The best cheap action camera 2018: capture your adventure for less

Looking for a budget action camera that delivers great quality footage? Here are the 11 best affordable cams you can buy right now

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Carving across a snowy mountain, catching an epic wave or blasting down muddy trails are awesome enough on their own. So imagine capturing all that sweet action on camera, ready for you to relive later with friends and fam?

There's no question that some outdoors experiences are simply crying out to be filmed. So if you're looking to share your extreme sports videos and images of outdoors adventures with others, the best way to start is by dipping your toes into the cheap action camera waters.

 Unlike some of the top-end models, these cheaper ones have lower price tags, but that doesn't necessarily mean they skimp on features. Our top pick for the best cheap action cam is the GoPro Hero7 White,  and for the low price it has a seemingly endless list of features, including voice control and digital video stablisation. 

There are more affordable rugged cams still, though most of them 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. 

With Black Friday approaching – this year it takes place on Friday 23 November – you can expect those cheap action cameras to become even cheaper as the Black Friday deals are rolled out. And we're also likely to see deals on the more expensive GoPros, so keep an eye on our GoPro Black Friday deals page, too. 

Before we run you through our expert pick of the best cheap action cameras, let's take a look at how you can zero in on the right cam for your chosen extreme sport or outdoor pursuit… 

THE BEST CHEAP ACTION CAMERA FOR YOU 

Even if you’re looking for a cheap action camera, there are certain details you’ll need to keep an eye out for if you want to capture the 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. 

Look at the size, shape and weight of the camera, too. If you’re planning on attaching the cam to your helmet or equipment, you don’t want the camera to throw 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 preferred action cam’s companion app, or whether you’d like to view it on an LCD screen for instant feedback.

Most cheap action cameras aren’t waterproof, but there’s always the option to purchase a case to make it perfectly safe in torrential downpours or if you’re taking it surfing or SUPing, for example. Other than that, you may want to consider photo resolution (if you’re looking to take the occasional selfie) and battery life as the essentials.

Ready to browse our top picks? Let’s kick off with GoPro’s impressive budget beauty...

THE BEST CHEAP ACTION CAMERAS YOU CAN BUY NOW 

Best cheap action camera: GoPro Hero 7 White

1. GoPro Hero 7 White

GoPro’s new sub-£200 camera is simply the best cheap action camera available

Specifications
Best for: Overall quality
Video quality: 1440p30, 1080p60
Battery life: 2 hours
Waterproof: 10m without case
Reasons to buy
+Touchscreen+10 metre waterproofing without case+Digital video stabilisation+Voice control
Reasons to avoid
-No 4K

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.

Best cheap action camera: YI 4K action camera

2. YI 4K Action Camera

One of the best cheap action cameras for capturing high quality footage

Specifications
Best for: Quality footage
Video quality: 4K30
Battery life: 2 hours
Waterproof: 40m with case
Reasons to buy
+4K recording+Sony Sensor+Slow motion mode
Reasons to avoid
-155- degree field of view

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.

Best cheap action camera: Olfi One Five White

3. Olfi One Five White

This cheap and cheerful action cam should fulfill most of your shooting needs

Specifications
Best for: Value
Video quality: 1080p60, 720p120
Battery life: N/A
Waterproof: 30m with case
Reasons to buy
+HDR helps create quality footage+Dash cam Mode is useful
Reasons to avoid
-App is basic -No 4K

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.

Best cheap action camera: Kaiser Baas X4

4. Kaiser Baas X4

A great choice if you have butter fingers or shaky hands

Specifications
Best for: Image stabilisation
Video quality: 4K
Battery life: N/A
Waterproof: 40m with case
Reasons to buy
+Easy grip case+Great image 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 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.

Best cheap action camera: Veho Muvi KX-1 4K

5. Veho Muvi KX-1 4K

A great all-round cheap action camera for hitting the water

Specifications
Best for: Small budgets
Video quality: 4K10, 1080p60
Battery life: N/A
Waterproof: 40m with case
Reasons to buy
+4K10 resolution+Plenty of photo modes+40m waterproof case supplied 
Reasons to avoid
-Minimal image stabilisation 

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.

Best cheap action camera: Akaso EK7000

6. Akaso EK7000

The best super cheap action camera packaged with a bundle of accessories

Specifications
Best for: The complete package
Video quality: 4K
Battery life: 1.5-hours x2
Waterproof: 30m with case
Reasons to buy
+Lots of accessories+Wireless remote+Comes with 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 Ultra HD 4K output. It uses the same Sunplus 6350 chipset as other cheaper action cameras in a slightly smaller package, and offers the same selection of recording modes as more expensive models. As such, the footage is passable, but by no means the best here. 

The EK7000 comes with a wide array of accessories in the box, including a waterproof housing that’s useful down to 30 metres. Plus, there’s spare batteries and a handy 2.4ghz wireless remote, along with straps, clips, mounts and pads.

If you’re strapped for cash and want to get stuck into the action straight from the box, the Akaso EK7000 action camera is a sensible choice.

Best cheap action camera: Xiaomi Mijia Camera Mini

7. Xiaomi Mijia Camera Mini

Shoot 4K footage in style and without breaking your bank

Specifications
Best for: Style
Video quality: 4K30
Battery life: 2 hours
Waterproof: 45m with case (available separately)
Reasons to buy
+Range of accessories+Stylish design+Works well in low light
Reasons to avoid
-Not waterproof without case

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.

Best cheap action camera: SJcam SJ7 Star

8. SJCAM SJ7 Star

A decent cheap action cam that performs well with video and stills

Specifications
Best for: All-round action capture
Video quality: 4K30
Battery life: 1-2 hours
Waterproof: 30m with case
Reasons to buy
+Films at 30fps+12MP images+2-inch touchscreen 
Reasons to avoid
-No image stabilisation at 4K -App is basic 

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.   

Best cheap action camera: TomTom Bandit

9. TomTom Bandit

The best cheap action camera if you need something with extra-long battery life

Specifications
Best for: Efficient editing
Video quality: 4K30
Battery life: 3 hours
Waterproof: 40m with dive lens
Reasons to buy
+Built-in action sensors+Easy to use+Fast app streaming
Reasons to avoid
-Heavier than other action cameras

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. 

Best cheap action camera: EZVIZ S2

10. EZVIZ S2

A quality action camera and dash cam rolled into one

Specifications
Best for: Life on the road
Video quality: 1080p60
Battery life: N/A
Waterproof: 40m with case
Reasons to buy
+Neat design+Dash cam functionality +Image filters
Reasons to avoid
-No 4K

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.

Best cheap action camera: Drift Ghost X

11. Drift Ghost X

The best cheap action camera for capturing your gnarliest two-wheeled adventures

Specifications
Best for: Motorcyclists
Video quality: 1080p30
Battery life: 5 hours
Waterproof: 50m with case
Reasons to buy
+Impeccable battery life+DVR loop recording
Reasons to avoid
-Chunky design-Average video resolution 

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.