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The best budget action camera in 2021: action cams for under $100

Best budget action camera: action cams for under $100
(Image credit: Akaso)

With the action camera market expanding, the title of best budget action camera is more competitive than ever! It pays to shop around so you can be sure you're picking up the right camera for you, but with more choice than ever, including a few dodgy firms selling flimsy cheap rubbish, how do you know which is right for you? That's where we come in!

There will of course be a degree of compromise involved when picking up the best budget action cameras. As much as you might want to, you're not going to bag the newest and best GoPro camera for under $100, so it's worth adjusting your expectations accordingly. Although, to be fair, given the kind of situations you'll likely be putting action cameras in, you might well feel better if the device you're attaching to the front of a white-water raft or whatever else hasn't cost you more than a used car!

There are a few features to look out for. The video resolution is a big one – do you want 4K, or can you get by without it? What's the screen situation, and is there a rear monitor large enough to review your shots on? Does the camera have Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connectivity for hooking up with a smartphone? Is it possible to attach an external mic to improve audio quality? Whether these kinds of features are "must-haves" for you or not will determine which camera is right for you.

So, without further ado, let’s cast our eye over the best budget action camera options that won’t break the bank…

(Image credit: Akaso)

1: AKASO EK7000 Pro

Best budget action camera overall

Weight: 61g | Waterproof: Yes, to 40 metres | 4K video: At 25fps | 1080p video: At 60fps | 720p video: No | Stills resolution: 16 megapixels | Battery life: Up to 90 minute per charge

4K video capture, 
Remote operation 
Required microSD card not included
No Bluetooth connectivity

This upgrade of the 2016 EX7000 model sticks a ‘Pro’ suffix on the name and shoehorns in 4K shooting. In fact we appear to get a decent return for our cash as this model also features 16MP photos and two-inch touch screen. There’s anti shake too, albeit of the electronic variety, while waterproof housing enables it to withstand depths of 131ft (40m) and a selectable diving mode allows users to compensate for a lack of red light for underwater scenes. Images are saved to optional microSD card, which is obviously an extra cost. Included in the box is a remote controller that can be strapped to your wrist, plus various mounts and tethering cables and the two lithium polymer batteries it requires. As the above suggests, Wi-Fi is included here, as is the ability to achieve time-lapse special effects, so in all this is an option worth further investigation. 

(Image credit: SJCAM)

2: SJCAM SJ8 Air

Big screen makes this a great budget action cam option

Weight: 80g | Waterproof: Yes, to 30 metres | 4K video: No | 1080p video: At 30fps | 720p video: At 30fps | Stills resolution: 14 megapixels | Battery life: Up to 130 minute per charge

SJCAM phone app for the transferring (and  editing) of videos & photos
Larger screen than rivals
No 4K video

Pitched as a ‘sports’ camera offering 160° shooting, with a claimed unit weight of a mere 80g, this compact device features a 2.33-inch touch screen and a 14MP Panasonic made sensor, along with Wi-Fi and Ultra HD video clips of 1296P at 30fps.The connectivity option is useful, as there is also a downloadable SJCAM app that allows photos and video to be edited on via smartphone and immediately shared via social media. As with others of its ilk, the device boasts waterproofing to depths of 100 feet (30 metres) if using the supplied housing. Power comes courtesy of a 1000 mAh battery, claimed to offer an improved performance over previous models.

Best budget action cameras: Akaso V50 X

(Image credit: Akaso)

3: Akaso V50 X

Great quality and stabilisation for the price, this is an impressive feat of engineering

Weight: 69g | Waterproof: Yes, to 40 metres (with a case) | 4K video: At 30fps | 1080p video: At 120fps | 720p video: At 120fps | Stills resolution: 20 megapixels | Battery life: Up to 180 minutes per charge

Good-quality 4K video
Impressive stabilisation
Mic can be quiet
Video sometimes soft

You might think that 4K 30p video and good stabilisation is a lot to ask for in a sub-$100 action camera, but Akaso has pulled it off! This is a slick little action camera, with an intuitive UI, and useful slow-motion video options at lower resolution settings. The image stabilisation is buttery-smooth, out-performing other cameras at this price point – okay it's not going to trouble the likes of GoPro's premium cameras, but it does a good job! The built-in mic is a little disappointing – though the option to attach an external mic does help – and the 4K video can be a little soft, but this is still a really solid buy for anyone looking for a dependable little action camera for a budget price.

