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There’s a lot of competition in the market for the best action camera for under 100, from many generic brands. If you are looking for a branded low price action camera, like a GoPro, you will have to pay quite a bit more than $100, but fortunately there are plenty of other excellent options within this price range, if you are willing to do a little research.
This article boils down the key things you should look for in an action camera, including whether you should care about having a 4k action camera or not, how your criteria should change depending on how you want to use the camera (if you are looking for the best action camera for cycling versus diving, for example), and gives an option for the best action camera under $200 if you are willing to spend a little bit more for a far superior product.
Best Action Camera for Under $100
Best Action Camera Under $200
If you have a little bit more money to spend, then there is a much better option in the VanTop Moment 6S, which is the best action camera under 200.
Can You Get Great Pictures and Videos from the Best Cheap Action Camera?
You might think that the best action camera under $100 would be a poor substitute for something more pricey like a GoPro, but actually the quality of these cheap action cameras is very high nowadays.
The best action cameras tend to be designed and built for use in specific environments and contexts, like underwater or to attach to bikes, although most models are generalists, and hit a happy middle ground of being able to be used everywhere.
So, what you intend to use the camera for should be the biggest determinant of which action camera to buy. Look for features that will suit your style of photography, and when you get your camera, don’t forget to take time to learn how to use it effectively. As with everything else, the more you practice, the better the pictures and videos you take with your action camera will be.
What You Should Consider When Buying a Good Cheap Action Camera – Quick Checklist
I have compiled the below list of points you should consider when looking for the best action camera under 100. Feel free to use this list in your own research if any of the models here are not suitable for you. The checklist is ordered from most to least important. Anything that hits most of the earlier points can be considered a good cheap action camera.
- Image Quality: This covers resolution (1080p vs upscaled 4K vs native 4K), and how sensor size affects your pictures.
- Image stabilization: Stops you from getting blurry photos
- Focal Length: Small differences in focal length can result in large changes to your images.
- Battery Life: Battery life can be poor on some cheaper models.
- Waterproof Rating: How deep underwater can you take the camera?
- WiFi (and GPS): You can use WiFi to quickly get photos and videos off the camera, and GPS to add location data.
- What will you Use it for? Are you wanting a specialist diving camera, cycling camera, or a generalist camera? Look for mounts and design and build quality.
- App Support: Do you need a computer to get at your photos, or can you access and edit your photos via a phone app?
The best budget action cameras come in a handful of slightly different, though similar sounding, resolutions. Older, cheaper cameras take photos and videos at 1080p Full HD (1920×1080 pixels), while the more recent offerings are in 4K (3840×2160 pixels).
On the surface, you may think that cameras sold as 4K produce better image quality than 1080p cameras, although this is not necessarily the case, because 4K itself falls into two categories:
- Native 4K
- Upscaled 4K
Native 4K is true 4k resolution, where the camera sensor records the photo or video at the 3840×2160 pixels full 4k size. If you are looking for the best 4K action camera under $100, then you will want to ensure that you choose one that is native 4k. These cameras capture the most detail and look fantastic when compared with lower resolution images or upscaled 4k photos.
The downside of native 4k is that photos and particularly videos will be very large in size, and in order to record videos, you will need a high throughput memory card or you will quickly run into buffering.
Upscaled 4K produces images that are the 3840×2160 4k resolution, but these are created by software inside the camera upscaling the original image, which is usually taken at 1080p resolution (1920×1080 pixels). The photo quality will not match that of native 4k cameras, and in most cases, you are better off setting the quality at 1080p to avoid artifacts that the in-camera interpolation process can add.
Sensor size is perhaps the best metric for measuring image quality though. Simply put, the larger the image sensor, the better the photo quality, regardless of resolution. Most camera manufacturers make sensor size harder to find than the more saleable resolution.
If you are looking for the best low light action camera, or the best action camera for night, then you will want to get the camera with the largest sensor size possible, as this should allow you to get clearer photos in the dark.
Most of the cameras reviewed here have some form of image stabilization, which aims to prevent blurry photos and videos by removing any camera shake from your hands. Of those cameras that do have image stabilization, this can be further broken down into electronic image stabilization (EIS) using accelerometers, or physical gyroscopes.
EIS is a software solution primarily for videos, that moves the recorded frame around to compensate for shaking of the camera. This results in a lower resolution, cropped video. See the video below for an example.
EIS is powered by the more simple accelerometers, which give a crude measure of the direction the camera is being moved in.
The more complex gyroscopes are theoretically a better solution, as they physically move the lens or sensor in three axes to more accurately cover the camera shake, and therefore deliver a much better stabilization. But, on the more budget models of action camera, the build quality for the gyroscopes is not high enough, meaning that EIS is the preferred solution for image stabilization.
