We've talked a lot about mobile photography and the gear you can use to make yours better for the last few weeks. And it would seem, from the way I talk on here, that you really only have two choices in the type of camera you use to make things; your phone camera or a fancy interchangeable lens camera. But that's not all the choices you've got to make extraordinary things. So, this week, I'm going to give you 4 alternatives to mobile or mirrorless cameras that can help you create things on the go. We won't get into drones, phones, DSLRs, mirrorless, or rangefinder here. I want to give you four legitimate options that take you away from the standards of content creation. And open up some new possibilities.
Point and Shoot Cameras
First off, let's get this one out of the way right away—point and shoot cameras. Most people know about these; we've all probably used one at some point. These are the tiny cameras you can typically fit in a pocket or a small bag. Manufacturers aren't dropping a lot of money into developing these cameras, and with good reason. Phones have mostly replaced them in the market. But they do occasionally still have a palace in a bag. The cheap ones that you can buy for $100-$200 aren't worth anything. Other than maybe being the first camera you give to a 5-year old to let them run around with. If you want a high-quality camera that you can drop in a large pocket, and has features like a bigger sensor and a long optical zoom, be prepared to drop $1,000 or more.
For the best of the best in this range, check out the Fujifilm X100V. It's the camera to get if you want a Leica-style rangefinder, with autofocus and video. This little camera has an APS-C sensor, which is the same as Fuji's acclaimed mirrorless cameras. It has an extended ISO range of 51200, 4K video and shoots 11 frames per second. It does lack any form of stabilization and is a fixed focal length 23mm lens. Which is perfect for street and some portrait photography, but not much else. And it comes in at a whopping $1,400. You can get a full-frame mirrorless for less money than that. But, it's compact, lightweight and takes fantastic images. So if you're set on having one camera to head out with and no extra lenses to worry about, this is the best one for the best image quality.
Rugged cameras are also still a thing in this category. And they are one of the main reasons this lineup still exists. The top of the line here is still the Olympus Tough series (although, where they go from here is anyone's guess with last year's sale of Olympus).
The TG-6, Olympus' newest model, can go up to 50 feet underwater, is sand proof and can survive in extreme temperatures. Basically, this camera is a tank that takes photos anywhere you want it to. If you want to do underwater photography but can't afford the cost of the proper housing for your mirrorless camera, then the Olympus Tough is an excellent option for your kit.
Overall though, point-and-shoot cameras aren't really a good buy anymore. Unless you're going to drop over $1,000 on one, and then you're better off buying a full-frame mirrorless or a Fuji APS-C mirrorless. You get better options and more flexibility.
The only time I would say to buy one of these is if you need a rugged camera. Then a point and shoot will still have a place in your bag.
Alright, moving onto the second type of camera. And since we're talking rugged, let's talk about action cameras.
Like the GoPro lineup or the DJI Osmo Action, action cameras are a staple in the filming world. They are waterproof, shockproof, and are the go-anywhere do-anything camera every adventurer and traveller who is even slightly adventurous should have in their bag. These cameras used to be made specifically for those wanting unique angles where you can't get a bigger camera or where a bigger camera would be destroyed. Now, however, these are legitimate creation devices with beautiful sensors and capabilities. Most have even gone away from the fish-eye perspective and are using true-ultra wide lenses now, removing that bubble effect action cams used to be known for. What makes these cameras extra unique is their attachment systems. GoPro, in particular, has built out a massive kit of flotation, mounting, and strapping accessories that means you can get your action camera onto any surface and record unique angles. Think on the handlebars of bikes, mounted under a car, on a helmet, a plane wing, or a diver's back. They can get put pretty much anywhere. And take amazing captures.
The king of this arena is still GoPro. And honestly, right now, I don't know why you'd go with anyone else. The GoPro Hero9 has all the features a photographer or videographer would want. Including 5K video at 30 fps, in-camera stabilization, 20mp photos, slo-mo, and hyperlapse. It's even got a front-facing screen to compose those selfie shots. This front-facing screen was the only advantage DJI's Osmo Action camera had over GoPro, and now the king of the action camera has solved that problem as well. So, if you're looking for the best way to capture your adventures and not worry about the camera, then getting a GoPro is the right choice for you.
Action cameras are serious content creation tools that are incredibly useful in a variety of situations. You can use them to complement your mirrorless or DSLR, or they can stand entirely on their own as a way to capture your trip.
Alright, camera number 3. This isn't a category of camera, but a camera itself—the DJI Pocket.
I don't think anyone else in the world quite has a camera out like the DJI Pocket. The pocket is a minuscule, gimbal-stabilized camera meant for quick on-the-streets shooting. It has a small camera attached to a gimbal on top of a long handle that you hold, and that also has all the controls for the device. The whole camera itself is only 12.5 cm long and weighs just 117 g. You can tuck it in a bag and forget it's there.
The centrepiece of this camera is its 3-axis motorized gimbal. This keeps all the footage you record smooth and stable. And, unlike action cameras, this is true stabilization, not digital, meaning you won't get any strange artifacts going on in your video. It shoots 4K video and can capture panoramas, time-lapses, motion-lapses, and straight-up photos. You can also attach the camera to your smartphone for a bigger screen to work with and on-the-go editing capabilities. But, the camera has total functionality without your phone.
What I've loved about using this camera is how easy it is to start creating great shots. I picked it up and started filming within just a few minutes and, now that I know the settings, I can start creating content in seconds with a camera that adds basically no weight to my bag. I'm particularly enamoured with the stabilization in such a small package. I was running beside someone biking last night, and the footage is beautiful and smooth despite the fact I was sprinting forwards and jumping over branches and twigs. The camera stayed right with my bike rider the whole time.
Now, this is a particular use case camera. If you have a mobile gimbal, then this may not be right for you. Or if you're creating high-end professional content, then again, this likely isn't the camera for you. But, if you're looking to capture the day-to-day around you, to capture content on the fly, or to always have the ability to create stabilized and beautiful video without needing a big gimbal, then this is likely your camera. It's so tiny that you can literally always have it on you. The footage it captures is perfect to complement other content or to upload to your social channels. Well worth a look if you're looking to go light and fast with your video or photo capturing.
360 Degree Cameras
Alright, going onto our last alternative camera, 360-degree cams. Now, this type of camera won't replace any other camera in your kit, and it also can't be duplicated by any other camera. That's why it's in here. Because, for those who need its capability and creative aptitude, there is nothing else that can compare.
No matter where you point it or how you hold it (as long as you aren't covering up the lenses), a 360 camera will capture nearly everything around it. Which makes sense; it is right there in the name. 360 cameras work by using two fish-eye lenses back-to-back. Each camera captures a 180-degree view, meaning when they merge back together, you get an almost 360-degree view of the world. These are great for giving people a sense of a whole area or just capturing really unique images. Appropriately done, a 360 image can help your photography stand out in an overly saturated world.
For travel, you can use a 360 camera to walk through a museum or square and then be able to relive the experience back at home either by moving around on your device or by plugging in a VR headset and really immersing yourself back into the experience.
There are many of these currently on the market, but the best brand I've found so far is Insta360. These cameras are intuitive and offer some enjoyable, unique, and creative ways to capture stills and videos in 360. Some features may be overkill for those starting out. Still, I believe once you get into using these cameras, you will appreciate the extra functionality. They also offer fantastic image quality. GoPro also has their Max camera, a 360 action cam, and is excellent for people looking to capture their whole world while riding, skiing, or doing something else active.
You can follow along with Robert’s adventures on Instagram @RobertMasseyPhotography.