Best budget action cameras

(Image credit: Apeman)

4: Apeman A80

Great value action camera option

Weight: 79g | Waterproof: Yes, to 40 metres | 4K video: At 24fps | 1080p video: At 120fps | 720p video: No | Stills resolution: 20 megapixels | Battery life: Up to 90 minute per charge

4K video clips, 
Superb specification for the price
Requires use of the (supplied) case to be fully waterproof

An Apeman at a cost far, far less than a ‘monkey’, this is a step up from the A79 model in boasting 20 megapixel stills, 4K video and Wi-Fi connectivity, thereby matching the best of what’s on offer here for sub £100/ $100. Given the budget price, it’s incredible that the unit comes with 24 accessories including waterproof case allowing operation down to depths of 130 feet (40m), as well as HDMI output and the choice of four viewing angles: 170°, 140°, 110° and 70°. Factor in motion detection and built-in anti shake, and if you’re on a strict budget, you might well find yourself swinging for this smooth operating simian.

(Image credit: Polaroid)

5: Polaroid Cube Act II

Pocket-sized action camera at a pocket money price

Weight: 159g | Waterproof: Splash resistant (waterproof case is optional extra) | 4K video: No | 1080p video: At 30fps | 720p video: At 30fps | Stills resolution: 6megapixels | Battery life: 90 minute per charge

Fun design
Ultra compact
Can be attached to a multitude of objects
Inexpensive 
No Wi-Fi, 
Requires additional housing to be fully waterproof

Yes it looks like a miniaturized TV set as imagined by Austin Powers, or even like ‘Hal’ in Kubrick’s 2001. But for an almost pocket money price we’re getting a 6MP CMOS sensor device just 35mm in depth that eschews Wi-Fi but does feature a 124° wide-angle f/2 lens. With a magnet for mounting it to any metal surface, the Cube’s USB-charged battery promises an hour-and-a-half of interrupted fun. 

Operated via just a single button, this iteration offers built-in stabilization, better low light capability plus sound recording. It’s no surprise at this low price that there’s no 4K video offered, but we do get the option of either Full HD or HD clips, plus a construction described as shock proof and splash resistant rather than waterproof, per se. With images saved to commonly used microSD card, this Polaroid is available in black, red or blue to match your moods.

•  Best microSD card deals right now

(Image credit: Akaso)

6: AKASO Brave 6

Voice activation is great for vloggers and selfie lovers

Weight: 78g | Waterproof: Yes, to 30 metres | 4K video: At 24fps | 1080p video: At 60fps | 720p video: No | Stills resolution: megapixels | Battery life: Up to 90 minute per charge

Voice activated operation
Adjustable angle of view 
microSD card not included

Upgrading the earlier Brave 4 model, this latest iteration offers the ability to control the device hands-free using just your voice – barking out such commands as ‘Akaso – take photo’ or ‘Akaso – video start’. Once again we get built in image stabilization of the electronic variety, integral Wi-Fi and, here, the welcome ability to control the camera’s angle of view – selecting 170°, 140°, 110° and 70° according to the user’s needs. As one would expect ,the ‘Brave’ can also withstand a bit of water – here down to a claimed depth of 98 feet / 30 metres – and shoot 4K video in addition to 20MP stills. Further flexibility is added via a wireless remote control. In short, we’re getting a lot of bang for not much buck. 

(Image credit: Vivitar)

7: Vivitar DVR783HD

Comes with helmet and bike mounts

Weight: 220g | Waterproof: Yes, to 3 metres | 4K video: No | 1080p video: No | 720p video: Yes (frame rate unspecified) | Stills resolution: 5 megapixels | Battery life: Not specified

Inexpensive
Supplied with helmet and bike mounts 
Fairly low resolution stills and video
Can’t be used in water at a depth of more than three metres

Available in various body colors, this more conventional looking action camera from Vivitar ticks most of the boxes despite offering a fairly pedestrian level of specification that includes 5.1 megapixel images, video recording at a high definition 720P, plus waterproofing to a so-so depth of 10ft or three metres. 

Keeping things simple, this unit comes with a lithium ion battery and charger, as well as a helmet and bike mount for capturing footage while on the move. While this camera may be fairly basic, it does manage to squeeze in a 1.8-inch LCD screen, while, like most in its class, images are written to microSD card.

(Image credit: VTech)

8: VTech Kidizoom Action Cam HD

The best budget action camera for kids

Weight: 649g | Waterproof: Waterproof case supplied | 4K video: No | 1080p video: No | 720p video: Yes | Stills resolution: 1 megapixel | Battery life: 150 minute per charge

Fun design
Suitable for children aged 5 and above
Comes with waterproof housing and float handle
Supplied bike mount
Low-resolution stills
Requires additional housing to be fully waterproof down to 6ft

Get the kids into moviemaking young with this fun action cam that is designed for use by kids as young as five years old. The basic camera specification is not much to write home about - shooting 720p video which just about qualifies as HD. And stills are a disappointing one megapixel. But this camera is all about the fun... and it makes getting action footage easy by being supplied with a waterproof housing, a floating handle and a clamp to attach the camera to a bike. The camera has a 128MB internal memory - but benefits from a investment in a microSD card so that you have plenty of room for clips. 

Read more:
The best action cameras in 2021
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The best waterproof cameras
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