Best budget action camera 2021: feature-packed cams with bargain price tags

We round up the best budget action cameras and GoPro alternatives for capturing every frame of your adventures

Included in this guide:

Two women in the water using a GoPro Hero7 White budget action camera
(Image credit: GoPro)

Our roundup of the best budget action cameras is here to help you capture all your outdoor adventures, without burning down your holiday budget. All of the cams in our ranking have been chosen because they offer excellent value for money. A lower price tag doesn't mean you have to sacrifice all the features you want – trickledown technology means some of our lineup boast top-of-the-range features the likes of which used to be the preserve of the priciest models only – we're talking 4K60FPS video, in-camera image stabilisation, hyperlapse video modes, HDR photography, and more.

For the most advanced models, you'll need to consult our ranking of the best action cameras (currently topped by the outstanding, but admittedly expensive, GoPro HERO 9 Black). But if your budget won't stretch, or your needs don't warrant such an expense, the cheap action cameras you'll find here are also extremely impressive. 

Market leader GoPro exceeds its own extremely high bar with every new release, but that means that any older GoPros are still massively capable, and more likely to attract a GoPro deal too. That's not the only action camera line worth a look, though, and there are plenty of great GoPro alternatives in our ranking – one of the key brands to look out for is Akaso – many with unique USPs that might suit your needs even better. 

If you need more guidance, head to the bottom for tips on what to look for in terms of specs and features. If not, read on for our pick of the best cheap action cameras to buy now.

The best cheap action camera to buy now

GoPro HERO7 White

(Image credit: GoPro)

1. GoPro Hero 7 White

The best budget action camera offers outstanding value for money

Specifications
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 video

The best cheap action camera around right now is the GoPro HERO 7 White. Released in October 2018 as a budget companion to the then-flagship HERO 7 Black, the entry-level HERO 7 White offers GoPro's impressive action cam tech in a streamlined, wallet-friendly package. This double T3 Award-winner is not in GoPro's current range, but it's still widely available, and it's far cheaper than the latest flagship.

The H7 White is compatible with most GoPro accessories, including the brand's extensive mount and housing range, although unlike the newer GoPros, there's no 'bunny ear' mounting system built in, so you'll need to pop your cam into a frame before you can mount it to anything. The camera is also shock- and waterproof to 10 metres. The responsive, sunlight-friendly two-inch touchscreen provides rapid access to playback and settings. A 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 HERO 7 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 HERO 7 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 HERO 7 White is the big-name cheap action camera to beat.

Akaso Brave 7 LE

(Image credit: Akaso )

The best cheap action camera with a front-facing screen

Specifications
Video quality: 4K30
Battery life: 50 minutes
Waterproof: 1m (or 30m with supplied case)
Reasons to buy
+Front and rear screens+A lot of camera for the money+Two batteries, remote and mounts included
Reasons to avoid
-Problematic app support

Akaso makes some of the best GoPro alternatives around, and next up in our best budget action camera ranking is the Akaso Brave 7 LE. This cam fits nicely in the palm of your hand. At 127g, it has a sturdy weight to it and its contoured metal and plastic body looks and feels like a camera with a far heftier price tag. While its headline feature is a front-facing screen, the Brave 7 LE also sports a number of features only usually found on fancier models, such as voice control, time-lapse facilities and six-axis image stabilisation. Factor in that it comes with two batteries, a remote, a wide range of mounts and a waterproof housing and this is a camera that gives fantastic value for money. If you're looking for a rugged and feature packed camera with a wallet-friendly price, the Akaso Brave 7 LE is seriously hard to beat. Check out our Akaso Brave 7 LE action camera review for more information.

Akaso Brave 7

(Image credit: Akaso)

A budget action camera that's packed with features

Specifications
Video quality: 4K30, 2.7K30
Battery life: 90 minutes
Waterproof: 10m without case
Reasons to buy
+Remote control and voice control+Up to 4K 30fps video recording+Waterproof to 10m without case
Reasons to avoid
-Unimpressive image stabilisation-Short battery life

Next up in our best cheap action camera ranking is the Akaso Brave 7, a budget cam that boasts a stack of attractive features we think it's well worth splashing the RRP on. It'll record 4K video at 30fps (the image stabilisation isn't up to much, however) and take stills at up to 20MP, including an up to 12MP burst mode up to 15 shots per second. It's waterproof to 10m without the case, it has a 2" rear touchscreen for relatively easy controls, and it also comes with a remote as well as supporting voice controls. For the price it's a lot of camera; just don't expect it to feel quite as lovely as a GoPro. To find out more, take a look at our Akaso Brave 7 review.

