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Best budget video cameras

Best budget video camera - grandmother records footage of her grandson playing on the beach
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Hunting for the best budget video camera? It’s a challenging time for everyone, budget-wise, and if you want to shoot great video without forking out a fortune, it pays to do your research. There are absolutely great cameras out there that will allow you to capture high-quality video – you just have to know which ones they are.

We’ve divided this guide up into sections based on camera type. First we deal with action cameras, tiny waterproof models that are great for travel and extreme sports. Next we’ve included dedicated video camcorders, which are great all-in-one units for casual use. After that we’ve included some fixed-lens compact cameras, offering high-quality video features in a small package. Lastly, we’ve included some mirrorless options, which will give you the greatest quality and flexibility, but at the highest cost. 

You aren’t going to get all the top-line features when buying a budget video camera, so it’s important to focus on what you can get. Here are the key things to look out for:

Resolution: the quality of the video, measured by pixels. While 4K is nice if you can get it, for budget users, Full HD (1920 x 1080 pixels) will do the job just fine.

Frame rate: How many frames per second the camera shoots when recording video, In budget video, 30p is fine, 60p is good, and 120p and above is useful for slow-motion – nice if you can get it, but not essential.

Zoom range: This can be useful for run-and-gun video shooting. Camcorders will tend to have considerable zoom capabilities, other cameras less so.

Waterproofing: If you’re going to be taking your camera into wet conditions, you need to think about waterproofing. Action cameras and tough compacts are going to be your best bet here. 

So, let’s get down to it and count off the best budget video cameras.

The best budget video cameras you can buy

Action cameras

(Image credit: Digital Camera World)
This budget GoPro is ideal for travel and sports shooting

Specifications

Type: Action camera
Sensor: 1/2.5-inch
Megapixels: 12MP
Lens: Fixed wide lens
Screen: 2-inch rear display
Viewfinder: No
Mic port: Yes (with optional Media Mod)
Max video resolution: 4K 60p
User level: Beginner/enthusiast

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent stabilization
+
Loads of mounting options

Reasons to avoid

-
No selfie screen
-
Rear screen not 16:9

This is probably the oldest GoPro that’s really worth buying. Available for a cut-down price, the GoPro Hero 8 Black was released in a much more competitive action camera market than previous models, and as such it got a few interesting features that pulled it ahead of the pack. The Hypersmooth 2.0 stabilization was class-leading at the time, and still impresses today, making it easy to get smooth FPV footage of cycling, surfing, driving or whatever else. 

With loads of flexible mounting options, the Hero 8 Black is useful for all sorts of video applications. Our review of this action camera gave it a gold award and the full five stars, which it still earns based on the fact that it can be bought so darn cheap nowadays.

(Image credit: Jamie Carter/Digital Camera World)
This best cheap action camera is excellent for vloggers

Specifications

Type: Action camera
Sensor: 1/2.3 inch
Megapixels: 20MP
Lens: Fixed fish-eye lens
Screen: 2-inch rear screen; 1.5-inch front screen
Viewfinder: No
Mic port: No
Max video resolution: 4K 30p
User level: Beginner/enthusiast

Reasons to buy

+
Front and rear screens
+
Decent stabilization

Reasons to avoid

-
No 4K 60p
-
Limited native waterproofing

There are loads of budget action cameras out there, but it can be a minefield of false economy. Just because something is cheap, doesn’t mean it’s worth it! However, the Akaso Brave 7 LE is a cheap action camera that justifies its cost. With 4K 30p video (no 60p, but still not bad), it can capture footage of good-enough quality for most purposes, and it even squeezes in something the GoPro Hero 8 Black is missing – a front-facing selfie screen for vloggers. The stabilization system, while not a patch on GoPro’s, does the job just fine and makes the camera much more usable hand-held. As we said in our review, this is “a great value action camera for all-round use.”

