If you are looking for the best action camera under $100, then don’t skip this article. I am going to review the five best action cam; which one you choose?
The action cam market has been trusted for years by an actor who ended up giving it his name. If GoPro reigns supreme and has even dissuaded some players from trying to compete with it, it does not prevent new brands from emerging. Like smartphones, the novelty comes from China, and the recipe is the same: slightly lower performance for a much more accessible price.
There is, therefore, a world outside of GoPro, and the latest developments in action cams offer excellent products suitable for increasingly varied activities.
Below are the five best action cameras under $100; choose one of these cameras according to your need.
#1. GoPro Hero7 Black: the gold standard
The successor of the Hero6 Black had a big challenge: to succeed in winning despite very few technical developments. Indeed, the main evolutions of the GoPro Hero7 Black are software and concern stabilization. But what results!
Progress is software
Difficult to recognize with the naked eye a GoPro Hero7 Black from a Hero6 or even a Hero5 Black. And for a good reason, apart from a few coquetries like the color of the logo, the design is identical between the new GoPro and its ancestors. The evolution is to be looked for on the software side and more particularly of “HyperSmooth”. This technology brings impressive stabilization to the GoPro, whether in 4K or Full HD.
Impeccable image quality
Not content with having improved the stabilization of its videos, GoPro has also made great strides in image quality. Here again, it is the software that is to be congratulated, thanks to its “intelligent” photo mode capable of adjusting the sensor settings impressively. Only a small defect: we do not find this quality when there is no light or when it is dark.
Always on top for sport
The GoPro Hero7 Black benefits from years of experience and an ultra-comprehensive set of accessories. Result: it is the most suitable for sports activities, due not only to its impeccable design (waterproof, resistant) but also to the many compatible types of equipment.
Our opinion on the GoPro Hero7 Black
Same sensor and the same design as the GoPro Hero6 Black but that progress … this is the summary of this Hero7 Black. Because by finally changing the software part and adding a little RAM, GoPro has significantly improved its cam action so that it remains the market reference.
#2. DJI Osmo Pocket: editor’s choice
The DJI Osmo Pocket is revolutionizing the world of GoPro. It adopts a format a little apart from other action cams but fully deserves its place in this selection.
A gadget to take anywhere
The Osmo Pocket is a miniaturized version of what DJI offers with the Zenmuse and Ronin models. A larger public version also since the Osmo Pocket not only allows you to film, but it can also be associated with a smartphone (iOS or Android). Very well designed, DJI’s small camera also has excellent ergonomics, with only two buttons and a minimalist touchscreen.
Exceptional image quality
Miniaturization often means having to make concessions on image quality. This is not the case for the DJI mini camera. The drone specialist has brought all his know-how, especially in stabilization, for a fabulous result. As for the image quality, it is merely the best in our comparison. What’s more, unlike the majority of other action cams, the image is not distorted at the edges.
Your smartphone’s video assistant
The little extra of the Osmo Pocket is that it can be plugged into your smartphone with a small dongle provided in the box. From then on, the DJI Mimo application gets underway, and recording becomes a child’s play. We also appreciate the many creative options offered by the manufacturer.
Our opinion on the DJI Osmo Pocket
The DJI Osmo Pocket is an attractive product in terms of substance and very successful in form. Without being as sporty as the GoPro, it exceeds them in image quality and versatility. Above all, it benefits from perfect quality of finish and a complete range of accessories.
#3. Yi 4K + Action Cam: the best alternative?
Half the price of its main competitor, the GoPro Hero7 Black, the Yi 4K +, is not half as efficient, far from it. It is one of the very best models on the market!
Close to the best image quality
Don’t be fooled by its price, preliminary design, or brand that is relatively unknown on this side of the planet. Yi Technologies holds a bitter rival to GoPro with its Yi 4K +, and the main reason for this success is its impeccable image quality. The small action camera takes the full power of the 12MP 1 / 2.3″ Exmor R CMOS sensor and 155 ° wide-angle lens. Incidentally, the Yi 4K + was the first action cam to film in 4K 60p.
