Best video camera (GoPro?) for the field
April 13, 2016 7:47 AM   Subscribe

Hi, I am in charge of procuring a camera for a team who will be traveling to isolated/rural/developing parts of the world for development work. Think Peace Corps but short term (2 weeks at a time). The team will have sporadic access to electricity, and I'm assuming zero access to wifi.

They will be doing 5-15 minute video interviews, timelapse footage of the projects they're working on, and taking still photos.

I would like to buy a GoPro but I'm not sure which one is best. Looking at the GoPro HERO Session or the GoPro HERO+ LCD Starter Bundle, but I want to make sure it meets my requirements.

This are the features I want:
- Takes up as little space in luggage as possible.
- Rugged, easy to use, waterproof.
- Long-lasting battery, quick to recharge.
- Can hold 2 weeks' worth of footage/ photos without having to upload to a laptop every night.

Will one of the GoPros work for what I'm trying to do? Do you recommend any accessories?
posted by jschu to Technology (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
I have the GoPro Hero Session. It meets all the features you describe, with the possible exception of battery life (depends on your usage). I usually get about 1-2 hours of battery life out of mine at a time, but I have also recharged it when in the field with the regular ol' USB cell phone battery packs.

It's shockproof and waterproof up to several meters (without a casing). It takes up very little space (I usually keep it in a clear-tainer in my bag) and it should hold hours of footage (depending on your video quality settings and the size of the MicroSD card you buy). The cool thing is that you can buy multiple 64 or 128GB MicroSD cards and just change them out when they start to get full. If you have an iPhone or Apple Watch, you can even start/stop recording and fiddle with the settings to your heart's desire. With the iPhone you can even monitor what is being recorded and review your clips.

Edited: you don't need the iPhone for a data plan. Basically, the Session creates a WiFi access point, and you use the GoPro app to control the camera. Get y'all some of these battery packs (they are solar), and you have everything you need to charge/run your camera and iPhone.
posted by Master Gunner at 8:21 AM on April 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


We give Olympus TG-4s to our field folks, and we expect them to work for similar lengths of time without being off-loaded. So far, so good. They're one of the toughest, most dependable cameras we've ever used. Battery life on them is as good or better than anything else we've ever had. They are incredibly durable and fairly easy to use (can be used one-handed). They are fast cameras, from start-up to first shot. Video is not as sharp as the photos (1080/30 fps), but it does get the job done for us as a doc tool. I wouldn't want to rely on it for broadcast though.

Like the Go Pros, they'll want to be supplied with a decent number of SD cards, but a couple of big ones should last two weeks easy. You might want to invest in second batteries to do quick field swaps. One down side of the the Olympus cameras is they they use their own custom cable, not a standard USB.

Some stuff you probably don't care about: they have a really nice "microscope" macro mode. They can take underwater video and photos, and have specific compensation on the camera to do that well.

With anything you get, I'd also suggest looking at some sort of monopod/base system. We've found that a few gorillapods were a nice addition to the field kits. Not everyone needs one always, but they can be great problem solvers.
posted by bonehead at 9:38 AM on April 13, 2016


I love GoPro's but keep in mind the audio is not very good. Also, battery life is pretty poor. Invest in extra batteries and the extended battery packs. They are great for shooting timelapses. Still photos are okay, but, without the LCD on the back it's difficult to be sure of what you're getting.
posted by trbrts at 9:53 AM on April 13, 2016


I think a rugged point and shoot will do here. Storage and battery for any camera are solved by multiple (and inexpensive) memory cards. You can get multiple batteries too.

Benefits of point and shoot: image and audio quality and no fisheye lens distortion.
posted by zippy at 10:13 AM on April 13, 2016


For your reference we've tried the Sony equivalent waterproof adventure-cam, the Sony HDR 100.

Good points:
teeny-tiny and cute as a bug;
cheaper than GoPro in the deals we saw;
nice live stereo audio;
okay memory, may need extra SD's for special projects;

Not so good points:
somewhat disappointing battery life, we needed to buy extra batteries to swap out;
very fishy non-adjustable lens;
literally waterproof means an extra clear plastic jacket that kinda gets in the way sometimes;
posted by ovvl at 6:25 AM on April 14, 2016


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