When I mentioned on my youtube channel, Edinburghcitymom, that I was doing a review comparing the GoPro Hero 7 black v DSLR, someone commented that it would be “like comparing a Fiat with a Ferrari.” Good analogy I thought, let’s see if it’s true.
Here are two photo, accepted to Shutterstock. Can you tell which was was taken by my Nikon and which one was taken by the GoPro Hero 7? (Answer at the end of post).
Both the GoPro Hero 7 and any decent DSLR (Digital single lens reflex), will take photographs and record footage, but when comparing them, it’s what’s inside that really counts. In this scenario it comes down to the Quality of the Sensor.
Without boring you to tears talking about pixellation, the simple explanation is that in a digital photo there are thousands of little pixels, information units. People assume that a high pixel count guarantees a great photo and while it certainly helps, the other factor to consider is the depth of the pixel which determines the tonal value. eg. the amount of colour depth stored within each pixel.
Why is this important?
If you need to enlarge your photo to poster size the DSLR will have no problem with this and will supply good clarity and resolution especially if the photo is taken in RAW. However try blowing up your GoPro Hero 7 photo and you will may lose detail around the edges and colour depth.
Other factors to consider when comparing the GoPro Hero 7 and DSLR are the available settings. A GoPro has an excellent wide angle lens which is a dream if you are doing a photo of a Cathedral or museum and want a large FOV (field of vision) but this also can bring problems with curved poles or curvature in the photo.
Of course you can try taking the picture as linear … here is an example of a photo that has been accepted by Shutterstock, a New York based stock photography agency. The first photo has been edited and the 2nd photo shows the curvature.
The Photograph can be fixed in post production, but with a DSLR you would simply change the lens or adjust the perspective on the camera after taking the shot.
There is a setting called Protune on the GoPro Hero 7, which offers the chance to adjust the ISO, shutterspeed, white balance etc, giving your greater control over the GoPro settings. It is a good idea to watch a few videos on this, to give you more flexibility and understanding of what the GoPro Hero 7 can do. There are plenty of videos explaining this on youtube.
Often on the GoPro Hero 7 screen the photo looks fine but the screen is very small, try and connect to a laptop or Mac before you leave your location to double check the quality. There is nothing worse than getting home and realising your photo has too much grain, is out of focus or is over exposed.
If using Protune for videos remember they will take up more space on an SD card and your battery will drain quickly. Always carry a few back up cards and batteries.
GoPro Hero 7 V DSLR size comparison – the important stuff
This may be a deal breaker for you. I know when I travel with my DSLR, that I am keeping it in hand luggage where I can “handle with care”. Like our Ferrari analogy, I do not want any scratches, sand, dust, etc on my expensive bodywork or lens.
DSLR Abroad – I restrict the number of lens to one because of weight and space. I also need to pack a recharger. I rarely take a tripod as I just can’t fit it in hand luggage, however my Joby flexible tripod stand is extremely useful for getting a steady photo and can hold the Nikon camera weight. Once you get to your location you are carrying this weight around all day, it can be quite uncomfortable after a few hours.
The GoPro Hero 7 is a great solution, especially for travel bloggers or instagrammers. It is extremely lightweight, easy to use underwater or skiing, hillwalking, snow boarding, surfing etc. The hyper smooth stabilisation is excellent.
For adventure sports I would say the GoPro Hero 7 definitely has the edge. Try protecting your expensive DSLR on a slope in Val D’Isere. That’s before you even consider water damage, carrying the weight of the camera and protecting it if you slip and fall. The DSLR is too heavy for me and too expensive too risk dropping in snow.
Not so with the GoPro Hero 7, like the Fiat it can squeeze into most small spaces. Similarly the GoPro slips easily into your pocket, your hand luggage, on a head band, on a chest mount, on a bike mount. It’s truly versatile and of course waterproof.
Super photo, Timewarp, hyper smooth…sounds too good to be true…
Yes and it does have its irksome little problems as I have been discovering especially in hot countries.
