June 21, 2024

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The 7 best video cameras for travelers in 2023, according to National Geographic

6 min read

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A picture may speak a thousand words, but sometimes, even that is not enough to capture the sights and sounds we encounter on our travels. 

We tapped the National Geographic photo engineering team to share their top picks for travel video cameras to help you document your most memorable journeys. They design and build custom equipment for professional photographers and test consumer products for this annual guide. Here are their picks for your future adventures.

  • The new Lumix G9 II uses an improved version of the GH6 sensor (released last year) and adopted some of the new features introduced with the Panasonic S5 II earlier this year. 
  • For video, it has a much higher limit for resolution with up to 5.8k/30p open-gate recording, and you can record at higher bit rates for video files with less compression and artifacts. You can also record directly to an SSD over USB-C, which you might want if you’re recording ProRes files or utilizing those higher bit rates.
  • It features improved dynamic range, 25-megapixel, phase detect autofocus, subject detection, a higher resolution rear LCD panel, two card slots, more robust in-body stabilization (IBIS), and some handy computational photography options like live compositing.

Tip: We recommend using the Leica DG Vario-Elmarit 12-60mm f/2.8-4 ASPH POWER O.I.S. lens from Panasonic, which offers an impressive 24-120mm equivalent zoom.

Find it now at B&H and Best Buy.

  • When it comes to unique angles, the Go 3 can fit almost anywhere. Once it’s detached, the Action Pod acts as a live video receiver.
  • Insta360 nailed it with the included mounting accessories, from the hat clip and magnetic neck pendant for hands-free POV footage to the sticky pad mount and a magnetic back on the capsule for timelapse video. An added bonus? The Go 3 capsule is waterproof.
  • The DJI Pocket 3 is convenient, simple, and portable with a protective cover. The autofocus is incredible, and the automatic face tracking is uncannily good. The two-inch OLED rotating touchscreen is snappy and responsive, making it easy to check your framing or change your settings. 
  • DJI somehow fit a one inch sensor behind its 20mm f/2 equivalent lens, making the image quality downright impressive.

Tip: Depending on your recording settings, you can change the aspect ratio after the fact on the Go 3 capsule.

Find the Insta360 GO 3 now at B&H and Best Buy.

Find the DJI Osmo Pocket 3 now at B&H and Best Buy.

  • The ZV-1 II is a reasonably capable stills camera, but it shines as a compact and easy-to-use video camera. It features a new 18-50mm f/1.8-4 equivalent lens, which gives it a wider field of view better suited for self-filming. It also has a tighter minimum focus distance. 
  • The updated touch screen lets you swipe through the menu system, and now includes more controls than the previous model.
  • Autofocus has become more intelligent with multi-face recognition and animal focus tracking. 
  • The ZV-1 II also utilizes the same 3-capsule microphone seen in the ZV-E10, which allows you to focus the audio in front or behind the camera or set it omnidirectional.

Tip: Consider pairing the ZV-1 II with Sony’s wireless shooting grip, which doubles as a tabletop tripod. It connects via Bluetooth, allowing the integrated controls to communicate with the camera.

Find it now at B&H and Best Buy.

  • The GH 6 is ideal for anyone wanting to create movie-quality travel videos.
  • This model allows for up to 5.7k at 30 FPS and 1900 mb/s. The camera rocks a 25.2 MP MFT sensor that sports a unique functionality known as DR Boost, which gives a noticeable increase in dynamic range when using an ISO north of 800. This allows the camera to compete with cameras with much larger sensors. 
  • For the best image quality in bright light, you’ll want to use a ND filter. We suggest a variable ND for traveling.
  • In terms of controls and ergonomics, the GH6 sits mighty close to the pinnacle of what seems possible. Dials and buttons are all labeled well and sit just where you would want them. The screen is a fully articulating LCD with a bonus tilt function that makes it a pleasure to use.
  • The camera is awash with all the essential ports you would want for video work and includes a fan for those long takes in warm climates.

Tip: We recommend experimenting with unique optics, such as anamorphic lenses and vintage glass. There is a great deal of imaging value in the style of vintage optics.

Find it now at B&H and Best Buy.

  • The GoPro 12 is best seen as a refinement to the already outstanding GoPro 11, with slightly better stabilization due to including a ¼-20 threaded mounting hole and some menu updates.
  • Our favorite feature of the GoPro Hero 12 (and the GoPro 11) is the horizon lock. It uses its almost square sensor and gyroscope system to lock off the horizon no matter the camera’s angle. Imagine a steady horizon while you ride your mountain bike through rough terrain.

Tip: The only thing missing from the GoPro 12 is a geolocation system. This was removed to help improve the camera’s runtime.

Find it now at B&H and Best Buy.

  • For a light, transportable, and easy-to-use drone camera, try the DJI Mini 4 Pro. 
  • Its strength is its simplicity. With a higher resolution sensor than previous models, the Mini 4 Pro can record 4k 60fps HDR video, and sports a more robust obstacle detection system. 
  • The transmission range has also been improved, meaning your video feed almost always remains smooth and crystal clear. 
  • By turning the camera on its side, the drone can shoot native vertical video, making it easy to frame up video for social media and maximizing your resolution and field of view.

Tip: Do your research to ensure you comply with local regulations on drone use.

Find it now at B&H and Best Buy.

For immersive travel content: Insta360 X3

  • The real key to Insta360’s success is  the high quality of the user experience both on the device and in the cellphone app’s editing mode.
  • With the Insta360 X3, you can edit the captured content on your phone (or computer) as a vertical or horizontal video. This lets you reframe the video in whatever way you want in a user-friendly way.
  • The camera is also waterproof down to 33 feet.

Pro Tip: Insta360 sells a special dive case if you want to take this on your next scuba adventure.

Find it now at B&H and Best Buy.

Tom O’Brien is a mechanical engineer and runs the photo engineering department for National Geographic. He spends his days in his workshop designing and building custom equipment for the magazine’s photographers. Follow him on Instagram.

Eric Flynn is a machinist/fabricator who works in the photo engineering department of National Geographic, where he manages equipment loans. Follow him on Instagram.

*Although we are sharing our personal opinions of these experiences or products with you, National Geographic is not endorsing these experiences or products on behalf of anyone. It has not performed product safety testing on any of these products, did not manufacture them, and is not selling, or distributing them and is not making any representations about the safety or caliber of these products or experiences for individual consumers. Prices and availability are subject to change from the date of publication.


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