The 9 Best Cameras to Make Every Ride Look Amazing

Paige Szmodis, Gabrielle Hondorp
Photo credit: Staff
Photo credit: Staff

From Bicycling

Many of us already document the stats of our cycling journeys through Strava, but sometimes you want to capture the visual experience as well. Yes, smartphone cameras can do the trick. Though if you want the highest quality image possible, it’s best to invest in a true camera. Particularly if you plan on recording videos, a good one can help to stabilize the image and show everyone just how rad your adventure was. From DSLRs to compact point-and-shoots to a good ol’ Polaroid, these highly rated cameras will help you get the most out of your ride.

Check out quick reviews below of the top five cameras, then scroll deeper for buying info and full reviews of those models plus other high-ranking options.

Types of Cameras to Consider

Several photographers have given us great advice on taking awesome riding shots. If you want great midride pics, Mae Elizabeth Gurene suggests going for a compact point-and-shoot that you can tuck into your jersey pocket or hydration pack and easily access. “Photographers have a tendency to get super wrapped up in the different lenses and other gear,” she said. “But you want a camera that makes taking photos effortless and still allows manual adjustments.”

Photographer Andy Bokanev said he prefers his ride cameras to have “an LCD screen and dedicated viewfinder,” whether on a compact point-and-shoot or a DSLR. Though you may not want to lug a DSLR with you on the bike, it will capture the best stills of other cyclists in action. It’s also worth considering a model with Wi-Fi and NFC connectivity, says pro shooter Jon Baines, “so you can take a photo, send it to your phone, edit, and have it online within moments.”

When searching for a camera compatible with your rides, also consider if its battery life will make it through a long day, if it has a rugged, weather- or waterproof build, and if its size and weight allow you to take it with you. For a truly hands-free option, just mount an action cam on your bike to easily get footage of your ride and any tricks.

Here’s our guide on camera types to help you match your photography needs to the recommended models:

Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR): From entry-level consumer to full pro options, DSLRs are large cameras that may not be fitting for rides but do provide unrivaled professional shots, especially for action and sports photography. They also have optical viewfinders to help you get better shots of fast-moving subjects and in any lighting, as well as superior battery life and general longevity.

Compact/Point-and-Shoot: If you’re looking to upgrade from a smartphone camera or searching for a more cycling-friendly alternative to a large DSLR, point-and-shoots are portable, affordable, and easy to use. Advanced compacts come at higher prices, but offer larger sensors, better zooms, and more manual controls for better image quality than a phone camera.

Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens (ILC): Smaller and more affordable than a DSLR, yet better quality than a regular compact, ILC cameras offer a great compromise on characteristics like performance, battery life, price, and size.

Action: GoPros aren’t your only option for a small, mountable action camera to capture footage from your bike or helmet. In addition to taking videos for either safety or entertainment, action cams can also be used to create stills and time lapses.

Instant: For those who prefer the immediate gratification of printing and shaking a Polaroid, instant cameras are cheap, easy to use, and fun for making more tangible memories. Add a couple of batteries, a pack of film, then just point and shoot.

How We Selected and Rated Them

We researched 10 expert sources and 14,000 consumer reviews to select the top nine cameras. To determine our Total Expert Score, we calculate the ratings from trusted publications such as Tech Radar, CNET, Digital Trends, Digital Camera World, and Digital Photography Review and convert them to a 100-point scale to make it easier for you to weigh the best options. Our Consumer Score represents the percentage of consumers who rated the product at least four out of five stars on retail sites like Amazon, Best Buy, and Adorama.

—COMPACT—

Fujifilm X100F

Total Expert Score: 88/100 | Consumer Score: 92% gave it 4 stars or more
A classy small camera best used for creative stills

Type: Compact; 24.3 MP; 8 FPS | Video: 1080p | Battery Life: 390 shots
Dimensions: 5 x 3 x 2 in. | Weight: 1 lb. | Display: 3 in.

