Tips on Scuba Diving with the GoPro HERO3

         

Besides boating, kayaking, skiing, surfing and skydiving, the GoPro HERO3 is also popular for capturing footage while scuba diving. This tiny camera has revolutionized the way people shoot video when participating in action sports. It's so popular, that some ski resorts have public editing stations, which allow guests to download and edit their footage before heading home. Likewise, it's now impossible to go on a dive boat anywhere in the world without seeing the GoPro being strapped to divers, along with their fins and tanks.

Editor's Note: This is a guest blog post by Larry Cohen

Part of the appeal is the camera's simplicity. It's the ultimate point-and-shoot camcorder; however, it doesn't come with an LCD screen or a viewfinder. It does include an underwater housing that's rated to 200', and it has a lens with a 170º angle-of-view. The idea is to just wear the camera and capture everything in its path.

Unfortunately, swimming along a reef with a GoPro attached to one's head tends to produce jerky, uneven footage. Plus, we often get the displeasure of seeing muted blue or green footage, instead of the true vibrant colors of the underwater world. However, by adding a few accessories and learning some simple techniques, the GoPro can capture video that will show our non-diving friends why we go underwater.

With any imaging device, seeing what you are capturing will improve the quality of the footage. So adding the GoPro LCD Touch BacPac is a must. The BacPac seamlessly attaches to the GoPro HERO3, enabling you to see what you're shooting, as well as allowing you to watch the playback of footage and still photos. Adding the BacPac makes the GoPro a little larger, so it includes a standard "backdoor" that attaches to the rear of the housing, so that the camera will still fit. When not being used in the water, you can add the included "touch backdoor" or the "skeleton backdoor," both of which allow you to utilize the touch screen on the GoPro.

Now that we can see what we're doing, we need a tray or a handle so that we can hold the tiny camcorder steady. A company called Beneath the Surface manufacturers a number of trays, handles, arms, poles and mounts for the GoPro. If you're not adding lights, the Beneath the Surface Multigrip is a convenient way to hold and shoot with the GoPro HERO3. The camera mounts directly on top of this Delrin handle, and a wrist lanyard is included so that you do not lose your gear.

The deeper we go underwater, the more we lose the warm colors of the spectrum. The easiest way to bring them back is to shoot with a color-correction filter. Polar Pro makes a number of correction filters for the GoPro. These filters snap right on to the GoPro’s lens port. For the GoPro HERO3, you could get a Polar Pro red filter to correct blue water, or a Polar Pro magenta filter to correct green water. These filters will balance the green or blue cast, so that the images and footage will have a more natural look. These filters are effective down to about 70’.

Using underwater video lights will give you better color when diving deeper than 70’. Lights will improve your footage even when you're diving in shallow water. Thanks to advancements in LED technology, we now have small, powerful lights with wide beam angles. This is exactly what we need when shooting video. There are a number of companies that manufacture lights that are appropriate for use with the GoPro, such as Fantasea Line, Nocturnal Lights, Beneath the Surface, Bigblue, and Ikelite. We recently worked underwater with the Nocturnal Lights M700I and the Fantasea Line BlueRay Radiant.

The Nocturnal Lights M700I produces 700 lumens of light at full power, and has an 80º beam angle. At the low setting, the light is reduced by 40%, which increases the burn time. This is bright enough to enhance the GoPro footage. The 80º beam angle is just wide enough to work with. Since the GoPro lens has an angle of view of 170º, it's hard to cover the full area even with two lights. But with careful light positioning, it can be done. Overall, we liked the compact size and long burn time of this light.

The Fantasea Line BlueRay Radiant is a little larger; however, it produces 1500 lumens and has a 110º beam angle. This light has three power settings. It can be extremely bright, which makes it possible to capture footage inside shipwrecks. The 110º beam angle allowed us to cover the wide angle of the GoPro easily with two lights. The light is soft, but I would still like to try adding a diffuser. This should make the transition between available light and the LED a bit smoother.

The Fantasea Line BlueRay Radiant only has a 50-minute burn time at full power. The GoPro’s battery life is also limited. Many people start recording when they enter the water, and stop recording when they exit (or when the battery dies). A better method is to capture short clips, rather than just letting the GoPro run. This way you conserve battery life, so that you still have power for the interesting parts of the dive. This also makes editing a lot easier.

The Beneath the Surface CL-01 LED is the ultimate underwater video light. It provides a very bright 3200 lumens. It's small enough to use with the GoPro, since it is 2.6 x 6.2”, and weighs 22 oz. with the battery. (The GoPro's dimensions are 2.3 x 1.5 x 0.8") The beam angle is 120º, and the burn time is 90 minutes at full power. You can control the power by setting how many lumens you want, or by using a percentage. You can also adjust the color temperature from 3500K to 8000K.

