video camera shopping

I’m looking for a waterproof camera that will take high quality video and stills. I’ll be out for a couple of weeks so there also needs to be an economical way to power it between charges. That means not buying two dozen lithium batteries.

Any input? Everyone seems to have one these days.

POV vs hand held
The first decision should be between POV cameras (like GoPro) versus hand held (like Olympus Tough or Pentax Optio).

The POV cameras take good video but only Ok stills, and are generally best attached to something (helmet, boat, etc.). They don’t have zooms or flashes, and anythinhg a bit far away can look very far away due to how the lens are.

Handhelds take good pictures (point and shoot quality, not DSLR quality) and Ok video. They have flashes and zooms, but the zooms are somewhat limited in quality. Great for holding in your hand. Most are small enough to fit in a PFD pocket.

Handheld compact waterproof

– Last Updated: Feb-14-14 1:54 PM EST –

I've been researching these for a few months and have read many review articles and watched many YouTube reviews.

Here are your choices via B&H. Go to Camera Type on the left and choose Waterproof (I can't seem to link directly):

The three models that have won various "best waterproof" awards the past two years are the Nikon AW110, the Olympus TG-2 (and almost identical predecessor TG-1), and the Panasonic TS5.

The Nikon AW110 has the best price now, heavily discounted, because it's being replaced by the AW120, which has a wider and faster lens and some improvements in video and battery life. The AW110 is also available factory refurbished. The AW110 gets bad marks in some reviews for white balance when used underwater, having too blue a cast. It gets good marks for IQ above water. The AW110 also has the best GPS mapping function.

The Olympus TG-2 and TG-1 have the fastest lens, 2.0 (as does the Pentax-Ricoh), and are both available refurbished on eBay.

If you buy new, such as for the Panasonic TS5, which gets high marks for video, I recommend using, from which you can get discounts ranging from 15% to 30% from recent reports by paddler-photographers, including me.

The Sony TX30 is the smallest and lightest and has good video, but it gets bad marks for handling because of its touchscreen technology.

I would take advantage of the AW110 pricing I were buying immediately, but I'm probably going to wait to see the newly announced Olympus TG-850, which has a 21mm wide angle zoom and a flip screen that can face forward. I think these are good features for bow, stern, middle thwart, or head mounting. I don't care about GPS or wireless. If I like it, I will make an offer on greentoe.

For power, I can only think of taking enough batteries or a solar charger. I think there are also some sort of mass battery pack rechargers, which I've never looked at.

for charging you could just buy a lawnmower battery and an ac to dc converter and that should juice it up for a very long time.

for comparison I take a radio with a 600watt amp and 200 laser projector and can play it for 5 days and nights (mainly nights) with a deep cycle marine batt.

Love my old Pentax Optio Wpi

– Last Updated: Feb-14-14 5:10 PM EST –

I bought it when it first came out, and have beat
the hell out of it on numerous trips, used it in
temps from -15 degrees F to beach temps and the pictures
are still turning out just great in 2014.

- I live in "fresh water" Michigan.
- Hands free video done via my "StickyPod" rig

BEWARE: editing can be a real pain-in-the-rear !
Capturing hours of fun is easy, creating snippets
is a whole another story for youtube, vimeo, etc.

Image stabilization is your friend on the water.
When I buy a new one, it will be a mandatory feature for me

GoalZero makes great gear for charging

Pentax Optio WG-1

– Last Updated: Feb-15-14 7:02 AM EST –

Hey Matt - I use my Pentax Optio WG-1 for pictures and video. I find the video quality (and just as important, the sound) to be excellent for a small handheld camera. I’ve never had a GoPro, so I don’t know how the video compares, but I have no complaints about the quality from this camera. Current version is the WG-3 - you can find it for around $200.

I do agree that you should get some sort of a camera mount - great for action shots or for narrating. I use the Delkin Fat Gecko Gator, but there are lots available:

In terms of battery life, I think you are going to need to buy some extra batteries. I have done a 5-day trip with 2 batteries, but I took more pictures than video. It’s good to have extra batteries anyway. If you are going to be taking a lot of video, you better bring some extra memory cards as well. The 32GB cards are great, but it would be a shame to figure out the battery problem only to run out of storage on the memory card.

Pictures from my Optio:

Videos from my Optio:

Where are you going?

Obviuolsy it depends on your intent

– Last Updated: Feb-15-14 9:17 AM EST –

If your intent is primarily video, the still digital cams that will take decent video may not measure up to what the POV camcorders will do for your intent.
If you want to shoot long videos under trying conditions that really well illustrate what it FEELS like to do your activity, a POV of quality works best. They shoot mostly in the "first person", that is, even when focusing on you doing the kayaking, they tell the story visually as though you were seeing it live. So you relive the experience when you show the video.
For this I love my Gopro, and so do my viewers. It's rugged, designed very well, works in tough conditions, is versatile, mounts almost anywhere with commercial or DIY mounts, etc. Mount it, turn it on or off as you wish, and enjoy.
But the other posters are right, it's not terrific on stills, has NO zoom (though the 3+ black has 3 points of view electronically which helps with the wide angle lens), and its sound in its truly water and shock proof case isn't very good either (though OK in the "skeleton" open case).
You can buy extra batteries and car or outlet chargers and for more than 2 hours you will need to. You can buy one form of open (not waterproof) handheld housing that has large battery capacity built in. You can buy solar chargers for camping. That's the only way you'll stretch past 2 hours. You normally stretch by turning the camera on and off for short filming bursts, which works best to save you days of editing long boring video.
Nobody wants to watch 2 hours of constant paddling. You'll never see a movie that way, nor should yours be! But that's in the editing, not the camera.

