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?