A tray with arms is required to hold the lights. Beneath the Surface makes a number of GoPro tray systems that include arms for different video lights. Their single-light systems are designed with a handle under the tray. As I mentioned earlier, because of the GoPro’s wide angle-of-view, using two lights is a better bet. However, Beneath the Surface's single trays are configured so the light goes over the top of the GoPro. With this configuration, the action cam and light could be used in very tight crevices.

We used the Beneath the Surface Dual GoPro Tray and Flex Arm system for YS Mount Lights. The dual handles allowed for better handling. It was easy to keep the camera steady. The 12” flex arms are long enough to position the lights off to the side. The camera adapter on the tray allowed us to snap the GoPro on and off quickly. This tray/arm package really tied the GoPro and lights together into a single easy-to-handle unit.

Our first experience with this equipment was diving in North Carolina. Large shipwrecks and dozens of sand tiger sharks were the prefect subjects. Using the GoPro was fun, and we were not disappointed in the results. When diving in the 100 to 120’ range, we found that using the filter and the lights together produced good results.

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What is the recommended resolution/frame rate for diving average 60ft with red filter in Grand Cayman with GoPro hero3 black?

It would be best to shoot at the highest possible frame rate, so 60 if shooting 1080.  Keep in mind that faster frame rates allow you to slow down the playback and that smooths out the shot, which can be especially beneficial under water.  Red filters may not work at depth, and unless the day is perfect, lights are a must at depth.

What is the advantage of the Beaneath the Surface Multigrip compared to the Handler from GoPro?

Thanks!

The Beneath the Surface Multi Grip looks to be more durable, better construction.  And, with the multi grip, you have the option of adding a Flex Arm for a light. 

Hi - I'm going diving in Chuuk Lagoon soon, and I find all the camera stuff pretty confusing.  Though I've been diving for 15+ years, this is the first trip I'm taking specifically for it, and I've wanted to go here for years.  I'm thinking of a GoPro Hero 3+ Black.  I don't wan tot break the bank, but want some good footage.  Can you please tell me if this camera is a good choice, and what the best accessories would be?  Thanks so much.

We do not have the GoPro Hero 3+ Black but we do have the GoPro HERO3+ Silver. This will also be fine for underwater. The housing included with all the GoPros are rated only to 130'.  So, if you are going to do the San Francisco Maru or any of the deeper wrecks you should get the GoPro Dive Housing for HERO3, HERO3+, and HERO4, which is rated to 197'.  Some photos will look great just letting the footage go blue. This includes the wrecks and mini tanks on the deck of the San Francisco Maru. 

But, there are many details you will want to light and some wrecks including the Fujikawa Maru are easy to penetrate and the aircraft in the holds make great subjects. So, I would get two Fantasea Line Radiant 2500 Video LED Dive Lights and the Beneath the Surface Model #4 Dual Arm Boomerang Action Camera Tray with Flex Arms for YS Type Dive Lights.

Generally speaking you want to be 2' from your subject or closer. But on the wrecks this might not always be possible. So you might want to correct color with a filter. If you get the dive housing, use Polar Pro Red Dive Filter for GoPro Dive Housing.  If you use the included housing, you would want the Polar Pro Red Dive Filter for GoPro Standard Housing.

Great info!

Hi Everyone,

I am a beginner diver, planning to go on a trip to the Red Sea in October. I dont have any experience with underwater cameras. Could you please share any insights on what type of equipment would be ideal for this trip? I am only going to do diving to 18 metres.

I was thinking to get a GoPro Hero3 or 4. I am more interested in images than videos. I read that it is recommended to use filters. What type wuld be the best for the region, and the type of diving (beginners course). I liked the Beneath the Surface Multi Grip, I think I will probably use that. Do you think I will need any lights?

GoPro cameras are very good at capturing video underwater but they do not do a very good job at shooting stills. Since you have no control over the ISO and exposure the GoPro tends to use slow shutter speeds resulting in image with motion blur.

I would suggest getting the Canon Power Shot S120 with the Canon WP-DC51 housing. The S120 is a user friendly camera. It does have advanced features you could use as you learn more about photography. The WP-DC51 housing allows access to all important camera controls.

Conditions are usually very good in the Red Sea. Lights would improve your images but will add task loading. As a new diver I would keep it simple and get the Fantasea Line RedEye Filter S Series. This filter just snaps onto the housings lens port and will correct the color in the red sea down to 60’.

