PEOPLE WHO JUMP OUT of perfectly good aircraft, ride a fancy ironing board in undiveable seas, or throw themselves off cliffs in oversized sleeping-bags have known about the small grey box known as a GoPro for several years.
YouTube, Vimeo and all the other video-sharing websites are full of images of adrenaline junkies, thanks to this tiny 1080P video recorder.
Divers, if the GoPro touched their radar, were frustrated by the lack of viewfinder and the fact that, even though the GoPro comes in a waterproof housing, when it was submerged the image was out of focus.
Things started to change at the beginning of 2011. GoPro introduced a small LCD screen that clips to the back of the camera, and some clever boffins made a small replacement lens that allowed the camera’s autofocus to work properly under water.
Finally this small box of electronics that long-haired 20-year-olds and just about every video cameraman I know had been raving about was ready for a proper pastime – diving.
The GoPro Hero HD is tiny, smaller than most people’s fists. It comes in a surprisingly thin, clear plastic box (which is rated to 60m) and an inordinate amount of fancy packaging.
The LCD comes with several new backs for the housing, and again is over-packaged.
The replacement lens is small, plastic, easily scratched and comes in a small sealed bag – that’s it. Nothing fancy, so I did wonder what my £25 actually paid for.
To configure the camera for diving requires you to disassemble it first. For anyone not keen on pulling housings apart and unscrewing ports and fitting new bits, ask the shop to do it.
Once assembled, you have a small plastic box with a helmet attachment. GoPro sells a standard tripod-mount attachment, which I also bought. I then trawled eBay to find a handle with the standard screw in the top.
I found one eventually, but when it arrived, two days before a planned trip, I was a little disappointed with the size. It worked, but I would have preferred something chunkier.
And I noticed while researching this test that Action Cameras, from which I obtained my unit, now sells one, though £12 seems dear.
After configuring the camera to my spec, I had a small, lightweight, high-definition video camera. It’s a perfect size for travelling, and fits into a BC pocket when not in use.

Results
My GoPro has had a good workout in less-than-perfect conditions, and the results are mixed.
It performs terribly in bad light, so I don’t think it’s particularly suited to using a specialist underwater filter.
These filters remove certain wavelengths of light to create a white-balanced result, but they remove too much for the GoPro’s sensor, and the image turns mushy, dark and undetailed.
In short, it looks horrible.
In shallow, brightly lit water, the unit produces a superb image. I filmed brown trout in a local river and got terrific footage. It also performed well in the top 15m of water when the vis was good, but it’s not what I would call stunning.
Light is the key. Use the GoPro rigged with a powerful torch or HID lighting system, and you might be getting somewhere.

Workflow
Downloading the footage is very easy. Connect the camera to a computer via the supplied USB2 cable and use some video-editing software to transfer it across.
If you have simply hit the Record button and let the camera capture everything, you’ll notice that it splits the footage into three sections. Once imported the software sorts this out, and there is no break in the footage. I used iMovie for a Mac, but the files are compatible with all video-editing software.
GoPro footage is broadcast quality. You can see it on those emergency services tracking-type shows, where the camera is strapped to a motorbike or looking back on a car.
It’s far better than the quality you’ll get from a compact camera, so if you record anything fantastic, you might get it on the box!

Conclusion
If you simply want a holiday video, the GoPro will deliver excellent results in clear, sunlit water. It’s not a camera to take on a UK wreck dive or on a deep dive without an artificial light source.
However, what I like about the system is its versatility. You can configure it how you like, and add bits to use it how you like, such as GoPro’s headband, which allows you to shoot what you’re looking at, and record a dive hands-free.
It’s also easy to mount on a monopod and use as a polecam. And it can record upside-down and still produce an image the right way up. It has a function to allow it to fit, alongside another GoPro, into a special 3D housing.
Action Cameras now sells a range of accessories for divers with GoPros, including a set of LEDs, but for serious dives something beefier may be required.

COMPARABLE VIDEO CAMERAS TO CONSIDER:
Contour Roam, £239

SPECS
PRICE Camera: £265, LCD screen: £90, Underwater lens: £25, Tripod mount: £9, Handle: £12
VIDEO RESOLUTION 1928 x 1080P 30fps
DIMENSIONS 42 x 60 x 30mm
WEIGHT 167g including housing
MEDIA SD card
CONTACT www.gopro.com or www.actioncameras.co.uk
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