The Best Camera For Surf Photography and Video

Sam from SBS boards

What I use and the team around me uses to get our shots. what lenses we use settings and all the rest that goes with taking photos and video for surfing.

I will start by saying im no camera guru. I have grown with knowledge and equipment over the years to get the shots we get for all of our review videos and quick edits for our Instagram channel.

The Basics

if you new to this type of photography/video like most sports photography you will want a camera that can focus fast as although you will be waiting for waves or your particular rider to get up and riding once up you want to catch the action as fast as possible. Surfing is one of these passions that takes place quite far away from the shore and you can get waterproof housings that go over your camera so you can get closer to the action.the king of shots will be talking about will be from the beach where everything can be framed and you get a steady shot.

Basic Equipment list

1: Long focal lens 200/300/400/500mm

2: Vidio or Photography camera

3: Tripod (A Must)

4: Sun Cream, Hat, Windproof Shell

Tamron 150-600mm
Sony a6500 camera
Tripod
Sun Hat

1: The Lens

The Lens may or may not be the most important part of the setup and usually is more expensive than the camera. usually known and Telephoto lenses,
I currently use a Tamron 150-600mm lens this gives me the flexibility to shoot closer to the shore if necessary and also way out back on the set waves. as a basic introduction to these kinds of shots, I would start with a 300mm these can be bought from most manufacturers as a 100-300mm zoom lens this is a great starting point Some shots of the setup and zoom you can expect with this lens (insert images)

2: The Camera

iv been using the Sony a6500 for over a year now with 4k and a good HD Slomo and lightning fast focusing with native lenses this camera has served me well on 2 Team trips for shots over a year as well as multiple other shoots. the mirrorless cameras have an added bonus as they have a smaller sensor size they can also get a further reach on full frame sensor lenses such as the Tamron 150mm-600mm Amount Lens. with the smaller (Cropped Sensor) on the A6500, this lens becomes in effect a having a 225mm – 900mm lens this is huge when trying to get close to the subject. the only problem with this is that a lens that fits on one type of camera and camera that fits another means you need an adaptor to get them to work together I use the sony laea4 adaptor this allows me to use most of the functionality of the camera to its full potential but with limited effect in certain modes (i will talk more on this) the added benefits of this camera, it can take superfast consecutive images at 11Fps thats 11 photos per second continuously up to I believe 60 seconds for the surf it best to burst mode as you only usually want the more exciting bits turns, airs, carve’s etc.

Tamron 150-600mm
Sony La-ea4 Adaptor
Sony a6500 camera
 

3: Tripods (Are A Must)

When zooming in at such long distances a slight wobble in the camera or lens creates an exaggerated wobble on the camera this is amplified further when shooting in slightly windy conditions. to improve these Tripods are a must, there are two main differences in tripods video tripods usually heavier and have additions support and a bigger video head on the tripod for smoother shots, the weight although seems like a hindrance actually helps stabilise the camera shake more. the Photography tripod usually lighter and less bulky. as camera shake is less important as you are (freezing a moment) in time as opposed to (recording everything). these range in prices depending on materials and construction I would not go for anything less than £80 for a tripod although that may seem a lot to someone starting out a good tripod is a good foundation that everything is built on, for photography you can also use a monopod or even handheld but with surfing you can be waiting around a while, so i would take something to support the camera.

4: Sun Cream, Hat, Windproof Shell

its the things you can easily forget but while standing on a beach you wish you had! Sun Cream – is an obvious one you don’t want to get burnt even if it looks cloudy it’s surprising how burnt you can get. The Hat – something with a brim or peak is ideal this will help with seeing the camera screen or through the viewfinder and reduce the amount you have to squint. The Windproof – while standing still for a while you will start to feel the cold especially when the wind picks up this also doubles as a camera lens cover if you get a downpour of rain.

Alternative Recommended Camera setups

we have a mix of setups in our team canon Canon for photos and also Panasonic for another video angle
Here are the setups and prices highs and lows of each.

The Sony Setup (Video & Photo)

Tamron 150-600mm

£600-800

Sony La-ea4 Adaptor

£200-£250

Sony a6500 camera

£1000-£1300

The Sony Video set up for me is a great setup a bit of work with the adaptor focusing can be an issue at times, but if left in wide focus area has proved most successful for me. the 11fps is great for photos and the versatility of the 4k and HD-slomo is great to see the clip below for slomo.

The Good
in-body, stabilisation helps with camera/ lens shake reduction
the cropped sensor allows me a longer focal reach ideal for long-range surfing shots.
reasonably lightweight fits in my bag no problem

The Bad
Batteries – I eat through batteries like nothing else maybe its because I bought the non-sony branded batteries but one every half hour when videoing,
LCD SCREEN – hard to see in sunlight and upping the brightness just kills the battery faster, I use the digital viewfinder for the best results and battery efficiency
Adaptor – the adaptor is a plus and minus as you lose many useful functionality features from the camera such as follow focus tracking and some focusing modes.
Get Verry hot if used in direct sunlight and recording in 4k can get Verry hot. Pulling the screen away will help this a little

The Canon Setup (Photography)

Canon 100-400mm

£1200-£1400

Canon 7d MkII

£700-£800

Canon 1.4x extender

£250-£400

This has been an incredible set up for photos I can’t speak highly enough at the out of camera shots sharpness and speed of this set up, you may have to play with the manual setting to get it just right but if you are starting out sports mode is a great starting point a fast shutter speed will freeze the action and all water in its place.

The Good
Large range of great lenses
High frames per second shooting 10fps
cropped sensor for additional reach see picture
Lightweight option compared to a fixed 500mm prime lens
Versatile reach close to far-reaching with the 100-400 lens or 160-640 equivalent on this camera body

The Bad
video – No 4k but a great HD colour rendering out of the camera

 

Some shots recently taken

The Panasonic Setup (video)

Panasonic 100-400mm

£800-£1200

Panasonic GH5

£1300-£1500

Setup Designed specifically for video has in-depth feature for video greater codecs and multiple recording modes for better post-production this has been used in addition to the sony setup as an alternate angle and in addition in case one or the other cameras miss a crucial wave.

The Good
Vidio specific DSLR
Great out of camera 4k up to 60fps and HD 180fps slomo
cropped sensor for additional reach
Lightweight compact option
stabilisation combo of in body stabilisation and lens stabilisation for smoother shots.
Great Battery life
Bright screen easily visible in sunlight

The Bad
limited lenses available
difficult to auto focus in diffrent lighting conditions

 

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