Catching an epic wave, hurtling down forest trails or carving across snowy mountains are awesome enough anyway, but imagine capturing all that action for your family and friends to watch later, and without blowing your budget too—that's where the best cheap action cameras for extreme sports and outdoor pursuits come in.
While they may not have all the bells and whistles of the top action cameras, which will soon include the GoPro Hero 8, they are still plenty good enough for capturing a variety of action videos and images.
The truth is, some adventures and pursuits are so cool they simply must be filmed (if only for bragging rights later on). So if you're new to this world and want an affordable rugged action shooter that still offers a ton of ace features, this buyer's guide has everything you need to find the ideal budget action cam for you.
Best cheap action camera: our expert pick
- Unlike some of the top-end cams, the cheaper models featured below have lower price tags, sure, but that doesn't necessarily mean they skimp on features.
- Our top pick for the best cheap action camera is a case in point. Considering its low price, the GoPro Hero7 White has a seemingly endless list of features, including voice control and digital video stabilisation. It's ideal for all extreme sports and outdoors pursuits, both in and out of the water (its waterproof to 10m).
There are more affordable rugged cams still, though most are unable to defeat the GoPro’s mighty performance. That said, there are definitely some GoPro alternatives listed below that you should check out, especially the Yi 4K Action Camera. It might not be as feature-rich as the Hero7 White, but it does deliver 4K footage.
Before we run you through our list of the best cheap action cameras, let's take a look at how you can zero in on the right one for your chosen extreme sport or outdoor pursuit…
The best cheap action cam for you
When looking for a budget action camera, there are certain details you need to keep an eye out for if you want to capture action properly. Video quality is the most important. The highest quality currently available is 4K. To really close in on the back spray from your snowboard as you carve across the slopes, you shouldn’t be looking for an action cam that shoots any lower than 1080p at 60fps.
Also look at the size, shape and weight of the camera. If you’re planning on attaching it to your helmet or equipment, you don’t want a hefty action cam throwing you off balance. You’ll also need to ensure you can get your hands on appropriate mounts for your chosen pursuit
On top of that, keep in mind whether you would rather view raw footage via your camera's companion app (if it has one), or whether you’d like to view it on an LCD screen for instant feedback.
While it's true that most cheap action cams aren’t waterproof, there’s always the option to purchase a case to make them safe in torrential downpours or if you’re taking one surfing or SUPing. Other than that, consider photo resolution (especially if you’re looking to take the occasional selfie) and battery life as the essentials.
Ready to discover the best cheap action camera for you? Let’s kick off with GoPro’s impressive budget beauty...
The best cheap action cameras you can buy right now
1. GoPro Hero 7 White
GoPro’s new sub-£200 camera is simply the best cheap action camera available
Reasons to buy
Aiming to extend GoPro’s authority into the budget market, the entry level Hero7 White borrows premium features from the flagship Hero7 Black and wraps them in a streamlined, wallet-friendly package.
The White’s design is similar to the Hero7 Black and Silver, 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. The built-in (non-removable) battery dishes out around two hours of use per charge.
Considering the low price, voice control is is an impressive addition to the Hero7 White. 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 Hero7 White offers just two filming resolutions: 1440 or 1080p at 30 or 60fps, as well as 10MP stills. 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. In the past, entry level GoPro cameras dispensed with the slow-motion video option, so it’s great to see it make an appearance in the Hero7 White.
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, the GoPro Hero7 White is the big-name cheap action camera to beat.
The GoPro Hero7 White has won Best Budget Action Camera in the T3 Awards 2019. Check out more of this year's award winners on our main T3 Awards 2019 page.
2. YI 4K Action Camera
One of the best cheap action cameras for capturing high quality footage
Reasons to buy
If you like the look and feel of the latest GoPro action cams but your budget doesn’t quite stretch to one, there are a few well-matched lookalikes surfacing…
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 sleek, affordable device. YI’s action cam shoots in 4K at 30fps and, thanks to an excellent LCE 7 layer all-glass lens and Sony Exmor-R IMX377 sensor, the quality is top-notch, even in lower light situations. Stills are commedable at 12MP.
Electronic image stabilisation, courtesy of a built-in gyroscope and accelerometer, keeps footage smooth at resolutions lower than 4K. A 720p/240fps mode produces impressive slow-mo footage.
The YI’s design is also neat and simplistic, and out back you’ll find a vivid 2.19-inch Gorilla Glass LCD touchscreen for ease of control and playback.
The only downside to the YI 4K is that its 155-degree angle of view isn’t as wide as many of the other cheap action cams here. Plus, you’ll need to shell out for a waterproof case if you want to take it in the water.
