GoPro for Underwater Footage

Soft coral and diver in Papua New Guinea

GoPro for Underwater Footage

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GoPro Hero3 Black Edition with tripod attachment

Still images are delightful, but in this internet era they are not enough.  There is always a need for video footage complement. Some DSLR cameras have their own video system included. The older DSLR models (like mine) generally don’t. The GoPro is a perfect choice for any still camera:  it’s small, lightweight, and allows you to shoot video even when you are shooting stills.

I personally own the GoPro Hero 3 Black Edition, to which I have added the LCD touch BacPac, this screen is often necessary while underwater, to see what you’re shooting and better frame it. The screen helps also a lot to browse the camera settings, rather than the small LCD panel in the front of the camera body.

The new GoPro Hero3+
GoPro Hero3 size compared to GoPro Hero3+

GoPro has recently announced a new GoPro Hero3+. The good points with this new model are that it’s 20% lighter and smaller case, 30% longer battery life (very important!), Auto Low Light Mode, which adjusts frame rate setting automatically for best quality footage, Sharper lens.

The bad point  for underwater photographers, is that the new GoPro Hero3+ depth rates to 131 feet (40 Meters) instead of 197 feet (60 meters) for the previous GoPro Hero3.

The accessories I use with my GoPro
GoPro Hero3 Black Edition with 1″ ball mount to attach it to the DSLR housing

A one-inch ball mount with a standard clamp easily attaches the GoPro to my housing.  I use a tripod mount when I use the GoPro independently.  I attach it to an old Nikonos double tray (with handles) so the camera can be held in a more stable way. Many manufacturers produce this kind of tray.

I use also the red and the magenta filters for GoPro, respectively, for blue and green water shooting. They are useful in removing excess blue or green tones when filming underwater, and they restore natural colors. The filters can be snapped on/off while underwater.

The GoPro caps are very useful to protect the housing port but make sure you attach them firmly as they can fall easily.

The head strap mount is helpful in many situations, especially when shooting fast action or sports photos.  Although I haven’t yet used this equipment underwater, I’ve been happy with my results from ski shoots and kart racing.

Another great accessory to have is the Quick Pod Explorer II Extension Pole to keep the camera away from you so that you can film yourself like in the clip below.

Clip completely filmed with GoPro, by Lesley Rochat
Tips from the field
GoPro Hero3 Black Edition with tripod attachment mounted on Nikonos tray

If you shoot some footage in and out of the water, some drops will remain on the housing’s port. To avoid drops on port, the easiest and fastest trick is to lick it! Your saliva will enable the water to slip on the acrylic surface.  It works great!

If when underwater, you shoot only with the GoPro, not mounted on any other housing, you can use a tray like one the left picture, in order to have a better stability when shooting. Mine is an old Nikonos tray, but there are similar new ones on the market. You will just need the tripod mount to have the GoPro attached to the tray.

  • Capture at 4k only if you have time and a very strong computer, as the editing may be quite long. Lower resolutions are fine for most usages (1080p, 1440p…) and are much easier for post-production.
  • Some companies like Hugyfot manufacture professional housings for GoPro cameras, with external screen, complementary 4-5 hours battery and can dive much deeper, up to 100 meters/330 feet.
GoPro Hero3 Black Edition in Hugyfot housing, with Hartenberger lights – Photo: Johannes Felten
GoPro Hero3 Black Edition in Hugyfot housing, with separate screen – Photo: Johannes Felten
GoPro Hero3 Black Edition Specifications
  • Supports 4K, 2.7K, 1440p & 1080p Video
  • Capture 12, 7 or 5-Megapixel Photos
  • 12-Megapixel Low-Light Image Sensor
  • Wide Angle 6-Element Aspherical Lens
  • Camera Housing Waterproof to 197′ (60 m)
  • Built-In Wi-Fi & GoPro App Ready
  • MicroSD Card Slot & Micro HDMI Output
  • Wi-Fi Remote & Basic Mounts Included
  • Wi-Fi Remote Has 600′ Transmission Range
  • Control Up to 50 Cameras at a Time
  • Depth Rate: 197.0′ / 60.0 m (Waterproof Housing)
Conclusion

GoPro is a nice add-in to any underwater camera equipment, either if the gear includes video or not. It’s small and light to carry and it allows you to film in HR independently of your “big” photo gear. It does also great still shots if you provide the necessary lighting.

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