GoPro: Camera Accessories for Great Diving

qudos_w_flashshoe

During a week of scuba diving in Bonaire, we tested a number of accessories for GoPro camerasGoPro cameras, particularly useful for underwater exploration but also useful on the surface.

The Qudos Action Video Light

The Qudos Action video lightQudos Action video light
is a versatile and compact video light. Using three LEDs, it delivers up to 400 lm (lm stands for lumen and is, somewhat simplified, a measurement unit of the amount of emitted light from a source. More lumen means a brighter light source). The Qudos light has a metal body and is waterproof to 40 m / 130 ft.

The metal body makes the video light robust and also serves as a heat dissipation sink. The power source is a rechargeable and replaceable battery. The battery lasts more than 4 hours, depending on the light setting you use, and you can then recharge it via USB using the cable it comes with.

light gopro no filter mounted

For video recording, it should be noted that the light has so-called “constant current drive technology” that prevents video flicker. This is a great feature and something cheaper lights may not have.

Evening and Night Use

We found the light to be very useful for diving at dusk. The light has three modes “action sports”, “target spot”, and “ambient”, plus two intensity levels for each mode, for a total of six settings. This is especially valuable during the evening to adapt the light level to the surrounding conditions and the object being illuminated.

Day Use

Using the video light during the day may seem unintuitive but there are several situations when it may come in handy. It can be used to light up areas that are naturally shaded, like under an overhang or on the shadowed side of coral. It can also be used to make the beautiful colors stand out more.

light gopro in daylight

In the picture to the right, the diver shines the Qudos light on a piece of coral that he is videoing. The included mount allows the light to be tightly attached to the GoPro camera for a compact package.

Another way to use the light is to illuminate objects that your dive buddy is taking pictures of. In other words, using the light separate from the video camera. Collaborating this way may allow for lighting situations otherwise hard to create when the camera and light are mounted next to each other.

light on with other divers camera

The right part of this picture is lit up by the Qudos light by a diver from above, at the same time as another diver takes the picture from the side. It demonstrates how you can avoid light backscattering from particles in the water. You can obtain a much clearer picture than if you used the built-in camera flash. The image intentionally shows both how the Qudos light helps (right side of the image) and how the image would be without the light shining on the Christmas tree worm (left side of the image).

Another example of this collaboration is to point out objects that otherwise would be hard to see, even in regular light, for example, as a backlight for this tiny comb jellyfish.

light on jellyfish

The Qudos light package includes a DSLR flash shoe mount adapter, which enables the use of the Qudos light as a regular video light for a DSLR camera. The adapter attaches to the Qudos light, and the light is then mounted in the camera’s flash shoe.

The flash shoe mount adapter also serves as a useful extra tripod thread adapter for affixing your GoPro camera on a tripod mount. We used it to mount the light onto a Gorilla Podgorilla pod. The combination is a portable light useful for many situations, including doing mechanical work at home.

Qudos Gorilla Pod

As a final note, it is a strong light so don’t look straight into the light beam. Remember this when you point it at others as well – humans or other animals.

SP POV Pole 36″

A convenient way to get some distance between you and the object you are photographing is to use a camera pole. We tested the SP POV Pole 36″SP POV Pole 36 both underwater and on the surface with great results. Using the camera pole takes a bit of practice to avoid shaky footage, but it is easy to learn after a couple of videos. The pole is 11.25 in / 28.5 cm in its compact mode, and 36 in / 92.5 cm fully extended. It comes with a wrist strap and has a GoPro mount at the end so you can directly attach the GoPro camera.

divers selfie

To change the length of the pole, you twist the handle on the pole to release the locking mechanism. Extend it to the length you want and then twist in the opposite direction to lock the pole at that length. It’s very easy to use and quickly change the length for different situations.

It’s important to clean the pole thoroughly in fresh water after diving. Some people have reported problems with jamming the twist mechanism. This is likely from salt and other residue being left inside the pole. To clean the pole, immerse the whole pole in a rinsing tub (or sink) filled with fresh water from a tap, unlock the mechanism, fully press the pole in and extend out several times to flush water through.

Remember to be respectful to wildlife when using camera poles. Coming too close may be perceived as a threat.

Red Filter

Polar Pro red filter

When recording video or taking photos underwater the camera’s white-balancing mechanism may be confused. Some camera vendors provide a special underwater setting with color correction in the camera software, and others opt for external color filters. GoPro cameras support external color filters.

The red filter from Polar ProPolar Pro red filter turned out to be very valuable for scuba diving. The filter is stated to be effective between 5-25 m / 15-80 ft.

The following video snapshots show the difference between using a filter and no filter at an approximate depth of 5 m / 15 ft.

filter image sequence

As shown in the upper frame, the image is dominated by a blue/cyan color tone. In the middle frame, the red filter is being mounted over the lens, and it’s possible to see both the cyan (uncorrected) color and the color through the filter. In the final frame, the red filter is fully mounted and balances the colors.

The filter design we tested is a snap-on style, where the filter frame “hugs” the underwater housing lens (as shown in the middle frame). Simply pull to remove the filter. The filter package includes a small rope to secure the filter to your camera so you don’t accidentally drop it. We tied rope to the filter and placed the loop between the GoPro mounting prongs, which worked well for us.

If you are scuba diving on coral reefs it is definitely worthwhile to invest in a red color filter to get better colors in your footage. We tested the Polar Pro red filterPolar Pro red filter, which is a great value for the price option, but GoPro also makes their own red filterGoPro red filter. For diving in green-tinted water there is a magenta filter that may work better. In that case, check out the Polar Pro magenta filterPolar pro magenta filter and/or the GoPro magenta filterGoPro magenta filter.

Memory Card

When you purchase a GoPro cameraGoPro camera, it doesn’t come with a memory card. If you already have a MicroSD card you can use it to take photos, but it may not be able to store data at a high enough speed for the highest video settings on your camera.

There are many different MicroSD cards on the market, and when you buy a memory card it’s important to buy one that can handle the data rates from your GoPro camera model. The camera creates video data at a certain speed, also known as bit rate, and it will vary with the frame rate and resolution you are recording at, which is up to 60 Mb/s for Hero4 Black, up to 45 Mb/s for Hero4 Silver, up to 25 Mb/s for Hero3+ Silver, and up to 15 Mb/s for Hero3 White. To see more models and their bit rates, read GoPro’s comparison here.

Samsung 32GB Pro

GoPro recommends MicroSD cards of Class 10 or UHS-1 for most camera models. We tested the GoPro HERO3+ Silver EditionGoPro HERO3+ Silver with a 32GB Pro MicroSD card from SamsungSamsung 32GB Pro MicroSD card (classed UHS-1) and it worked great in our tests. This memory card also comes with a SD adapter so you can use it in another digital camera or to quickly transfer your videos to a computer like a MacBook Pro with a built-in SD card reader.

Many models of MicroSD cards are reported to work well with the different GoPro cameras. See this list for a reference. To learn about what the different memory card speed classes mean, visit the SD Association website.