Most action cameras have a fixed wide-angle focal length, although there are some exceptions. Whether you want the ability to change focal length depends on how you intend to use your camera. The best action camera for cycling, for example, might offer a narrower field of view to capture only the route you are on, than the best action camera for diving, where you might want a wide field of view to capture the surrounding sea life.
There are few downsides to having a long battery life in an action camera, with the possible exception of a small amount of extra weight. You should pay attention to the type of battery in the camera, as certain types of chemistry in batteries are more susceptible to losing charge in cold weather, particularly Ni-MH (Nickel Metal Hydride), so lookout for Li-ion (Lithium ion) or Li-Po (Lithium Polymer) batteries if you are looking for the best action camera for skiing, or for other cold weather uses (although even Li-ion batteries will see reduced capacity in very cold weather, so maybe think about getting spare batteries).
Pretty much all action cameras, including most of the budget models reviewed here, come with fully waterproof housings. They do have different depth ratings though, so if you are looking for a diving camera, the best camera for action shots underwater is going to be one with a good depth rating, and a solid housing that has easy to operate buttons that will not cause a leak and failure of the housing after repeated use.
For some action cameras you will have to buy a separate waterproof housing which can take the overall expense above $100.
WiFi (and GPS)
WiFi is an incredibly useful feature to have on an action cam, as it means that you can connect it directly to your phone, and either control it through your phone, or download pictures and video directly. This is especially useful if you are away from home, and do not have access to a computer with a memory card reader. Although this is not a critical feature, I have found it indispensable on my own action cam.
GPS functionality means that you can geo-tag your photos and videos with a location, which can be very handy when you want to later search though your archive to find pictures of a specific place.
What will you use it for?
It’s important to be clear of the intended uses for the camera, as the features you would require in the best helmet cam or best cycling camera are different from those of the best low light action camera.
For the best helmet action camera, you would want the camera to come with a variety of mounts specifically designed for helmets, and to have shockproof casing, while a low light cam needs a large image sensor and good performance at high ISO.
In particular, if you are intending to shoot videos then you should really pay attention to maximum frame rates. If you are biking or skiing, or taking part in some other fast-paced activity, you will want the highest frame rate possible in order to avoid choppy video – aim for 50 – 60 frames per second (fps). For a lot of cameras, this means that you will have to downscale the recording resolution below 4K. If you are looking for the best action camera for diving, then a frame rate of 30 fps or below would be sufficient to avoid choppy video.
If you want to slow the footage down to create a slow motion video, you need an even higher frame rate – 120+ fps would let you slow the video down by about 5 times (most movies are recorded at 24fps).
Most cameras reviewed here are designed to be generalists, and can be used in a variety of situations, while for others, you need to buy add-ons such as handlebar clamps or specialist diving housings, so it’s worthwhile carefully considering your own needs before purchase.
If you’re new to photo editing, or don’t have a computer that you can easily use, you will want to consider the app ecosystem surrounding the camera. The best action cams come with fully featured editing apps, as well as apps that can control your camera for you, meaning that you can setup timelapses or slow motion shooting, often through the camera’s WiFi connection.
Best Budget Action Camera Under $100 Full Reviews
Crosstour CT9700 Review – Native 4KBest 4K Action Camera Under $100
- Native 4K video recording at 50 frames per second (fps)
- 20 MegaPixel photo resolution
- Three different lens angle fields of view
- Lens distortion correction & anti-shake (EIS & gyroscope)
- Included case waterproof to 130ft
- Touchscreen & WiFi remote
- Long battery life (60 – 90 mins) plus extra battery
- Slow motion, time-lapse and many more modes
- Includes a large number of mounting accessories
- Simple, yet powerful app for your phone / tablet
- Price is at the top of the budget
- Due to the capabilities of the camera, it can be complex to setup, but does come with a useful manual
- No external microphone connection
If you are looking for a serious action camera that rivals, or even surpasses, the GoPros, then the Crosstour CT9700 is your best option. I use a Crosstour action camera, and have found it to have both excellent image quality and to be very easy to use. For me, this is easily the best action camera under 100.
This is a native 4K camera that has a series of frame rates, from 50 fps at 4K (the highest fps you will find in this price range) through 2.7k/30fps, 1080p/90fps, 720p/120fps, and plenty in-between. Photo resolution ranges from 20 MegaPixels (MP) down to 3MP, which is useful if you are using a small memory card.
Image stabilization, using EIS and a gyroscope, functions at 4K recording and below, and lens distortion correction, which also supports 4K, means that videos come out at a fantastic high quality, looking smooth, sharp and blur free.
