The 10 Best Budget Action Cams

Updated February 13, 2018 by Chase Brush

10 Best Budget Action Cams
Best High-End
Best Mid-Range
Best Inexpensive
We spent 45 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top choices for this wiki. You don't have to spend a fortune to capture all your outdoor adventures in high resolution. These budget action cams all come in at under $150 and can record video in outstanding quality in a range of styles. As an added bonus, many are Wi-Fi capable, allowing you to share your exploits instantly on social media and beyond. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best budget action cam on Amazon.

10. Polaroid Cube+

Capture all of life's moments with the Polaroid Cube+. This mini model comes in an impressively compact size, so you can take it literally anywhere, but also manages to pack in plenty of useful functions, including Wi-Fi and image stabilization.
  • can take 8 megapixel still images
  • records hd video at up to 1440p
  • wi-fi connection can be finicky
Brand Polaroid
Weight 7.2 ounces
Rating 4.0 / 5.0

9. Spy Tec Mobius

The lightweight and discreet Spy Tec Mobius can record in either 1080p HD at 30 fps, or in 720p at 60 fps, making for excellent slow-motion results. For that reason, plus because of its unique shape, it's a popular choice for use as a dashboard camera in your car.
  • minimal fisheye distortion
  • no image stabilization function
  • only 80 minutes of battery life
Brand Spy Tec
Model Wide Angle C2 Lens
Weight 2.4 ounces
Rating 3.9 / 5.0

8. VTech Kidizoom

The versatile VTech Kidizoom can serve as a great first camera for any future videographer. It comes with three mounts, a wrist strap, and a waterproof case, making it ultra durable and perfectly suited to surviving drops and tumbles when capturing a kid's-eye view.
  • available in yellow or pink
  • includes games and fun photo effects
  • mounting gear is cheaply made
Brand VTech
Model 80-170710
Weight 1.1 pounds
Rating 3.9 / 5.0

7. Ion Air Pro Lite

Trust the Ion Air Pro Lite to record every exciting and shareworthy moment on your journey without breaking the bank. It has a quick release clip that secures it tightly to your helmet or surfboard, plus it can handle being underwater down to 30 feet, no case necessary.
  • wi-fi enabled for real-time uploads
  • includes a handy travel pouch
  • poor audio recording quality
Brand Ion
Model 1011L
Weight 1.5 pounds
Rating 4.0 / 5.0

6. ApeMan FHD

At under $100, and housed in a padded portable case that holds all 17 of its included accessories, the ApeMan FHD provides a serious bang for your buck. It comes with two rechargeable batteries for a total of four hours of recording time in full 1080p resolution.
  • shoots in slow motion at 720p
  • also comes in 4k version
  • ships with no onboard storage
Model 4331910586
Weight 1.5 pounds
Rating 4.3 / 5.0

5. Activeon CX

Equipped with a true CMOS Sony sensor, the Activeon CX is a great entry-level cam for anyone looking for a GoPro-like experience without shelling out hundreds of dollars for one. A number of unique presets, including for aquatics, let it perform well in any environment.
  • intuitive touchscreen
  • stylish construction
  • no external battery charger
Brand Activeon
Model GCA10W
Weight 13.6 ounces
Rating 4.1 / 5.0

4. Lightdow LD6000

You don't have to worry about how your shots are coming out as you take them with the Lightdow LD6000, which, along with some other helpful features, has a built-in liquid crystal display on its rear for real-time viewing. This updated model also comes with Wi-Fi.
  • can start and stop with car ignition
  • comes with a 1-year warranty
  • poor user manual
Brand Lightdow
Model LD6000
Weight 1.3 pounds
Rating 4.1 / 5.0

3. GoPro Hero Session

Achieve professional-quality results with the best-selling GoPro Hero Session. The only budget-friendly option from this leader in the field, it captures 1080p video and 8 megapixel burst photos at rates of up to 100 fps and 10 fps respectively, all in an ergonomic body.
  • simple one-button operation
  • best choice for extreme sports
  • a little pricey for what it is
Brand GoPro
Model CHDHS-102
Weight 13.6 ounces
Rating 4.2 / 5.0

2. Akaso V50

A rare 4K option at this price point, the Akaso V50 packs an impressive host of features. It can shoot in image-stabilized, full HD video at 30 fps, can plunge to underwater depths of 100 ft. and, best of all, can be controlled with your smartphone or the included remote.
  • ismart app is easy to use
  • comes with tons of accessories
  • supports mircosd cards up to 64 gb
Model V50
Weight 1.4 pounds
Rating 4.7 / 5.0

