We started looking for the best action camera under $200 a couple of months ago as our spelunking tour to Thingvellir National Park is due in March.
Why $200, you might think.
Because we are penny pinchers and that’s the max amount of cash that we were willing to spend for an action camera.
Well, to be honest, we didn’t mind spending even lesser. How about $100?
So we spent the next few weeks digging through the best budget action cameras that the market had on offer.
Much to our surprise, we were greeted with a wealth of options that could give GoPro and DJI a serious run for their money. Both in terms of the tech they boast of, and in terms of video quality.
We figured that we possibly couldn’t be the only ones looking to get themselves one of these versatile cameras without spending an arm and a leg.
1. AKASO V50 Elite 4K WIFI Sports Action Camera – Best All round pick
Alright, so where do we begin?
The Akaso V50 Elite is crammed to the brim with best in-class features, despite being priced at almost ½ the price of big brands.
For starters, it boasts of 4K video at 60 FPS & 30FPS as a standard option and pictures at 20MP. In addition to this, it comes with a bunch of different shooting modes like slow-mo at 240FPS, diving, fast motion and time lapse, all of which are extremely easy to access and toggle through.
It comes with two 1100mAh rechargeable batteries that give you 3-hours of combined recording time.
It is Wi-Fi compatible, has HDMI connectivity and comes with a tiny, two-button remote control that can be worn on your wrist.
Oh, it’s waterproof to 131 feet.
If the features weren’t good enough already, Akaso throws in a bunch of mounting accessories that would otherwise cost you at least $1000 if you were buying a GoPro instead of this one.
And it’s just not about features either. The quality of the pictures and the videos are top notch.
The camera is built like a rock and you can put this through the motions without worrying about it conking off or getting damaged. Water, sand, mud, dirt, name it and it can sustain the wear and tear.
All in all, we couldn’t be more pleased with the Akaso V50 Elite. The only possible gripe that we could find with it is that it doesn’t come with a warranty. But hey, at this price point, it is a complete value for money product. And the warranty doesn’t bother us. If it gets broken, we can totally afford a new one.
AKASO V50 Elite 4K
2. GoPro Hero Silver – Big brand Pick
If you cannot fathom the thought of owning anything other than a GoPro, then here’s the Hero White for your consideration.
This is GoPro’s entry-level offering that boasts of a few good features under its silver, classy rubberized casing. More importantly, it’s backed by GoPro’s quality assurance.
The Hero Silver shoots 4K videos at 30fps and takes 10MP still photos. It can seems pale in comparison to the 4K at 60fps offered by AKASO V50 Elite and other brands these days. But don’t forget. This isn’t an unknown Chinese brand. It’s GoPro.
In addition to the standards, it comes with timelapse and a slow-motion mode at 2x speed.
The camera is designed for point and click shooting. It’s compact enough to be mounted practically anywhere. And it features a 1.95-inch touch screen on the rear that’s responsive and fast.
It is Wi-Fi and Bluetooth compatible and image/video edits are extremely easy onboard.
It is waterproof to just 33 feet though. But if you are looking to plunge to beyond 10m, then you’d probably do yourself a favor by investing in a higher end action camera.
Overall, we’d recommend the GoPro Silver for beginners to the action camera scene looking for a reliable purchase. For a small monthly fee, you can get a full replacement warranty.
GoPro Hero Silver
3. YI 4K Action Camera – Best Option for High Res videos
If you are an adrenaline junkie or a ninja YouTuber who seeks butter smooth high res videos, then you will love the YI 4K budget action camera.
It shoots 4k at 30fps and an inbuilt gyroscope and accelerometer (also called the Extreme Image Stabilization) ensure that the footage is jitter-free even at extreme speeds.
If that didn’t impress you much, it can also shoot slow motion videos at 240fps at 720p. That’s four times the slow-mo specs of the GoPro White.
The YI boasts of a clean, impressive design that is ridiculously easy to use. A 2.19-inch LCD touchscreen lets you toggle through the controls with ease and if you wish to go handsfree, you can switch over to voice commands.
The LCD display is protected with a Gorilla glass screen guard that helps keep scruffs and scratches at bay.
YI also gives action photographers complete manual control over the images as it can churn out 12MP raw images. The Sony IMX377 image sensor and Amarelle dual-core A9SE75 give you amazing clarity.
Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity, as well as the Yi Action app makes it a cakewalk to edit and share your pics and videos.
YI 4K Action Camera
4. Sony HDRAS50 – Best Action cam with a Zeiss Lens
It’s refreshing to see big brands compete with little known ones for supremacy in what’s becoming an extremely crowded market for action cams.
Sony jumped head over heels into the space a while ago.
The HDRAS50 is their foray into the budget-priced end of the market.