The lens has 3 different viewing angles (wide, medium and narrow) and you also get a strong battery life, at 90 minutes with minimal use of the 2″ touch screen, or 60 minutes of recording at 4K. The included spare battery only sweetens the deal.
The camera has Wifi, meaning that you can connect it to your phone or tablet using the simple Crosstour app, seeing the viewfinder on your phone with no lag. There is also an included remote control that can be strapped onto your wrist like a watch – very handy if you wish to use this as a cycling camera.
When you consider that there are a wealth of features like slow motion video recording, time-lapse, or burst mode, plus many more, and that the CT9700 comes with a massive amount of mounting accessories and a case that enables it to be waterproof down to 130ft, I don’t believe that you would be able to find a better action camera in this price range.
Best Action Camera for Night
- Native 4K
- Ability to shoot RAW photos
- Records videos at 200 fps at 720p
- Very long 120 minute battery life
- 6-axis EIS
- Touch screen with Gorilla glass
- Powerful and easy to use app
- No waterproof case or mounting accessories included
- Support is limited in the US
- Internal microphone is not the best
The main selling point of this camera is the ability to shoot RAW photos, rather than only the more common JPGs. This is a massive advantage to photographers and those willing to spend some time processing their photos on a computer or tablet, as the RAW format records far more detail and color information than a standard JPG, meaning that you have far more editing leeway once the photo is out of the camera.
The ability to shoot RAW makes up for the relatively low MegaPixel count of the camera (8MP), with photos looking crisp and clear, at least the equivalent of 20MP cameras that only shoot JPGs. You also get better low light performance than the majority of other budget action cameras, thanks to the sharp 7-element lens with a maximum aperture of f/2.8 and Sony image sensor, making this the best action camera for night photography.
Video recording is native 4K at 30fps, with downscaled 1080p recording at 100fps, which is around the top end performance in this price range, with the massive, long battery life of 120 minutes meaning that you should be able to fill a memory card on one charge. The 6-axis EIS uses both accelerometers and gyroscopes, which is the best image stabilization that you can find at this price.
If you are willing to downscale the video recording quality even more, you can record at 200 fps at 720p, which is unheard of at this price range, and will let you shoot amazing slow motion videos at about nine times slower than real time.
The camera’s touchscreen is as high quality as the rest of the build, nearly filling the entire back of the camera at 2.4″ in size and covered with the same Gorilla glass found on most Android smartphones, which should avoid scratches and other damage.
There is both WiFi and Bluetooth on the camera, which you can use to connect to your phone to transfer photos and videos, or to use it as a remote control via the excellent Xiaomi app.
The main areas where this camera lets itself down is in the lack of any included accessories, such as mounting devices or a waterproof case. Although these should not be expensive to buy separately, finding compatible accessories may be a chore as Xiaomi support is effectively non-existent in the US. It may be possible to use GoPro compatible accessories with this camera, but this should be checked on a case by case basis, as this camera does not feature a universal design.
Best 360 Action Camera
- 214º very wide angle lens
- Long 120 minutes battery life
- Possible to create pseudo-360º photos and videos
- Included waterproof case & photo editing software
- No image stabilization
- No 4K
- Relatively low video frame rate
- Software is getting old
This camera is now getting a little outdated, with no 4K and a relatively low maximum frame rate of 60fps at 1080p, so why include it here?
The answer is that this is probably the best way to dip your toes into the world of 360º photography for under $100. The lens shoots at a maximum angle of 214º, which means that you can capture more than half a sphere with one photo.
If you point the camera straight up, then you will get a full 360º of the sky and land up to a little way beneath the horizon. Obviously you won’t get the land directly underneath the camera, and the resulting pictures or videos will be heavily distorted, but you can then use the included PixPro software to unwrap the panorama, and create a 360º panorama that can be scrolled and zoomed by viewers in YouTube.
Take a look at this YouTube video for an example. You can click and drag within the video to move around and change your viewpoint.
The camera also has a long, 2 hour battery life, plus comes with a waterproof case good to 130ft, and mounting accessories for your bike, although does not have a screen that you can review photos on.
I wouldn’t recommend this camera as a general action camera, if you are looking to go diving or skiing with it, for example, but as an intro to 360º action photography, it’s perfect.
Best Cycling Camera
- Very small and light
- Long battery life
- Perfect design for skiing, biking, etc
- Very cheap
- Low frame rate at 1080p
- No screen
- No underwater case available
If you are looking for the best bike camera or the best skiing action camera, then the Sport Action 1080p is very well suited for you.
