Some years ago, Cris and I bought a GoPro camera for our holidays in Madagascar. It is a GoPro Hero+ LCD. The main reasons to buy this camera were the fact that it comes from the factory in a waterproof box. For most other cameras one needs to buy such a box separately and it could easily cost as much as the camera. The box is claimed to be water proof to a depth of 40 meters. We have taken it on many dives, usually to around 18 meters, but also to a maximum of 26 meters and it didn’t leak a drop. GoPro doesn’t make them like that anymore: their current model, HERO7, is water proof to only 10 meters. I guess they
Another important reason for us to buy this camera was that it had an LCD screen at the back. So you can actually see the picture that you are taking or movies that you are shooting. It sounds like a no-brainer but the models before and after that particular one did not include this feature. If I remember correctly, we were just in time in 2015 because GoPro was moving on to their next model without the screen. It seems that they changed their minds because the current model has a screen again.
The LCD screen has touch-screen functionality, which sounds nice but only comes in handy when you are preparing the GoPro. After all, the screen also is in the box which is closed when you are using it, definitely when you are using it for diving. GoPro made a lid for the box that preserved the touch screen functions, but it was only water proof to 3 meter. Fortunately all the functions can also be operated with the three buttons which do work under water. And if you use it often, you’ll learn the exact series of buttons to press, which can be a lot faster than the touch screen.
We have been really happy with this camera. It has served us well during dozens of dives and countless snorkeling trips. It does what it does really well and we have had no technical problems with it whatsoever.
So, what is not to like about this camera? In short: The lens. It’s angle is too wide for say half of our purposes. In GoPro’s defense: it’s meant as an action camera. This means that it is designed for you not to have to do anything once you are in action. For example, there is no need to point precisely what you want to shoot because you won’t have time for that while you are surfing, kayaking, riding your horse or whatever. They solved that by giving the camera a wide-angle view of over 100 degrees. It has a wider angle than your eyes, so if you point it vaguely in the right direction, it will capture what you want it to capture. Good for an action camera. Good to photograph a whale. Less good for small to medium sized fish, depending on how fearful they are.
For the Costa Rica trip, we hope to do a lot of snorkeling and diving again and we would like to have a narrow-angle lens for the HERO+. Down to 45 degrees (more or less the view angle of your eyes) would already be a big improvement. Today, I did some searches and there is good news and bad news.
The good news is that indeed, it is possible to acquire clip-on lenses for GoPro cameras, or to buy adapters to connect a GoPro to third party lenses.
Bad news number 1 is that there are not many producers that take into account the entire range of GoPros. Our HERO+ LCD counts as an ancient model, apparently.
Bad news number 2 is that for diving one needs to add a red filter on the lens in order to get the colors right. These filters are easily available for a GoPro, but the combination of a clip-on lens and a fitting red filter does not exist. At least, I didn’t find it.
Bad news number 3: I also didn’t find any lens solution that would be water proof to depths of 30 meters.
Bad news number 4: it’s not cheap. The camera costed 450 Euros. The clip-on lenses or converters cost about half of that, if you’re lucky. This is not a deal-braker though. I would consider paying it, if I found what we are looking for.
Too bad. We’ll just have to do with what we have.