Action cameras have become a must have for many content creators in the past decade.
Since GoPro exploded in popularity in 2007, the demand for durable, waterproof cameras has skyrocketed, and we have all been lucky enough to witness some truly amazing videos as a result.
This amazing footage often comes at a price though - GoPro cameras cost several hundred dollars, and many people are unsure if a cheap GoPro alternative will still get the same eye popping results.
Even the cheaper GoPro Hero Session model is more than many people want to spend.
The good news is, there are several inexpensive action cams available in 2017 that can get the job done for action or travel vloggers who need both photos and video.
Cheap Action Camera Buying Guide
What is an Action Camera
Action cameras are typically small photo and video cameras designed to be immersed in the action that they are capturing. Recording video of a high intensity activity like snowboarding, rock clibming etc. tends to be the most common goal of a good action cam.
GoPro was the pioneer of the industry and first entered the market in 2004, but it wasn't until 2007 that things started to pick up steam. It didn't take long before alternatives started to enter the market from companies like Sony, Toshiba, and Polaroid.
Action cameras tend to lack some of the customization and high end features of DSLRS and other digital cameras, but they are still wonderful cameras for YouTube videos in the right scenario.
Who should use an Action Camera?
While many content creators will choose a good vlogging camera that is positioned on a tripod, an action camera is better suited for people who go from place to place in exciting scenarios.
If you are a travel vlogger, then an action camera is ideal because they are easily transportable, and can usually be fastened to various accessories like headgear that will allow you to capture everything you are doing in a first person view.
Additionally, anyone who wants video of the action while they are playing any sport will probably want to use an action camera mounted to their body.
Where action cameras really shine is in and around the water. While not all models are waterproof, almost all of them at least have compatible waterproof cases which means that you can easily caputre aweosme video like this:
What are the most important features to consider?
There are a few important things to consider when it comes to an action camera, especially if you are buying one on a budget.
If you are buying an action cam, you likely have abmitous plans for where you want to take it. Paying just enough to make sure that your camera will last for many adventures is worthwhile to make sure that you never hold back.
While being waterproof isn't a must have because you can usually buy a waterproof case, it is definitely convenient and gives you one less thing to worry about meaning that you can truly take your camera anywhere.
It can be very frusterating being in the middle of something awesome only to realize that your action camera is out of battery charge. You likely won't be near a plug to charge it back up, so you might end up missing some awesome footage.
Bundles & Accessories
In order to get the most out of your action camera, you will likely want to take advantage of accessories like gimbals, or mounts.
One of the best ways to save money on action cameras is to look into the available bundles that will get you the accessories that you want at an overall reduced price.
Best GoPro Alternatives in 2017
Yi 4K Action Camera [Top Pick]
Our top pic is the YI 4K Action Camera by the Chinese brand YI, known for its impressive durability and variety of features features. YI doesn't have the same brand name as GoPro, and so their cameras are considerably cheaper.
The good news is, there is very little sacrifice in terms of actual quality here.
Their 4K model features a 12 megapixel camera that is used by a wide angle lens with a F2.8 aperture. The Sony IMX377 image sensor backed by Electronic Image Stabilization is part of what makes this camera so strong.
Basically, videos from this camera are going to look really good.
It also has a built-in LCD touch screen with Gorilla Glass to resist any dents or scratches. For any GoPro alternative that you want to take on an adventure, you want to make sure that the camera can take a beating!
Additionally, the YI packs a 1400mAh high capacity li-ion battery . You don't want to run dry on battery when you are out on an adventure, so this long battery life is key.
Even if you are getting high end video, you can record 120 minutes of pure 4K (at 30fps) fun with a single charge.
The camera uses one button control which is nice simplicity. Or at least, it's simple once you get the hang of it. It definitely takes some getting used to in order to master the controls, but once you are comfortable with it there is an advantage to avoiding a bunch of extra buttons.
One notable shortcoming with the YI 4K is that unlike some other action cameras, the YI 4K isn't waterproof. You can buy a waterproof case that works well, but be sure to include that in your total budget.
If you don't plan on going in the water with this camera, then it is a pretty great bargain considering the video quality.
#2 - AKASO EK7000 4K
If you wish you had a GoPro, but cannot justify the premium price, the AKASO EK7000 4K an excellent pick. The brand even copied GoPro's packaging and the entire action camera interface.
This bothers some people because of the clear 'inspiration' that AKASO draws from. It's not just a GoPro alternative, it is a mirror image in some ways.
Despite accusations of copy cat design, the AKASO 3K7000 is an independent action camera and it delivers. It supports professional 4K shooting at 25 frames per second and 2.7K at 330 frames per second through its 12MP camera.
There is also one great feature that many action cameras neglect. The AKASO 3K7000 has Wrist Remote Control that lets you frame shots or record video at the press of a button on a separate remote control.
With that, you don't need to worry about unreliable smart phone apps or latency - just one remote control that lets you access everything.
At its best, this camera is everything you need in an action camera. However, we have seen some reports of functions not working properly, and it not being as waterproof as it claims.
