Recommendation on whether to purchase a GoPro for Iceland trip?
April 7, 2017 10:25 AM   Subscribe

Should I purchase a GoPro for an Iceland trip?

Hi! I'm going to Iceland for a week long vacation around the country with a tour. It will be my first time. Based on research, it seems windy, cold, and rainy - so I need to pack rain gear and layer up.

My question is - whether I should purchase a GoPro for Iceland? There seems to be a lot of waterfalls. And based on youtube videos, it seems inconvenient to be taking pictures with my phone. How do most people take pictures? I have a iphone and a regular phone. What advantages do a GoPro provide and what kind should I get?

Any advice would be appreciated! Thanks!
posted by proficiency101 to Travel & Transportation around Iceland (12 answers total)
Iceland is staggeringly beautiful and I loved my week there but I don't think I'd find much value in video. Sure, there are waterfalls, but... how often will you rewatch video? Compared to looking at photos?

I wish I'd had a proper camera on me instead of just my phone. I have no idea what I'd have done with a GoPro.
posted by Tomorrowful at 10:44 AM on April 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

I would recommend something like a Sony RX-100 over a GoPro for photography. GoPros specialize in video and ruggedness for things like mounting them to sports gear, rather than quality still images. Its virtue for what you describe is weather resistance, but you can get that in digital point and shoots too for less money. If it's really rainy, you may not be able to get a decent photo anyway.
posted by Candleman at 10:50 AM on April 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

Mostly what you're buying with a GoPro is a nice anti-vibration system. It works great for making videos where the camera is moving, things like running or driving a car. I don't imagine you want to take video of waterfalls while driving past them so I don't know what a GoPro will do for you. It might be nice to take video of just driving around.

I'd just spend my budget on as much camera as I was comfortable learning to use before I left. If you haven't used a SLR they can be a little intimidating with lots of knobs and buttons so you might want something simpler.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 10:52 AM on April 7, 2017

Yeah, I'd say a gopro would be great if you're doing some kayaking/glacier climbing or the like, but it doesn't replace a camera. I took a DSLR to Iceland and was really happy with the results, but my favorite picture was taken with an iPhone.

The main problem with a phone, though is the lack of zoom, and you really, really want a good optical zoom in Iceland... and some good low-light ability, too.

If you have the money for a gopro, I'd take that money and buy a ~$400 point and shoot, probably a Canon Powershot. They can shoot video, too.
posted by Huck500 at 10:58 AM on April 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

I have a GoPro for taking photos while swimming (and have spent a fair amount of time with other people also taking photos in water with various cameras). I've got some good photos from it but have seen other people get photos that are just as good with phones and less expensive cameras. It feels solid and well-made but not amazingly so and while the camera is easy enough to use the app interface is a bit fussy in my experience.

The big advantages of a GoPro are that in the casing they're completely waterproof and are designed to be mounted/fixed/attached in various ways which can be convenient - e.g. on helmets, handlebars, surf boards etc. They aren't particularly cheap compared to other cameras and I suspect largely trade off brand recognition rather than amazing quality.

In your position I don't think the mounting features will be much use to you. I think you will get much better value for money with either a good waterproof casing for your phone or a cheaper waterproof camera. One big advantage of using your phone is if you have access to WiFi and set up some kind of auto back-up service then even if something happens to it your photos won't be lost.*

*Learn from my holiday bag/phone/camera loss rather than experiencing it yourself :-)
posted by *becca* at 11:01 AM on April 7, 2017

Some good advice here. I like my Gopro and have used it to shoot vacation videos. E.g. Peru, Kayaking, Skiing. It's great if you want to (1) take video in a challenging environment (snow, wet, etc.) or (2) get photos or video shot from somewhere other than in your hands (e.g. surfboard deck, rooftop of a racecar, etc.). But if you want is a durable still camera that can handle the wet, there are other better options.
posted by craven_morhead at 11:13 AM on April 7, 2017

It depends, what are your goals for vacationing in Iceland? I prefer to spend my time enjoying whatever it is that I'm doing. I see documenting an experience as a project unto itself - one that I only take on when I want that kind of creative project.
posted by aniola at 11:48 AM on April 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'll go against the grain and say that I bought a GoPro for an environment where I knew anything else would get wet (sailboat) and it was an excellent decision. The main benefit was that I never had to worry about the GoPro getting wet from an unexpected wave, and I could keep my phone where it was warm and dry.

It was a lot of fun shooting with the GoPro too. I could put it right next to the water, or even dip it in on an extension pole, and get some crazy cool shots (and I wouldn't do that even with a waterproof iPhone case because the consequences of the case failing are so much more drastic). I was able to get some cool time-lapse series as well. I liked the warped barrel/fisheye perspective that the GoPro offers; I think it made the shots look more dynamic and exciting. (Though if that's your only camera, I'd question whether you want every single shot you take to look like that. That's where the iPhone is a useful backup.)

In short, having the GoPro made taking photos less of a "get the perfect shot with the perfect framing" mindset and more of a "see what crazy shots you can get, have fun, see what comes out" experience. A regular camera often takes me out of the moment, while the GoPro usually added to it.
posted by danceswithlight at 12:32 PM on April 7, 2017

I would use my iphone (If recent with good camera) and get a waterproof case.
posted by ReluctantViking at 2:11 PM on April 7, 2017

Speaking as someone who brought a GoPro to Iceland and was very glad to have done so, I don't think that's necessarily the right move for you. Especially if you don't have much (or any) video shooting/editing experience. While you can take pictures with a GoPro too, the user flow of doing that is way more fiddly and inconvenient than whipping out a smartphone and snapping a pic. I stuck to video on my GoPro and just used my phone for pictures and that worked out great for me. And I didn't find the need for any sort of waterproof casing for my phone, even when taking pictures in the rain. Just get a good waterproof coat with zippered pockets and you're golden.

(Also, I should point out that contrary to what was said above, GoPros definitely don't have any sort of anti-vibration system built in; you'd need a special mount for that.)
posted by darkchocolatepyramid at 4:33 PM on April 7, 2017

I also brought a GoPro and iPhone to Iceland and used the GoPro exactly once, but that was at the Blue Lagoon, and it was pretty useful there. It's touristy as hell but really scenic - the colour contrast is so dramatic even on the dullest day. The water is cloudy of course so no underwater shots but it's still not the kind of environment you want to bring a phone into unless it's in a protective cover, which could also be an option, you can pick them up pretty cheap. There were actually people there with full size iPads in sealed bags which struck me as insane but each to their own.

I will however second darkchocolatepyramid on the fiddly nature of GoPros - the first time I used mine was snorkelling in Panama and I have a lot of video of my legs swimming and practically zero of beautiful fish. It's pretty hard to figure out the buttons under water.

I used the iPhone successfully for everything else on the Iceland trip - waterfalls, geysers, lots and lots of rain and finally a lovely little bit of sun in Reykjavik. Sure I had to wipe down my phone a few times but it was fine.

Have an amazing time - such a beautiful country.
posted by unbearablylight at 6:31 PM on April 7, 2017

I did not have a GoPro, but found my smartphone (Nexus 6P) and RX-100 adequate for my needs - managed to get some photos of the Northern Lights on those.

Nthing the waterproof case for your phone - would come in especially handy in the Blue Lagoon.
posted by awkwardpanda at 2:41 AM on April 8, 2017

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