Although it lacks common features to other action cameras like a screen and Wifi, and has a relatively low max frame rate of 30fps at 1080p, in return you get a very small and light camera with excellent battery life and the perfect design for attaching to your bike, all at a very low price.
You don’t get any features like time lapse or burst mode, but what you do get is a very simple to use, push button interface.
In order to get a good frame rate for most action recordings, you will have to downgrade the resolution to 720p in order to get up to 60 fps.
This camera has very specific uses, and if you are likely to be biking or skiing and want something cheap, this could be a very good choice for you.
Campark V30 Review – Native 4KA Top Choice for Best Action Camera
- Native 4K recording at 30fps & 20MP stills
- Excellent EIS
- Long battery life (60 – 90 mins) plus extra battery
- Useful included accessories
- Waterproof to 100 feet
- 4 lens angles
- Compatible with external mic
- Well designed touch screen UI
- App not straightforward to use
- Price is at the top of the budget
- No WiFi remote
This Campark 4k action camera, the V30, ranks as one of the best 4K action cameras under 100, with nearly the same specs as the leading model of budget action camera, the Crosstour CT9700. It has the same abilities to take time lapse or burst photos, also includes Wifi, excellent EIS and an intuitive touchscreen, and produces really clear and sharp photos and videos.
Where the V30 falls behind the CT9700 is in a slightly lower frame rate at native 4K (30fps vs 50fps), a lower waterproof depth rating (100ft vs 130ft), and the lack of an included Wifi remote. Of course the camera can still be controlled by the Campark app, although this is less easy to use than Crosstour’s app.
There are a few areas where the V30 outshines the CT9700 though, and that is in the additional viewing angles (4 vs 3), external mic support which could be of huge benefit if you shoot a lot of videos on land, and in being a little easier to use, which would be of benefit to beginners.
The V30 will be the best choice here, if high sound quality ranks high on your list of needs, assuming that your budget can stretch to a dedicated external microphone.
Best Value Action Camera
- Massive accessory pack included
- Upscaled 4K at 30 fps – 16MP stills
- WiFi remote
- Lower price
- Waterproof to 100 feet
- No touchscreen
- Low capacity battery
- Lower quality photos & videos
You may be stuck with upscaled 4K, and therefore slightly lower image quality than a native 4K camera, and you do not have a touchscreen with this model, but you do get a very good camera with an excellent accessory pack.
Neewer are a maker of high quality, budget tripods, and their quality control extends to their cameras, delivering a package that outperforms its specs on paper.
You get the usual features, such as a waterproof case good to 100ft, plus time lapse and burst mode on the camera, but you also get a WiFi remote to control the camera from up to 50ft in an unobstructed area.
The 50-in-1 accessory pack means that the camera can be connected to pretty much anything, from helmets to bikes or your wrist. There is even an included selfie stick. When you consider the standalone price of this pack, it makes the camera even better value for money.
If you did buy another camera that did not have the mounting accessories that you require, then the 50-in-1 pack can be purchased separately.
Piwoka Action Camera 1080P ReviewBest Action Camera Under $50
- Very cheap – excellent for beginners
- Waterproof to 100 feet
- Plenty of mounting accessories
- Good image quality for the price
- Simple to use
- Only 1080p at 30 fps
- Lower build quality
- Unlikely to last more than a year or two
Cameras like the Piwoka can be excellent first choices of action cameras, thanks to their very basic setup and menu system – using them will not confuse you, even without reading the manual. The price makes them even more attractive, as not only are they among the best action cameras under $100, they are also one of the best action cameras under 50.
Surprisingly for the best inexpensive action camera, you can use the Piwoka underwater, with the included case waterproof at depths up to 100 feet, and there are a handful of mounting accessories to attach the camera to a helmet, your bike, or elsewhere.
There are a few missing features due to the low price, including no touch screen, and a maximum video and photo resolution of 1080p at 30fps.
I have used action cameras in this price range before, and found them to be excellent introductions to underwater photography, which is one area in which they excel due to the small size and light weight, and uncomplicated buttons making them easy to use underwater.
Bear in mind though, that a low price equals a low build quality, and the switches behind the buttons are likely to begin to fail after a year or so, so this camera is not a long term solution for the best action camera. You would generally be advised to spend more now, to get a higher quality, longer lasting camera, although this is a good choice if you want to know whether action cameras are for you, and are looking for the best action camera on a budget.