If you still want to try a GoPro I would get the GoPro HERO4 Silver. This action cam has a built-in LCD display. To correct the blue color you should get the Polar Pro Red Dive Filter.  The Beneath the Surface Multi Grip is a good choice for handling the GoPro.

Great info. Thanks!

Is the Polar Pro Red Dive Filter better than the flip filter which may allow more flexibility?

Two years ago when I wrote this article the Flip filter did not exist. When working between 30 and 65' the Polar Pro Red Dive filter will give you the same results as the flip filter. It is also simple and less money. That being said the Flip filter will give you better results between 5 and 30’ as well as between 65 and 80’. Since the Flip filter includes a macro lens it is better for small subjects. 

In turks and caicos and used my hero 3 with red correction lens and everything turns out red. I was at 50 to 60 ft. Messed up a bunch of viedo of sharks and rays. Took it off and its the green no color look. Thinking of getting lights and tray to go with it. Any help please would be greatly appreciated

Normally in Turks and Caicos a red UW color correction filter should not turn your footage red at 50 to 60’ deep. When you removed the filter the footage looked green not blue? In that case there must have been a lot of rain changing the color of the water to green. Then it makes sense that the red filter did not work. You would have needed the GoPro Magenta Dive Filter for Standard Housing.

Using lights will give you a very different look than using a filter. The footage will have more contrast and better color but you have to be very close to your subject. Two feet away or closer is best. Since the GoPro has a wide-angle lens you could still capture large animals being this close.

 I would suggest getting two Fantasea Line BlueRay Radiant Underwater Video Light with Batteries.

You will also need two Fantasea Line - BlueRay YS Mount A to mount the lights onto an arm.

The Beneath the Surface Model #4 Dual Arm Boomerang Action Camera Tray with Flex Arms for YS Type Dive Lights is best for mounting the two lights to your GoPro. The boomerang shape of the tray will help keep the lights out of the frame.

i am trying to decide between GoPro 4 Silver or Black for scuba amature videos. can someone explain the difference and why i should go with one vs the other?

Hi Barbara -

Although very similar, the GoPro Hero 4 Black Edition offers more frame rate across different shooting resolutions and 4K SuperView shooting options that the Silver edition does not provide, along with higher bit rate recording: 

GoPro Camera Comparison

Please contact us via e-mail if you have additional questions:  AskBH@BandH.com

I bought a beneath the surface multigrip but don't have the attachment that connects it to my GoPro. Do you know where to get the attachment?Thank you!

Sonia

Beneath the Surface Multi Grips do include the GoPro Female Quick Release Adapter installed. All GoPros in their housings just snap onto the plate. If  you received a Multi Grip without the plate with-in the past 30 days contact our Customer Service Department to arrange an exchange at cs@bhphoto.com.

Otherwise the plate can be purchased separately:  Click Here

I plan to buy the GoPro Hero 4 Black. I want to use it for both scuba ( on the Great Barrier Reef), and for recording my band's performances. I'd like to know if there is an advantage to buying the dive housing if I don't plan to dive below 130'. If there is, I would buy the music mount package, and the separate dive housing. Also, trying to decide whether to invest in lighting. Will footage taken at GBR with natural light and filter be clear enough for later enjoyment? I don't plan to publish any of it. 

Thanks.

The housing included with the GoPro HERO4 is rated to 130’. The only reason to get the GoPro Dive Housing is if you are diving deeper. This housing is rated to 197’. If you buy the Music Edition you could save some money and buy the GoPro Standard Housing separately.

Using lights creates a very different look than using a color correction filter. The images will have more contrast if used correctly. There is more of a learning curve when using video lights and you have to be extremely close to your subject. Using a filter is easier.

Can someone tell me the preferred method to store this housing?  Closed (compressing the seal) or open (potentially attracting lint)?

If a GoPro housing is going to be stored and not used for an extended period of time, GoPro suggests storing the housing open. According to them, you should keep the housing in a plastic bag to keep the gasket clean and free from dust. It is still a good idea to check the gasket for dirt before sealing and using your GoPro in the water.

ThNks for review.  What about double " sea life" system?

SeaLife produces the entry level DC1400 and micro HD. The SeaLife micro HD is closer to the GoPro than the DC1400. This camera does not have a flash or sync cord bulkhead. So just like the GoPro you cannot use external strobes. For that reason it is better for video than stills. The camera has a 20mm, 35 mm equivalent lens. This is not as wide as the GoPro. What we do like about this camera is it is complexly sealed with 16GB of built-in memory. So in theory it is impossible to flood.  We have no field experience with any of the Sealife cameras.

