best action cams under 200 firefly 8s sj8 plus mijia 4k yi 4k

Action cameras are undoubtedly cool and the thought of using a small, compact, matchbox-sized camera that costs less but film better than many digital cameras is quite unbelievable.

But there’s one problem.

There are way too many action cameras with similar specs, body, features and that means for someone new to this (like you), it can be quite a daunting task to find the one that suits your needs and budget.

Therefore, if you are looking for the best action camera for your next vacation or overseas trip, but are overwhelmed with the umpteen choices you have, you’re in the right place!

Without further ado, let’s run through the best cheap action cameras under $200 of 2019!

Oh and if you’re interested, at the bottom, I’ve included how I ranked and chose the different action cams!

Best Action Cameras Under 200 2019

NameVerdictOverall RatingGet It Here
Xiaomi Mijia 4K Large Touchscreen Display For Better Control
YI 2 4K GoPro Hero 5 Black Contender But Half The Price
Yi Lite Everything An Yi 4K Has Except For 4K Shooting
Hawkeye Firefly 8S Superb Image Stabilization For Smooth-like Videos
GoPro Hero 5 Session Compact & Portable So You Can Mount & Shoot From Wherever You Want
SJCAM SJ7 Star Touchscreen Waterproof Camera So You Can Control It While Still In The Water
Thieye T5 Edge Voice & Remote Control For Handsfree Usage
SJCAM SJ8 Plus Uses Newest Tech Thus Performs Quickly & Efficiently


1.  Xiaomi Mijia 4k – Extremely User-Friendly Due To Intuitive User Interface

This camera, similar to Yi 4K was a huge hit when it was released on the market.

When the Mijia 4K was first released, it was one of the first action cameras to be able to film 4K with a touchscreen that costs below a 100 and because of that, many people were sceptical of it as it was a little too good to be true. But it turned out to be that good and it’s still a really good action camera to this date.

The Mijia 4K has one of the largest if not largest, 2.44” touchscreen display in action cameras so you’re able to navigate around and see the display easily.

This is complemented by its large 1400mAh battery capacity so even with that large display, it still lasts long and is not hindered by it.

In addition, the overall interface is also very neatly categorised and clean because of this, I feel that this is most user-friendly action camera under 200.

Moreover, quality is superb as well. It’s able to take 4K at 30fps and capture 8MP shots.

raw image sample mijia 4k
Mijia 4K Raw Sample

I also especially liked how it’s able to take raw images, which really shows the true and accurate colours of the image.

The community and support for this action cam are also some of the main reasons it’s doing so well. They have a large customer support team dedicated to this camera alone and not to mention the community of Mijia 4K users so you’re not alone if you face any problems. Moreover, if you’ve any queries or questions, their support team is really responsive you can’t really go wrong getting this camera.

My only issue/improvement with it is that it can’t stabilise at 4K resolution and accessories have to be purchased separately.

Overall, if your budget is about $100, I’d highly recommend the Mijia 4K because it is super user-friendly, has a great interface, and not to forget the awesome support you have from the community!

Check out my full review on the Mijia 4K here!

Mijia 4K

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Pros
  • Crisp & Vibrant RAW Photos To Capture What Matters
  • Long Lasting Battery Life To Last The Whole Day
  • Responsive 6 Axis Stabilization For Smooth Videos
  • Large Touchscreen Display For Easy Control

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Cons
  • No Accessories Provided So You’ll Have To Get Them Separately


2. Yi II 4K – GoPro Hero 5 Black Alternative

If you’re looking for an action camera, chances are that you’ve heard of this camera popping out everywhere, claiming to be the ‘best action camera’ for the money and one that could hold its ground against the Hero 5 Black by GoPro.

Why & How Does It Fare Against The Hero 5 Black?

When it released it was a strong contender to Hero 5 black as image quality for both cameras are equally good, with the Yi 4K only falling a little short in audio quality and lacking several features that the Hero 5 Black has to offer, a few of which being the waterproof body, built-in GPS and voice control.