While this may look like another retro-inspired pick, the X100F is actually a high-tech machine in a vintage package. Physically, it’s compact, easy to hold, and ideal for slipping into your jersey pocket. When it comes to your photographs, this little guy can rival the results of a DSLR. Amazon reviewers faithful to the X100 series raved that the F improved on past models, with one saying that it “shot with soul.” While this isn’t an action camera, it can take some gorgeous landscape shots when you just can’t help stopping midride.

—DSLR—

Nikon D850

Total Expert Score: 96/100 | Consumer Score: 97% gave it 4 stars or more
The best pro camera for impressive action shots, landscapes, portraits, and more

Type: DSLR; 45.7 MP; 7 FPS | Video: 4k | Battery Life: 1,840 shots
Dimensions: 5.8 x 5 in. | Weight: 2 lb. | Display: 3.2 in.

If you’re as passionate about photography as you are cycling, then the Nikon D850 may be the DSLR you need. It has stunning stats, including 45.7 MP, a battery life up to almost 2,000 shots, as well as a tilting LCD touch screen and Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity.

But what’s more impressive is simply its image quality. Tech Radar used the D850 to snap focused photos of Geraint Thomas and other speedy cyclists during the Tour of Britain. “The D850 is a brilliant DSLR, and perhaps the most well-rounded camera we’ve ever tested,” they wrote. A sports photographer on Best Buy also confirmed, “The camera is well built and has performed well in every environment so far—from dark and dusty to wet and musty.”

—ACTION CAM—

GoPro Hero 8

Total Expert Score: 90/100 | Consumer Score: 81% gave it 4 stars or more
Get footage in the riskiest, dirtiest situations

Type: Action; 12 MP; 60 FPS | Video: 4k
Dimensions: 2.6 x 2 x 1 in. | Weight: 4 oz. | Display: 2 in.

Fans of the GoPro Hero 7 will be pleasantly surprised by the updates made to the 8—the biggest one being that it no longer requires a frame to mount. Instead, the mounting fingers are built into the camera, which is great if you were someone who often forgot the frame or needed to charge while the frame was on. GoPro also did away with the removable lens cover, instead replacing it with Gorilla Glass that can handle twice the impact of the previous lens. The stabilization was already impressive on the 7, and it’s gotten even better with Hypersmooth 2.0. Plus, Hypersmooth can be used at any resolution or frame rate to help capture great slo-mo. Besides its shooting capabilities, the Hero 8 is a beast—it can survive up to 10 meters under water (that’s 33 feet) and is ruggedized to survive a fall on your toughest terrain.

—PHONE CAMERA—

iPhone 11 Pro Max

Total Expert Score: 94/100 | Consumer Score: 83% gave it 4 stars or more
Always be ready for an impromptu photo shoot

Type: Triple-camera phone; 12 MP; 1.8-2.4 FPS | Video: 4k
Dimensions: 6 x 3 x 0.3 in. | Weight: 8 oz. | Display: 6.5 in.

We’re minimalists, wanting to carry as little as possible with us on rides—that means no camera. But we also inevitably want to show off your epic rides with high-quality pics. If you’re like us and opt for using a smartphone to take midride shots, turn to the iPhone 11 Pro. Besides having among the best image quality in the phone game, it also has some unique features that make it ideally suited for taking out on a ride. Its Ultrawide setting is great for capturing landscapes without having to attempt a shaky panorama shot, and the Portrait mode will give you a photoshoot-like effect. For those of us that insist on filming from the bike, this phone features a stellar stabilization system for almost gimbal-like quality. And if you really want to up the ante for the ’gram, download the Lightroom app to edit your pics instantly.

—BEST VALUE—

Panasonic Lumix ZS100

Total Expert Score: 83/100 | Consumer Score: 76% gave it 4 stars or more
Take some awesome photos for an affordable price

Type: Compact; 20 MP; 10 FPS | Video: 4k
Dimensions: 4.5 x 2.5 x 1.7 in. | Weight: 11 oz. | Display: 3 in.