Olfi One.Five Black (2nd gen)

(Image credit: Olfi)

A feature-packed camera with a bargain price tag

Specifications
Video quality: 4K 24fps
Battery life: N/A
Waterproof: 30m with case
Reasons to buy
+Excellent image and video quality+Superb value for money +Compact size and waterproof housing+64GB memory card included
Reasons to avoid
-Very small touchscreen-Build quality not quite as good as the Akaso 7

This second generation Olfi one.five Black gives you a big, bulging bag of bangs for a relatively small number of bucks. It can shoot in 4K, can take 15 megapixel photos, is waterproof to 30 meters, can record slow motion at 120fps and has a wealth of other features you’d expect to find on a camera costing a whole lot more. The package also includes a carry case, an array of mounts and accessories, an ultra-fast 64GB MicroSD memory card and even free accidental damage cover. The in-built image stabilisation might not match GoPro's Hypersmooth, but it does a decent job of smoothing out the roughest aspects of our footage. You may expect Olfi to have cut some corners to hit such a competitive price point with the One.Five Black, but the camera is solidly built and the Sony branded sensor is excellent. Our only real niggle is that the rear touchscreen, although very responsive, is annoyingly small. Head to our Olfi one.five Black action camera review to find out more.

Crosstour CT9900

(Image credit: Crosstour)

5. Crosstour CT9900

The best ultra-cheap action camera

Specifications
Video quality: 4K60
Battery life: 90 minutes
Waterproof: 40m with case
Reasons to buy
+4K video at 60 FPS+Image stabilisation+USB mic included+Two batteries included
Reasons to avoid
-Barely audible camera sound output

There's not many cameras around costing less than £100 that can boast fully-fledged 4K video at 60FPS, never mind at the Crosstour CT9900's current sub-£80 price bracket. But as well as it's mightily impressive video resolution, the camera also has in-built image stabilisation, a 2-inch rear touchscreen, is waterproof to 40 metres and can take 20MP stills.

As well as the camera, waterproof housing and a wide range of mounts, the CT9900's standard package pretty much includes every accessory you'll ever need, with two removable batteries, a shutter remote and a clip-on external USB microphone. A couple of minor corners have been cut to hit the CT9900's extremely wallet-friendly price though – recorded sound is almost inaudible during in-camera playback and you don't get a plug for the charging cable.

OCLU action camera

(Image credit: Oclu)

The best budget action cam for action sports

Specifications
Video quality: 4K 30FPS, 1080P 120FPS
Battery life: Not stated
Waterproof: 1m without case, 50m with
Reasons to buy
+Delete unwanted footage on the go+Excellent build quality+Easy three-button operation
Reasons to avoid
-Video stabilisation at 1080P only-App causes significant battery drain

At full price, the OCLU wouldn't fall into the category of 'cheap' but for its more usual cost of around the US$200 mark (this one's only currently available in the US), you get a lot of camera for your cash. The USP is an usual, top-mounted screen, which will work better for some than others – it's great for capturing action on a skateboard or bike, though. While it can't compete with GoPro on shooting modes and features, this action camera is well-made and easy to operate, and the ability to get rid of unwanted footage on the fly is a useful feature. It's shame that video stabilisation is only available in HD mode, but there's plenty to like about the OCLU nonetheless. Head to our OCLU action camera review to find out more. 

Akaso V50 X

(Image credit: Akaso)

7. Akaso V50 X

This budget action cam can shoot 4K video at 30fps

Specifications
Video quality: 4K30, 2.7K30, 2K60
Battery life: 60 minutes
Waterproof: 40m with case
Reasons to buy
+4K30 video for less than £100+Video stabilisation+2-inch touchscreen+Diving mode for underwater capture
Reasons to avoid
-Battery life could be longer

While it may look remarkably similar to aging GoPro models, Akaso’s V50 X camera is bang up to date. Top billing goes to its ability to shoot 4K video at 30fps, which is mightily impressive for a camera costing less than a £100/$100, but its list of well-appointed features doesn’t end there. While you don't get the front-facing camera included in the slightly pricier Akasko Brave 7 LE, the V50 X can take 12MP stills, has in-built image stabilisation software and comes with an adjustable wide-angle lens that has a maximum field of view of 170 degrees. It also boasts slow-motion video at 1080P90 or 720P120, time-lapse video, a stills timer and a host of metering and exposure options.