3. Olfi One Five White
This cheap and cheerful action cam should fulfill most of your shooting needs
Reasons to buy
Olfi’s original One.Five 4K budget action camera was a huge hit when it first launched. A cheaper option was always on the cards and the new White edition is just the ticket. This action cam might lack 4K, but 1080p/60fps and 720p/120fps video, plus 16MP stills, are plenty for most weekend warriors.
The camera houses a backlit Sony Exmor-R sensor, capable of capturing extra detail when the clouds roll in or you shoot late into the evening. High Dynamic Range is on hand to ensure footage is vivid and true to life, with optional digital image stabilisation keeping things smooth when the going gets rough.
If you’re planning on taking your adventures underwater, the Olfi One.Five White comes complete with a 30m waterproof case, so you’ll never need to leave your camera on shore.
The One.Five White has your back travelling to and from your adventures, too. Dash cam Mode powers up the camera when the ignition is turned on and films every journey in loop mode – you’ll never overload your storage and you’ll have video evidence in the event of an accident.
4. Sony HDR-AS50
A streamlined action camera with a flair for high quality stills
Reasons to buy
The HDR-AS50 may sit closer to the bottom of Sony’s action cam range, but it still packs plenty of punch. In the hardware department Sony has opted for a Zeiss Tessar lens, paired with a 1/2.3-inch Exmor R CMOS sensor. Adventurers can achieve 1080p full HD resolution at 60fps, or drop to 720p to double the frame rate to 120.
Video quality is commendable considering the camera’s price, and built-in SteadyShot electronic image stabilisation helps smooth out any activity, whether you’re hitting mountain bike trails or kayaking down rolling rapids. Audio leaves a little to be desired, particular with the camera in its waterproof housing, and there’s no option to connect an external microphone.
Stills are where the HDR-AS50 really shines. At 11.1 megapixels they compete with the GoPro Hero7 White and YI 4K. On the whole results are crisp and vibrant – ideal for taking quick snaps on your travels.
The supplied underwater housing is a beast, enabling the camera to reach depths of 60 metres. That's in addition to top notch shock- dust- and sand-proofing. However, adding the housing bumps the weight up by almost 100 grams.
The HDR-AS50 is no GoPro beater, but for a rugged and cheap action camera with loads of mounting options, there’s plenty here for action junkies.
5. AKASO EK7000 Pro 4K
The ideal budget choice for capturing water-based pursuits
Reasons to buy
At its top resolution, AKASO’s budget shooter can deliver crisp footage at 4K25. Drop to 1080p and the EK7000 is capable of 60fps for those epic slow mo clips. There’s also a 16 megapixel sensor if stills are your bag.
Built-in electronic image stabilisation takes care of smoothing your footage if the action gets a little unruly or your subject is moving fast, while the adjustable viewing angle enables power users to switch between narrow and super wide.
If most of your adventures take place in water, the EK7000 is definitely aimed at you; add the supplied waterproof case to enable shooting to a depth of 40 metres, while a dedicated Diving Mode compensates for the lack of red light underwater, ensuring that your sub-aquatic shots are just as good as those taken on dry land.
The EK7000 also functions as a dash cam with Loop and Upside Down recording functionality, while control of settings, shooting modes and playback is handled smoothly via the 2-inch touchscreen.
6. Kaiser Baas X4
A great choice if you have butter fingers or shaky hands
Reasons to buy
This rubbery feeling action cam has ridged sides to lessen the chance of you dropping it while you’re getting stuck into your latest high octane pursuit. 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, so it might take a little getting used to.
Move past the odd controls though and the Kaiser Baas X4 puts in a pleasing performance. It shoots detailed 4K video at 30fps, along with 12MP stills. Built-in video stabilisation smooths out the shakes and judders when things getting bumpy.
If you want to add some extra style to your edits, the X4 can shoot slow-mo HD video at 120fps. Heading into the water? Attach the included case and it will have no problem hitting depths of up to 40 metres.
7. Veho Muvi KX-1 4K
A great all-round cheap action camera for hitting the water
Reasons to buy
It might not be much of a looker, but Veho’s newest cheap action camera can deliver UHD 4K10 or 1080p60 footage with consummate ease. On the camera’s rear is a 1.8-inch smart LCD touchscreen, making it simple to navigate menus and preview your footage and stills.
The KX-1’s stills game is strong too. Shoot straight 12MP images, or try time-lapse, photo burst or 180-degree rollover modes (for when you’re mounting the camera upside-down) and get creative with your shots.
If you’re looking to take the Muvi KX-1 underwater, the camera comes with a 40m waterproof housing – ideal if you’re diving, surfing, or in the swimming pool on holiday.