Camcorders

Best budget video cameras: Sony HDR-CX405 camcorder

(Image credit: Sony)

3. Sony HDR-CX405

A dependable cheap camcorder for casual video shooting

Specifications

Type: Camcorder
Sensor: 1/5.8-type
Megapixels: 2.29MP
Lens: 30x optical zoom lens, 26.8mm wide-angle setting
Screen: 2.7-inch flip-out LCD, 230,400 dots
Viewfinder: No
Mic port: No
Max video resolution: Full HD
User level: Beginner

Reasons to buy

+
Flexible zoom capabilities
+
Lightweight and user-friendly

Reasons to avoid

-
No mic port
-
Image noisy in low light

A camcorder is a no-frills, no-fuss kind of video option for those who need something straightforward – and the Sony HDR-CX405 fits that bill perfectly. It weighs just 215g with the battery loaded, making it easy to operate with one hand. The zoom lens is a powerful 30x optical model, and you also have the option of pushing this further with 60x digital zoom, giving you real shooting flexibility. Intelligent Auto mode will pick the right settings for you, making it easy to simply point and shoot. The sensor is smaller than you’ll find on other types of camera, a difference you’ll notice in low light, when video will get grainy and noisy. 

(Image credit: Zoom)

4. Zoom Q8 Handy Video Recorder

The best cheap camcorder for high-quality audio

Specifications

Type: Camcorder
Sensor: 1/3-inch
Megapixels: 3MP
Lens: 16.6 mm equivalent fixed lens with digital zoom
Screen: 2.7-inch flip-out touchscreen LCD
Viewfinder: No
Mic port: Dual combo XLR/TRS inputs
Max video resolution: 3M HD (2304 x 1296 pixels) 30p
User level: Intermediate to enthusiast

Reasons to buy

+
Array of audio options
+
Can stream via USB

Reasons to avoid

-
Unexceptional video quality
-
Mics cost extra

When shopping for cheap video cameras, one of the biggest challenges you’re likely to face is getting decent audio, as most don’t have mic ports, instead relying on basic internal mics. The Zoom Q8 Handy Video Recorder is a budget camcorder designed with audio in mind – it has four audio channels, an interchangeable mic capsule system, and two ports for external mics. It can save audio as uncompressed WAV files and AAC files, so if you want to record a band practice or even a gig, it’s a solid choice. It can also stream via USB. The maximum video resolution is a somewhat unusual 2304 x 1296 pixels, and at a frame rate of 30p, it’s good without being great.

Compact cameras

(Image credit: Canon)

5. Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark II

A budget-friendly version of a YouTuber favourite

Specifications

Type: Compact
Sensor: 1-inch
Megapixels: 20.1MP
Lens: 24-100mm equivalent optical zoom
Screen: 3-inch tilting touchscreen, 1,040,000 dots
Viewfinder: No
Mic port: No
Max video resolution: Full HD 60p
User level: Intermediate to enthusiast

Reasons to buy

+
Pocketable dimensions
+
Flip-around screen 

Reasons to avoid

-
No mic port
-
No 4K

Canon’s G7 X compacts have been favorites among vloggers and YouTubers for some time. The latest is the Mark III version – this is the previous Mark II, which can generally be picked up for around £200/$200 cheaper. With the cheaper model, video users have to be willing to live without three things – 4K, a mic port and the ability to livestream. If none of that bothers you, this compact is an extremely savvy buy, producing excellent Full HD 60p video, and offering real versatility thanks to its optical zoom lens. Having a screen that can face forward is also especially handy for vlogging.

