The Best Action Cameras Under $100 in 2019 (By Each Category)

If you asked me what I thought about action cameras a few years back I might have scoffed and told you they’re just a fad. However, the GoPro HERO3+ I was gifted back in 2013 completely changed my mind.

Some people would say modern camera phones have made action cameras redundant. After all, phone cameras are fantastic these days and you there’s a whole selection of outdoor phone accessories on the market today.

But action cameras aren’t going anywhere. Action cameras are awesome. That’s something you find out the moment you actually step outdoors and record anything adventurous.

Whether it’s lifting it up on a selfie stick when you’re going down a slide, mounting it on your bike helmet or even taking it underwater diving – the benefits of owning an action camera are numerous.

For those of you on tighter budgets, I’ll be going through my list of the top action cameras under $100 available today.

To GoPro Or Not To GoPro

The GoPro HERO7. A fantastic action camera with a $400 price tag.

Personally, I feel that if your budget allows it, going for a GoPro has many advantages. The GoPro doesn’t necessarily have the best capture quality or best technical specs, but they’ve developed their own ecosystem that makes doing everything a breeze.

The GoPro camera’s user interface is top-notch, the iOS/Android app is great and there’s certainly no shortage of great support and custom accessories. They’re a bit like the iPhone of action cameras.

There’s no shortage of people who would disagree with me. New Chinese brands are producing action cameras with features on par with the most expensive GoPros, and in some aspects superior. Most ‘GoPro’ accessories are compatible with these cameras nowadays, so there’s more competition than ever before.

Regardless of any brand preference you might have, the cheapest new GoPro costs $180. In other words, they’re not cheap.

What about if you just want to have a go filming action sports? Or perhaps you’re thinking of buying an action camera as a gift for someone who may or may not end up using it.

In cases such as these, a budget action camera is an awesome way to test the waters—without breaking the bank. They will pretty much do everything you need them to do, and certainly be better suited for filming intense action than any smartphone.

Native 4K vs Non-Native 4K

This is something incredibly important to consider when purchasing an action camera today.

When you shop around for action cameras you’ll notice practically all of them feature ‘4K’. The reality is that for many of the cameras, this is little more than highly misleading marketing gimmick.

Many of these so called 4K cameras are simply up-scaling footage by means of interpolation. The resulting output file is technically a 4K video, but the actual quality difference with a camera that is capable of shooting native 4K is drastic.

Most action cameras under $100 are not native 4K. And those that are will cost something very close to $100. So it really makes sense to split up the sub-$100 bracket into the following:

  • Native 4K action cameras (Starting at just under $100)
  • Non-Native 4K action cameras (typically $40-$80)

If your budget allows, getting a native 4K action camera is definitely the way to go. Even if you’re not going to be recording at 4K, the video quality is far better.

However, I’m fully aware that the every dollar counts. So this list also features those non native 4K action cameras that can save a few bucks.

The Best Native 4K Action Cameras Under $100

There’s only a handful of native 4K action cameras within the budget, but here are the ones I believe to be the best right now.

My Top Pick #1: AKASO V50 Native 4K and AKASO V50 PRO

AKASO V50 and AKASO V50 Pro side by side. Two of the best action cameras under 100.

AKASO is becoming one of the biggest names in the budget action camera market.

One of the advantages of going for a well-established company like this is that their firmware is regularly updated and support for their entire product range is generally very good.

The V50 line is AKASO’s premium camera, yet begins at below $100.

While the cheaper EK7000 and EK7000 Pro are no doubt their best-selling cameras, the capture quality makes a huge jump when you go with the AKASO V50 Native 4K Action Camera—which is also priced under $100 (just).

The V50 is one of the very few cameras to feature native 4K recording at under $100. It has a f2.8 aperture 20MP image sensor that can record 4K video at 30fps. The Electronic Image Stabilization works at every resolution, including 4K which isn’t always a given.

The 170-degree ultra wide-angle lens means it’ll capture a wide field of view. Colours are good and the dynamic range is adequate.

AKASO V50 Native 4K

  • Native 4K recording
  • EIS up to 4K at 30fps
  • Bundled accessories

I’d also highly recommend taking a look at the AKASO V50 Pro, which is very similar but has a few extra bells and whistles.

While the V50 Pro costs $120 (at the time of writing) and features exactly the same image sensor and chipset as the V50, there are a few subtle improvements: a 2-inch IPS touchscreen, adjustable viewing angles (great if you want to reduce fish eye effect), built in filters and external mic support.