When you’re done shooting, the free Muvi app for iOS or Android devices makes it a doddle to stream your videos or share you photos on your social channels.
8. Xiaomi Mijia Camera Mini
Shoot 4K footage in style and without breaking your bank
Reasons to buy
The Xiaomi action camera could earn its place on this list for the stylish design alone, but thankfully there’s plenty happening under the hood to justify its inclusion in our best cheap action camera buyer’s guide.
The 7-glass lens and Sony IMX317 sensor work in perfect harmony, whether you’re shooting under blue skies or grey clouds. Footage is electronically stabilised across 6-axes of movement, and 3D noise reduction technology helps smooth out your shots. Settings can be tweaked on the 2.4-inch touchscreen.
In its standalone state, the Mijia Camera mini is best used as a lightweight, portable camera to documents your travels, but pair it with the array of mounts or 45m waterproof housing and it will be ready tackle anything.
9. SJCAM SJ7 Star
A decent cheap action cam that performs well with video and stills
Reasons to buy
If you’re not looking to delve too deep into your pockets for your first action camera, the SJCAM SJ7 Star is a good compromise.
Yes you can shoot in 4K, but you’ll need a steady hand as the electronic stabilisation doesn’t kick in until you drop to 1080p. Its leg up is the 12MP image sensor, which means this action cam can snap high quality stills – ideal if you’re in the market for a camera that can handle both video and stills equally well.
On the rear panel is a 2-inch LCD touchscreen for viewing footage and photos, and SJCAM offers an app for editing, though it isn’t particularly intuitive or refined. Definitely one to throw in your backpack when you're off on a hike and fancy getting some sweet snaps and video of the sweeping views.
10. TomTom Bandit
The best cheap action camera if you need something with extra-long battery life
Reasons to buy
While its 4K capabilities don’t quite match up to its rivals, there’s no doubt that the true potential of this action camera comes in the form of it’s additional features, such as integrated action sensors picking up on speed, g-force, altitude, rotation and heartbeat. Plus, there’s easy editing within the Bandit mobile app.
The TomTom Bandit's video quality is excellent, showing plenty of detail and well-saturated colour, and it copes well with changes in exposure. The Bandit might be near the top end of the cheap action cam budget scale, but that’s because it offers a good balance of features and filming quality.
Thanks to the cable-free Batt Stick, the Bandit offers up to three hours of battery life when shooting in HD. With spare batteries available, this is a great cheap action camera to choose if you know you’re going to be off grid for a while.
There’s a host of cool accessories, including a Bluetooth heart rate monitor to add data to your action footage, and a dive lens for shooting 40m below the ocean’s surface.
11. EZVIZ S2
A quality action camera and dash cam rolled into one
Reasons to buy
There are plenty of features hiding beneath the neat design of the Ezviz S2. Adrenaline junkies can capture 1080p footage up to 60fps, safe in the knowledge that the 6-glass, superwide HD lens is recording all the action with depth and accuracy.
Wide Dynamic Range technology helps boost performance in low light, and a range of filters enable you to add a more creative touch to your shots.
First and foremost, the S2 is an action camera, but switch to in-vehicle mode and it doubles as a safety-conscious dash cam. The camera features a lane departure system, front proximity alarm, target plate recognition and a g-sensor for detecting and filming collisions.
12. Drift Ghost X
The best cheap action camera for capturing your gnarliest two-wheeled adventures
Reasons to buy
If you’d rather avoid an action camera that requires endless menus and complicated set up, the simplistic Drift Ghost X is a nifty, fit-and-forget option.
Designed primarily for motorcyclists, the low-profile form and 300-degree rotating lens is ideal for mounting from handlebars or helmet, while-one touch recording means you’ll never miss a moment, on or off the bike.
For the safety conscious, DVR loop recording captures everything the camera sees. Considering you get five hours of recording per charge, the Ghost X is clearly built for life on the open road.
With 1080p30 video and 12MP stills, the Ghost X doesn’t offer the highest resolution of the action cameras listed here, but it’s designed to do a specific job and it does that job well.
The final word:
The GoPro Hero 7 White is the current undisputed heavyweight of cheap action cams, packing in a raft of tech for a low price. It’s the perfect entry-point into kit for filming your downhill rides or to take when surfing, and also captures a decent still if you’re embarking on a scenic hike and want to photograph parts of it.
We’d also recommend that you check out the YI 4K Action Camera, which can regularly be found for under £100. It’s the closest you’ll get to the high quality and performance of a cheap GoPro, and is also suitable for filming (in 4K) on land and in the water, being waterproof to 40m when paired with a case.