GoPro vs. DSLR - What's Better for Video?

GoPro vs. DSLR - What's Better for Video?

Over the years, there have been a lot of advances when it comes to camera and video technology. We’re no longer dependent on big and bulky equipment for high quality videos, nor are we confined to low quality videos when we want to bring something lighter. There are now multiple choices if you want to use something to capture memorable moments for any occasion.

But if you want to upgrade from merely relying on your smartphone camera or a point-and-shoot, then that leaves two major options: either a GoPro action camera or a Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR) camera. So which one’s better? Let’s break down both of their pros and cons.

What’s Good about the GoPro?

GoPro Hero4

GoPros are the golden standard when it comes to shooting videos in the thick of the action. They are also waterproof and shockproof. Even if you drop your GoPro, you can just pick it up, dust it off, and continue shooting with it. 

Their durability has made them popular in many forms of extreme sports such as surfing, base jumping, and paragliding. To match these intense demands, GoPros and other similar action cameras are small, rugged, and relatively cheap. They can also be attached to helmets, chest harnesses, and handlebars—giving your future viewers an up-close-and-personal view of your adventures.

What Isn’t So Good?

Unfortunately, a GoPro’s lens is usually not great at correcting for spatial distortions. This is because GoPros come with a fixed fisheye wide lens. Though these lenses are great for capturing the widest field of view, they also elongate objects placed on the far ends of the frame.

The video’s audio track will also tend to sound muffled due to the waterproofing case, necessitating an extra audio recorder or additional editing. Lastly, the lack of a built-in viewfinder limits how much you can frame your shots until after you’ve shot your video.

What’s the Upside on DSLRs?

 Nikon D3300 18-55 VR II Lens Kit

These days, most entry-level DSLRs come with video-shooting capabilities. This puts a powerful, customizable, and programmable video camera in the hands of consumers. Though they may be bigger and heavier, they are feature-packed and designed for shooting high-quality videos. Their curves are also well suited for long-term handling, allowing for lengthy, continuous, and controlled shooting.

As the descendants of the film SLR, DSLRs are created based on decades of research and development in the industry. Because of this, they have a distinct advantage when it comes to ergonomics, image quality, and lens availability. Lenses are also interchangeable within brands, with some exceptions for third party lenses. This allows for all types of shots, ranging from wide-angle vistas to extreme close up macro shots.

What’s the Downside?

Even if you bought a professional-level DSLR (which can get prohibitively expensive), your camera is still not guaranteed to survive a simple drop test. This is because of all the complicated and fragile mirrors, flaps, and prisms that are part of the DSLR camera’s basic design.

Additionally, even DSLRs made for pros are hardly waterproof beyond a thunderstorm, requiring a special (and expensive) case to keep them absolutely safe from water. Their higher price point may also put a greater strain on your budget.

Our Take

Get a GoPro if you need a camera that can go anywhere and shoot anything. They’re great for capturing action-packed footage, without having to worry about your gear’s safety. If you expect to take your time with shooting, then an affordable DSLR might be a better choice to maximize its capacity for high-quality video.

Previous experience with photography also factors into the final decision on which one to get. If you have little to no experience with photography (whether film or digital), then the GoPro is a better choice. Its fully-automatic settings will let you pick one up and shoot videos from the get go. However, if you’ve had previous knowledge of basic photography concepts such as focus, exposure, and white balance, then you might be better off getting a DSLR. It’s a powerful, feature-packed tool for helping you take videos the way you want them to look.

At first glance, there might seem to be a huge set of differences between a GoPro and a DSLR. If you can only choose one, it might even get hard to decide which might fit your needs. But when it all boils down to it, the best video camera will depend on where you plan to take it and how you plan to shoot with it.

John Arzadon
John Arzadon