This action cam boasts of FULL HD videos and incredibly vibrant pictures courtesy their 11.1MP, Exmor R sensor that peps up the footage in low light.
Not to forget the Zeiss lens that the camera comes fitted with. Wide angle, low light, overexposure, this has got you covered.
Steadyshot Image Stabilization is included as a standard feature and there are 6 video modes including a 4k Timelapse.
Other than the standards like Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, Sony also throws in a stereo mic that allows crystal clear audio recording in two track stereo, and a 60m water housing is making it a neat bundle.
Overall, this budget action camera is best suited for YouTubers and travel bloggers who look for that extra pop in their footage. Sony’s Ziess lens reproduces colors vividly and we’d happily choose this one over others if that was the intended use.
5. ThiEYE T5e – Best Action cam for underwater use
Most action cams offer some degree of protection against water leakage. But what if you wish to go beyond the normal 50-100 feet of depth?
This one from ThiEYE is waterproof for up to 197 feet, making it one of the best choices for underwater use.
It comes with a 170-degree wide angle lens that’s powered by a Sony IMX117 Sensor and an Ambarella A12S Processor that gives your images and videos excellent color reproduction and low light performance.
It can shoot 4K videos at 30FPS and up to 240FPS for slow motion videos. Controls are easily accessible thanks to the 2” bright, LCD display on the rear.
We also like the accessory bundle that it ships with. In addition to the 2 x 1100mAh batteries that give up to 150 minutes of continual 4K video recording, it also comes with a 360-degree rotating buckle that allows you to capture stunning panorama shots on-the-fly.
This also stabilizes the camera to a great extent, which in addition to on-board Electronic Image Stabilization gives you butter smooth videos.
If you spend a lot of time talking to the fishes, go get this one without batting an eyelid.
6. Xiaomi Mijia Mi Sphere 360-degree Camera – Best action cam for panoramic shots
When Xiaomi first announced a 360-degree camera, we thought that it had to be a gimmick. But one look at the Mijia Mi Sphere in action and we knew that it had set a new benchmark in action cam tech.
GoPro has just announced one of these as well. So has DJI. But those will cost a pretty penny.
This one from Xiaomi is priced just right. So what’s the buzz all about?
It comes with dual lenses that automatically calibrate to give you 360-degree images at 7K resolution, at up to 23.88MP.
That’s incredible, DSLR-grade quality at this price point.
Nearly 360-degree videos are recorded at 3.5K at 30FPS and full HD at 60FPS and the 6-axis EIS kicks in keeping your videos completely jitter-free at all times.
Just download the Xiaomi app to record time lapse videos easily and manually set the exposure for up to 32 seconds for crystal clear night shots.
Also, Xiaomi has been constantly rolling out firmware upgrades which can be downloaded for free. Some of the new features that’ve been added include RAW images, HDR mode, intervalometer for time lapse, screen recording and enhanced image stitching.
Word is that a 4K video upgrade is on the cards.
If you are looking for an action cam to do virtual guides or just dig amazing quality panorama shots, look no further.
Xiaomi Mijia Mi Sphere
7. Campark X30
The X30 is almost identical to our #1 pick, the Akaso V50 Elite. Both are Chinese made action cams.
In fact, they are even priced identically. The only notable difference being that Akaso is more popular among users with some great customer reviews.
Also, they have a broader product range.
Coming to the X30, this is a great, budget-priced action cam that shoots 4K Ultra HD videos at 60 & 30 fps.
Comes with an in-built EIS that keeps the videos jerk free, except at 4K 60fps, when the EIS is disabled by default. That’s just a small niggle though.
It is waterproof for up to 131 feet and features an automatic lens correction feature that prevents the fisheye distortion from ruining your captures.
A 2.0-inch LCD Intuitive touch screen display makes it easy to playback the videos and toggle through the various shooting modes.
The X30 also allows you to switch the viewing mode from Wide to narrow at the touch of a button. This can be very useful while switching from a landscape to a narrower field of view.
Campark throws in a 45-day money back guarantee and a 12-month warranty, which is amazing.
8. Bear Grylls Waterproof Action Camera Glasses (BG-GLS-1) – Best Action camera for mountaineering
The BG-GLS-1 is an action camera integrated into stylish sunglasses that allows you to get amazing Point-of-view footage without worrying about camera mounts and handheld gimbals.
Just wear the UV protective glasses and you are set to rock and roll.
Recording is as easy as pressing a button and you get 1080p videos at 30fps.
We know that 1080 isnt really groundbreaking when almost every other brand offers 4K. But hey, this is easier than mounting a camera on your helmet or on your body when you have tons of other gear to be bothered about.
Hikes, treks, mountaineering, there are tons of applications for this amazing POV cam.