Full of options but easy to access
This is a contradiction that fully benefits the Yi 4K +. Its interface is as sophisticated as it is diverse. Indeed the settings are innumerable, starting with the manual locking of the shutter speed in the video (happiness). It is, of course, possible to adjust sensitivity, exposure, color profile, or even white balance. All these settings could complicate the use of the action cam; it is not. Because in addition to a powerful auto mode, the menus are very clear.
Our opinion on the Yi 4K + Action Cam
The Yi 4K + is one of GoPro’s most serious competitors. It does not offer the same level of stabilization, nor the same quality of finish, which penalizes it in purely sporting use. On the other hand, if you put a premium on picture quality and don’t plan on placing your gadget to the test, the Yi 4K + might just do the trick.
#4. GoPro Hero7 Silver: the other GoPro that matters
The GoPro Hero7 Silver is the mid-range version of the action cam specialist. Less equipped than the “Black” it is also less expensive and offers some more than acceptable compromises.
A solid mid-range
If the GoPro Hero7 Black can cover all the needs, the Silver version can satisfy yours. With the same format as the other GoPro, it is, by definition, compatible with the entire set of accessories and has the same level of finishes. What’s more, it is straightforward to use and will easily suit amateur videographers.
Some weaknesses in photos, but a stabilized video
The biggest weakness of the Silver version vis-à-vis the black version is in the sensor. That of the mid-range camera is limited to 10 Mpx (against 12 for the Premium version). Of course, in addition to the lower image quality, its capabilities are also more limited. Fewer image formats, lower video bitrate, slow-motion x8 (against x2), or even a triple microphone … here is the list of the shortcomings of the Hero7 Silver. This could be prohibitive, but it is quickly forgotten that the GoPro offers excellent performance and more than honest stabilization.
Our opinion on the GoPro Hero7 Silver
The mid-range at GoPro cannot compete with its premium model. However, the Hero7 Silver is a very good action cam, much more accessible and which could be suitable for a large number of users.
#5. GoPro Hero5 Black: the cheapest GoPro
As with the Yi 4K, the main weak point of the Hero5 Black is its year of marketing. But the advantage of having seen the light of day in 2016 is that it is much cheaper than the current model.
Quality despite the years
The GoPro Hero5 was, in its time, the best action cam on the market. And by far! Also, it is not surprising that two and a half years after its release, this model is not only still on sale but, above all, even of interest. Waterproof without housing, with a touch screen and electronic stabilization, which is already having its effect. But if you can do without it, this is a great model to try out the GoPro ecosystem.
One of the reasons GoPro is so successful is the app. Very easy to access, it is full of possibilities and allows you to create fantastic quality videos in just a few minutes. Therefore the Hero5 black is also a great way to enjoy the benefits of this app without having to shell out the price of a state-of-the-art GoPro.
Our opinion on the GoPro Hero5 Black
While the Hero5 Black can’t compete with the Hero7, it can still make the price point. Half the price of the last GoPro, it is now the most affordable model for those who only hear GoPro by action camera.
How to choose the best action cam?
Resistance and sealing
The vocation of an action cam is to “suffer”. Exposed to wind, rain, mud, or even snow, it must not only be reliable but, if possible resistant to water. If a majority of “GoPro” are sold with a waterproof case, more and more models are waterproof without accessories.
Fixation: GoPro or owner?
While most manufacturers have adopted the mounting format deployed by GoPro, some are betting on proprietary hooks. Please pay attention to this detail when buying, especially since it can open the door to an extensive catalog of accessories.
The reduced format of action cams requires them to carry a small battery (sometimes even irremovable). Also, it is useless to expect several hours of use. The current average is 90 minutes of autonomy.
Along with image quality, this is the other primary technical criterion to watch out for. The “GoPro” is often placed on helmets, mountain bike handlebars, or other parts of the body. In all cases, they are required to move and stabilization, whether optical or digital, makes it possible to correct the movements. In recent months, the progress made by correction algorithms is such that an excellent digital stabilization can offer results similar to a mechanical solution.
Full HD and 4K
Image quality is essential, and data sheets often misleading. The majority of current models display 4K compatibility, but not all of them offer the possibility of filming in this format. And even if they do, the image is not always stabilized. The best models can capture videos in 4K / UHD (3840 x 2160) at 60 frames per second, but for the cheaper models, the performance will probably be better in Full HD at 60 fps.