This page provides details and pictures of my underwater
photography and video equipment configurations to date,
links to the various equipment suppliers and stores I've used,
plus any other bits and pieces I feel are relevant.
Disclaimer: The right underwater equipment to use is totally dependent
upon the type of diving you will be doing, the locations you
will be diving at, your physique and temperament. If you
choose to use any of the information presented here, then
please don't blame me if things go wrong for you.
My Equipment Philosophy
There are many schools of thought when it comes to underwater
photo and video equipment. This represents just my experiences.
And remember, just because this stuff works for me,
that doesn't mean it's appropriate for anyone else!
I already owned a Canon S40, 4 megapixel, digital camera
(purchased around 2000), when I took up diving. After seeking
plenty of advise, I eventually decided to get a Canon WP-DC300
Digital Camera Waterproof Case for this camera and use the combination
as a cheap way to see if I like being an underwater photographer.
My family gave me the waterproof housing for my 50th birthday
in July 2006. I added a 2 Gb SanDisk Extreme III Compact Flash memory card
to go with the 256, 128 and 16 Mb memory cards I already had. Plus I
purchased two NB-2LH 7.4V 1200mAh Lithium-ion battery packs.
I already had a Lowepro D-Res 120 carry bag for the camera, but also
purchased a Lowepro Nova 1 AW Photo/Video Bag so that everything
could be within the one camera bag.
David Bryant from Seapics kindly provided me with some tuition in
the use of the camera underwater.
I soon realised that my buoyancy control wasn't up to scratch and put
the camera combination away. Early in 2007 I started
the camera along on dives again.
Canon PowerShot S100
Late in 2011, I needed a new compact digital camera, mostly for above the water use.
So just after Christmas 2011, I purchased one of the new Canon PowerShot S100 digital
compact cameras. Many of you would know that the previous S90 and S95 models of this
camera have been a huge hit with underwater photographers.
The new S100 model is even better with full HD video, a wider and "zoomier"
lens (24-120 mm, 5x), a 12.1 MP CMOS sensor, plus a six times faster processor and GPS built-in.
I'm now looking to get the gear to be able to use the Canon S100 underwater.
I'm looking at a Fisheye FIX S100 underwater housing with Inon Z-240 strobes and Ultralight arms.
Video Dive Log
After a trying to get my dive log up-to-date after the Galapagos Islands
live aboard trip in August 2011, I realised my memory wasn't as good as it
used to be. All of those similarly spectacular dives had started to blend
together and I couldn't recall some of the details anymore.
It was time for a memory aid. I'd been reading and seeing the great results
people were getting with the latest generation of cheap and compact underwater
video cameras. And if cave divers were mounting these video cameras on their
helmets to document their dives, why couldn't I do likewise.
So in November 2011, I purchased a GoPro HD Hero2 outdoor edition video camera,
which supports full HD 1080p video, together with assorted accessories, direct from GoPro online.
I also ordered a Backscatter Custom GoPro Underwater Housing with Glass Lens and Red Filter.
The GoPro HD Hero2 comes with an underwater housing that's good to 60 metres deep,
but it has a domed port that makes stuff go a bit out of focus when used underwater.
The flat port housing fixes this.
For the helmet, I chose a Patriot3 Maritime Ops-Core Base Jump Sport Helmet.
On the new year's day holiday VSAG dive day, I finally got in for a dive with
this helmet on, but without the GoPro HD Hero2 video camera.
While the helmet didn't cause me any issues, I decided to do a few more dives
with just the helmet on and practice various mask drills before trying it
with the GoPro HD Hero2 attached. (Safety in diving!)
My goal isn't to try to create elaborate video productions with this setup,
though I see many who are doing just that with this inexpensive compact video camera.
For me it's just there to help me remember and log my dives a bit better.
Update December 2012: I finally used the helmet mounted GoPro HD Hero2
video setup on an October 2012 dive expedition to Bikini Atoll. The resulting video
footage is way better than I'd expected, and way better than some "experts"
thought would be achievable.
Xmas December 2012: Quite a few people have been asking me about getting a GoPro for diving with,
and what I'd recommend. So here is my answer for all of you:
GoPro have a newly released model on the block: GoPro Hero3 Black Edition for US$400.
That's the one you want. I wouldn't buy the Hero3 silver or white edition, or the old Hero2 that I have.