AKASO V50 Pro Native 4K

  • Native 4K recording
  • EIS up to 4K at 30fps
  • Touchscreen
  • External Mic Support
  • Bundled accessories

Overall the V50 is the one of the best sub-$100 action cameras for image quality. It is at the top end of our budget, but native 4K capture quality doesn’t get any cheaper than this. The V50 Pro is essentially the V50’s bigger brother that includes some nice but non-essential features.

My Top Pick #2: ThiEYE T5 Edge Native 4K Action Camera

ThiEYE T5 Edge Action Camera. One of the best action cameras under 100.

ThiEYE is a relatively new and young action camera company on the market. However, it didn’t take long for their T5 Edge to establish themselves as a serious competitor in the action camera marketplace.

The ThiEYE T5 Edge Native 4K Action Camera delivers solid native 4K video capture at a hair under $100.

Video quality is expectedly good and very comparable to the V50 and V50 Pro. Like the V50 series, Electronic Image Stabilization is supported all the way up to 4K.

The 20MP Panasonic image sensor produces amazing daylight footage and acceptable nighttime video recordings (no action camera can produce great nighttime footage because the sensors are so small).

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ThiEYE T5 Edge Native 4K

  • Native 4K recording
  • EIS up to 4K at 30fps
  • Voice Control
  • External Mic Support
  • Bundled Accessories

The T5 Edge also supports an external mic, whereas the V50 doesn’t. Note the V50 Pro does support external mics.

The ThiEYE T5 Edge also has two things the V50 Pro doesn’t: Voice control and waterproof up to 60m casing (as opposed to the V50’s 40m). However, unlike the V50 Pro, the T5 Edge’s 2-inch Ultra HD IPS screen is not touchscreen.

I can’t really comment on the usefulness of the extra depth underwater since I’m not really qualified to speak on the subject.

However, the voice control is a big selling point and in my opinion gives it a slight edge over the vanilla V50.

Noteworthy Mention: MI Xiaomi Mijia 4K

In the last few years, Xiaomi has quickly gained a reputation for being a high quality, budget friendly Android phone manufacturer. Now it appears they are having a stab at the action camera market, too.

The Xiaomi MI Mijia 4K is an excellent native 4K action camera. Capture quality is on par with the V50, V50 Pro and T5 Edge. The camera itself also looks incredibly sleek and sexy. Like the V50 Pro, it also features a touchscreen.

Unlike the T5 Edge and V50 Pro, the Mijia 4K unfortunately does not support external mics. The internal mic is actually very decent, but external mic is always a superior choice for those more serious vloggers who plan to talk a lot in front of the camera.

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MI Xiaomi Mijia Native 4K Action Camera

  • Native 4K recording
  • EIS up to 4K at 30fps
  • Touchscreen

The biggest drawback of the Mijia 4K is that it doesn’t come bundled with any accessories. The cost of accessories quickly adds up, and buying all the accessories separately doesn’t make much sense for a sub-$100 action camera.

Overall Rankings for Native 4K action cameras in this list

Between these four action cameras, my rankings are as follows:

  1. AKASO V50 Pro (Over the $100 budget, but worth mentioning)
  2. ThiEYE T5 Edge (only one to feature voice control)
  3. AKASO V50
  4. Xiaomi Mijia 4K (points deducted for no bundled accessories)

The Best Action Cameras Under $100 (That Aren’t Native 4K)

If native 4K isn’t necessary, our options for action cameras costing below $100 are plentiful. In fact, they’re too plentiful. Finding the right one is a daunting challenge.

Most of these cameras record fairly similar quality video. Many of them share the same 16MP or 20MP image sensors which deliver acceptable 2.7K footage at 30fps or 1080P@60fps.

To help you decide on the best camera for you, I’ve listed my top picks based on your intended use. Hopefully I’ve got you covered.

Best Under $50: Dragon Touch 4K Action Camera 16MP Vision 3

If you’re simply looking for the cheapest entry-level action camera look no further than the Dragon Touch 4K Vision 3.

It’s costs less than $50 and does a decent job of recording HD video at 60fps. Higher resolution recording, up to 4K@30fps (upscaled) is also possible.

Like most budget action cameras on the market there is no shortage of bundled accessories. The included wrist-strap remote is quite basic but does the trick for taking photo and capturing video without having to touch the camera itself.

You might think the software might be a problem coming from a relatively unknown brand like Dragon Touch. However, I found it to be surprisingly usable, which shouldn’t be too surprising since Dragon Touch are primarily a tablet producing company.

Dragon Touch 4K Action Camera 16MP Vision 3 

  • Records up to 4K at 30fps
  • Bundled Accessories

Note that despite the name, the Dragon Touch Vision 3 does not feature a touch screen. Dragon Touch is just the name of the manufacturer!

