Is a GoPro better than a DSLR camera for travel photos?

Camera & Photo

If you choose a DSLR camera for your travel photos, some are more compact than others, so pick wisely.

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GoPro vs. DSLR cameras

Whether you’re traveling the world or heading on a family vacation, it’s natural to want to document your memories by taking decent photos. This may lead you to wonder whether a GoPro or a DSLR camera is better for taking travel photos. 

Both GoPros and DSLRs have their pros and cons, and you’ll ultimately need to decide if you favor the compact size and ease of use of a GoPro or the objectively better photos and increased control over results you get from a DSLR camera.

What is a GoPro?

A GoPro is a compact action camera. These cameras are known for their durability and are designed for capturing all kinds of footage, though they can also take static photographs.

Pros of GoPros for travel photos

Small and light

What’s great about using GoPros when traveling is that they’re incredibly lightweight and compact. Small enough to slip in your pocket when not in use, they’re ideal for anyone who can’t stand the thought of wearing a bulky camera around their neck all day. 

Simple to use

You don’t need to know anything about photography to use a GoPro — just point it at your subject and press the shutter button. This is great for buyers who are put off the steep learning curve necessary to use a DSLR camera to its full potential.

Durable

Waterproof Housing Case for GoPro Hero 9

GoPros are highly durable, which is perfect for adventurous travelers. You probably wouldn’t want to climb a mountain or go skydiving with a DSLR camera, but you can easily strap a GoPro to you without too much concern. What’s more, newer GoPro models are waterproof to 33 feet straight out of the box, and you can buy waterproof diving cases for GoPros if you want to take them deeper underwater.

Cons of GoPros for travel photos

Better for video than photos

GoPros were initially designed for taking video. Though they can also take still photos, their quality isn’t comparable to the photos you can take with a DSLR. They’re closer in quality to shots you could take with a top-end phone camera.

Small screen

The downside of the compact size of GoPros is their small screen size. This makes it tricky to watch videos and scroll through photos before transferring them to a computer.

The best GoPros

GoPro HERO9

GoPro HERO9

With a 20MP camera for still shots and 5K video capabilities, this is the best GoPro on the market right now. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

GoPro HERO8

GoPro HERO8 

A slightly older GoPro model with a 12MP camera and 4K video recording. As it doesn’t cost much less than the HERO9, most users are better off buying the newer model, but it’s still a decent option.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

GoPro HERO7

GoPro HERO7

An excellent choice for buyers on a budget as it comes at a significantly lower price point than the HERO9. It shoots decent 10MP photos and 4K videos.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

What is a DSLR?

A DSLR camera is a digital single-lens reflex camera. These cameras differ from standard point-and-shoot cameras due to their interchangeable lenses. Multiple lens options combined with large, high-quality sensors make them a popular choice with professional photographers.

Pros of DSLRs for travel photos

Take objectively better photos

There’s no getting around the fact that DSLRs take better photos than GoPros. If you know what you’re doing, you can take professional-quality photos with DSLRs, but even if you set them to fully automatic and hope for the best, you can take some incredible shots. There’s no better way to capture the beauty of your travel destination.

More control over photos

If you know your way around camera settings, you’ll prefer the control you have using a DSLR compared to a GoPro. You can adjust the aperture, shutter speed, white balance and other settings to tailor your results perfectly. This allows competent photographers to achieve effects that they could never get with a GoPro. 

Interchangeable lenses

You can switch out the lenses on a DSLR camera, which makes a massive difference to the types of photos you can get. A short, fixed-length lens allows more light in, which is ideal for low-light photography. You can shoot far-away objects with a telephoto lens or take incredible close-ups of tiny flora and fauna with a macro lens. This versatility is what makes DSLRs special, allowing users to take a wider range of photos.

Cons of DSLRs for travel photos

Larger and heavier than GoPros

It might not be a huge issue if you’re taking photos in your backyard or around your neighborhood, but the size and weight of a DSLR compared to a GoPro puts them at a disadvantage when it comes to travel. They take up extra room in your luggage, and you need to cart them around with you all day, along with any extra lenses you might need. 

Less durable than GoPros

While GoPros are extra-durable and designed for action and adventure, DSLRs aren’t exceptionally durable, so you might be wary about taking them to places where they could get damaged easily. Unlike GoPros, they aren’t waterproof, so underwater photography is off the table.

The best DSLRs

Canon EOS Rebel T7

Canon EOS Rebel T7

A solid entry-level DSLR that takes great photos and full HD video but doesn’t cost the earth.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Nikon D3500

Nikon D3500

Easy to use with a great auto mode, this camera is perfect for those new to DSLRs. It’s also relatively compact, so it’s ideal for travel.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III

Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III

This higher-end compact DSLR is an excellent choice for more experienced photographers to travel with.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

 

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Lauren Corona writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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