Want an action camera, but don’t want to pay $300 and more for a GoPro? Then we have some good news for you. The action camera market has exploded and there are some fantastic action cameras for under $100.
You’ll be able to get your feet wet with action camera photography without breaking the bank. We break down what you need to consider when purchasing a new action camera and then pick the top cameras that’ll take stunning videos of your next adventure.
What to Look For in an Action Camera?
There are a handful of features you should consider when shopping for an action camera. You first should think about how you are going to use the camera. Are you going to use it for extreme sports in challenging conditions?
Or will you use it to record normal, everyday YouTube videos? These basic questions will help you determine which type of camera you should purchase and how much you should pay.
Whether you’re showing off your bike skills at a flow park or flying down a ski slope, you should be able to grab your action camera and not worry about breaking it. Look for cameras that are waterproof for starters, so you can use them in the rain and snow. They also should come with a case that’ll both protect them from dirt, as well as prevent them from being damaged in a fall.
Most action cameras support at least 720P HD video recording, with some even recording at 4K. The higher the resolution, the more you can do with the video clip, but the larger the file size.
A 4K clip will look stunning on a 4K TV but may be overkill for internet playback. A 1080P is a good compromise and suitable for playback on most televisions and online. Most cameras that record in the high resolution 4K format can also record at a lower resolution if you prefer.
Frames Per Second
For most purposes, a frame rate of 30 frames per second will deliver smooth video for watching online or on television. If you want to record slow-motion videos or capture still images from a video, look for a camera supporting 60 or even 120FPS.
Having a display on an action camera is an often overlooked benefit. The screen lets you see the angle you are capturing, so you don’t accidentally capture the ground when you want to record the surroundings. You also can use it to review the videos you’ve recorded. You can see if you nailed the clip or need to do a reshoot before packing up to go home.
Some action cameras include a touchscreen display, which may add to the cost of the device. If you can afford it, a touch screen is convenient so you can tap on the screen to play back video and change the recording settings.
If you don’t have a touchscreen, you’ll have to learn which buttons you need to press to access the different menus.
Image stabilization can make or break your video, especially if you plan to use an action camera for high-intensity activities. You’ll appreciate the smooth video from a stabilized camera.
Battery life is a challenge when it comes to action cameras. Batteries tend to be compact, providing anywhere from 30 minutes to 3 hours of recording time. Look for a camera with a removable battery, so you can have a fully charged backup ready to go. Some cameras don’t have a removable battery, so you’ll need to bring along a portable battery pack.
Most action cameras support a wide variety of mounts, allowing you to place the camera in hard-to-reach locations. Look for a camera that includes several mounts or supports the GoPro standard mounting system. There are a lot of cheap third-party mounts for GoPro.
Other features you may encounter include:
- Wi-Fi: Lets you connect to the camera and control it remotely with a smartphone. It also makes it easy to download videos to your phone.
- Voice control: Makes it easy to turn on/off recording and power. It’s beneficial in the winter when gloved hands make it difficult to use the buttons.
- Remote control: Some cameras come with a remote control or sell a remote control separately. These controls can be mounted in an easy-to-access location, so you can control the camera without having to take it out of its mount.
The Best Action Cameras Under $100
You can’t go wrong with any of the cameras on this list. They may vary in price and features but each one will capture all your memorable moments. Choose the camera that meets your price point and desired features.
Best 4K Camera
If you want a 4K camera with no compromise, then the Apeman A100 should be at the top of the list.
It has everything you need and more to record top-quality video at 4K, 50 frames per second video, and a 20MP camera. On the back of the unit is a 2-inch retina LCD touchscreen that lets you change shooting modes and preview footage right on the camera.
Designed for rugged conditions, the Apeman 100 ships with a protective waterproof case, a UV protection film for the sensor, an IR filter, and a glass-covered lens.
Best Low-Cost Camera
One of the most affordable cameras on our list, the Crosstour Action records high-quality 1080P videos and captures crisp 14MP photos. It lacks extras like remote control and a touchscreen that typically are found on expensive models, but that doesn’t mean you should dismiss it.
The low price and outstanding image quality more than make up for these missing features. It offers outstanding value for someone who wants a basic action camera.
Best for Teens/Tweens
The Akaso EK7000 Pro takes impressive videos, especially in 1080P, with support for advanced recording functions like time-lapse and loop recording. It’s missing image stabilization, so you probably don’t want to use it for running or similar high-impact activities.
It has a compact design, making it easy to carry around in a pack or a purse. The included batteries provide plenty of recording time and can be recharged quickly using the included charger. It also connects easily with third-party apps that you can use to transfer photos and videos to your iPhone and then post to Instagram or other social media platforms.
Best GoPro Clone
The Akaso Brave 4 is as close to a GoPro as you can get without paying GoPro prices. Unlike the EK7000 Pro, which also is by Akaso, the Brave 4 includes electronic image stabilization, which makes a considerable difference in high-impact sports like running or mountain biking. It takes fantastic 4K videos with a 5X digital zoom and has remote control for convenience.
Best Entry-Level Camera
For its price, this camera is nothing short of impressive. The Dragon Vision 3 takes quality pictures, videos & slow-motion videos, but it doesn’t have image stabilization.
It comes with enough mounting hardware to place the camera almost anywhere you want it. The camera ships with two batteries and a charger that lets you charge both at once.
Best Budget Action Cam for Kids
You can tell from the size and color choices that the VTech Kidizoom Action Cam is designed for younger kids. It has an easy-to-use menu system and compact design that’s perfect for smaller hands.
The camera includes a durable and waterproof case that can mount to a bike, skateboard, or more. It offers kid-friendly effects, frames, and photo filters that your children can add to their videos and photos. When it comes to fun, the Kidizoom action camera is a winner.
Best Action Cameras Under $100: Other Considerations
Action cameras are an outstanding tool for athletes and adventure junkies who want to capture all their escapades. They are compact and can be thrown in a pack so you always have it.
Features vary between the models but each one on our list is capable of recording quality video for your daytime adventures. They also are affordable which makes them ideal for those who want to get started in action photography with a minimum investment. They also are great for the average person who needs an action camera for a trip and doesn’t want to spend a fortune on a camera they’ll only use occasionally.