Is it possible to correct the color cast by using white balance correction in video editing software rather than using a filter? Is there some reason a filter is better than just correcting the white balance?

Footage shot in the underwater environment is one of monochromatic hues rather than distinct colors. Depending on your location, objects will take on a blue or green cast at the expense of all things yellow, orange, red, etc. In order to restore color it is best to start when capturing the image. So for the best results you should use a filter. You might still need to do additional white balance correction in post production.

When we shoot available light underwater with systems more advanced than the GoPro we use a filter and still do a custom white balance. At times we still need to do more color correction in post.

I have a go pro 4 silver  with a pov light mounted below the camera.I recently used the camera in antigua either with or without the light the video looks green . with the red filter everything is red . 35-45 Feet any suggestions

thank you

In order for a video light to correct color it should produce at least 1600 lumens of light. Also the closer you are to your subject the better. No light is going to be effective past 1.5’. We found that using two Fantasea Line BlueRay Radiant Underwater Video Lights work best. To attach these lights to the GoPro the Beneath the Surface Model #4 Dual Arm Boomerang Action Camera Tray with Flex Arms for YS Type Dive Lights works best.  You will also need two Fantasea Line BlueRay YS Mount A. If you are using a red filter you have to turn off the lights and use available light. When shooting available light using a filter you should be no farther away from your subject than 6’.  At 5 to 6’ using the filer and a light at the same time might work.

In Antigua the water should have been blue and the red filter should be used with available light. But it is possible if there was a large amount of rain and if you were diving inshore that the water would turn green. In that case you need a magenta filter. The Polar Pro Magenta Glass Dive Filter for GoPro Standard Housing P1002 will fit the housing included with the GoPro Silver.

Now that the Hero4 is out - any thoughts?

I am interested in Macro footage and wondered what the best Go Pro option would be.

Thanks.

Hi Yllek -

The lens on the 3+ and  the new 4 are essentially identical and offer a fixed focus only. So you would need a macro filter to shoot close-up.  The 4 offers 4K shooting at 30 fps as compared to the 3+ which offers only 17fps.  The 4 has the viewing screen built-in.  On the 3+ the LCD BacPac is an optional accessory.

Please contact us via e-mail if you have additional questions:  AskBH@BandH.com

I'm looking into the best settings and gear to use with my GoPro while I'm snorkling this summer. This is probably one of the best articles I've read so far.  I just purchased a pelican case for my GoPro and cases from BHPhoto I love it.  Another really good article I read this morning that I book marked is at GoProTipsAndTricks.com 

Here's the article that I got a lot of info out of to. GoPro Hero 3+ Tips

Cheers 

Hi everyone, I use a stock, out-of-the-box Hero3 to shoot video when I dive in tropical waters in the Philippines.  I haven't tried any filters yet but am considering the Backscatter Flip 3.1 filters.  I have my Gopro mounted on a DIY piece of PVC pipe that is about 15-16 inches long. 

Here is a recent video I made using the free GoPro Studio software  http://youtu.be/rb8zP7MCWlY

I hope to get a tray and lighting in the near future so my videos can turn out better.

Great Tips!

If I am using a light (Underwater Kinetics "The Aqualite 90 degree beam") with my GoPro, should I also use a red filter?

Thanks

The Underwater Kinetics Aqualite L.E.D. Light that has a 90 degree beam angle produces 600 lumens at high power. This is not a very bright light. If you are less than a foot from your subject using a red filter at the same time will create footage that is too warm. But more than a foot away the Aqualite L.E.D. Light will not correct the color, if it does anything it will fill in the shadows a little bit. In this case the filter will give you the correct color.

 How is the video when it is mounted to a Scuba mask? Is it all bubbles running buy the lens?

Kain, that depends on your regs and head position at the time but it can be a common problem/interesting view.  The biggest problem is actually stability when mounted on your mask.  It will add weight to your mask, potentially pulling it away from your face but also, every movement in your head is going to be translated to a movement on your video and we all move our head more than we think.  Also, you can not accurately determine the angle the gopro is set to when you can only position by touch potentially leading to an hour long video of the blue above you and nothing below.

When you go diving you do not see bubbles in front of your eyes, so if the GoPro is mounted on the mask you will not photograph bubbles, but the footage will still not be very good.

As it says in the article:“Unfortunately, swimming along a reef with a GoPro attached to one's head tends to produce jerky, uneven footage."  This is true if the GoPro is attached to any part of a diver’s body.

