The Best Camera for Bike Photography
See also: Riding the Dirt Roads of Westchester It's one of the questions I hear most often. Whether shooting video with #bobthefriendlydrone or stills with from the bike. "What are you shooting with?" Drones aside my photo kit has evolved over the years as cameras have met their doom following a rough life in a sweaty/rain-soaked/frozen jersey pocket or personal preferences have shifted. However with the goal of answering the simple question of "what are you shooting with" and hopefully providing some insight on the best camera for bike photography, a quick rundown of my equipment preferences over the years along with some photographs captured with each piece of kit follows below.
Fair warning: there surely is no perfect answer to the best camera for bike photography and this is simply what works, or did work as some point in time, for me. Take my opinion with an appropriate grain of salt.
Small but Mighty: Sony RX100
My first on the bike camera was also the smallest - the first generation Sony RX100. With solid construction and an oversized sensor relative to the easily pocketable body size I took this camera through thick and thin over the years, from long rides shrouded in fog to the most miserable ride I have experienced. Pictures from the latter are few and far between as we rode hard, desperately seeking shelter from a mix of snow and freezing rain. Despite that one of those images made its way to a two page advert in Bicycling Mag, more than proving the RX100's capabilities. Unfortunately somewhere along the way the RX100 eventually kicked the can thanks to a moisture issue and subsequent power drain, forcing it's untimely retirement.
From the Bargain Bin: Nikon Coolpix A
With the death of the Sony, I was able to pick up a Nikon Coolpix A camera for 75% off after the model was discontinued by Nikon. While the body is meaningfully larger than the Sony it's still readily pocketable on the bike and carries the added benefit of a significantly larger APS-C sensor, contributing to much improved low-light performance and speed. Over the past year as it has been passed around the squad and has made it's way to California on multiple occasions (including for the picture below by Roger Parmelee) to Texas for Cross Nationals and as far abroad as Europe. At this stage it's definitely looking worse for wear but the internals are still functioning and spitting out great pictures. I'm not sure whether any of Coolpix A's are still floating around for sale, but if they are they're likely a bargain.
Till Death do us Part: Ricoh GR
While the Coolpix A was a bargain for the performance, it's competitor from Ricoh - the GR - remains my definitive kit of choice when it comes to the best camera for bike photography. Mine has been absolutely thrashed over the past two plus years. The lens shutter mechanism is prone to only half opening and at one point I had to perform emergency surgery to remove dust from the sensor (of course leaving me with two extra screws that I apparently neglected to reinstall) but it still finds it's way into my jersey pocket almost any time I'm on the bike, be it in the mountains of Italy or the dirt roads of California. It's expensive (tip: look for the prior generation model on sale given the updated generation released a few months ago features pretty modest upgrades) but especially with the Coolpix A's extinction the Ricoh is fairly peerless. It also sports better ergonomics and autofocus than the Nikon. When my ravaged little Ricoh eventually calls it quits, I'll definitely be buying a replacement.
Oversized and Overpriced but Absolutely Beautiful: Leica Q
The starting point has to be that the Leica is outrageously expensive and entirely unreasonable for use on the bike, if only due to cost and utter overkill for any practical on the bike shooting. However through races like Millersburg and Gateway I have absolutely fallen in love with this insane piece of kit. And so while it's definitely oversized for on the bike use, it has nonetheless found it's way into my hand on select rides this fall including early mornings on River Road, the dirt roads of Westchester and hunting fall foliage at Bear Mountain. Expensive and big and completely insane but just an unbelievably beautiful piece of kit. I love this camera.
Best Camera for Bike Photography: Whatever Camera You Have
Stat sheets and personal preference aside, at the end of the day the camera is little more than a tool to document adventures on the bike. And so the key is to simply insure you have a tool, any tool, along for the journey. One of my better photographs and the one that found it's way onto the cover of the 2014 Litespeed catalog was taken with nothing more than a waterlogged iPhone after my RX100 camera died in the middle of a rain soaked ride. Come to think of it, I think that ride was the end of my RX100. Such is the life of an on-the-bike camera.