The Dragon Touch Vision 3 is currently my recommendation for the best under $50 entry-level action camera available today. If you want an external mic and EIS, take a look at the Dragon Touch Vision 4

Features Voice Control and EIS: AKASO Brave 6

Sometimes using a remote or fidgeting with the buttons on the action camera itself can be too much of a hassle.

Recently I’ve been controlling my GoPro with voice commands and it’s a really useful feature.

Voice control using various voice commands is a relatively new feature for action cameras. Most action cameras are yet to feature it, let alone the budget ones.

The AKASO Brave 6 is really the only choice you have when it comes to sub-$100 action cameras featuring voice commands (besides the more expensive ThiEYE T5 Edge I discussed earlier).

The voice commands are typically short phrases like “Akaso Take Photo” which will be picked up by the camera’s mic.

The AKASO Brave 6 features a decent 20MP sensor which is similar to that of the AKASO EK7000. It’s nothing special but typical for a decent budget action camera.

It also features Electronic Image Stabilization (EIS) which reduces the impact of camera shake via electronic processing (software). That is another reason why it costs more than most other non native 4K action cameras.

AKASO Brave 6 4K 20MP WiFi Action Camera Voice Control

  • Records up to 4K at 30fps
  • Voice Control
  • Electronic Image Stabilization (EIS)
  • Bundled Accessories

Whether or not you should buy the AKASO Brave 6 should ultimately come down to whether or not you value having voice activated controls.

The price is not much cheaper than the ThiEYE T5 Edge, so seriously consider stretching your budget if you want superior video quality.

Best For Water Sports: Dragon Touch Vision 5

Ever since the release of the GoPro HERO5 (released in 2016), GoPros are waterproof out of the box (typically up to 10m). You don’t have to worry about extra casing when you go to swim at the pool, surf around the beach or go kayaking on the river.

However, the vast majority of non-GoPro action cameras are not waterproof out of the box. You need to put them in plastic casing which is usually included in the box. This is not only a bit of a hassle, but using external housing will also slightly reduce audio quality since it adds an extra layer between the sound and mic.

The Dragon Touch Vision 5 is waterproof up to 40m without casing. It’s therefore a great budget friendly GoPro alternative for those who don’t want to deal with external casing.

Now, if you’re only going to surf once a month and plan to mostly record footage of you doing mountain biking or other less ‘wet’ sports, I’d personally get one of the other cameras on the list which offer better bang for buck.

As for video quality, it’s not the Vision 5’s strongest point, and it is very similar to slightly cheaper action cameras like the Vision 3, ACT-74 and AKASO EK7000. In other words, you’re definitely paying a premium for the waterproof design.

Dragon Touch 4K Action Camera 16MP 131ft Waterproof Camera Without Case Vision 5

  • Records up to 4K at 30fps
  • Waterproof without housing
  • Bundled Accessories

All in all, the Vision 5 is a very sensible budget action camera for those who are planning to get the camera very wet.

Best Battery Life and EIS: APEMAN Trawo Action Camera

When it comes to battery life on most budget action cameras, you’re typically looking at 60-120 minutes (per battery) when filming at 1080P. Unfortunately, there’s not much variance across different models of action cameras.

The APEMAN Trawo features the biggest battery of all budget, non-native 4K options. The 1350mAh battery is bigger than the 1050mAh (or even 900mAh) battery that is the industry standard for most under $100 action cameras.

The increase in battery life is not massive but significant nonetheless.The APEMAN Trawo gets around 150 minutes (slightly under the 180 minutes they claim) when recording at 1080P which is a somewhat of an improvement.

The camera also performs well in all other fields: video quality, underwater (up to 40m) shooting, adjustable view angle, slow motion mode and good EIS.

The f1.8 lens and Panasonic image sensor is better than the f2.8 + 20MP Sony image sensor that is commonly found in the majority of budget action cameras. It also features EIS, which can really make a difference when camera shake is a problem.

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APEMAN Trawo Action Camera 4K WiFi Ultra HD 20MP

  • Records up to 4K at 30fps
  • 1350mAh batteries
  • Electronic Image Stabilization (EIS)
  • Bundled Accessories

However, the price of the APEMAN Trawo is creeping up on native 4K options, so you really have to ask yourself whether it’s worth it.

Cutest Action Camera: Polaroid Cube ACT II HD 1080p

Note: This camera isn’t a sports action camera, but it’s a nice little bonus I decided to include for those who are looking for something different.

Polaroid got their name from building instant cameras, but the company is moving along and has come up with their very own action camera—The Polaroid Cube Act II.