The camera comes complete with a host of accessories, including an underwater housing, spare battery, remote shutter and a selection of GoPro-compatible mounts. A smartphone app is also available allowing you to remotely operate the camera, view your content and share it directly on social media. All in all, this is a hugely competitive package that is outstanding value for its price. 

Akaso Keychain camera

(Image credit: Akaso)

A super-light, ultra-compact shooter

Specifications
Video quality: 4K/30fps, 2.7K/60fps, 2.7K/30fps, 1080p/60fps, 1080p/30fps, 720p/120fps, 720p/60fps
Waterproof: Splashproof (IP56)
Max battery life: Not stated
Reasons to buy
+Super small and lightweight+Great in-app editing+Narrow field of view+Good image stabilisation 
Reasons to avoid
-Just splashproof -Soft on 4K detail-Not as small as the Insta360 GO

Next up in our best budget action camera ranking is something a bit different: the Akaso Keychain is a tiny, 36g, 4K camera that can go everywhere with you. While GoPro might love wide-angle footage, the Keychain has a narrow field of view, which is actually much more helpful if you want to film something specific. Not only is this cheap action cam dinky, it's also magnetic, which means you can attach it to anything from your bike to your gym weights (and you can stash it on your fridge door when not in use).  

The Keychain stands out by encouraging you to get creative and capture new perspectives, and it's got an excellent app to back that up. Use it to endlessly edit its portrait or landscape videos and photos with fades, wipes, subtitles and special effects. The six-axis image stabilisation system helps produce smooth-looking video, and features such as time-lapse, loop record and 20-megapixel photo options open the door to new possibilities. Read our full Akaso Keychain review for more of what we thought.

If size is the key consideration for you, you should also check out the (smaller) Insta360 GO, further down this list, and the Insta360 GO 2 (an excellent, but not particularly cheap, option). 

Xiaomi Mijia Camera Mini

9. Xiaomi Mijia Camera Mini

Shoot 4K footage in style and without breaking your bank

Specifications
Video quality: 4K30
Battery life: 2 hours
Waterproof: 45m with case (available separately)
Reasons to buy
+Range of accessories+Stylish design+Great value for money
Reasons to avoid
-Poor image quality in low light or bright sunlight

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.

Insta360 GO

(Image credit: Insta360 GO)

10. Insta360 Go

A tiny yet feature-packed action camera

Specifications
Video quality: 1080 25fps
Battery life: 200 18sec clips
Waterproof: Not quite
Reasons to buy
+A lightweight and wearable camera+Full HD quality video+Image stabilisation+Hyperlapse, timelapse and slow-mo
Reasons to avoid
-Only shoots up to 60 secs at a time

While it may look more like a desktop webcam, the Insta360 Go is a fully functioning action camera that punches well above its gossamer 18.3g weight (it has since been replaced by the equally diminutive Insta360 GO 2, which improves on the GO considerably, but costs a fair whack more too.) At 5cm in length, the Go makes an ideal wearable camera and comes with a back clip and pendant as well as a selection of conventional base attachments. It also has a magnetic rear so it can be quickly fixed to any metal surface.

The Insta360 Go can record 1080p HD quality video at 25fps and is designed for shooting short video clips of up to 60 seconds at a time. In addition to conventional video, it can also record timelapse, moving hyperlapse sequences and slow motion video at 100fps. Incredibly for a camera of this size, the Go comes with in-built image stabilisation, which Insta360 has dubbed FlowState. While not fully waterproof, the tiny camera shrugs off wet conditions and is rugged enough to survive being fully submerged in water for up to 10 seconds at a time.

AKASO EK7000 Pro 4K

11. AKASO EK7000 Pro 4K

The ideal budget choice for capturing water-based pursuits

Specifications
Video quality: 4K25, 2.7K30 and 1080p60
Battery life: 90 minutes
Waterproof: 40m with case
Reasons to buy
+Diving Mode for underwater capture+Electronic image stabilisation+4K25 top resolution+Slick 2-inch touchscreen

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.

How to choose the best budget action camera

When choosing best budget action camera, there are certain details you need to keep an eye out for. Video quality is the most important. The highest quality currently available is 5K, but much more common 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 the best cheap action cameras are waterproof, that's not true of all the models in our list. However, 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? Read on...

Rich Owen
Rich Owen

Rich Owen has been frantically riding mountain bikes since the early 90s and is a former editor of What Mountain Bike magazine. He’s also a surfer with over 20 years’ experience and lives near North Devon’s best beach breaks.