I'd wait for this one. It comes complete with: 197'/60m Waterproof Housing, Wi-Fi Remote + Key Ring,
Remote Charging Cable, Rechargeable Li-ion Battery, QR Buckle, J-Hook Buckle, 3-Way Pivot,
1 Curved Adhesive Mount, 1 Flat Adhesive Mount, Assorted Mounts and Hardware, USB Charging Cable.
The waterproof housing has a flat port for use underwater and above water.
Then I'd get these options:
- Battery BakPak for US$50. This clips onto the back of the GoPro and doubles the battery life.
You'll need this if you want to record multiple dives or very long dives without having to change the battery.
- Hero3 Rechargeable Battery for US$20. This lets you change over to a new battery
in the Battery BakPak half-way through the day so that you know youíre not going to run out of power.
- 2 x 64 GB Micro SD Memory cards at US$80 each. Get top quality,
fast Micro SD cards like the SanDisk Ultra that GoPro sell. But you can get
them cheaper online from other sources.
- Hero3 Caps and Doors for US$13. You'll want the lens cap to protect the big flat port
on the housing from being scratched when out of the water and not in use.
For direct from the GoPro video playback, get these options:
- LCD Touch BakPak for US$80. This clips to the back of the GoPro Hero3 and lets
you play video on its small screen. This can also be used underwater to see what you're
shooting, but at the expense of having the Battery BakPak. You can only use one BakPak at a time.
- Hero3 HDMI Cable for US$30. This lets you connect your GoPro directly to a
modern HDMI input TV, AV system or projector for video playback.
- Hero3 ComboCable for US$40. This lets you connect your GoPro
to an analogue input TV, AV system or projector.
Comments: When I've tried to use my LCD BakPak on my GoPro Hero2,
it only lets me access the first video, and not skip to other videos.
And as I use my GoPro helmet mounted, the seeing what you shoot mode
is irrelevant to me. So I'm not finding this LCD BakPak option very useful.
But the LCD Touch BakPak might not have these issues. I haven't actually
tried hooking my GoPro Hero2 directly to a TV, so I donít know if the
same issues occur with that option, and again it might not be an issue
with the Hero3.
You'll need to be able to charge multiple devices via a USB power connector.
On dive trips and back at home I use a Kensington 4Port USB Charger Ė see http://www.kensington.com/kensington/en/au/p/1416/38035/4port-usb-charger-for-mobile-devices.aspx.
I recommend you have something similar.
I'm using a high-end helmet option, but it's a tried and proven working solution.
It's a Patriot3 Maritime Ops-Core Base Jump Sport Helmet that I purchased direct
from the manufacturer in the USA. See http://www.p3maritime.com/helmets/ops-core-jump-helmet-sport-helmet.html.
As I recall, it cost me about $250 landed in Australia. For this setup, you'll
also need the GoPro Helmet Front Mount for US$13. This helmet has side
rails which will enable me to easily add video and/or diving lights to the
setup at a later time.
I think most of the caving diving community use various models of kyaking helmets. They then
work out attachment methods for cameras and lights, often devising their own mounts.
The helmet I purchased has a mounting block for the GoPro built-in, ready to go.
GoPro now also have a Vented Helmet Strap for US$15 that could be
used with some other cheaper helmet options. But beware of getting a helmet
with bad buoyancy characteristics.
I've seen people dive using the GoPro Head Strap Mount for US$15.
But they seem to have problems with it, especially when wearing a hood.
As I mostly dive with a hood on, I passed of trying this even though I have
a head strap mount.
Other Mounting Options
Many people are creating a traditional video camera rig for their GoPro.
Just pick your base, arm(s) and light(s). On the BackScatter web site,
you can see examples of such setups Ė http://www.backscatter.com/underwater/video/package%20deals.lasso.
I've also seen glove and Goodman handle type options for handholding the GoPro.
Lots of photographers just mount their GoPro on the top of their still
camera housing and have both options available and easily at hand on the dive.
You might want to consider getting a red filter for the GoPro Hero3 in due course.
The one I got for my Hero2 setup was a Magic Filer from BackScatter for their
Custom GoPro Underwater Housing with Glass Lens and Removable Filter Mount Ė
But that's not what you'll want because it's not for the GoPro Hero3 Waterproof Housing.
BackScatter do a Backscatter Flip Magic Filter for the GoPro Dive Housing for the
Hero1 and Hero2 cameras, but thatís also not compatible with the Hero3
Waterproof Housing either. No doubt they'll have one soon for the GoPro Hero3
Waterproof Housing and it will be the one to get.
Protection / Travel
You're probably going to want to get something to keep your GoPro in and use when travelling.
