The list of motivating landscape photographers who regularly vlog keeps growing. And if you’re interested in vlogging yourself, there just might be a solid option for weight-conscious landscape photographers.
I’ve been evaluating vlogging setups for the last few months since starting my YouTube channel on landscape photography as a digital nomad. Initially I focused on screencasts to postpone deciding on a camera rig, but now I’m ready to start shooting behind-the-scenes vlogs on my next landscape photography trip.
There’s just one problem: my bag is already full. It’s just under weight restrictions for budget airlines like Norwegian, and I’ve already optimized every last ounce and square inch out of my ultralight one-bag packing list.
Landscape photography shares a lot in common with action sports: inclement weather, intense hikes, and weight/size considerations. So when I began evaluating vlogging setups, it made sense to consider action cameras like the new GoPro HERO7 series or the Sony FDR X3000 Action Camera.
But it certainly isn’t the only option. I’ve been exploring a few others:
- Just use my DSLR
- Grab a small mirrorless
- Record on my smartphone
These are all solid options for vloggers — but maybe not ideal for nomadic photographers. Here’s why.
I’ve personally decided to ensure that vlogging is secondary to shooting landscapes, and the moment vlogging interferes with shooting, I’ve contradicted my priorities. Consequently, I’ll mostly shoot when I have downtime during the hike or while waiting for the right light.
That means I won’t be vlogging on my 5D Mark III.
Spending time to set up a DSLR for vlogging jeopardizes my core priority — nor does it help with capturing B-roll of the actual shoot while my DSLR is set up. But as a one-bag digital nomad, I won’t be packing a second camera body or another lens.
Shooting off a smartphone makes the most sense, and I’m still considering an upgrade so my smartphone can play yet another invaluable role in my travel arsenal. But being a bit of a cinematic video nerd, the poor dynamic range on my iPhone leaves much to be desired — and my phone has no storage left.
My brother has done an amazing job with an iPhone 5 and the DJI Osmo Mobile gimbal. But he struggles to cope with the awful dynamic range and inclement weather. Even a gimbal like the Osmo is too big for my carry-on sized backpack.
Out of my alternatives, a decent smartphone and gimbal makes the most sense. But if I intend to record audio separately, I’ll need the phone in my pocket instead of on a tripod.
Reconsidering the GoPro
Until recently, I hadn’t considered the HERO because of the GoPro look: strong fisheye, shaky footage, and stuttering frames.
Over the years, a few of these issues have been addressed with in-camera fisheye correction and ND filters. My last holdout has been the need for a separate gimbal for usable footage — something I can’t afford to squeeze in my pack.
With the next-generation image stabilization — a.k.a. HyperSmooth — of the HERO7 Black, I’m pretty sure GoPro has addressed my last holdout. It’s so stupidly tiny, durable, and light that I can toss it in any spare pocket of my hiking bag without a second thought.
The question that has marooned me in decision fatigue: is the video quality comparable to the slightly larger Sony X3000 with its built-in optical image stabilization? Does it even matter? Since I’m not planning to go for a swim with either camera, any basic rainproofing will be sufficient for my use-case, and sacrificing some durability for image quality would be a worthy tradeoff.
Is GoPro the Way to Go?
I still have unanswered questions: it remains to be seen just how much HyperSmooth will make up for a gimbal in my use-case. If the stabilization is good enough for hiking vlogs, this camera is worth its weight in gold thanks to its compact form. Coupled with a nomad-friendly lav mic for recording audio on my phone, it just might be the ultimate vlogging rig for ultralight packers.
Hopefully I can stop speculating soon and get my hands on one to see if it’s as perfect of a fit for nomadic landscape photographers as it seems. Expect a follow-up in the near future.
So, you seasoned vloggers: have you tried using a GoPro to document your photography and travels? How has your experience been shooting and in post? And if not the GoPro, what is your go-to compact vlogging camera?
I have my eyes on it. Probably gonna buy it
I would <3 to hear your experience with it. I'm torn between it and the x3000, but wondering if I'm leaving out a better alternative for this particular niche...
The big thing for me is the battery which I haven't heard much about yet. My Hero6 has horrible battery performance, if the Hero7 continues that trend I don't really care that it has amazing stabilization. I couldn't ever imagine carrying my existing GoPro as a device to record throughout an extended expedition. I'd have to bring far too many spare batteries.
