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an action cam mounted on a bike for a story about great action cams

Best Action Cams for $300 or Less

How to get the video quality of the latest GoPros without the high price

Like Q-Tips and Kleenex, GoPro has defined its market: Action cam shoppers routinely forget to consider the competition.

But when you do a little research, you find that there is a wide assortment of brands, some of which have cutting-edge features—just like GoPros.

Those rival cameras are also easy to use—just like GoPros.

And, just like the $400 GoPro Hero5 and the $330 GoPro Hero4 Silver Standard Edition recommended in our ratings, action cameras made by Kodak, Sony, and even Activeon have been known to deliver quality video and photos.

That doesn't mean GoPro cameras are overrated. Just that—with a little work—you can often find a better deal. So, if you're willing to venture into the great outdoors without a GoPro label (and GoPro accessories), here are a few bargains worth considering.

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Kodak PixPro SP1

Kodak PixPro SP1

Despite its diminutive size, this $190 action cam is rugged enough to withstand a 7-foot drop and is water resistant to a depth of 33 feet. The 2-plus hours' worth of battery life per charge ranks it among the best in its class.

The camera comes with a 1.5-inch liquid crystal display (LCD) and an image stabilizer to counteract shaking hands, not to mention shaking handlebars. According to our testers, it delivers good photos and video. And here's one nice extra: the ability to capture photos at 10 frames per second in Burst Mode.

    Sony HDR-AS100V

    Sony HDR-AS100V

    Action cams aren't known to produce stunning image quality. But, according to our testers, this $300 model is one of the few to capture very good video. Its hard-working image-stabilization system deserves much of the credit for that.

    The camera delivers good photos and audio, plus 130 minutes of battery life. The splashproof body can handle a light rain. And, when you place it in the protective housing, the model is water resistant to a depth of 16 feet.

      Activeon CX Gold

      Activeon CX Gold

      Unlike many action cams, this $130 Activeon comes with a removable battery, which allows you to swap in a fully charged backup in a pinch. Granted, the 80 minutes of battery life is a bit shorter than you find in many models, but the camera's image stabilizer delivers good video and photos. The protective housing is water resistant to a depth of 197 feet, according to the manufacturer. And, better yet, the model has a touch screen LCD on the back.

        Sony HDR-AS50

        Sony HDR-AS50

        Like most Sony models, this one has a very good image stabilizer. Priced at $190, it also provides a simple, intuitive interface, so you can get the camera up and running in a jiffy. The video quality is good—and so is the audio quality. The battery life stretches to 100 minutes. And, like the Activeon camera above, the protective housing will keep this model dry up to a depth of 197 feet, according to the manufacturer.

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          Terry Sullivan

          I've been writing about tech since the 1990s and joined Consumer Reports in 2007. I cover audio-related devices, like headphones, and digital-imaging products, like cameras and printers. When not making fine art with a camera or oil paint, I also jam with my band, The Not-For-Prophets. I live on Long Island with my wife and kids.