Take a look for yourself here:

However, if you think that it only costs half that of a Hero 5 Black, it’s actually quite easy to forget about those features and go with the Yi 4K.

The Yi 4K also has something that not many action cams have: live streaming. Perfect for starting a live stream on Facebook or Youtube if you’re interested.

As for improvements, I feel they should have made stabilization possible on 4K shooting as it’s not currently doable. Also, they could have made it touchscreen with the waterproof housing, similar to the one in SJ7 Star.

Why It’s So Popular

What makes the Yi 4K really extraordinary and ultimately, popular, is the large community present. This is really useful because if you’re facing any problems or have any improvements or feedback, you can easily voice out or ask the community regarding your issue and should be solved in no time.

Furthermore, the manufacturer Yi technology have really good support from the customer service team as they are constantly updating the firmware and adding more features and removing bugs.

All in all, the Yi 4K is a really great camera to get. Intuitive, easy to use interface with the large 2.19” touchscreen, awesome image quality and reliable & useful smartphone app really makes the Yi 4K my top recommendation for an action camera below $200.


YI 2 4K

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Pros
  • Live Streaming To Share With Your Loved Ones Without Any Delay
  • Amazing Customer & Community Support So You’ll Never Be Stuck
  • Stable & Fast WiFi Connection For Quick & Reliable Transfer To Your Phone
  • High Quality Body Overall For Long Lasting Use
  • User Friendly Interface Which Makes Using It More Enjoyable

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Cons
  • Image Stabilization Doesn’t Work At 4K
  • No Accessories Provided So It Has To Be Bought Separately


4. Yi Lite – Budget Yi 4K

This may be the best action camera under 100 if you’re looking at a balance of image quality and overall interface.

The Yi Lite is made to be a successor and an improvement of the original Yi action cam, which was quite heavily disliked because it didn’t have a screen. Some also regard it as a middle camera to bridge between the Yi 4K and the original Yi action cam.

Despite costing only half the price of the Yi 4K, it still takes really sharp 16MP pictures.

Electronic Image stabilization is also one of its strength, so you are able to guarantee smooth and live-like shots when taken with the Yi Lite.

It also shares the same, awesome firmware and app that you see on the Yi 4K/4K+ but lacks live streaming, so you might want to keep that in mind.

Not Entirely ‘Usable’ 4K

On the other hand, a major downside of the Yi Lite is that it does not have what I call a ‘usable 4K’ as it can only shoot at 20fps at 4K, which is too low of a frame rate to maintain smoothness in the shots. So if you really really want to shoot in 4K, I’d highly recommend the Mijia 4K instead.

Also, another thing to keep in mind is that similar to Yi 4K, it does not come with any accessories so you might want to spend some extra money buying a waterproof case to protect it.

Mijia 4K Vs Yi Lite

I found Yi Lite’s closest competitor to be the Mijia 4K and the main difference, in my opinion, is user-friendliness vs image quality.

Although both have tremendous value for money, I still found some aspects that set them apart is that the Mijia 4K has a nicer interface to work with (app, settings, navigations, touch screen) and is able to film real 4k plus take raw image, whereas Yi Lite has a sharper video and photo quality, complemented by its better image stabilization. So it really depends on what you’re looking for.

YI 2 4K

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Pros
  • 16MP Photos For Crisp Shots
  • Easy To Use Touchscreen Display
  • Amazing Image Stabilization To Remove Shakiness From Your Videos
  • Intuitive Smartphone App For Effortless Remote Control & Video Sharing

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Cons
  • No RAW Photo Capability Which Limits Post Editing Options
  • 4K Not Usable As It’s Too Low Of A Frame Rate Thus Highest Usable Res Is 1440p


6. Hawkeye Firefly 8s – Superb Image Stabilization

The manufacturer, Hawkeye is one of those few companies that offer really awesome quality to price ratio which is evident from their previous action cams, the Firefly 7S and 6S.

So if you’re looking for something that gives you value for money, the firefly 8S is the way to go.