Best Inexpensive Action Camera
- Native 4K video & 20MP photos
- 70 min battery life, plus spare battery
- Excellent accessories, including WiFi remote & backpack
- Touch screen
- Simple to operate, straightforward menu design
- EIS and waterproof to 100ft
- Only 24fps at 4K and 60fps at 1080p
- No external mic input
With the exception of the video frame rate, the VanTop Moment 4 is pretty special, being about 3/4 of the price of the similarly specced action cams. You get all of the usual features, including waterproofing to 100 feet, EIS, and slow motion, plus a 4 position adjustable viewing angle.
If you intend to primarily use your action cam for photos, then I would consider this an excellent choice, as it very nearly matches the top-ranking CT9700, but with a significant cost reduction.
For video, this is a less strong option, due to the maximum frame rates of 24 fps at 4K, going down through 2K/30fps and 1080p/60fps. Although you can shoot slow motion videos at this speed, it won’t be fantastic, and for scenes with lots of fast motion, such as recordings made while biking, you will likely have to downscale to 1080p to get smooth video.
The menu system of the VanTop cameras is maybe the best, with a simple to use interface and layout that helps guide you through what you want to do.
The included accessories, including mounts, a WiFi remote and a backpack make this a good deal for photographers looking for a cam on a budget.
Best Action Camera Diving
- Native 4K at 30 fps – 12MP photos
- EIS & touch screen
- Waterproof to 130ft (40m)
- Supports external mic
- Four adjustable viewing angles
- 60 min battery life, plus spare batteries & accessories
- Poor low light performance – too much noise reduction & sharpening
- Needs external mic for good sound
- Slower end of maximum frame rates
With a maximum depth rating of 130ft, this is the second best action camera for diving. You can shoot videos at a relatively good 30 fps at 4K, and the battery will keep up for about an hour. With the spare battery, you should have enough time to fill a memory card before you need a recharge. You can go down to slow motion with the 90fps at 1080p, although this lags behind other cameras, like the CT9700.
The biggest flaw with this camera is the poor low light performance, with images and videos looking quite plastic-like. This is because of too much in-camera de-noise smoothing and sharpening. This could be a problem if you primarily using the camera for diving, as the reduced light levels at depth may result in lower quality videos. Nonetheless, this is likely to somewhat of an issue with all the cameras in this price bracket.
The adjustable viewing angles and relatively good EIS are pretty standard for the price, as are the included accessories, extra battery and WiFi remote. Having a distortion correction feature when the camera is set at its widest viewing angle is very helpful, and matches the CT9700.
Overall, this is a strong camera for those that require an action cam for deep dives, but doesn’t quite match the CT9700, which is also waterproof down to 130ft.
The Best Action Cameras Comparison Table
Take a look at the top rated budget action cameras below, in a quick comparison table of their most important features.
|Camera||Resolution||Max Frame Rate||Field of View||Image Stabilization||Battery Life||Waterproof to …||Extras|
|Crosstour CT9700||Native 4K – 20MP||50fps/4K; 90fps/1080p; 120fps/720p||Wide 170º, plus Medium & Narrow||EIS & Gyroscopes||60 – 90 mins||130ft (40m)||Mounting kit, WiFi remote|
|Xiaomi YDXJ01FM Mi 4K||Native 4K – 8MP||30fps/4K; 100fps/1080p; 200fps/720p||145º fixed||EIS||120 mins||N/A||None|
|Kodak PIXPRO SP360||1080p – 16MP||60fps/1080p||214º fixed||None||120 mins||130ft (40m)||Mounting Kit|
|Spy Cameras Sport Action Camera 1080P||1080p||30fps/1080p; 60fps/720p||110º fixed||None||120 – 240 mins||N/A||Mounting bracket|
|Campark V30 Native 4K||Native 4K – 20MP||30fps/4k; 60fps/2k; 90fps/1080p||Adjustable – 170º, 140º, 110º & 70º||EIS & Gyroscopes||70 mins||100ft (30m)||Mounting accessories|
|Neewer G1 4K plus 50-in-1 accessories||Upscaled 4K – 16MP||30fps/4K; 60fps/1080p; 120fps/720p||170º fixed||None||50 mins||100ft (30m)||50-in-1 accessory pack|
|Piwoka Action Camera 1080P||1080p – 12MP||30fps/1080p||140º fixed||None||50 mins||100ft (30m)||Mounting accessories|
|VanTop Moment 4||Native 4K – 20MP||24fps/4k; 30fps/2k; 60fps/1080p||Adjustable – 170º, 140º, 110º & 70º||EIS||70 mins||100ft (30m)||Mounting accessories, WiFi remote & backpack|
|AKASO V50X Native 4K||Native 4K – 12MP||30fps/4k; 60fps/2k; 90fps/1080p||Adjustable – 170º, 140º, 100º & 70º||EIS||60 mins||130ft (40m)||Mounting accessories, WiFi remote|