If you like kayaking, you'll often find yourself wishing you had a high-quality camera to capture the scenic features in the heart of nature.
It can be truly remarkable to find natural scenery as you float on the water; however, finding the right angle and getting high-quality photos to commemorate these memories can be a tad bit hard if you don't have specialized equipment. This is where kayaking cameras come in.
Lucky, manufacturers understand that there are hundreds of kayakers out there in need of a durable, well-stabilized camera to capture on and in-depth water shots. If you're looking for a camera to capture the best scenery in the environment, check out our recommendations to find the best camera for kayaking!
Why You Need to Buy a Camera for Kayaking
As you may have deduced from the comparison table above, a camera, especially one that can withstand the risks of going into deep waters, is necessary.
It's true that everyone now carries a smartphone to take high-quality pictures anywhere they go. However, this is ill-advised, as smartphones aren't equipped to withstand water, might not always have large batteries, and aren't designed to capture nature's panoramic pictures, at least not as good as action cameras.
So, without further ado, here’s why you'll need a camera while kayaking:
In the world of kayaking, getting waterproof equipment is a must. Otherwise, all your electronics will get soaked and damaged before you reach the shore.
For the most part, kayaking cameras are waterproof to various degrees, come with waterproof casings, and might be able to take in-water and under-water photographs, which can be quite enchanting when you look at them in the future.
When it comes to storing the camera itself, you'll be able to keep it in a dry, waterproof bag safely. So, on the off chance that your kayak capsizes, water won't damage your camera.
Extended Battery Life
You'll need a camera because it'll likely have a large battery or an extra battery. Think about it, you're constantly using your smart devices all day long, so it won't be wise to use them to take photos and navigate, for example, as these activities will exponentially drain their batteries.
Having a camera with a large battery (or an extra battery) is always better than making your smartphone double as a kayaking camera.
Might Reduce the Loss Risk
Because kayaking with several devices is nothing short of risky, it's always great to be prepared for the risk in every way possible. Unfortunately, accidents are bound to happen while you're on the water, whether you like it or not, and some of these accidents will involve your equipment.
How can you deal with this risk before it occurs? By insuring your equipment, of course! Insure your gear, including your camera, with pro-camera insurance or through renters if there's a high risk that you could lose your equipment in troubled waters.
Again, you might not have enough storage on your smart device to capture high-quality pictures or 4k videos. This is why it's necessary to get a camera with a space that's solely dedicated to your shots.
This should also help you manage this data instead of merging it along with the personal photos and videos on your phone.
With that said, take a look at our top picks for the best kayaking cameras!
The Best 6 Cameras for Kayaking
Below are the best 6 cameras you can get your hands on the next time you go kayaking. You'll probably find what you need here if you read the specs of each product thoroughly.
1. GoPro Hero 9 - Best Overall
The GoPro Hero 9 comes on top of our list simply because it's a top-tier action camera. With its 20 megapixel sensors and the stunning shots it could take while activating its image and video stabilization, you'll need nothing more from a camera!
Plus, with its clever time-lapse mods and the higher resolution (the highest one so far), you can take 5k shoots at 30fps and take in all the details that other cameras wouldn't have captured as clearly!
Although this camera might be slightly larger than the previous GoPro Hero models, the size doesn't take away from its quality. The large size is attributed to the new GoPro batteries, which increase the weight by 10%, but that just means that you'll get extra time to take photos and videos as much as you want!
Naturally, this camera is rugged and waterproof, so you'll be able to take underwater photos at 5k quality. Additionally, the new big touch screen with touch-zoom ability should help you control your camera better, not to mention that you'll have several mods to expand your image-taking options.
What We Like:
- 5k video quality is superb
- The front display is excellent for vloggers
- Large battery life
- More modes provide more options
What We Dislike:
- The touch screen is a bit unresponsive
- HEVC files might need editing hardware
- Larger size than the other GoPro hero cameras
The GoPro Hero 9 is an expensive camera, and for a good reason. If you're looking for a premium camera and the best quality there is on the market, consider buying it!
2. GoPro Hero 7 - Runner-up
The GoPro Hero7 offers excellent value when compared to its price and specs. Being the first GoPro Hero camera to be fitted with HyperSmooth stabilization and TimeWarp, it provides incredible quality for a mid-range action camera.
When it comes to waterproof capabilities, this camera is water-resistant even without a special casing, so you can take under-water shots as much as you want. However, be careful because it's only waterproof, up to 10 meters.
The build quality for this camera is superb, much like the GoPro Hero 6, so it'll add points to its durability, especially when you use it while paddling your kayak.
Its video quality is 4k at 60fps, and you can go up to full HD at 240fps for slowed-down footage. Of course, this’ll drain the camera's battery, so be sure to use the standard 4k footage at 60fps most of the time.