And it’s very durable. It’s IP6 rated for water and dust proofing and the camera is mounted on a TR90 impact-resistant frame.
You can choose between polarized and normal lenses.
Bear Grylls Waterproof Action Camera Glasses
9. Insta360 ONE – Best 360-degree Action cam for the gram
If you hate those pesky selfie-sticks that seem to ruin a very good capture, try the ONE from Insta360.
This 360-degree VR cam erases a selfie stick or your hand from the final picture, making it appear like it’s a drone shot.
That’s not all. It shoots 4K videos and high resolution, 24MP pictures for panorama shots.
Electronic Image Stabilization gets a new name here. It’s called FlowState Stabilization. Guess what? It works just as well. The videos are buttery smooth irrespective of whether you are cycling downhill or jumping of an airplane.
The camera can be controlled with a remote control (sold separately) or via an app that can be downloaded on the iPhone.
This also makes it extremely easy to edit the footage and upload on the gram.
Last but not the least, we love the unique design of the camera. With the right accessories, this should be a treat to mount on just about everything.
10. EACHINE E520
While it’s not an action cam per-se, the Eachine E520 gives you stunning aerial pictures and videos that add a new dimension to your YouTube videos and action photography.
This is an RC Drone Quadcopter that features a 120° Wide Angle Camera that captures high quality 4K videos.
The follow-me mode ensures that you never go out of focus as the drone follows you every time.
Alternatively, you can draw a custom flight path on the app that the drone will follow automatically. This allows you to create stunning footage, taking guesswork out of the handling.
There are multiple video recording modes, like altitude hold, 360-degree orbit mode and headless mode which can be toggled at the touch of a button.
Talking about handling, it’s easy-peasy. Even a school going child can fly and record videos with no problems whatsoever.
Comes with a 1200mAh Lipo battery that gives you a battery life of up to 17-minutes of continuous 4K recording.
How to Select the Best Action Camera Under $200
Believe it or not, the best action cameras under $200 are as feature-rich as some of the big $500 brands.
You just need to know what features to watch out for and how to separate the wheat from the chaff.
Here’s a brief buying guide that will help you do just that.
Most people would attribute more importance to the build quality or the accessories that ship with the camera. But nothing is more important than the quality of the footage that it can capture.
For this has to be in sync with the intended use.
A professional videographer or a travel Vlogger for example, might need 4K footage at normal speed, that is 30FPS and even at slow motion which is 60FPS.
Whereas a recreational user who’s looking for chest thumping rights on social media may not be hung up over 4K. For them, even full HD might do just fine as long as it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg.
So, check the maximum resolution that it can shoot videos at. Check the frame rates and the drop in resolution.
For example, most of the best budget action cameras will shoot only at 720P at 240FPS. That’s expected.
But some cameras only shoot at VGA resolution at 240FPS. That’s pretty low by current standards.
Ditto with pictures. Check the resolution of the images. Can it shoot RAW images?
There are two types of Image Stabilization technology that are used in action cams. There’s gyroscope which is digital image stabilization using software and there’s optical image stabilization in which the lens moves physically to counter the jerky movement.
Some action cams feature both and offer extremely smooth videos. But even one of these usually works fine.
An action camera will be subject to some rugged use.
But the severity of this depends on individual usage. Some people use it like they’d use a brand new DSLR whereas others arent too forgiving on their action cams.
Having said that, most of them feature tough Polycarbonate bodies that can easily take a lot of beating without breaking on you.
Check the waterproofing rating. Does it come with a waterproof housing? How likely is the housing to leak?
Also, to what depth can it be used without worrying about water damage? Some cheap action cameras can only be used to 33 feet. Others can be used for up to 170 feet.
Pick one depending on where and how you intend to use it.
Check if the camera has a Gorilla glass coating. This prevents scratches from damaging the lens and the LCD.
Most action cams feature a wide angle lens. But the actual angle differs.
Some offer just 140-degree good lenses. But cannot offer the breathtaking, wide landscape shots that are so famous on social media.
For those, you need at least 190-degree lenses with automatic distortion correction.
Else, the image and video will just look warped like a fisheye lens was used.
All action camera offer Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity. But check the transfer speeds to know how fast you can upload those pictures to your social media accounts or to YouTube.
Some cameras offer livestreaming which lets you broadcast the feed directly on to your social media accounts. This is quite popular among YouTubers. But isn’t a mandatory feature for regular users.
Ease of use
How easy is it to use the best cheap action camera? Is it compatible with a remote control? Can you sync it with an application and use your cell phone as a remote control instead?
Does it come with an LCD display that lets you review the footage and access the controls? Is it easy to sync, edit and share the footage?
Can you stitch photos or videos? Does it come with multiple shooting modes?
That sums up our list of the best action camera under $200. We hope that you enjoyed reading our recommendations.