Bicycle Touring Camera Selection

bicycle touring camera

The perfect bicycle touring camera doesn’t exist. We all have different tastes, needs, and mediums we publish in. I have learned a great deal since my first tour and cameras have changed quite a bit in size, function, and capability. What hasn’t changed is that you still need to carry, power, protect, capture, store, and output your media. I cannot tell you what the perfect bicycle touring camera is for your tour. I can outline the criteria I am using in selecting the bicycle touring camera set up I will use.

On my first tour I took a Canon AE-1 Program, 12 rolls of film, three lenses, and a flash. My friend had a Sony VX-1000, a Bogen Magic Arm, a wide angle lens, shotgun mic, and a tripod. This meant we could capture a wide array of our trip at a weight penalty of about 50 pounds. Not the perfect bicycle touring camera set up. We ended up sending back at least 35 pounds of equipment after our first week.

I want a lightweight, packable set up, that captures images and video for publication on the world wide web during the trip. I need the ability to store enough media to put together a short film when the trip is finished. The ability to back up this media would be a complete bonus. This will be powered by a solar panel and several cache batteries.

A list of cameras/devices that I am considered carrying as my goto bicycle touring camera. They cross the gamut from handheld phones, point and shoot, super zooms, and action cams. I already own four of the six devices listed and have tested them quite a bit.

I should be noted that I am NOT a professional photographer/videographer and most of my media will end up on this website. I tend to take ‘lots’ of photos and through the many identical photos I shoot one is usually a surefire winner. It could be said that my photography style is summed up by ‘rate of attrition’. The focus here is a solution that does most of the work for me: I take it out of the bag, turn it on, point and shoot. Here is the criteria for what I feel makes the perfect bicycle touring camera:

Packability and Weight

When I think about ‘carrying’ a camera I think about two things: size and weight. Not a big revelation here. I want something that is small and light enough to fit in a pocket of a jacket or my handlebar bag. Take into account any accessories you need. They may not need to be handy 100% of the time but they will take up space somewhere on your bike. Nothing worse than finding out your super ultralight gizmo’s charger is twice the size of the gizmo itself. I would handle any camera before you decide to take the plunge and make sure to catalog what comes in the box additional to the camera. The Canon PowerShot Pro Series S5 IS is like a loaf of bread compared to these other units so I am bumping it off the list.

Power Consumption and Battery Type

Probably the trickiest consideration for me is power. I have used several solar chargers in the past and have been disappointed. Make sure that your power source can actually charge the devices you have. Go big. Not in size but in watts and amps. Regardless I need to conserve and be smart about my power consumption. Both of the point and shoot cameras above let me use a viewfinder. This means I can turn off the LCD screen. The Canon PowerShot SD780IS has an optical viewfinder and can run for days without a charge. I am concerned about the battery of an iPod/iPhone/Android being on all the time even in ‘airport’ mode. Booting up every time I want to take a photo seems nonsensical. I would love to take ONLY an iPod touch but the power issues concern me a bit. I am also concerned about powering the gopro. I have read a number of online comments that it is miraculous yet power hungry.

Weatherproof and Fragility

If you are a bicycle tourist you love bags. Waterproof padded bags are made for just about anything these days. I would probably just wrap the camera in an extra wool hat and then in a waterproof bag. I am pretty careful with my things but I don’t really want anything that I need to baby. The GoPro HERO3+ comes with a waterproof case and would mount right on the bicycle. I see many adventurers using this as their goto camera.

Type of Capture

Photos, short video snippets, and time lapse photography will make up the bulk of what I am after. I have been toying around with several iOS apps and am pretty impressed with their ability to capture time lapse. For this reason I am bumping the gopro off my list.

Storage and Backup

I have an AirStash that will allow me to go from a camera’s sd card right into an iOS/Android device via wifi. It has a rechargeable battery and I have tested it with all of the above devices. I can go out from my Canon camera to an ipod or vice versa. I spent the last year looking at SD cards and found enough deals online to collect 320 GB of SD card space. For the first time in my life I will travel without an external hard drive for backing up. If you are serious about photography and video when you travel go get an AirStash. It doubles as a sd card usb reader on your computer.

Upload and Publish

I am using WordPress as my site software and their iOS app is a little more full featured than their Android app. Since I am so heavily invested in using WordPress and that the iOS devices cameras seem to have better reviews online I am bumping Android phones off of my list.

So what is my Perfect Bicycle Touring Camera set up?

Why not take two and have a mobile publishing solution instead of just a bicycle touring camera?

iPod Touch 5th Generation + Canon PowerShot SD780IS

I would love to know what you are using for you bicycle touring camera and how it compares to my set up…thanks!