1. Yi Lite

The Yi Lite is a small, but mighty, model that, thanks to its Sony IMX206 sensor, takes breathtaking videos in HD and clear 16 megapixel panoramic photos. It offers 130 minutes of recording time with its rechargeable and replaceable battery, so you'll never miss a thing.
  • bluetooth and wi-fi capabilities
  • real-time streaming
  • waterproof case available separately
Brand YI
Model 97001
Weight 5 ounces
Rating 4.9 / 5.0

Savings In The Extreme

Being adventurous has its own pretty steep price tag on it. The average ski trip can cost an individual a few hundred dollars a day at the low end, and that's if you're renting gear. The average skydiving excursion runs about $250 per jump, and can get into the thousands if you want to get licensed.

With all that money bleeding out from every orifice, the odds of you having another $1,000 to spend on an action cam outfit are pretty slim. At the very least, you'd probably like to divert some of those funds toward a new surf board or one of those suits that lets you soar through the air like a flying squirrel.

That's where a good budget action cam can make all the difference. For the most part, these cameras have all the same basic performance specs as their more expensive cousins. They still boast available waterproof housings, wide angles of view, high definition video, etc. They just have a few minor corners cut where manufacturers don't think you need them.

For example, the most expensive cams on the market shoot in 4K, but outdoorsy extremists aren't likely to be the type to spend hours carefully editing and cropping in from a higher resolution to get the perfect frame before posting a video. It's also worth noting that 4K displays haven't quite taken over the market yet, meaning that all that extra resolution is barely useful.

Ultimately, the majority of the sacrifices made in the name of action cam savings is made in the form of features you could likely live without, and that, if you miss, you can always upgrade to later.

The Activity In Question

Your choice in an action cam, regardless of its cost, will first depend on the activity for which you want to use it. The best camera for a surfer might not be the best camera for a skier, and the difference starts with the shape.

The original action cams, the ones everybody thinks of when they picture a small fish-eye camera built for capturing extreme activities, were rectangular in shape, built like little boxes you could stick almost anywhere.

Since the inception of those devices, the amount of available mounting hardware has made it so that they can be affixed to almost anything in myriad configurations. Just because they can find a way to make it seem ergonomic, however, doesn't necessarily mean that it's truly meant to fit where it goes.

There are other action cams on the market whose shapes are more tubular, situating the lens at the end of a body more cylindrical than anything else. These tend to fit on helmets, arms (as in limbs), and arms (as in guns) much more efficiently than the box design. The result is a camera that captures a point of view closer to that of the person or the implement in use.

Which isn't to say that the available mounting hardware shouldn't be a big part of your decision-making, as well. If you invest in an action cam system for sky diving only to find out that there isn't a compatible mount that can handle that kind of force working against it, you're going to have a very nice paper weight that can film you as you work your day job. Not quite as exciting.

It Started With A Surfer...Sort Of

It's true that Nick Woodman, the founder of GoPro, is a surfer. It's also true that he got the idea for the tiny, efficient cameras while on a surfing trip to Australia. It's even undeniable that he raised a portion of the funds that started his company by doing one of the most beach bummy things a person can imagine: selling jewelry made of beads and shells out of the back of his VW van.

What most people don't talk about when they discuss the history of the action cam is that GoPro wasn't Woodman's first attempt at starting a business, as he had a pair of startups that never got their legs under them fail before his camera company took off. He was always more of a businessman than anything else.

This isn't to paint Woodman as some kind of capitalist monster pretending to be something he isn't. In fact, it's quite the opposite. It's rather to illustrate that this entire category of camera was built from a perspective that valued value, that wanted to empower the average consumer to own the best gear possible for the lowest price possible. One of Woodman's failed startups,, was intended to sell electronic items to people with less money to burn by offering those devices at no more than a $2 markup.

The action cam, then, has always been about budget, and in the wake of GoPro's success, dozens of companies have come out of the ether to create competitive versions of the camera for a lower cost. In some cases, those cameras have failed miserably, but where companies have succeeded, consumers have saved. As that competition grinds on between manufacturers, GoPro has had to keep up, pushing the development of its cameras further along, and providing new blueprints for the companies coming up behind it.

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Last updated on February 13, 2018 by Chase Brush

Chase is a freelance journalist with experience working in the areas of politics and public policy. Currently based in Brooklyn, NY, he is also a hopeless itinerant continually awaiting his next Great Escape.

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