The best cameras for cyclists: The Desire Selection

Cyclists and photography are a natural pairing, so here are some photographic options from compact to fully-fledged DSLR for when the scenery demands more than your phone

For photographers, leaving their camera behind while riding can be a wrench. Thankfully with the right combination of luggage and straps, it’s surprisingly easy to tote even a full-size SLR camera around with you while riding.

Of course, like anything that comes out on the bike, choosing something light and robust will help make your life even easier. Here are a few of our favourites, including a couple that have contributed the odd shot to Rouleur.

The complete guide to the Desire Selection

Fuji X-Pro3

£1,800, Shop Fuji

Cameras are expensive. So it helps ease your choice if they’re both optically perfect and lovely to look at. Fuji makes a range of technically wonderful, superbly styled, and more than averagely robust cameras. While we’re big fans of the brand’s fixed lens options including the tiny X100, its X-Pro range of mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras wins out by being small enough to transport by bike while still managing pro-level features and image quality. Based around an APS-C crop sensor, this is larger than the Four Thirds system found in many compact cameras.

Still a tad smaller than those found in larger DSLRs, the result is nevertheless incredible images across a wide range of conditions. Lagging only slightly in terms of dynamic range and low light performance, this is rarely an issue, especially for amateur photographers. Previously a film specialist, Fuji’s digital cameras produce perhaps the best jpegs of any system while letting you emulate the style of famous analogue films such as Provia, Chrome, or Velvia. Ideal for people who don’t want to spend time tweaking their images after they’ve taken them – contrast, saturation, and colour rendition are almost always perfect straight out of the camera.

Not entirely without quirks, downsides to the range include the price and somewhat limited range of lenses, while some might object to Fuji’s lack of in-camera stabilisation. However, possessing a compact size plus low weight courtesy of a titanium and magnesium construction, along with improved weather resistance, we think it’s a system worth considering.

Discover Restrap's Sling Camera Strap

Ricoh GR III

£949, Shop Ricoh

A fully-featured professional-level camera you can fit in a jersey pocket. A bit of a cult classic, the diminutive and unprepossessing Ricoh GR III hides some massively impressive features. For one thing, its tiny body crams in a huge APS-C sensor. Backed by a sharp and fast 28mm f2.8 lens, it’s capable of grabbing great images in a host of difficult situations. With a 24-megapixel sensor and the ability to shoot RAW, there’s genuinely no reason you couldn’t nab yourself a cover shot with it.

Without the need for a case or lens cap, the GR III can be dragged from your pocket and ready to capture a shot in a minimum of time, something aided by its very quick start-up. Supported by robust construction, at 257-grams including battery, there’s no reason not to keep it about your person at all times. Generally extremely competent, in-camera image stabilisation is also very good, and while video shooting might be limited to 1080p, it’s still capable of producing some lovely results. There’s even a flash mount should you require such a thing.

So where does the GR III slip? Its four frames per second continuous shooting rate isn't ideal for capturing action sequences, while its battery life is a little short, meaning you’ll want to carry a spare for extended trips. Some people might also wish there was a viewfinder, rather than just a rear screen through which to compose your shots. Also, while tough, it’s not an action camera, so you can’t go getting it soaked. Still, all considered, the Ricoh GR III is a superb carry-along that’s great for all kinds of travel and street photography applications.

(This happens to be my camera, and I absolutely love it - Ed)

Sony a7 MKII

From £900, Shop Sony 

The content creators’ favourite, Sony’s α7 comes in a confusingly large range of different versions. However, key to each is the combination of a full-frame sensor with a slim mirrorless body. Resulting in cameras that match the specifications of models two or three times the size, most have capabilities that could be accurately described as ‘fully-pro’. Also offering matching quality video capture, they’re an ideal choice for anyone looking to shoot both stills and video. Not cheap, but cheap for what they let you achieve, they’re a common sight on professional shoots. 

The camera’s processor, which allows for great autofocus and continuous tracking, is also of above-average intelligence. The same goes for the images the camera spits out, which are generally pretty stellar, even when snatched in difficult situations like when shooting with limited light. Composing them is also easy, thanks to a viewfinder that accurately displays depth of field in realtime. With several full HD video recording formats, plus sockets for an external microphone along with a headphone for live monitoring, the Sony α7 is an equally good choice if you never want to shoot a single still image and instead concentrate on making movies.