The 124-degree wide angle lens simply isn’t up there with the 170-degree ultra wide angles you’d expect from a ‘true’ sports action camera. That means you don’t capture as much in the video. However, for simple vlogging a less wide angle lens is appreciated (reduces fish eye effect).

With a design similar to the GoPro HERO session, The Polaroid Cube is a very cute action cam that makes a fantastic and affordable gift. It’s very simple to operate and a great way to get a newbie into the world of shooting action videos.

Another nice feature is the built in magnets that makes the Polaroid Cube ‘snap’ onto various metal surfaces and stay in place.

The rubberized Polaroid Cube is only splashproof, so don’t completely submerge it underwater.

At its current price of $39.99 (at the time of writing) it can make a very thoughtful gift. I’m sure any photographer or vlogger would love to have one lying on their desk!

Noteworthy Mention: Campark ACT74

While marginally more expensive than the Dragon Touch 4K Vision 3, this list wouldn’t be complete without the Campark ACT74 Action Camera which was once the best selling budget action camera on Amazon for almost 2 years running.

It was released back in December 2016 so it is slightly older, but has an incredibly solid track record. Its 2-inch HD screen was a unique selling point before, but that’s already become a standard feature across cheap action cameras.

In terms of features and video quality, it is almost identical to the Dragon Touch 4K Vision 3. Yet it costs a little more and doesn’t come with a remote control so I wouldn’t consider it the best ultra-budget action camera today.

Campark ACT74 16MP Action Camera

  • Records up to 4K at 30fps
  • Bundled Accessories (but no remote)

With stellar Amazon reviews and a lot of praise across the website, the Campark ACT74 might seem like a great choice. However, it’s outdated by today’s standards and the Dragon Touch Vision 3 is a better ultra-budget choice (especially as it includes a remote).

More Buying Advice

Essential Accessories

Almost every action camera will include a battery, charger and USB cable as standard. Note that a micro SD memory card is not included so make sure to buy one if you don’t have one already.

Most cheap action cameras also come with other bundled accessories. Typically this will include a spare battery, mounting accessories, a remote control and a waterproof case.

For most people these accessories will be enough. However, other accessories that might be useful are:

  • Grip or Gimbal
  • Tripod
  • Powerbank
  • Head or Chest mounting straps

Get An Action Camera With WiFi

All the action cameras listed on this page feature built-in WiFi. It’s an essential feature to have as it allows you to connect your iPhone or Android to the phone. By connecting to your smartphone, you can remotely control your action camera using your phone.

Shooting Video In Low Light

Because action cameras are small by nature, they feature small apertures which take in much light. As a result they aren’t great low-light shooters.

It is helpful to disable any form of Electronic Image Stabilization if you are recording at night. This can improve video quality, but you will need to be aware that the recording will be more sensitive to camera shake.

Diving With Your New Action Camera

Action cameras are designed to be taken underwater. However most action cameras will require them to be put in waterproof housing. Make sure you correctly fit the waterproof case before taking your new action camera underwater.

Some action cameras such as the V50 Pro feature a diving mode which filters red light and improves colours captured underwater.

Battery Life

Action cameras take rechargeable lithium ion batteries. Expect to be able to record between 45-150 minutes per battery.

Recording at higher resolutions and using features like EIS will consume more battery. Most of these budget action cameras come with a spare lithium battery so make sure you carry that around with you.

Shooting Modes

All action cameras feature basic built in shooting modes. The most basic are recording video and taking photos.

Slow motion recording and time-lapse modes are also fairly common. If there are any shooting modes you would like to use, check to make sure the camera features it before purchasing.

Wrapping Up

This concludes my review of the best budget action cameras on the market right now.

2019 is no doubt the beginning of the $100 native 4k action camera. If your budget allows, going for a native 4k action camera will allow you to record much better quality videos.

At the same time, $50 can now buy you a perfectly acceptable action camera that can be taken underwater and controlled using a remote. This offers incredible value for money.

Thanks for reading! I’d really appreciate it if you could leave a comment below and share your thoughts.

2 thoughts on “The Best Action Cameras Under $100 in 2019 (By Each Category)”

  1. MI Xiaomi Mijia 4K does not take microphone!
    Akaso V50 Pro does take external Micro but internal microphone is not disabled, so on motorbike wind noise is horrendous.
    “V50 pro and the Mijia 4K support external mics.”
    I have both unfortunately.

    • Thanks for the corrections, takahe. I was unaware that the V50 Pro’s internal microphone could not be disabled. That definitely defeats the purpose of having the option to take an external mic!

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