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Action cams and all their gear offer endless possibilities to capture epic footage. The downside? They can be a real investment, making it difficult to own one if you’re on a strict budget. The good news is that there are still plenty of choices for action cams out there to record the content you’re going for. It’s a double-edged sword though — because there are so many, it’s difficult and overwhelming to sift through them all to find one that’s built well. We’ve selected our four favorites below. But first, familiarize yourself with what to look for in a good, and affordable, mini action cam.
Budget Action Camera Buying Guide
Resolution: This may vary a lot, but it’s best to shoot for something that can handle 4K and 60fps if possible. Even 1080p still looks pretty great for capturing color and detail, but it’s best not to go lower than that if you’re shooting action shots or professional level video, or else the colors can look a little off.
Audio: If you’ll also be capturing audio along with video, a built-in mic or input for an external mic is a must-have. Not all mini cameras have this, so be sure to check if it’s something you’ll need.
Durability: Even a budget camera is an investment, and needs to stand up to whatever damage it might run into. If you’re looking for a waterproof case, it’s possible to find, but make sure it’s tightly sealed. Even a little water getting in can turn your cam into an expensive paperweight.
Size: This one’s particularly important if you’ll be wearing your cam with a mount, or even carrying it with any additional equipment for long periods of time. A bulky, heavy cam can weigh you down after even a brief stint of shooting. Fortunately, because of their size, most of these are pretty light to begin with. But if it meets all your feature requirements, and you’ll be carrying or wearing it for long stretches, go towards the light.
Image Stabilization: Of all the features, this might be the most overlooked. Image stabilization can really make or break the video you take. Shakiness and wobbling brings the quality way down, and a poor stabilization processor trying to constantly compensate for it just looks awful and dizzying. It’s a feature that takes up a significant chunk of memory usage, and with a budget mini cam, there’s not always a lot to spare.
Features: These may not have all the latest abilities that the most recent big budget (and big-sized) cams do, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t still plenty to play around with. Filming in HD is now common even on the cheaper cams, allowing even beginners to create impressive videos.
Accessories: To get even more out of your money, some cams are also bundled with extras that can be extremely helpful when filming out in the world. An extra battery is great to have when the primary one dies unexpectedly. A built-in screen is an instant way to view and even edit what you just recorded, but if you’d prefer to view it all later in RAW files, be sure it has that ability before you connect to your favorite editing application.
What Are the Best Budget Action Cams?
1. GoPro Hero7 Waterproof Action Camera
Yes, really, you can get a GoPro on a budget. The award-winning GoPro White shoots in 1080p HD, has its own touchscreen, and does a solid job stabilizing footage for its category.
It’s a small size and weighs only 4.2 ounces, which makes it simple to carry and film with, and its capabilities are plentiful for such a little unit. Photos are shot in 10MP with both vertical and horizontal filming available, which is ideal for social media. Best of all, this tough camera is totally waterproof down to 10 meters.
2. Kaiser Baas X450 4K Action Camera
The Kaiser’s 4K/30fps video and 14MP photos do a nice job of bringing out vivid colors in your shots. It’s lightweight and easy enough to maneuver. A 2-inch touchscreen lets you select effects like slow motion and noise reduction, with built-in stabilization to cut down on wobbles and shakes. Plus, it also has burst mode and a 160-degree field of view. There’s a waterproof casing, which makes it functional up to 40 meters, by far the deepest of the group.
3. AKASO Brave 7 LE 4K30FPS 20MP WiFi Action Camera
The standout feature on this Akaso: the dual screens. For such a small device, this is an awesome option to have. The Akaso shoots in 4K video at 30fps and can take 20MP photos. Image stabilization here is powered by a gimbal-like steadying effect, which helps significantly with fast-moving footage or a subject in motion.
At 1.52 pounds, it’s the heaviest here, but has abilities that most others don’t, including voice control and a remote. When you’re all done shooting, this easily connects to a TV or PC via HDMI or WiFi.
4. YI 4K Action and Sports Camera
YI’s sleek camera records in 4K/30fps at up to 100mbps, and has a seven-layered glass lens, along with a Sony IMX377 image sensor inside (which works well even in low light). There’s a built-in gyroscope that does a superb job of stabilizing images, even when resolution drops below 4K. Slow-motion footage is also noteworthy, as the YI can capture 720p 240fps when you want to smoothly slow things down.
The 2.19-inch touchscreen is made with Gorilla Glass, adding to the camera’s overall durability, and there are nine included modes to make shooting like a pro simple. The 4.4V Li-Ion battery lasts up to 120 minutes, thanks to the unit dispersing heat to preserve its charge, even while recording in high-resolution. You can snap 12MP images, with the option to import them as RAW files.