Multiple FOV Options – 90˚/170˚

This Firefly 8S is unique in the fact that there’s two fields of view options 90° FOV and 170˚ so you can choose the one that suits your needs the best. If you want to know more about the difference between these field of view, feel free to read more about it here.

Superb Stabilization

If stabilization is what you’re looking for, the firefly 8s is your answer. The stabilization is one of the best, even better than that of the Yi 4K, which is insanely good if you didn’t know already. But the downside is that it does not work with 4K. Take a look for yourself here:

Despite not having a touchscreen display, the screen is super bright and clear so you’re able to clearly see what you’re recording no matter where you are.

Areas For Improvements

The only room for improvements I can think of is the addition of a touchscreen, compatibility for raw photos and the ability to stabilize at 4K.

But other than that, this camera really is everything that they say and not to forget the excellent bang for your buck.

Hawkeye Firefly 8S

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Pros
  • Comes With Lots Of Accessories So Just Pack & Go
  • Long Battery Life To Last A Whole Day
  • Extremely Vibrant Screen So You Can Still See Wherever You Are
  • 2 Different FOV Options Available To Fit Your Shooting Preferences
  • State Of The Art Image Stabilization To Keep Your Shots Steady

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Cons
  • Image Stabilization Works On 1080p 30fps/60fps But Not 4K
  • No RAW Photo Mode Which Limits Post Editing
  • Lack of Touchscreen Thus Not That Natural To Use


7. GoPro Hero 5 Session – Compact & Portable

Being the most compact of the lot is the Hero 5 Session.

Don’t let the size fool you though. It’s able to film 4K at 30fps and take high-quality 10MP photos. If you want to go 1 level deeper, it even allows you to customise your fields of view.

Such a small size makes it one of the best cameras for travelling and also gives you the far greater versatility to mount places that no other camera can, which is what makes the session unique.

Superb audio quality as it has dual microphones so that it can switch between the 2, to avoid interference from external conditions such as wind-noise etc and no external case to muffle the sound out.

One Touch Button To Rule It All

Even though the Hero 5 Session only has 1 button to navigate around, it’s still really easy to use thanks to its awesome Wifi and Bluetooth connectivity that can be easily and reliably connected to your phone with the Companion app.

Shooting is as simple too as with the one button quick recording feature that when pressed, switches on the camera and starts filming. Another press stops recording and switches it off.

Areas of Improvements

All that said, a downside is that the battery is built-in (non-removable) so you won’t be able to quickly swap out the battery in the event that it runs out.

Furthermore, it lacks a screen for live viewing but it shouldn’t matter since it has such a large filming area anyways.

Overall, this is definitely the best compact action camera out there in my opinion and worth every penny with the ease of use.

GoPro Hero 5 Session

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Pros
  • Compact & Portable So You Can Mount It Wherever You Want Easily
  • Reliable Voice Control Makes Using It Cool
  • Dual Mics For Clear, Non-muffled Sounds
  • Straightforward To Use – Great For Beginners
  • 10m Waterproof So You’ll Never Have To Worry About Accidentally Wetting It
  • State Of The Art GoPro App Allows For Quick & Easy Editing & Sharing

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Cons
  • Non-removable Battery Thus It’s Dead Till You Charge It Again
  • Short Battery Life But Very Common For Compact Cams
  • No Screen Thus Needs Getting A Little Use To


8. SJCAM SJ7 Star – Touchscreen Waterproof Camera

SJCAM was originally a manufacturer of one of the most popular and earlier action camera, the SJCAM SJ4000, which was a solid contender of GoPro action cams because of how cheap it was compared to the GoPro cameras.

They continue and moved on to creating more action cams and their most recent flagship action camera is none other than the SJ7 Star.

Well Built Overall

The SJ7 Star has an aluminium body and definitely feels well-built and sturdy from the start so you never have to worry about it suddenly breaking down.

Being able to record true 4K and boasting a large 12MP sensor, it really allows you to take sharp and accurate shots without doing much.