Pentax WG-3 is . . .
. . . also at end of life and future models will be marketed under the Ricoh name.

It comes in two versions, one with GPS and one without. It has the same lens as the Olympus TG-1 and TG-2 but a reportedly inferior image processor and a very different physical package and button layout.

It’s the 15th generation of the venerable (but bye, bye) Pentax waterproof camera. I lost my 2004 version in Alaska this summer after nine years of satisfactory still picture taking. I never used the video.

It’s one of the current big six popular models, along with the Nikon AW series, Olympus TG series, Sony TX series, Panasonic TS series, and Canon D10/20 series.

Been through them all
I do a lot of paddling photography and under adverse conditions. So, I go through about one a year. Currently, I favor the Panasonic Lumix and Olympus Tough. One thing to look for is a separate video button so you don’t have to go through a menu to switch modes.

I’ve had a number of Optios which served pretty well. The trouble was that the mike holes were located on top of the camera and tended to retain water more. This was especially troublesome in whitewater as the sound came out muted.

I carry a supply of batteries on extended trips.

Went with a NIkon AW110 last week,
and am very happy with it.

It takes great stills and even videos, for a waterproof camera with decent zoom capability.

Big W has a real good price on it now.

I have its predecessor the AW 100
Buy and extra battery. You’ll be good to go.

2 batteries lasted me 3 weeks.

Tip: in low light its possible to get good pictures but only if you take a tripod. Joby pod works.


– Last Updated: Feb-16-14 10:04 PM EST –

I have an Olympus TG-1 iHS and love it. Indeed a very fast lens for such a small camera. The video as well as the stills are very good.
The file format is H264 and videos and stills import straight into iPhoto ..
(All Mac here...Use FCPX for video editing)
I also have the YakAttack camera mounting arms etc..

You can manual adjust ISO . . .
. . . on the AW110 and AW100 for low light conditions if you don’t have a tripod and don’t mind the decrease in IQ.

What is lacking on the AW110 is a
contour grip on the front of the camera.

You can fabricate one with a small piece of scrap plastic and some gorilla tape. Makes a big improvement for one hand camera operation.

wow. I asked the right folks.
Meanwhile I have been shopping around and came to the conclusion that I like the Kodak Playsport Zx5, because I can get an optional remote. Since I’ll be out in the wilderness totally solo, I have to be cameraman and subject at the same time. Do any of these cameras have an optional remote?

BTW I think I solved the battery life issue. Goal Zero has a solar panel / battery pack combo. I can charge the battery pack during the day then charge the camera from it while I sleep. Also my phone, headlamps, gps.

Erik - In June I’m doing a fundraiser for the Penobscot River Restoration Trust. I’m ascending the Penobscot and Mattawamkeag From Veazie, ME to Rockabema Lake somewhere east of Shin Pond. You guys will be hearing plenty about it…

Just bought…
the WG-3 with remote, charger and 2 extra batteries. Everything but the remote should be here in time for snorkeling in Aruba next week.

When I get my disney dollars from REI, I’ll get the solar charger and I will be tripping in style!

Grip. Zoom control. Remote. Misc.

– Last Updated: Feb-17-14 3:53 PM EST –

Some interesting matters have come up.

I like to be able to hold a canoe camera with one hand to take pictures in a canoe or kayak. I don't like the two-hand, hold-by-the-edges style that the entire smart phone generation uses -- not when I'm bouncing around on the Yangtze River. Grip becomes more difficult as camera's have gotten smaller, slimmer and slipperier. So, it helps to literally "get a hold" of these cameras before you buy them.

The placement of the zoom control affects one-handed grip. For that reason, I don't like the vertical rocker control on the Nikon AW110. For me, it makes it even harder to grip and zoom, as you have to use your thumb to do both. A horizontal rocker control on the back side is more to my liking. Even better is a zoom control ring around the shutter button. Then, you can control zoom with your index finger and not with your thumb that's trying to grip the back of the camera.

I had never thought about remote controls. I will definitely have to research that before making any final decisions.

I'm tremendously pleased with my new Nikon P7800 in all these respects, which I keep in a small Pelican case. But there's something to be said for an even smaller camera that can be slipped into a ballet tutu and is waterproof, particularly if it has a greater wide angle than 28mm. I would take both cameras on an overnight trip for greater shooting versatility and also to partially alleviate the battery issue.

Remote control vs. wifi capability
As far as I can tell, the Pentax WG-3 is the only handheld waterproof camera with a remote control. Many comments on Amazon say the battery cannot be replaced on the Pentax remote control, so you have to scrap it when the battery dies. B&H lists two third party remote controls for much less than the Pentax price.


Some of these cameras have a wireless capability that allow you to control the camera from a smart phone. Not only can you snap the photo release and control the zoom with the phone, but you can see the picture on the phone as you’re doing this. I believe the Panasonic TS5 and Nikon AW110 have this feature, and probably the Olympus, but I’m not motivated to do any further research since I don’t have a smart phone and don’t care about the wireless feature for myself.

Hope you like it Matt
It’s been a great camera for me.

Don’t Forget Your Drone?
For they have enhanced the way paddling videos and pictures are made. Make sure you can mount your camera on them?