Advice & Tips
Choosing a Road Trip Camera
In our first post we discussed using the iPhone as your primary roadtrip camera. Here we present another option that we have found is a good addition to any roadtrip camera setup: the GoPro Hero 4 Black.
So, in Part One I discussed the benefits and drawbacks of using your iPhone and then of using your iPhone/Android paired with the Moment Lens and lastly I talked about the iPhone paired with the Moment Lens and Case. I really like that set up and have used it often on the road. Another set up that a lot of people use is a GoPro. I’ve used my GoPro on my DJI Phantom II UAV and I also attach my it to the outside of our van to capture either drive-lapses or slow motion video of us smashing around on dirt roads. At times I have used the GoPro, paired with a shotgun mic, to capture some interviews. It isn’t my favorite set up but sometimes it’s all I have.
I use the GoPro Hero 4 Black. I chose that camera because it can shoot in full HD at 120fps which means I get great slow motion footage at 1080p in environments and of activities other cameras would easily break in. For me the GoPro has always been more of a camera for video than for photos. So let’s go over some negatives and positives.
The GoPro’s Drawbacks
1. The camera’s wide-angle lens
My biggest gripe with the GoPro is its ridiculously wide field of view. In the air on a drone it skews the horizon line horribly and while a lot, and I mean a lot, of people use them for videos on selfie sticks, I just can’t get passed how the wide angle makes people look. Lots of folks use them that way and so this may just be a preference thing. One way around that is to replace the stock lens on the GoPro with one from Peau Productions. I’ve seen footage and photographs from this lens and I’m impressed with how it remedies the barrel distortion in the stock GoPro lens.
2. The color shifting problem
It seems a lot Hero cameras suffer from this. You’re shooting a scene in a particular color preset (I often use the Protune preset) and then the color will shift either to more saturation or less for a few frames causing a color jump in the footage or in the time-lapse. I have yet to be able to fix this issue in post. Hate. It. It’s covered under warranty but my GoPro is out warranty, so, I’m out-of-luck.
3. Getting the right composition without additional accessories or gear is very difficult.
Taking photos with the GoPro can be difficult because it doesn’t have a way to see to the composition of your photograph unless you buy the GoPro LCD screen that attaches to the GoPro or you use the WiFi to connect to an app on your iPhone. Using the WiFi and app is mostly good if you want to position the GoPro away from your direct control like outside the car or if you want to take a photo of your traveling crew from a distance. That’s a pretty nice feature. But again, if you want something you can use to point-and-shoot, then invest in the LCD backpack. It’ll help you immensely with your composition.
4. The batteries are a joke.
They’re so bad they’d make a hissing cat laugh. I can’t tell you how long they last even with an additional battery pack on because it is terribly inconsistent. I don’t know if this is a common problem but I do know it has been an issue for me and a few other folks I know. Definite drawback unless you carry extra batteries.
1. Multiple frame rates and shooting modes
The GoPro has multiple shooting modes and lots of different frame rates and resolutions to choose from all the way up to 4K. It is primarily a video camera but the Hero 4 Black and Silver do a pretty decent job of capturing stills. It can shoot in super slow motion (240fps at 720p) and it can capture timelapses in addition to be able to set timer delays for stills and you can shoot footage and photographs simultaneously.
2. The form factor is nice.
The GoPro form factor and ergonomics are, in my opinion, much better than the bare iPhone. Even though it’s a small camera, it feels solid and easy to hold. If you use the “The Frame” you get a rubber/plastic frame that goes around your Hero camera that allows you to hold it easier and/or to attach it to a number of other accessories without using the big, clear plastic case.
3. It rocks underwater.
Another really awesome benefit of the GoPro, and one that I feel like I don’t use nearly enough, is how good and simple it is to use underwater. Some the images and footage you can capture when you find that epic swimming hole can be really stunning. For a long time I used a huge rubber housing on my DSLR when I got into water but I’ve found that the GoPro is a much better choice in that environment and will be switching to that in the future for any water shots. In the last post I mentioned that using the iPhone in misty/rainy environments without some kind water resistant/proof case could damage your phone. The GoPro comes with waterproof cases and performs great in wet conditions. The new GoPro 5 Black is waterproof without a case.
4. It’s sturdy, can take a beating and can be mounted anywhere
This may be my favorite thing about the GoPro. The ability to mount it nearly anywhere in a tank of a case can yield some pretty rad photos and videos at interesting angles. We have GoPro mounting spots all over our van so that we can attach the camera low to the ground to capture terrain features close up and we have some mounts high up on the van to capture the sweeping landscapes we drive through. There are so many cool things you can do with these.We attached the GoPro to a hot air balloon once and captured our pilots first crash landing in 10 years. Epic.
Though I don’t like the GoPro as much as my iPhone for photos and video, I have to say that I do think it has a place alongside your iPhone. If you want to take underwater photos or video for example, or if you want to attach it to the outside of your car to document a beautiful road or you want to strap it to a UAV (quickly becoming a thing of the past) or your dog or the outside of your rig, then this may be a good option to carry along with you. It’s versatility is its strength and its size is a huge benefit when space in your car is limited. If anything, I’d say if you have the money, get a GoPro Hero 4 Black and use it to document your trip from more interesting angles. If you don’t want to spend the money on a GoPro, you can get other cases for your iPhone that are waterproof and then research other accessories that let you mount it to the outside of your car. We currently use two GoPro Hero 4 Blacks and we are happy with their versatility.