Also, it has a neat interface, complemented by its large 2-inch touchscreen so you’re able to navigate and customise anything easily with a few swipes and taps.

Utilising a mini-USB to charge also means you have the choice to attach an external microphone if you need it one day.

Designed For Using With The Waterproof Housing

Furthermore, if you’re planning to operate it in wet conditions such as when snorkelling or swimming during your vacation, the touchscreen will still work in wet conditions, though not underwater.

However, although has a built-in gyro stabilization, one major downside of the SJ7 Star is the inability to stabilise shots at 4K (only in 1080p 30/60fps) so you might want to take that into consideration if you’re using 4K as the main shooting resolution.

All in all, a really well-built action camera and I especially liked the feature when you are still able to operate it normally in wet conditions.

SJCAM SJ7 Star

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Pros
  • Responsive Touchscreen For Easier Control & Fine Adjustments
  • Touchscreen Works In Waterproof Case – Best of Both Worlds
  • Long Battery Life To Last You The Whole Day
  • Reliable Customer Service To Ensure You Never Get Stuck
  • Some Mounting Accessories Available To Try Out Unique Shooting Angles

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Cons
  • Stabilization Doesn’t Work On 4K Only 1080p 30/60fps


9. Thieye T5 Edge – Voice & Remote Control

Thieye has always been known to produce super cost effective action cameras.

They started getting the attention when they released their first 4K action camera, the Thieye T5e which was the cheapest 4K action camera at that time and despite the price, it did not compromise any build or firmware and the quality was way better than many action cams even more expensive than it.

T5 Edge: A More Improved T5e

Their latest action camera the T5 edge is basically the T5e but with more new and improved features, which many view to be T5e’s successor.

The main difference, in my opinion, would be the addition of the Electronic Image Stabilization (EIS) which works even with 4K, which was not originally available with the T5e.

Also, they’ve added a remote control which is unique as it supports voice control too, so you can simply take a photo or start a video, without having to physically press it which is super convenient especially when you’re on a vacation with a selfie stick or mounted on somewhere.

When comparing the Thieye T5e and T5 edge, I feel the T5 edge surpasses T5e in almost every aspect except that the 1080p footage from the T5e is sharper. But this honestly shouldn’t matter much if you’re filming 2K or 4K because quality for both cameras is equally good.

From the comparison, you can see that the 1080p footage from the T5 edge had lesser detail than the T5e but once it changed to 4K, it was the other way round as T5 edge had more details and colours were more accurate in my opinion.

Overall, I think this is a really nice upgrade to the former T5e as the EIS works all the way to 4K and it even comes with a remote and voice control capability to add a unique flair to it, despite the ‘not that nice’ 1080p footage.

Not to mention it costs lesser than the T5e.

Read my full review on the T5 edge here!

Thieye T5 Edge

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Pros
  • Comes Together With Remote Control So You Can Use It Right Away
  • Authentic Voice Control For Quick Commands Off The Cam
  • Wind Noise Reduction For Clear Sounds In Outdoors
  • Amazing Value For Money

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Cons
  • Underperforming 1080p Footage


10. SJCAM SJ8 Plus – Best Budget Action Cam For Vlogging

The new SJ8 Plus is the mid tier action camera released alongside the other SJ8 series action cams such as the SJ8 Pro (flagship model) and the SJ8 Air (budget model).

Awesome 2.33″ Display

The one thing that makes the SJ8 Plus stand out from the rest is definitely the large and vivid display, on the front and the back of the camera.

It’s by far the sharpest and accurate display I’ve seen on an action cam so if you’re travelling often, even in a bright day, you’ll still be able to see what you’re shooting clearly.

Moreover, the front screen that displays quick information and something not seen that often in action cams, means you can easily check to see if you’ve started recording without having to turn back to see the main screen.

SJ8 Plus Vs Yi 4K

Let’s take a look at other another very similar action cam, the Yi 4K, which offers rather similar specs and priced roughly the same.

