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 2018!
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 2018
|Name||Unique Feature||Native Resolution||Maximum EIS Res||Best Buy|
|Xiaomi Mijia 4K||Large Touchscreen Display||4K (3840 x 2160) 30fps||1080p 60fps|
|MGCOOL Explorer 3||Stereo/Dual Audio Recording||4K (3840 x 2160)30fps||4K (3840 x 2160) 30fps|
|YI 2 4K||GoPro Hero 5 Black Contender||4K (3840 x 2160) 30fps||2.7K 60fps|
|Yi Lite||Budget Yi 4K||4K (3840 x 2160) 20fps / 1440p 30fps||1440p 30fps|
|Rexso Explorer K||Sharp Image Quality Under 100||4K (3840 x 2160) 30fps||4K (3840 x 2160) 30fps|
|Hawkeye Firefly 8S||Superb Image Stabilization||4K (3840 x 2160) 30fps||1080p 60fps|
|Gitup G3 Duo||Dual Action Camera||3K (2880 x 2160p) 30fps||1080p 60fps|
|GoPro Hero 5 Session||Compact & Portable||4K (3840 x 2160) 30fps||2.7K 48fps|
|SJCAM SJ7 Star||Touchscreen Waterproof Camera||4K (3840 x 2160) 30fps||1080p 60fps|
|Thieye T5 Edge||Voice & Remote Control||4K (3840 x 2160) 30fps||4K (3840 x 2160) 30fps|
|SJCAM SJ8 Plus||Best Action Cam For Vlogging||4K (3840 x 2160) 30fps||4K (3840 x 2160) 30fps|
1. Xiaomi Mijia 4k – User-friendly and Large Touchscreen Display
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.
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!
2. MGCOOL Explorer 3 – Stereo Audio Recording
The MGCOOL Explorer 3 looks unique at first glance because of the dual buttons at the top.
The Explorer 3 can shoot and stabilise footages up to 4K 30fps and take 14MP photos so you can be sure that it produces really sharp and stable footages.
Also, as for audio, because there are 2 inbuilt microphones, it has a stereo audio recording which allows you to get very clear audio.
In addition, the Explorer 3 features something that you don’t see that often which MGCOOL calls H264+ video encoding. In actual fact, it’s just H265 or HEVC. Simply put, this means you can film and take more shots but at the same time consuming lesser storage space.
Moreover, the Explorer 3 is really easy and user-friendly to use with its 2-inch touchscreen and its neat categorisation menu and settings.
I feel what really makes this stand out is how much you’re getting for the price.
As of now, Explorer 3 is one of the cheapest EIS 4K action cameras alongside Explorer K and Mijia 4K. I will do a comparison of all 3 of them soon so stay tuned!
At the end of the day, the Explorer 3 is very user-friendly, superb bang for the buck and one of the best action cameras if you value audio quality thanks to its dual mics.
3. Yi II 4K – GoPro Hero 5 Black Contender
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.
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.
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.
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 15fps 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.
|Sharp 16MP Photo And Video Quality||4K - Too Low Frame Rate (Not Usable)|
|2" Touchscreen||Unable to take ‘RAW’ Photos|
|Great EIS (Electronic Image Stabilization)|
|Best Buy: OR|
5. Rexso Explorer K – Sharp Image Quality
The new Explorer K by Rexso, Elephone is quite a debatable action camera in my opinion because the views on this are very diverse mainly due to the fact that it has many strengths and weaknesses, some even saying this is the best cheap 4k action camera while others face a lot of problems and didn’t find it user-friendly.
For me, I actually found them both to be true, superb image quality and stabilization but wasn’t as easy or ‘nice’ to use as other action cameras.
The Explorer K is undoubtedly the cheapest 4K action camera there is as of now. It’s able to stabilise real 4K videos and take really accurate and sharp 16MP photos, which is further complemented by the accurate and saturated colours on the shot.
Simply said, image quality is surprisingly good for something of this price point.