Overall, the GoPro Hero7 is a non-conventional camera, as it has a couple of handy features to help you optimize the photos you take. Along with its dynamic range and voice commands, you can certainly take a couple of beautiful shots with it.
What We Like:
- HyperSmooth stabilization is highly effective
- TimeWarp is useful
- Scene-intelligent auto options
- Noise reduction at low light
What We Dislike:
- Voice commands don't always work
- The screen might be unresponsive sometimes
The GoPro Hero7 is an excellent option if you're looking for a high-quality camera with high stability capabilities. If you prioritize screen sensitivity or voice commands, you're better off trying out other models.
3. Garmin VIRB Ultra 30 - Budget Pick
The Garmin VIRB Ultra 30 is one of the best contenders you'll find on the market. Although it might be a bit outdated, it still has a range of features that makes it compete with other models. From the slow-motion at Full HD to the incredible image stabilization, It'll work well for your kayaking journeys.
Although it might have a great image and video resolution (the 4K footage looks sharp and detailed), you might find it slightly less impressive than the one produced by GoPro Hero 7, as you can shoot 4k videos at only 30 and 20 fps max. However, where the GoPro Hero lacks, Garmin VIRB Ultra 30 delivers.
With this model, you'll have various video and photo manual settings options so you can get the best resolution and waterproof case that can go down to 40 meters.
Indeed, interacting with the casing-covered camera isn't as good as when you interact with the camera itself, but it'll still work just fine. Plus, that adds points to its safety. Additionally, the touch screen is a little bit better than the touch screen on the GoPro7.
Although the battery isn't a major issue, you can reduce quality to 1080p at 30fps to increase your battery life. Nevertheless, be sure to buy extra batteries in case the ones in your camera run out early.
What We Like:
- Excellent 4K and high-speed capabilities
- Wi-Fi smartphone control
- Electronic image stabilization
- Waterproof case
What We Dislike:
- No image stabilization when in 3k mode
- The camera isn't waterproof without its casing
The Garmin VIRB Ultra 30 is a well-rounded action camera with many valuable features, but it might not be suitable for kayaking if you don't use the appropriate waterproof casing.
4. GoPro Hero 4 - Best for Beginners
While the GoPro Hero 4 model is older than the GoPro Hero 9 or 7, it still offers excellent features (some of them close to the GoPro Hero 7) that can make for an ultimate kayaking experience!
This is yet a great model that you can get if you don't require a demanding action camera. It's also a great pick if stabilization isn’t your primary concern. Kayaks tend to rock often, and even with steady hands, you'll need stabilization features while filming or taking photos. So, unless you're paddling through calm waters, GoPro Hero 4 might not provide you with the best shots.
On the other hand, this camera comes with a waterproof housing of 40 meters. Its 4k 60fps is jaw-dropping, but you can still get 80fps or even 120fps if you lower the quality to 1440p and 1080p, respectively.
Another good thing you'll find is that it runs Full HD at 24 up to 30 fps with the ProTune feature on. That'll make it highly attractive for any kayaker, beginner, or expert, as it can capture all the best shots so effortlessly.
Like all action cameras, this one comes with Wi-Fi connectivity, but it'll reduce battery life by a quarter approximately. So, be sure to minimize your Wi-Fi usage if you don't have extra batteries.
What We Like:
- Great 4k quality
- Wide range of ProTune Modes
- Slo-mo HD capability
- Unique rugged design
What We Dislike:
- A bit expensive for a mid-range action camera
- No LCD
- No image stabilization
The GoPro Hero 4 could be a good option for beginners, but, again, if you're going to paddle through rough waters, you'll need a camera with a stabilization feature. You should try other cameras on this list if the waters you'll be paddling through are rough.
5. Sony HDRAS300 - Value Pick
While the Sony HDRAS300 has an unconventional design, it packs a surprisingly large number of useful features. Some of these features are the stabilized lens quite noticeable at the front, the 8-megapixel sensor, and the LCD, which can control the camera remotely.
The Sony HDRAS300 captures 1080p quality videos at 60fps, supports time-lapse, and live streaming. You'll also have the standard connectivity options, such as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, though you'll have to be careful as they can drain the camera's battery pretty fast.
What's great about this camera is that it has the highest waterproof capabilities of all the cameras on this list (up to 60 meters). Once you use the waterproof housing, you can lower it underwater and capture photos and videos at ease.
When it comes to dynamic range, saturation, and visual and noise reduction, this camera fares better than any other. Although you might be lacking the 4k quality, you'll still get the best stabilization capabilities from an action camera. Plus, 1080p footage quality delivers unique shoots as well.
It also offers time-lapse recording, so while this camera might not be exactly cheap compared to other models on this list, it'll still deliver outstanding quality and unique features.