Here’s a quick comparison:

FeaturesSJ8 PlusYi 4K
Video Resolution 4K 30fps
2.7K 60fps
4K 30/25 fps
2.7K 60/50/30/25 fps
Photo Resolution 12MP 12MP
Stabilization 3 Axis EIS (Up to 4K)   6 Axis EIS (Up to 2.7K)
Display 2.33” IPS Touchscreen + 0.96” OLED Front Screen 2.19” LCD Touchscreen
Connectivity Port Type-C Micro-USB
Video Format H264, H265 H264
Additional Features (Live Streaming & Voice Control)
Battery life 100 mins (LCD Off Wifi Off) 110 mins (LCD Off Wifi Off)
Price $179 (Camera Only Set) $169 (Camera Only Set)

As you can see, both of them have their pros and cons.

Yi 4K has more variety in terms of resolutions and features (live streaming, GPS, voice control) go but the SJ8 Plus has a better screen and uses new technology (H265, USB Type-C) and a key feature is the stabilization at 4K.

It’s really up to you which one you value more but one thing I can say is that you can’t go wrong with either of these action cams as they are amazing action cams.

Thieye T5 Edge

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Pros
  • Dual Screen Display To Quickly Confirm Shooting Statuses
  • Sharp & Refined Shots So You Can See Everything You Shot
  • Uses Efficient & New Technology For Quicker Performance
  • Amazing Vibrant Screen That Allows You To Clearly See It Anywhere

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Cons
  • Lesser Features Compared To Yi 4K


How I Ranked And Chose The Action Cameras

There are many things to look out in an action camera but after looking through tons of action cams, and realising that many of them have a lot in common, below are the really important things to think about:

Real Resolution

Does It Film Actual 4K or It’s Just Another Rip-off?

native resolution in action cameras

A camera can be falsely advertised to appear to be able to film 4K but in actual fact, it’s just interpolation or upscaling.

Most action cameras with fake res are below $50 so you won’t really see much fake res above $100. Learn more about how they do it here.

As a general guideline, I’d advice getting action cameras that are able to film at least native 2K 30fps.

Accessories

What Kind of Accessories Do You Need?

imars h9 mounts/accessories

Accessories are a relatively important part and it’s important to see what comes with it and whether or not you’ll need it.

If you don’t require any accessories, you should probably get an action cam that does not come with many accessories as it more bang for the buck.

This is because after reviewing a lot of action cams, the general trend (though not necessarily) I see is that cameras that come with lots of accessories are a little inferior in terms of quality when compared to the cameras with fewer accessories at the same price.

Smartphone App

How User-friendly Is It?

Explorer Pro Smartphone app

The smartphone app’s main purpose is to provide a live view of the shot plus remotely control the camera along with customising the settings so once connected to your phone, you can basically not have to touch your action cam anymore.

As most apps won’t work without the camera, and thus you won’t be able to try it beforehand, you’d have to rely on reviews or other’s opinions.

Though not necessarily, the best apps I’ve noticed are generally ones that are made by the brands who made the cameras (Xiaomi, Yi, etc) instead of some third party app maker that many cheap action cameras use.

Features

What Other Features Are There That Makes It Stand Out?

Other than the basic uses, such as timelapse, picture taking, video recording and slow-motion, many companies have introduced features to their products to stand out from the rest.

Here are some examples:

Remote Control Capability- Mostly for better control by wirelessly control the camera using a wrist/handheld remote.

Live Streaming – Useful if you’re into social media and love live streaming to an audience.

Electronic Image Stabilization – Beneficial for removing small tremors by stabilising your shot.

Distortion Correction –For removing the fisheye distortion that you see in your shots.

These are just a few, but this is just to show you that there are other things to consider other than the specs of it.

Release Date

Less Than A Year => Good

All of my recommendations are released no longer than a year because I feel that generally, the newer the model, and technology advances, the better the action camera is for its price, ie. bang for the buck.


I hope you’ve got a better insight into the best action cameras that suits your budget and needs the best by now!

If you’re still unsure of anything or think we’ve missed out on anything, please feel free to drop a comment down below!