Also available in higher-spec versions, this cheaper model still has most of the range’s key features, plus it’s probably as much as most of us would dare spend on a camera that’s destined to get thrown over your shoulder while riding. Bundled with a 28-70mm zoom, it’s worth noting that while the camera’s body is a slim 55mm, this shrinkage doesn’t extend to the system’s lenses which are on the larger side.

Sony RX100 VII

£1,049, Shop Sony 

If you don’t fancy the cost or size involved in lugging around Sony’s uber-popular A7, the firm’s RX100 is a more pocket-friendly option in both respects. A favourite with bloggers, it’s got plenty of video and stills capability, along with an input port for an external mic. Equipped with a Zeiss lens, its 24-200mm equivalent range will suit a broad range of applications. A respectable if not world-beating 2.8f at its widest, this will soon narrow as you zoom in.

Leaving it marginally less bright than some competitors, the size of its 20-megapixel CMOS image sensor also means the RX100 isn’t the best option in low light situations. Still, for what you get in a tiny camera, it’s all pretty good. The AF tracking is exemplary, while it will rattle off as many as 20-frames per second, perfect for shooting fast-moving riders. Video is similarly capable, with standard slow-mo capture at 1080p/120 fps, plus the option to shoot in four-second bursts at 1080p/240 fps.

Battery life is relatively robust, with Sony claiming you should be able to get around 280 snaps or capture 40 minutes of footage before needing to change power packs. Light at about 300g and compact at 102 x 58 x 43 mm, it’s not any more or less robust or weather-sealed than equivalent cameras, which may influence how you want to carry it with you on the bike.

Canon PowerShot G5

£899, Shop Canon

The pocket-size Canon PowerShot G5 is a consumer-friendly compact camera that majors on image quality and video features. With a fast f1.8-2.8 lens providing the equivalent of a 24-100mm zoom range you’ll be able to snap action both close up and at a distance. Working well in low light while also being wide enough to create a lovely depth of field even at the far end of its zoom range, it’s easily nice enough to pass muster with photography geeks. Offering an enhanced degree of in-camera control without being as baffling as a full-pro model, the PowerShot G5 leaves you the choice between taking charge of the camera’s operation or letting it get on with doing most of the thinking for you.

Weighing 490-grams, the PowerShot G5 contains a modern 20-megapixel CMOS sensor, leaving it capable of shooting continuously at extremely high speed while maintaining its auto-focus function. The PowerShot G5 can also capture video in 4K at 30fps, with full HD available at lower resolutions. On the back of the camera is a large adjustable screen, which can be flipped to let the camera’s user frame themselves within the shot; an ideal feature for bloggers.

For those looking for greater accuracy in composing their images, particularly in bright conditions, there’s also a pop-up OLED electronic viewfinder. In common with an increasing range of mid-level cameras, the PowerShot G5 also has WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity, so you can quickly upload your photos from the side of the road using your phone. Generally quite tough, it’s nevertheless not entirely weather-resistant, so will need to be squirrelled away if the weather turns sour or you intend on kicking up a lot of mud or dust.

Leica Q2

£4,500, Shop Leica

Most photographers feel the same about Leica as Janis Joplin felt about Mercedes-Benz. Notorious for possessing unbeatable optics, indefatigably robustness, and eye-watering pricetags, the qualities that make them so perfect for street photography also suit them to use on the bike. With a fixed lens and medium-sized body, it’s almost possible to mistake the Leica Q2 for something less exotic. Something many famous street photographers have used to their advantage. However, dive into the specs and you’ll soon see what’s so special.

First, you get a supremely nice 28 mm f1.7 prime lens, behind which lurks a 47-megapixel full-frame sensor. All housed in a cycling-friendly IP52 water and dust resistant housing, the camera’s traditional tactile adjustment will be familiar to experienced photographers, while its medium weight of 734-grams isn’t excessive on either your back or arms. Now also capturing 4K video at 30 or 24 frames per second, along with full-HD at up to 120 frames, it will even let you control recording with almost the same degree of adjustment as it does still images.

Despite its price and myriad abilities, the Q2 remains quite user-friendly, especially if you leave it in full auto mode. Maybe not everyone’s first thought when they imagine a sports camera, the Q2 still has a super quick autofocus lock, along with a bright high-resolution OLED viewfinder. Also able to shoot in low light thanks to its fast lens and excellent image stabilisation, it’s a boutique, but functional choice for the discerning cycling photographer.

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