Looking for something that will give you good images for an affordable price in a compact package? Consider the Lumix. It features an impressive one-inch zoom for its compact size, however it pays with an only decent lens and long focus time. It has an autofocus feature, though it can sometimes result in a dark image, so it’s best to focus manually. The stabilization isn’t the best, but this camera will work just fine for quickly grabbing footage during pit stops. Overall, it’s a solid camera for under $400.

OTHER HIGH-RANKING OPTIONS

Nikon D500

Total Expert Score: 91/100 | Consumer Score: 96% gave it 4 stars or more
A serious yet accessible DSLR for the action photographer.

Type: DSLR; 20.9 MP; 10 FPS | Video: 4k | Battery Life: 1,240 shots
Dimensions: 5.8 x 4.6 in. | Weight: 1.7 lb. | Display: 3 in.

For professional photographers and enthusiasts, Nikon’s D500 serves those who want to capture action without the weight of a full-frame camera. Digital Camera World wrote that, compared to Nikon’s other pro-level offerings, the D500 is a “much more affordable route to high-end technology.” Users like its sturdy—but not heavy—build and quality shots, especially the 4k video at 30 FPS. One Amazon reviewer said, “The D500 is aimed at sports and wildlife photographers, and it’s impressive in that regard, but I found it equally impressive in FX-related photography like landscape and portraits.”

Sony RX100 IV

Total Expert Score: 85/100 | Consumer Score: 81% gave it 4 stars or more
Incredible video and photo quality in your palm

Type: Compact; 20.1 MP; 16 FPS | Video: 4k
Dimensions: 4 x 2.3 x 1.6 in. | Weight: 10.4 oz. | Display: 3 in.

Slim, compact, and easy to slip into the back of your jersey—that’s the Sony RX100 IV. But despite its small size, it’s capable of logging quality 4k video (though only five minutes worth). It can also record at 40x slo-mo at two- to four-second bursts. This may not seem like a lot, but just two seconds of filming will end up being 80 when stretched out. If you plan on shooting from your bike, the RX100 will keep your video clear with five-axis stabilization, as well as manual focus assist. Unfortunately, with a great new sensor and some stellar stabilization features also comes a disappointing battery life. And while it will certainly last the length of your daily ride, you may want to consider other options for a travel camera.

Ricoh GR III

Consumer Score: 74% gave it 4 stars or more
Get some rad one-handed shots without pausing your ride

Type: Compact; 24 MP; 4.0 FPS | Video: 1080p/60 | Battery Life: 200 shots
Dimensions: 4 x 2.4 x 1.3 in. | Weight: 9 oz. | Display: 3 in.

There’s compact, and then there’s the Ricoh GRIII. Fitting easily in one hand (and also into your jersey pockets), it’s a great option for a midride photoshoot without a whole lot of extra bulk. While this may not be a huge draw for your average photographer, the small size and somewhat limited usage actually lends itself to being a great riding camera. The GR III boasts a good autofocus system, as well as an impressive sensor and a seriously sharp lens. The camera can also shoot RAW images, which are widely compatible and allow for more editing possibilities in post production. While this camera physically can shoot video, you probably don’t want it to. It tops out at 1080p/60 and is best used as a point-and-shoot.

Fujifilm Instax Mini 9

Total Expert Score: 80/100 | Consumer Score: 87% gave it 4 stars or more
The best value instant camera that can snap and print photos in seconds

Type: Instant camera | Shutter Speed: 1/60 sec. | Battery Life: 100 shots
Dimensions: 116 x 118 x 68 mm | Weight: 10.8 oz. | Picture Size: 62 x 46 mm

Easy to transport, this Fujifulm Instax isn’t. But it does give you a little blast to the past when it spits out vintage-looking pictures to remember your favorite riding experiences. While it certainly lacks in the practicality department, there’s some sentimentality that comes with a Polaroid-style camera. You can get similar photographic results with the Huji app, but this uniquely captures a moment of which only one copy with remain. Also, it’s fun. While we were born long after the height of the Polaroid, we still remember taking photos and waiting for them to develop right there. Plus, this camera can churn out some decent pictures. It’s not all retro, though; you can take selfies with the help of the mirror placed next to the lens.

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