My biggest problem with the GoPro Hero 7 is the freezing issue. If I delete multiple files, it freezes. If I have it in sunshine for any length of time it overheats and on my last trip to Belfast I could barely pick it up that’s how hot it was. I have read online that Snow Boarders have the same problem with the GoPro Hero 7 freezing in the snow.
How to resolve?
Place it in the shade, pull out battery, let it cool down. Re insert and start again. You don’t lose the footage but you have just lost some great photo opportunities, as I did going through Valencia on a bike tour.
(Photo below taken in Valencia on automatic settings using GoPro Hero 7)
The DSLR never freezes on me but I have had problems with condensation on the lens when trying to photograph inside a Greenhouse.
What equipment suits your needs?
Really I think you have to ask yourself what you are going to be filming/recording. If you are trying to capture an authentic moment in time, then setting up a tripod and fairly substantial DSLR will attract lots of attention and people start to pose or stare and the moment is lost. Not so with a GoPro. No one even knows you have a camera and if you take it out of your pocket, it is so small, no-one notices. This can be handy in museums or places of worship. Like the Fiat, the Gopro hero 7 is pretty discreet and unobtrusive.
Why I love my DSLR
For me personally the GoPro compliments my camera, it is another tool, another accessory for photography. If my camera runs out of battery I have the GoPro and if I want to jazz things up with a short time lapse, the GoPro is so easy to put on a stick and carry. I like them both. However, the Nikon DSLR sensor beats the GoPro and that’s why I love my big heavy statement camera.
The photo above, Byodo Temple and the one below in Milan was taken on my DSLR and there is a reason that a DSLR is so heavy… Like the Ferrari, it’s a classy piece of equipment. Sometimes people move out of the way, stop to watch or even come closer to take a look. This photo below was taken in Milan using my Nikon camera and Tamron 16-300mm lens. The 2nd shot of Belfast City Hall was taken on the GoPro Hero 7 black. I find the quality of photo from my DSLR superb and I can make quite a few adjustments on the camera tools before I attempt anything in post production. The DSLR also gives you the option of changing the lens, unlike the fixed GoPro lens which is fixed. You can buy a polar pro macro lens and adaptor for the Gopro Hero 7 black but I have never tried it.
Filming with Gopro v DSLR
I love the flexibility of recording film footage on my Nikon DSLR but for me personally I find the DSLR too heavy to keep steady. Resting my camera on the back seat of a car or a bus, there is still too much shake. The GoPro handles this easily and of course is very lightweight and easy to hold.
The stability issue for a DSLR means that you may have to buy a gimble when filming unless your camera is on a tripod or stable surface. For the DSLR stabilisation, the factors to consider when buying a gimbal are weight and balance. The good gimbals use lithium batteries and can be pretty expensive, for a DSLR you are looking at an extra couple hundred pounds or dollars.
The GoPro accessories like the Fiat, are cheap and easy to find. Expect to pay about £30 for macro lens and for GoPro stabiliser anywhere from £30 upwards. Probs better to buy multi purpose gimbal. My Best Buy gimbal has been a joby gorilla pod which I can wrap around my bike handle, a tree branch, railings…. it lets you change your perspective and relax your hands when filming a long time lapse.
If you are travelling on a gap year with restricted luggage and have a decent phone camera, I would say take a GoPro and learn Protune. The GoPro Hero 7 is very robust and I have dropped it, sat on it and generally forgotten where it is, it’s that small. Easy to pack including accessories. I charge my GoPro batteries via my laptop and have dual battery recharger for speed.
The DSLR will always win with photography shots in my opinion and film footage quality is good if you can get stabilisation.
The Gopro offers a brilliant package at a reasonable price and if filming and outdoor activities is your priority, then the GoPro Hero 7 comes out top for versatility and practicality.
Enjoy your photography equipment, whatever you decide. The answer to the early question is that photo A of Stirling castle was taken with the Gopro hero7 and photo B was taken with the Nikon. Did you guess correctly?
Thanks for reading, I appreciate your time.