What We Like:
- Stellar stabilization capabilities
- Great waterproof capabilities
- Overall excellent quality for the value
What We Dislike:
- Video resolution goes only up to 1080p
- You need to keep the HDMI and power cable constantly plugged while streaming
The Sony HDRAS300 is an excellent choice if you have the budget for it; however, if the quality is your main concern, you should go for a different camera with better resolution. Otherwise, it scores high when it comes to water resistance and stabilization.
6. Olympus Tough TG-6 - Best for Underwater Shooting
If you're looking for a premium camera with underwater support, the Olympus Tough TG-6 excels at that! This is a sixth-generation underwater camera with a 12-megapixel sensor and stabilized lens that offers the best underwater shots for kayakers.
It has several useful other features that might help you when you're out in the water, like a built-in GPS, an altimeter, a thermometer, an accelerometer, and a compass. It's waterproof (down to 15 meters), dustproof, crushproof, and even freezeproof!
With these unique survival features and compact size, one would think this is the optimal action camera. It'll appeal to kayakers and people who love to go camping, hiking, and outdoor adventures, as it can be handy while doing these activities.
When it comes to underwater photographs, the Olympus Tough TG-6 will provide phenomenal shots of the deep. With 4k UHD resolution, it'll always offer astonishing photos and performance.
You can manage the controls manually, but you won't get the full suite one would expect from a high-end camera. For example, you can adjust the aperture, but you can only have three choices at a time.
The Olympus Tough TG-6 manufacturers cater to underwater shooting enthusiasts' needs by providing an array of accessories that'll help them take the best underwater pictures. Aside from the waterproof housing, you'll get wide-angle along with fish-eye conversion lenses and the ability to fire flashes wirelessly.
What We Like:
- Great 4k video capability
- Raw image capture
- Wide aperture lens
- Impressive tracking and features
What We Dislike:
- Restricted manual control
- Quality becomes lower when taking pictures at longer focal ranges
- The screen can sustain scratches quite easily
The Sony HDRAS300 is an excellent camera for anyone who wants to take high-quality underwater pictures, as it offers superior image resolution (4k). However, it might be a bit on the expensive side.
Factors to Consider When Buying a Camera for Kayaking
Now that you know some of the best kayaking cameras on the market, we'll explain how to pick one on your own, just in case you can't choose from the ones we've recommended here. So, without further ado, take a look at these factors.
You're going in a watery environment, and the chances are that all your equipment will get water on them one way or another. So, even if you're not planning on taking underwater photos, it's probably for the best if your camera can resist water even by a little.
Make sure to have the proper waterproof housing for your camera to ensure that it's waterproof at all times. Otherwise, you might be simply waiting for it to get damaged, especially if it isn't water-resistant by any means. This also applies to any equipment you bring along on your kayak.
Image and Video Stabilization
Water will rock your kayak left and right. In fact, your camera footage is bound to be shaken whenever you're holding it outside, and a stabilization feature will minimize the shaken footage.
Some cameras might support video stabilization only, so ensure that your camera supports both video and image stabilization to improve its quality overall.
Some people offer stabilization videos for specific models, so you might want to look at these videos and compare the stabilization capability side by side to make a well-informed decision.
You wouldn't want your devices to run out of battery just as you begin to paddle the waters. Cameras are known to run out of batteries at the worst times, so if you choose one with a lower battery, you might not get all the shots you need.
How Do I Keep My Camera Dry While Kayaking?
You have to get a good, dry, and waterproof bag for storage and keep it in a dry area of the kayak. Next, get a waterproof casing if your camera doesn't have one already. Ideally, if your camera is waterproof, you won't have to worry about this aspect.
How Do I Film/Take Photos While Kayaking?
You can attach the camera either to the kayak or to your person. You'll be able to attach it to yourself if you're wearing a vest. Make sure to get close-ups, underwater photos, panoramic shots to capture the environment. Always check the lens for any droplets of water.
How Do I Reduce My Camera's Battery Consumption?
A couple of practices can help you do this, like turning off the inbuilt flash and stabilizer when necessary, reducing the brightness of the camera's screen, and replacing old batteries. If all of that doesn't work, you can simply get an extra pack of batteries when things go awry.
Choosing the best camera for kayaking might be a bit daunting with the hundreds of models on the market. However, once you understand the factors that matter the most and your own needs, finding a reasonably-priced camera will be a piece of cake!
Try avoiding generic options or high-end cameras just because everyone says they're great. If these cameras don't have the necessary kayaking features, your kayaking trips will be sorely disappointing.
If you're a beginner, there's no need to go over the top; the GoPro Hero4 should suffice. However, if you're looking for remarkable quality, the Sony HDRAS300 is the better option.