GoPros and other action cameras can get expensive fast so if you’re on a budget or you’re using action cameras in somewhat dangerous applications where they might break, finding an affordable camera solution is a must. Luckily there are several cheap action cameras available on the market today:
The Original GoPro Hero (Check reviews & prices)
The GoPro Hero is the camera that started the personal action camera revolution and GoPro has recently updated it with modern specs and an affordable price tag. Although it lacks some of the features found in fancier models (see our GoPro action camera comparison chart here), it does still record extremely good video and it fits in all the mounts and various accessories that have been built specifically to work with GoPros. The GoPro Hero records video up to 1080p resolution and up to 30 frames per second (or 720p60 mode which can be converted to slow motion using GoPro’s bundled software).
DBPower Waterproof Action Camera (Check reviews & prices)
The DBPower Waterproof Action Camera is a, shall we say, GoPro-inspired competitor at a surprisingly affordable price which boasts a few things the original GoPro doesn’t have: a 1.5 inch color LCD screen on the back, and an accessory kit that comes with the camera itself. The price for this product frequently changes on Amazon so check the current price to be sure but as of the time of this writing, it is being sold for a substantial discount. The DBPower also comes with two swappable batteries and records in up to 1080p.
GeekPro 1080p Sports Camera (Check reviews & prices)
The GeekPro 1080p Sports Camera is a little bit more expensive than some other GoPro alternatives, but it offers a large 2 inch LCD screen on the back and comes with a kit that includes a wide variety of mounting accessories. It also has one distinct feature that not all other affordable action cameras offer: all the mounting accessories that work with GoPros (besides the plastic case housing that this unit comes with) will also work with this camera. So by buying the GeekPro Sports Camera you can also buy into the GoPro accessory ecosystem as well. The folks at GoPro are probably none too pleased about this but there’s not much they can do about it.
Ricoh WG-M1 Compact Waterproof Action Camera (Check reviews & prices)
The Ricoh action camera is a different form factor than many other affordable GoPro alternatives but that allows it to offer an LCD viewfinder on the top of the unit, which, depending on how you’re mounting it, can make things easier. It also comes in a kit with two 32gb MicroSD cards, a small tripod and a carrying case as well as a memory card reader.
It also offers a higher resolution camera for stills than many other cheap GoPro alternatives offer: up to 14 megapixels. The Ricoh Waterproof Action Camera also offers a wide field of view with its 160 degree lens.
Still haven’t found the best cheap action camera for your purposes? Read our other article: What is The Best Action Camera Under $100?
Factors to consider when choosing a cheap action camera or Alternative to GoPro Camera:
Is this camera compatible with GoPro accessories? Many cheap action cameras that are similar to GoPros use the same form factor as the GoPro, which means that they can use the same accessories as GoPros. Why is this important? Because the GoPro accessory ecosystem is huge. All sorts of manufacturers make GoPro style camera accessories including things like floating selfie sticks, bicycle and surfboard mounts, underwater housing, and all sorts of other knickknacks that work with GoPros and cameras with the same form factor. If you choose a camera that’s different than that, you’ll want to make sure that you will be able to find accessories for it.
Can I get extra batteries for this camera? These days most action cameras use the same micro SD memory cards but the batteries they use are quite different. Most action camera owners agree that no matter what brand action camera they use– GoPro or a GoPro alternative– the battery life on their cameras is quite a bit shorter than they’d like so they buy extra batteries to take along with them on adventures.
Does this action camera have a screen? Some action cameras have screens and some don’t. A few years ago almost all action cameras didn’t have screens so getting a camera with a screen was an expensive upgrade. These days more and more action cameras have small color LCD screens on their rear but you’ll want to make sure that your camera has one if that’s a factor that’s important to you. Action cameras are unlike normal video cameras in that you probably won’t be watching the screen while you’re recording (instead you’ll be wearing it in an action camera helmet mount or something) but a screen can still be helpful when you’re setting up a shot or mounting the camera and you want to make sure your framing is correct. So don’t just assume that the action camera you’ve got your eye on has a screen, check the photos of the unit to make sure you see one, and that it’s a size you’re happy with.
How are the reviews of this action camera? Some cheap action cameras these days are crap. Check the customer reviews of any action camera you consider to make sure that real people are using the product and are happy with the results. Don’t just rely on what the manufacturer says in their product description.
How cheap is this camera? It may seem obvious that if you’re looking for a cheap action camera you’re going to be looking at how much it costs. But it’s also worth thinking about what kinds of accessories (extra batteries, GoPro memory cards, etc) you’ll be purchasing for the product and how much they cost. Because ultimately you’re buying into a full system and while some action cameras may come with a kit, you’ll want to make sure you’re getting the best value for the money.