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26 Comments

  1. Wow, I had no idea that there were so many options out there for action cameras. Honestly, when saw action cameras I thought the whole post would be about GoPro. Your information was very useful and insightful. I was particularly captivated by the Yi Lite. Do you know if there are any accessories available for it?

    1. There are tons of accessories here
      available for Yi Lite
      and as it has the same body as Yi 4K, whatever fits Yi 4K will fit Yi Lite.

      Hope this helps!

  2. Hello there and thanks for awesome information on cameras. It so happens that It has been in my mind to buy one, so the great information you provide is really useful. I like the fact that you provide a picture and a description in a way that some one like me can understand. I am wondering which you would recommend with your vast knowledge of cameras.
    Is there any action camera that will do a reasonable job under 100 dollars?
    Thanks again
    Cheers
    eli

    1. Hi Eli, thanks for your feedback!

      For an action camera below $100, I’d highly recommend the Mijia 4K simply because it’s a great all around camera and the firmware, support and actually  everything feels really well-built and you definitely can’t go wrong with it.

  3. Ok this is great. I really needed to find this site today. A good friend of mine is having their birthday soon and I have to buy a present for them. My friend really likes gadgets, but I was feeling really confused. They are into mountain biking so an action camera would be a great choice for them! I was just wondering, with all of the different technical specs available, which features / specifications do you value the most?

    1. Hi, thanks for dropping a comment! For me, I think the features that stands out the most is the stabilisation and user-friendliness which the only way to tell is from reviews! Hope this helps and if you’ve any other qns, feel free to leave it down below. 🙂

  4. Is it true that thieye t5e have heating issue ?

    1. Nope, at least not for the model I’ve tested

  5. Cameras have certainly came a long way since I bought a bloggie in 2010. The live streaming function with the Yi II 4k is particularly impressive.

    I also like that it comes in a fairly compact form. I do not want to be lugging around anything big if I am trying to document the cool things I’m doing outdoors. Thanks for your breakdown of cons and advantages in an easy to understand layout.

    1. Glad you found it useful

  6. Please, write me which camera does better quality pictures: MGCOOL Explorer 3 or Thieye T5 Edge

    1. very similar almost no difference (sharpness and colours) to be honest but i find t5 edge just has a slight bit more clarity and as it also has distortion correction, I like the t5 edge better.
      Also, as a side note, photo quality ain’t their strength. If you want to use mainly for photos, get Yi lite or mijia 4K, much nicer.
      Hope this helps! 🙂

      1. and when it comes to stabilization in movies, which of the two cameras is better

        1. T5 edge is slightly better, as it has a larger threshold.

          1. when it comes to stabilizing the recorded videos, which camera is the best

          2. I would say it’s the firefly 8s although it comes very close to the second place, Yi lite.

  7. We are on a fixed income and had wanted a budget priced camera to take with us hiking and canoeing so we needed some durability as well as being waterproof. Thanks for compiling this list as, quite frankly, the choices have been overwhelming and we needed a way to easily narrow down the field.
    All the best.
    Jim

  8. Hello there! This is my first comment here, so I just wanted to give a quick shout out and say I genuinely enjoy reading your articles. Can you recommend any other blogs/websites/forums that deal with the same subjects? Thanks.

  9. Needed to compose you a very little word to thank you yet again regarding the nice suggestions you’ve contributed here.

  10. Hello there! This is my first comment here, so I just wanted to give a quick shout out and say I genuinely enjoy reading your articles. Can you recommend any other blogs/websites/forums that deal with the same subjects? Thanks.

  11. Great Information!!
    Thanks for sharing. By implementing all these tips we can live a frugal life easily and save a lot of money.

  12. How are the photo qualities? Which is better?

  13. How are the Yi Lite and Xiaomi Mijia’s photo qualities? Which is better?

    1. Yi Lite’s higher amount of pixels (16MP vs 8MP) is not that noticeable but the difference between Mijia’s RAW photo is very obvious as the colours are more vibrant and accurate. Thus, I prefer the Mijia over the Yi lite for photos.

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