This is likely a result of what are surely cheaper parts used vs what would go in a GoPro camera. You will save a ton of money and get a good camera, but there is some risk you will get unlucky with things breaking.
We should mention that a nice touch with the 3K7000 compared to other GoPro alternatives is the relatively long battery life thanks to the dual package of 1050mAh batteries. Each records for up to 90 minutes for a total of up to 3 hours of recotding time.
#3 - ThiEYE T5e 4K
Another powerful action cam is the ThiEYE T5e 4K WIFI Sports Action Camera which is ideal for action junkies.
It has a 16 MP camera, an Ambarella processor and a SONY image sensor. In a nutshell, this camera has been optimized by some of the best in the business in order to shoot amazing 4K videos and even better Ultra HD 4K experiences.
Alternatively, if you want to record in 720p, you can do that with the amazing 240 frame per second experience that captures every detail. The wide angle lens has a reach of 170 degrees, making it the perfect partner for any action cam adrenaline shots or landscape images and video.
Your video will look awesome, but the user experience is a bit cumbersome. No touch screen, and a confusing menu mean you will need to spend some time getting to know the T5e before you really master it.
Once you understand the menus, there are a lot of good additional features. It comes with a waterproof case, and a 360 degree rotating buckle. This is a great camera for anyone who plans to capture cool footage on or in the water
#4 - Sony FDRX3000
The Sony FDRX3000 is not specifically designed as an action camera. Instead, this SONY product is a mini camcorder that happens to be perfect in many of the same scenarios as a GoPro because if its compact size and waterproof nature. Like most camcorders, the FDRX3000 excls in its video performance all within a tight package.
This camera has the best image stabilization on our list thanks to the Balanced Optical SteadySht ZEISS lens and the Exmore sensor camera control.
It provides more setting options than most action cameras - it can shoot videos in wide, medium and narrow formats with up to 10fps in burst mode.
Because it is a camcorder, there are a variety of ways to connect to other devices. Features like WiFi, Bluetooth, NFC, GPS, HDMI and USB and HDMI jacks are all available. Many action cameras miss this variety of outputs.
The interface is intuitive, and more rich with features than smaller, cheaper GoPro alternatives
If there is one down side of this action camcorder, it has to be the fact that it is a camcorder. It has a sleek design, but is still larger than traditional action cameras. It is also more expensive because of the video options and quality.
Most people who use the FDRX3000 love its ability to shoot amazing, high-quality video with premium sound and wind noise reduction, but only pick this up if you don't have your heart set on a traditoinal action camera.
#5 - Camorama 4K VR & 360 Camera
Many people say that the Camorama 4K Action camera is actually better than most GoPros on the market. It is a tough call when comparing traditoinal features, but it is the Camorama's ability to take 360 degree videos for virtual reality output that really makes it stand out.
This little camera packs a punch - the Camorama 4K Action VR and 360 degree camera is a true beast in the action camera industry. This comes down to the ability to shoot 360-degree videos and virtual reality (VR) videos as well.
If you haven't tried VR videos yet, you really should. They can be truly breathtaking. This immersive medium is continuing to grow with 360 video and VR being adopted more by the likes of YouTube, Instagram and Facebook.
If you are looking for novel YouTube video ideas, then this is going to fuel some very cool innovation.
But it isn't all about VR. You can capture breathtaking 4K in Ultra HD with the Camorama, and then store it in your pocket.
Part of what makes the experience so cool is immediately using VR goggles to see what your camera is seeing. The integration with any set of VR goggles is easy - and the downloads of the media via WiFi is even better with the in-built wireless options in this camera.
The only down side may be its price - as the Camorama does not have a cheap price tag and so if you came here on a budget, then this might not be the right fit.
However, you get what you pay for - especially when it comes to the VR videos, full integration with VR goggles and full immersion viewing is totally worth it for most people out there. If you want to be ahead of the curve, this is the right action camera for you.
#6 - YI 88001 16 MP Action Camera
YI once again proves that they are a serious competitor to GoPro with the YI 88001.
Recording up to 1080p video at 60fps and 720p video at 120fps, it packs a 16 megapixel camera and an ultra wide lens with a 155-degree angle of view that captures nearly everything in front of it. This is pretty bonkers considering the ultra low price point
Compact in size and weighing only 2.5 ounces, this action camera is lightweight to take on each of your journeys - attach it to your helmet, bike or strap it to your pet and find out what they do with their day!
he video quality is good, but the fact that it does not shoot videos in 4K makes the 88001 less popular than its brother, the YI 4K.
If you are satisfied with 1080p resolution and video that will still look decent on smaller devices like laptops and mobile phones, then this is a good choice for you. It isn't going to be professional level, but definitely enough to get you started
The battery life will usually last for a couple of hours which feels low considering that it is not using up power to film in 4K.
The YI 88001 has reliable WiFi and Bluetooth connections that can be spotty with other action cameras at this price. That makes it great when connected to your smartphone for remote control and even syncing all your images and video on your phone or tablet.
If budget is your number one concern, then this is a good pick. If you have a little extra to spend, you will likely notice the difference in quality.