I tested the WIMIUS action cam laster year and while video quality wasn't great the thing's battery lasted 5-10x longer than the Hero6 in a similar size device. If GoPro can figure out their battery drain issue then I think they will finally climb back on top of their market.
From what I found the battery is still the same (1220 mAh). So I wouldn't expect much longer life on one charge.
How long is your HERO6's battery life? (Wondering if it would be good enough for, say, recording 2 hours of vlog footage total throughout the day)
Not even close, I get 20-30min max out of mine depending on mode/settings. (4k drains faster, slow motion drains faster, etc)
Ouch. Let's hope the 7 has a much better outcome :(
For a moment I was worried about video resolution using the Hypersmooth stabilization, but I've just found out that the crop is only around 5% of the original 4K. For me that leaves enough resolution for vlogging. I was always intimidated by the amount of stuff most people carry with them to do the vlogs (often second camera + lens + tripod). For me it's a no-go. Even a gimbal adds too much weight IMO. So this can actually work. If I would ever go vlogging, that is.. ;D
Exactly my thoughts. Many of the reasons I don't vlog in the field come down to it competing with my time and resolve for landscape photography. This (and similar equipment) seems to significantly lower that barrier!
What about audio? I like my cellphone for vlogging because I always have it but it struggles to AF and if it's windy the sound becomes unusable.
For now I'm planning to grab a wired lav mic and record with the voice memos app. Inelegant that I'll have to sync up video and audio in post, but it would open up a lot of vlogging ops. e.g. B-roll of me setting up for a shot and narrating it in realtime.
DON’T use voice memo app. Use an app where you can manually set your levels otherwise you’ll leave yourself open to audio clipping etc. I made that mistake my first attempt. I use an app called Voice Record Pro. Rode also does an app. BTW syncing separate audio/video tracks in post isn’t such a big deal
👍 Thanks for the tip! I was hoping there was something (much) better than memos =D
Mountain biker vloggers, like Seth’s bike hacks, have some great tips for shieldin wind. They cut a piece of felt and glue / tape it over the mic and it seems to work really well.
Ben Horne's audio is by far the best of ANY outdoor/wilderness vlogger I've ever heard: https://youtu.be/VPqEz1AANN0
Ah, +1 for lav mic? I'd substitute that recording pack with recording on my iPhone to cut weight.
It all depends on how you're powering your devices in the field, I guess. Having to keep a phone charged could be more problematic than just bringing a tiny lav recorder like a Zoom H1, or the recorder that Ben uses. Or, you can just lav straight into the camera, if the cable is long enough. No guts, no glory!
From the youtube reviews I've watched the audio on the Hero 7 seems much better that the Hero 6, but still behind a lav
So the 7's mic could be passable for some quick audio during the hike, then once you've set up for a shot would be a great time to pull out the lav?
Yeah for sure. Fast and loose!
Or just wear and record with your lav while hiking, even if you’re doing barely any filming. Set it and forget it - just leave it running for hours
Ha, afraid my iPhone's battery wouldn't stand for that. But I do like the idea of leaving the lav in place, maybe I can do some creative routing in my jacket so it can just stay put.
Better take Dave Morrow off that list of "regular" vloggers. Maybe replace him with Thomas Heaton, Brendan Van Son, or Ben Horne? ;-)
Lol you're right, I was sure I saw a ghost vlog from him the other day — YouTube has me under powerful delusions =D
I'm vlogging with a hero4 silver for more than a year now and if the hypersmooth really is that good and I can eliminate my gimbal, I'll switch.
Even if I still need a small gimbal I'd make the switch, because it appears that this is finally a gopro upgrade that's worth the switch.
Exactly. How is the battery life on your 4? Sounds like one big catch it might inherit from the 6 could be the battery life.
I always have a replacement battery with me and on a normal vlogging day I usually need it. But I don't go cracy with the ammount of footage I capture. I can't give you concrete numbers in terms of recording time though, just that for my workflow two batteries are fine.
Will be interesting how the 7 holds up
I'm interested in one for the same purpose. Maybe in tandem with a lav. The battery life is the only thing that has me worried. Might hold out for the holiday discounts in a few months