These 6 action cams will get you great 4K footage on a budget

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Olympus
When it comes to action cams, GoPro’s presence is undeniable. However, the higher-end models can be expensive for devices that are, by design, put in rough environments and likely won’t last more than a few years — either due to technological advancements or death in the form of an unintended spill.

If the cost of a GoPro is a bit rich for your blood, don’t worry. There are dozens of 4K action cams on the market, many of which offer similar features than GoPro’s $399 flagship, the Hero5 Black, at a lower cost. (On the flip side, keep in mind that a premium GoPro has image quality, software, ease of use, manual settings, and other tech that others can’t match.) To save you the hassle of sorting through them one-by-one, we’ve rounded up five of the best and summarized the advantages of each.

Yi 4K+ Action Cam ($340)

best cheap 4k action cams yi
Gannon Burgett

Of all the budget options on the market, Yi’s action cam lineup is arguably the most comparative in function and features to the GoPro Hero5 Black. In fact, it goes above and beyond the capabilities of GoPro’s flagship cam, offering up 4K resolution at 60 frames per second — double that of the Hero 5 Black. From our experience, the camera delivers impressive image quality.

Another strength of the 4K+ is its accompanying mobile app for Android and iOS. The dedicated software lets you control the camera remotely, view a live stream of the video being captured, and even live-stream your content to the world. The ability to capture HDR video and RAW stills is just a plus. What you won’t get, however, is GoPro’s voice command feature, although that’s anticipated in an upcoming firmware update.

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Olympus Stylus TG-Tracker Action Camera ($319)

Olympus Stylus Tough TG-Tracker
Daven Mathies/Digital Trends

If you’re looking for a budget alternative that can take a beating and keep on filming, the TG-Tracker is what you’ve been looking for.

The action cam’s ultra-rugged design gives it the visual appearance of a Hummer in camera form, and just like its automobile counterpart, the TG-Tracker has a lot to offer within its beefy frame. The cam records 4K video at 30 fps, and captures 8-megapixel stills via a 1/2.3-inch CMOS sensor and TruePic VII image processor.

Controls for filming and navigating the menus are located on the top of the camera, which is shaped in such a way that you can easily hold it in one hand while filming. For composing and reviewing photos and footage, the TG-Tracker includes a 1.5-inch LCD monitor that can articulate out and tilt, allowing for better viewing angles.

Inside the camera are seven separate sensors, including GPS, compass, accelerometer, barometer, manometer, water sensor, and an underwater thermometer. The camera’s rugged frame can withstand 30 meters of water and 220 pounds of force, too, and should handle falls from up to 2.1 meters with relative ease. Other features include built-in Wi-Fi for easy file transfers and a dedicated timelapse mode. Read our full review here.

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Sony FDR-X3000 4K Action Cam ($350)

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When it comes to image quality and ease of use, Sony’s Action Cam series is up there with GoPro. The videos we’ve shot with a Sony Action Cam always look terrific. Budget is a misnomer, since Sony’s cameras tend to carry a premium price tag, but the X3000 actually costs less than the Hero5 Black.

But what steals the show is the X3000’s Balanced Optical SteadyShot image stabilization system. Unlike the electronic stabilizers used in the other models, the X3000 employs actual optical image stabilization that’s far more effective. Using Sony’s Exmor R CMOS sensor and Bionz X image processor, the X3000 has good performance, to boot. Built-in Wi-Fi and GPS are handy for pairing with a phone and tracking your location, respectively, and an available kit comes with a useful live-view display (although it will increase the price beyond the Hero5 Black).

The downsides is that it’s perhaps too easy to use, and lacks the manual functions of the GoPro. But the unique tech and price offer lots of value in an action camera. And like GoPro, Sony offers a variety of mounting options.

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Veho Muvi K-Series K2 Pro 4K Action Camera ($209)

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Like GoPro and Yi, Muvi offers four different action cameras, each of which improves on resolution and features as you go up the ladder. The flagship model — and the one closest to GoPro’s Hero5 Black — is the K2 Pro, a 4K action cam capable of recording video at 60 fps and capturing 12-megapixel stills.

The device is rather bulky, but part of that is due to its 1,500mAh battery and detachable LCD touchscreen, one that’s used for composing images and navigating the device’s menu. You can also control the device using Muvi’s dedicated mobile apps, which connect via Wi-Fi from up to 60 feet away.

Unlike most of the other cameras on this list, the Movi K2 stands out because it comes with almost everything you need. In addition to the camera, you receive a detachable display, a rugged case, a collection of mounts for every surface and occasion, and a hard case to carry it all in. Considering you can have all of this for a mere $210, it’s quite the steal.

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Nexgadget 4K Wi-Fi Action Camera ($70)

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If cost is the main factor in your decision, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better action cam than the Nexgadget 4K. After pouring through dozens of white-labelled 4K action cams on Amazon, the Nexgadget stands out with a 4.5-star rating out of 35 reviews (most other action cams had less than 20 reviews to go off of, many of which weren’t verified purchases).

The Nexgadget 4K action cam features a 12-megapixel sensor behind a 170-degree lens that’s capable of recording 4K video at 25 fps and 1080p video at 60 fps. The LCD display on the rear of the camera is 2-inches wide, and you can navigate the camera’s menu using buttons on the side and top of the camera.

There is an impressive amount of accessories and mounts that come with the action cam, too. Most notably, the Nexgadget 4K comes with two batteries, a wireless remote, and underwater housing that makes it waterproof in up to 100 feet of water. And although it doesn’t come with the most elegant mobile app, the EZ iCam app lets you control the device remotely, so long as you’re within 30 feet of the device.

It isn’t the most robust or capable action cam on the market, but at only $70, you can buy four of them for the price of a single GoPro Hero5.

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Olfi OneFive 4K Action Sports Camera ($180)

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Almost every action cam on the market features a cuboid design with the lens on one side or the other. Not the Olfi OneFive, though. Looking more like a police body camera than an action cam, the OneFive looks like a GoPro Hero5 Black turned 90-degrees, with a centralized lens and a large, open space beneath it.

The OneFive uses Sony’s 16-megapixel Exmor R sensor, which is capable of recording 4K video at 24 fps and 1080p video at 60 fps. What sets it apart from other budget cams, however, is the integrated image-stabilization gyro and HDR capture mode.

The OneFive is also waterproof down to 100 feet when used with the included housing, and even features a dedicated underwater mode to help counteract the blue-green tint you get while filming underwater. Plus, the cam’s dedicated mobile app uses Wi-Fi, giving you complete control over your camera using your smartphone or tablet.

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