Furthermore, it also comes with tons of accessories and has H265 efficient video coding, which means you can film and take more shots, without occupying any extra space.
On the back, it features a 2-inch screen. Although it isn’t touchscreen, it’s one of the best screens I have encountered because it’s very sharp and clear so you’re able to see clearly no matter where u are.
So now it looks all great and mighty but as I mentioned earlier, there are also quite a few cons.
The main one is that it generally isn’t very user-friendly, does not have good indications (when taking a photo/video, no sound, light whatsoever), multiple spelling errors lying around in the camera and in the app. It also requires a bit of time for you to get used to it as there’s 1 less button to navigate around.
Overall, it’s hardware and image quality it can produce is phenomenal for something at this price. However, until they release the next firmware update, you’ll have to work around with the lack of user-friendliness and occasional glitches here and there.
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.
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.
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.
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 really good value for money.
7. GitG3 Duo – Dual Action Camera
The newest action cam released by Gitup, a company known for making really good and solid action cameras, one of which being the Git2P, which had one of the best build quality among the action cams I’ve reviewed.
Their latest action camera, the G3 Duo is a unique camera because it’s a dual camera, meaning it can take 2 different footages at once when used together with a secondary or slave camera (purchased separately)that can be connected using the mini-USB cable.
When used as a stand-alone camera, it can film up to 2880 x 2160p which is the equivalent of a 3K resolution but the aspect ratio of it is 4:3, which is unconventional, so it might look weird in displays.
As for the more typical 16:9 ratio, the highest it can shoot at is 2.5K. Despite that, when comparing to a typical 4K footage by other cams, the difference is really not noticeable as it’s still really sharp and has pretty accurate colour tones as well.
For the price range of about $130 ish, I feel the video quality to be very good despite not having the option to film in 4K.
The G3 duo is also able to be paired with a dual camera and GPS logger to track motion data such as speed, distance, altitude and more!
On the other hand, when connected to the slave camera, both the main and slave camera is able to shoot at 1080p 30fps, which will be displayed on the screen using Picture In Picture(PIP).
Again, it’s one of the best 1080p (typically action cams perform the best in 2K and above) footages I’ve seen and you can see it for yourself here.
Similar to video quality, the G3 duo actually has a very good sound quality especially at picking up ambient sound even with the waterproof case on, so you can rest assured that you will not miss out anything during your next vacation.
Overall, I find the G3 duo acting as a dual camera definitely great for filming cycling or motorcycling and even using it standalone is really good because of the high build and image quality.
|Slave Camera & GPS Logger Compatible||No Built-in GPS|
|Neat & Stable Firmware||Not Waterproof When Connected To Slave Camera|
|Awesome Video & Photo Quality||No 4K Recording|
|Great Sound Quality|
|Wide Range of Accessories (Pro Packaging)|
| Best Buy:
8. 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.
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.
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.
9. 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.
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.
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.
10. 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.
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.
|Sharp 2K & 4K Footages||Poor 1080p Footage|
|Above Average Image Stabilization at 4K|
|Nice Voice & Remote Control|
|Awesome Value For Money|
|Stereo Audio Recording - Nice Wind Noise Reduction|
| Best Buy:
11. 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:
|Features||SJ8 Plus||Yi 4K|
|Video Resolution|| 4K 30fps
| 4K 30/25 fps
2.7K 60/50/30/25 fps
|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|
|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 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.
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:
1. Real Resolution – Ignore interpolated and low (less than 20) fps
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.
2. Accessories – Get Only Those You Need
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 much accessories as it more bang for 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.
3. Smartphone App – Stable and User-Friendly
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.
4. Features – It’s not just about the specs
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.
5. Release Date (Less than a year ago)
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 managed to pick an action cam and give you better insight on the best action cameras that suits your budget and needs the best by now!
If you’re still unsure of which action cam to choose or think we’ve missed something that deserves to be on this list, please feel free to drop a comment down below!