About once a week someone asks in email, “What kind of Camera do you use?“ The answer is “Digital.” Yeah, you probably want more details…eh? Okay... I always carry a small point and shoot camera on kayaking trips and it is shockproof and waterproof. In addition to the point and shoot, sometimes I carry a low end DSLR camera with a wide angle lens (sunrises-sunsets) or with a generic 70-300 zoom lens (birds).
For video I use a low end HD digital camcorder which has high zoom capability versus an expensive HD camcorder which will have at most a zoom of 10x. You can get decent HD camcorders for $200-$400. Of course, if you want more buttons and dials to figure out how to work, you can spend thousands of dollars on high end video equipment.
Taking video from a kayak is not as easy as it looks. It is difficult to get steady video. Shooting panorama scenes where you scroll across the horizon takes practice to be able to produce smooth video. The more you zoom in, the harder it will be to get smooth video. No one wants to watch video that has excessive bounce. Practice. Try keeping the hands and arms stiff and rotate your torso to pan the horizon - it'll come out much smoother.
You will find no brand recommendations here because most digital cameras available today have such a high mega-pixel count that poster size prints can be made from the images regardless of brand. Some of the best photos I've ever taken were from small point and shoot cameras readily accessible between my legs or in the life vest pocket and easy to grab the second it is needed. If you have to waste time to dig a camera out of a waterproof case you could lose one of those spur of the moment shots.
The photos posted on this Blog are reduced in size to save space, speed up viewing, and to deter theft for publications. So some images may appear to be grainy but in reality, the original photos are of much higher quality.
Another frequent question is, “How to do you protect your Camera Gear when kayaking?” If you have the newer waterproof, freeze proof, and drop proof cameras, there is not much you have to do to protect them except for attaching a float on the camera so it does not sink if you drop it into the water.
For regular point and shoot cameras and DSLRs, there are many products that protect camera gear such as hard case boxes and soft rain covers. Do a search on the internet and you'll probably find products designed to protect your particular brand and model of camera.
My solution is cheap. I put the camera inside an unsealed ziplock bag and place it on a soft towel on the floor of the kayak between my legs. A towel absorbs any droplets of water and provides soft cushion for the camera. Ziplock bags ensure no water will get on the camera unless there is a capsize or serious amount of water breaking into the kayak. If you have a narrow kayak and you are prone to frequent capsizes, using an open ziplock bag to keep your camera dry is probably not an option for you. I don't capsize.
When I want to take a photo, I pull the camera out of the ziplock and shoot. When done shooting photos the camera immediately goes back into the ziplock bag. When the ziplock bag wears out, I replace it with another cheap one. It works for me. A 2 gallon ziplock works good for the DSLR with the longer lens.
I started taking photos with a low end Digital SLR camera because affordable accident insurance is available for DSLRs. Drop the camera on the pavement and shatter the lens? Drop the camera in the water? No problem - the damaged gear will be replaced, no questions asked. The only thing not covered is if someone steals your camera gear or you drop it in the river and can't find it.
Caution: There is an increased risk of destroying a camera when taking photos from a kayak. I emphasize, “If you have no camera insurance and can’t afford to replace your camera, do NOT take your camera with you in a kayak!” Water has ruined two of my cameras already. Thankfully they were cheap point and shoot cameras. Several others cameras have been dropped and submerged in the water and after drying them out, they still work. If you have expensive camera gear, you may want to invest in something that provides more protection than a ziplock bag.