Mitch Alderson June 30, 2017

*I developed this guide to help decide how to upgrade my adventure camera, I hope you will find it useful as well. Find out what camera I decided on at the bottom of the post.*

Whether filming a summit push high atop a distant mountain or documenting your local city’s color run, your chose of camera gear for adventure & travel can make or break your project.

I like to think of the important camera metrics in a tradeoff triangle of sorts:

You can have any two, sacrificing the third.

Other features, including weatherproofing, image stabilization, and screen and viewfinder size, are also important considerations, but generally, don’t come with too much of a trade off like the big three in the triangle.

Sensor Size

Sensor size dictates two basic things: low light performance and view angle. Downsides include larger physical camera size and lower battery life due to the increased draw to power the larger sensor.

The larger the sensor, the more light it can collect. The Sony A7s, with its full frame sensor, has a reputation of capturing usable footage in lighting conditions that are too dark for human eyes to see clearly.

The traditional motion picture size, the Super 35 (s35 or APS), is a good middle of the road and is what you will find in pro grade cameras like the Canon C100 and Sony F5, as well as small, light, mirrorless cameras like the Sony A6000 series.

The last sensor worth considering for outdoor purposes is the Micro 4/3. Featured in the Panasonic GH4 and GH5 cameras, it is about a 1/4 the size of a full frame. These cameras are very compact and light weight, and while low light isn’t as good as the larger sensors, they still perform very well.

Battery Life and Weight/Size

Pretty self-explanatory,  the larger the onboard equipment (sensor, LCD screen, etc.), the more power it draws. This can be overcome by either adding a larger, heavier battery or just dealing with short battery life.

Other Considerations

Two features that were missing from my current workhorse camera (the Canon EOS M) are weatherproofing and a flip-out screen, never again!

Weatherproofing is of course very important for adventure work; a flip-out screen is a must have if you ever plan on filming yourself at any point.

Also on my personal list is an electronic viewfinder; it is a necessity in bright conditions, and after renting a C100 for a wedding project, I have been missing having it since.

My Top Picks for 2017:

**Disclaimer: Links below are Amazon affiliate links, at no extra cost to you, I get a small kickback if you buy from them.
All cameras listed shoot in 4k and have a flip out LCD and electronic viewfinder, my personal preferences.
Pro Grade $2000+:

Sony A7sII

Pros: Awe-inspiring low light, in camera stabilization.

Cons: Not weather sealed, bad battery life.

Panasonic GH5

Pros: Weather sealed, in camera stabilization, small and light.

Cons: Micro 4/3 sensor = not the greatest in low light.

Mid-Grade ($500-1500)

Sony A6500

Pros: Good low light, size, and battery life.

Cons: Not weather sealed.

Panasonic GH4

Pros: Small and light, weather sealed

Cons: Micro 4/3 sensor = not the greatest in low light.

Panasonic GX85

A lower cost version of the GH4 without weather sealing.

I am currently torn between the GH5 and A6500, comment below if you have any experience with either of these cameras?

Also published on Medium.