I'd recommend a Pelican case of the right size, or an equivalent product.
Why so many expensive add-ons?
Yes, you could get away with a more simple setup. Most people could just buy the basic unit
and forget about the mounting options, cables and extra batteries. But my requirements are
a bit different to most people.
I'm using the unit as a memory aid to record the full dive. Plus, I don't want to stuff
around with the GoPro between dives the way most underwater photo and video people do
with their setups. During the dive I want it on my head, out of the way, where I don't have to think about it.
After each dive I don't want to spend my surface interval stuffing about with the video setup.
I want to set the GoPro up in the morning, transfer files off at night,
and recharge batteries overnight.
In technical diving mode, I typically do two long runtime dives per day.
So the extra batteries and large memory cards mean I can record the whole day of diving.
In recreational diving mode, locally I typically do two dives out on a small dive boat.
You can't really muck about changing batteries and memory cards in that environment.
So the extra battery and large memerot card is again needed.
When I'm away recreational diving on a liveaboard, or at a dive resort, I can be doing
four or five dives per day. Again, I don't want to be worrying about the GoPro between dives.
So the extra storage storage capacity and battery capacity is needed.
Having the camera helmet mounted, set and forget, suits my requirements. If I was trying to
create highlight videos then I would get enough good footage out of the editing process.
Should I decide to start trying to shoot video instead of logging a dive, I'd probably
keep the helmet GoPro in place to log the dive, but have another hand held video camera
(most likely also a GoPro) and start thinking about framing shots and only shooting what
I want to capture by using the record start and stop button.
The GoPro provides you with Full HD video. This means a lot of very large video files.
The new GoPro Hero3 Black Edition shooting at 60 frames a second has a data rate of about 45 Mbps (that's bits per second),
which gives you greater latitude for correction in the edit, but also equates to 330 MBytes a minute,
or over 19 GBytes an hour. (That's a LOT more data than on my Hero2 setup at 25 frames per second.)
So, is your computer's hard disk system, data transfer system, plus data and video processing
power going to be up to it?
For example, I have a two-year old Acer netbook that I use for dive trips.
It's got a 250 Gb hard drive that had 100 Gb not in use when I started my last dive trip. That hard drive was full
by the time I was a third of the way through the Bikini Atoll dive expedition.
I had expected this and took along an external 2.5-inch 1 GB hard drive.
But it was only a USB2 drive, which matched the USB2 ports on the netbook.
Data transfers (using either the USB2 cable, or a memory card reader) from the
GoPro's 32 GB memory card to the computer and the external hard drive were quite slow.
Actually the data transfer using the USB cable direct from the Hero2 to a USB2 port
was very slow (typically 30 minutes or more), which another guy using a Mac notebook
was finding also. Taking the memory card out of the GoPro and using my USB2 capable memory
card reader was much quicker (typically just over 10 minutes), but still not great.
Plus that netbook computer didnít have the data and graphics capability to even
playback the video from the GoPro properly, let alone try and edit it.
My partner Cheryl's one year old, mid-range laptop (the one I've been using recently at VSAG club meetings)
is okay for video playback, but again is light on for data storage capacity, and doesn't have USB3,
so video file data transfers aren't as fast as they could be. I haven't tried video editing on that system,
but I suspect it wouldn't be very good.
Things are much better at home where my main high-end computer rig supports
high-end video and large data files well, plus has USB3 ports.
You'll want to have plenty of hard disk space just for video editing.
I mean 2 to 3 Terabytes, or more.
You'll need to have an external 2 or 3 TB hard drive that connects using USB3
when away on a trip. And the laptop computer you take on the trip will need to
support USB3 as well.
You should also get a USB3 capable memory card reader. Current fast memory cards
can support data transfer rates in excess of the USB2 speed, so the USB3 reader
will help to do the data transfers much faster.
You'll probably be shooting Full HD, 1080p, 1920 x 1080 Blu-ray quality video
with the Hero3. So you'll want a Blu-ray burner in your computer to be able to
burn a disc and play it on your AV setup. Alternately, you can reduce the
video down to DVD quality, burn a DVD and play that.
So what I'm saying is that getting a GoPro and shooting video could be not
very worthwhile if your computing system(s), either on dive trips and/or back
home, arenít appropriate for the job. You need to think about that very carefully.
I hope the above information helps someone.
NOTE: If you're looking to purchase any of
the above equipment, please use the manufacturer and
purchase details I've provided, or your favourite search
engine. Alternatively, contact me at The Scuba Doctor.
Friday, 24 October 2014