(Image credit: James Artaius)
A waterproof camera with an optical zoom

Specifications

Type: Tough compact
Sensor: 1/2.33-inch
Megapixels: 12MP
Lens: 25-100mm equivalent optical zoom lens
Screen: 3-inch fixed LCD screen, 1040,000 dots
Viewfinder: No
Mic port: No
Max video resolution: 4K 30p
User level: Beginner to enthusiast

Reasons to buy

+
Extremely durable
+
Range of frame rate options

Reasons to avoid

-
Small sensor
-
Display isn’t scratchproof

Get the toughness of a GoPro with a host of other features too – the Olympus Tough TG-6 is the best tough compact camera you can buy.  It's waterproof to 15m, shockproof to 2.1m, crushproof up to 100kg, and freezeproof to -10°C. As you might expect, this necessitates a simple build, ruling out a mic port or an articulating screen, however the TG-6 does manage to provide a few shooting options. 

Its slow-mo credentials are particularly good – while the maximum frame rate in 4K is 30p, in Full HD it’s 120p, in HD it’s 240fps, and if you dial down to the lowest resolution, it’s a whopping 480p. You do need to bear in mind though that its sensor is about the same size as that of your smartphone, so don’t expect stellar quality or low-light performance. 

Mirrorless cameras

(Image credit: Jon Devo)
One of the best beginner vlogging cameras

Specifications

Type: Mirrorless
Sensor: Micro Four Thirds
Megapixels: 20.3
Lens mount: MFT
Screen: 3-inch vari-angle, 1,840,000 dots
Viewfinder: EVF, 3,690,000 dots
Mic port: Yes
Max video resolution: 4K UHD
User level: Beginner/enthusiast

Reasons to buy

+
Small, light, user-friendly
+
Quality video and audio

Reasons to avoid

-
On the pricier side
-
No 4K 60p

Aiming to tempt beginner video users into the Micro Four Thirds system, Panasonic has produced the vlogger-oriented Lumix G100. It’s lightweight, at 412g with a kit lens (that’s included in the price), and it’s easy to use, thanks to its high-quality LCD and big viewfinder. The video quality is generally excellent – some might bemoan the lack of 4K 60p, but it’s realistically more than enough for most purposes. Also, its intelligent three-capsule built-in mic system is one of the better audio systems we’ve seen on a camera at this price, and while you’re better off buying an external mic, the system means that you don’t have to. Having access to the MFT lens (opens in new tab) mount also means you’ve got loads of lenses to choose from. 

(Image credit: Future)
Stylish and versatile, this is a winning vloggers’ camera

Specifications

Type: Mirrorless
Sensor: Micro Four Thirds
Megapixels: 20.3MP
Lens mount: Micro Four Thirds
Screen: 3-inch tilting touchscreen, 1,037,000 dots
Viewfinder: EVF, 2,360,000 dots
Mic port: No
Max video resolution: 4K 30p
User level: Beginner

Reasons to buy

+
Loads of lens options
+
Powerful stabilization

Reasons to avoid

-
No mic port
-
Comparatively expensive

Another beginner-friendly Micro Four Thirds camera (opens in new tab) option, the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IV is a hugely stylish camera that also has video tech where it counts. Capable of shooting 4K video at 30p, it also boasts Olympus’s 5-axis stabilization system, which is one of the most capable on the market, and makes it super-easy to get smooth footage shooting handheld. You’ve also got a flip-down screen for vlogging purposes, making it easy to film yourself, and the autofocus on the E-M10 IV is reliably accurate. We would have liked a mic port, but given that this is a more expensive camera anyway, budget users likely won’t be springing extra cash for a microphone. It’s a capable all-in-one video setup. 

How we test cameras

We test cameras both in real-world shooting scenarios and in carefully controlled lab conditions. Our lab tests measure resolution, dynamic range and signal to noise ratio. Resolution is measured using ISO resolution charts, dynamic range is measured using DxO Analyzer test equipment and DxO Analyzer is also used for noise analysis across the camera's ISO range. We use both real-world testing and lab results to inform our comments in buying guides. Find out more about how we test and review on Digital Camera World (opens in new tab)

Best camera for video (opens in new tab)
Best camcorders (opens in new tab)
Best budget action cameras (opens in new tab)
Best phone for video (opens in new tab)
Best 4K camera for filmmaking (opens in new tab)

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