, while the 14mp resolution camera means stills should come up pretty good, too. There’s an LCD screen for live viewing and built in Wi-Fi so you can transfer videos and images to your phone for editing on the app. The major drawback is its short battery life, which is why Apeman have supplied the camera with two batteries, so you can switch over if it dies while out and about.  

11. YI Action Camera

A decent action camera with good video quality and extensive video options

Specifications
Best for: Casual use
Video quality: 1080p
Battery life: 1 hour
Waterproof: 30m with case
Reasons to buy
+App is easy to use+Simplistic design
Reasons to avoid
-Flimsier than the GoPro 

With the foundations of this action camera firmly rooted in the success of GoPro, there are quite a few similar features, including its size,  simplicity and app-style viewing. While it doesn’t record in 4K, word is that the footage is still decent quality, with 11 video modes so you can shoot the footage you want. With built in Wi-Fi, you can view real time streaming via the app and easily edit videos for posting online. The downside is the camera comes with no frills, which means any extras you want are an additional cost.