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
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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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Lumix G7 was launched back in the early days of mirrorless, so it’s quite a few years old now, and that shows in its styling and specs. It’s the ideal choice for mirrorless camera buyers who prefer the bulk and meaty grip of a DSLR-shaped body – and it comes with an electronic viewfinder, which is terrific in a mirrorless camera at this price. Furthermore, it gives you 4K video recording
The downside is that G7 was launched before Panasonic started including in-body stabilization in its cameras, so you’re reliant on any optical stabilization in the lenses themselves. It also has a relatively old 16-megapixel Micro Four Thirds sensor, although this is not a significant downside for the videographer.
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).
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