The GoPro Hero HD camera is a popular video camera in the extreme sports world, and increasingly in the diving community as well. Relatively low prices and fairly versatile, it is carving its own niche into the underwater videography market. A few weeks back, the Director at Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre was kind enough to lend the dive team his personal GoPro. After some extensive testing, these were my findings:
- The GoPro HD is fairly user friendly and relatively easy to operate. It's not intuitive though, as you have two buttons to interact with the entire menu of options and has no screen, just an LCD readout. After a few goes though, it becomes easier and the process less of a mystery. Read the manual for best performance.
Video Quality: 3/5
- We filmed at 720p with 30fps, which was great on the surface and in the shallows, but really let us down at depth. Part of this was the fisheye lens on the housing, the other was the lack of lighting. I suspect in tropical waters it performs much better, but when up against the emerald green and darker waters of the Pacific northwest, the pictures weren't focused as well as they could be. I understand there is an aftermarket lens replacement that is flat that solves a lot of these issues, but we didn't have access to it.
Technical Bits: 4/5
- The battery life on this camera was good, but the indicator frequently gave false readings of full. We decided to skip future issues by charging it for a few hours before each dive. Aside from that, a 16GB card is your best bet, since the files are on average 1.5GB or more for a 40 minute dive. The housing was superb, easily standing up to the depths we took it to. The head band mount was decent, but it needs to be on tight, otherwise it will slip right off and you may not notice until it's too late!
Over all: 67% Satisfactory
- This camera definitely has some excellent potential for diving, unfortunately, the lack of external lights or an IR floodlight/low light mode and the fisheye lens are holding it back. I would buy one, but being aware of its limitations, I would reserve it for use in tropical water or near ideal conditions in colder water.