To get the most of the GoPro it is best to follow the recommendations in the article.

Get the GoPro LCD Touch BacPac, and position the GoPro so you could see it. This way you are not shooting blindly. You should also use a tray or handle. This way you help you get smooth and steady footage. It also a good idea to color correct with a filter or external video lights.

By using the GoPro in this fashion you will capture footage that everyone will want to watch.

One of the best articles we have found on diving with the GoPro.  Thanks!

Hello all,

Thanks for the great insight...  i heard go pro 4 is getting released in octob14. now the black edition is only 250pounds in ebay.uk, amazon.uk, but i m thinking it may be worth waiting a while (and paying something more:) i.e. 350pounds? ) to buy something that will get me better footage. i m doing freediving 0 to 30m, waters being not allways crystal clear and thus i want the max i can get from my purchase (go pro to be mounted on back end of speargun).does anyone know how better the go pro4 will be in comparison to the go pro 3 black edition? e.g. better lenses, better performance in low light?image stabilisation, etc.?

any ideas an/or recomendations? thx

Andreas, I was in a similar situation to yourself trying to decide whether to wait or not but for your diving, I'd doubt the 4 will be any better.  GoPro improve their low light by reducing the framerate so effectively slowing the sutter speed on each frame to allow more light to enter.  This is unlikely to change and so an upgrade is only an improvement for you if you use slow replays a lot.  The upgrade is expected to be in framerates rather than resolution.  The GoPro 3+ has exceptional video already IF USED CORRECTLY.  It really requires filters and lights underwater to get the effects to see in many videos online.  Unlikely to be easy when freediving.  I would recommend getting the 3+ now whilst cheap and working on techniques and methods rather than relying on technology.  It may take two or three more versions before the clarity can be improved anymore.

Is there a limit to how many times you can take off the waterproof case?

There isn’t a limit on the amount of times one can take off the GoPro’s housing, no.

I just got the new GoPro Hero3+ Black Edition and we also purchased the Dive Housing for the Hero3 because it had better reviews. 

The problem I'm having is that the camera doesn't fit in the housing. The lens doesn't line up and the buttons are unable to be used because the housing is too big. 

Am I missing something? Or is this the wrong housing? Or what? 

The GoPro Dive Housing for HERO3 and HERO3+ (MFR # AHDEH-301) is larger than the housing that comes with the GoPro camera, but according to GoPro, both the Hero3 and the Hero3+ will fit in the housing. You could call GoPro at 1 (888) 600 4659 and they will be happy to walk you through the process.

Keep in mind that both housings have the flat port. The only difference is the stock housing is rated to 130', while the dive housing is rated to 200'. So unless you are a technical diver diving over the recreational limits, you do not need the dive housing

I am buying the GoPro Hero3+Black for underwater diving.

The Photoshop says I do not need an dive housing because the standard casing is now flat not domed.

Will I get better video with the dive casing?

Thanks

Nigel CORNFIELD

The housing that comes with the GoPro HEOR3+ has a flat port that will focus underwater, so you would not need to purchase a separate housing for diving.  You will get great video results with the GoPro underwater with the included housing.

Hi Christina

I just purcsaheda  second-hand Hero 3+ black edition, with the standard housing. Having had no experience with these cameras, how can I tell if the port is flat and not curved, ie is the difference quite obvious? I'm going snorkelling and don't want to spend NZD$120 on a dive housing if the one I have will produce sharp images in relatively shallow water. Thanks very much

The curved port was a ‘feature’ of the earliest GoPro housings.  All of the Hero3+ housings would have a flat port.  So, you don’t need to purchase a separate housing for snorkeling or diving (unless going below 131’). There won't be focus issues with the current housings provided by GoPro.

Thank you Christina

Im a new 14 year old diver. On my first real dive, in the Cayman Islands, I assumed the normal case would work. It turns out mine had tiny holes in it that I did not know about. I did not take the camera deep maybe 60 feet max. If you are going to use the normal case submerge it first to test it. I sent pictures of the wet case to Go Pro and they sent me a brand new underwater dive casing.,

I want to attach my gopro to a down rigger set up for lake michigan trolling. The speed will be around 3mph. Any suggestions?

You might check out the GoPro Suction Cup Mount.  That mount is proven at speeds in excess of 150mph, so should be more than fine to be mounted on a down rigger where the speed is roughly 3mph.

It sounds as though the 3 MPH referenced was actually in the water. I'm not completely certain I'd trust my camera to a suction cup in that situation.

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