My Beginner’s Underwater Photography Kit

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Ever since I got certified for scuba diving, I wanted to get more out of it. Diving is so much fun and I wanted to share my adventures and what I see with family and friends. During one of the first dives, while getting certified, I was able to use my smartphone to capture some pictures and only after the actual dive ended as we were in a small spring.

Read more: Devil’s Den: A Prehistoric Diving Experience in Florida

It was time to look for an underwater camera. Well, an option would be to buy a housing for my Canon 5D Mk II and all the gear, but that would cost probably more than $1500 USD. What if something happens? As I am still new to the whole diving experience, I don’t want to lose my expensive camera and lens or a dive trip.

Therefore I needed a dedicated diving camera which could, of course, be also used otherwise. I decided on buying a GoPro action camera and some accessories to make it my dive cam and also use it as action cam when I am out and about. Since I haven’t got a chance to take my camera out for a test run underwater, I waited with writing this article. GoPro just announced a few days ago their new Hero 8 Black and therefore my Hero 7 Black is a little bit outdated. On the other end, I don’t want to do a technical review of the GoPro itself. It’s more a guideline what to get and how to set it up to use your GoPro underwater. After I did my first dive underwater, I can now share my experiences with you.

GoPro + Accessories

Deciding if I should by a GoPro or any other action cam was a no-brainer. GoPro just has the most accessories available for its products and there are a bunch of third-party accessories available as well.

During the time of purchase, the GoPro Hero 7 Black just came out and I wanted to go with the top of the line product. The selling feature was also Hypersmooth, which is supposed to generate shake-free videos without a gimbal or any mechanical stabilization.

The GoPro Hero 7 Black (as well as many other GoPros) is waterproof up to a depth of 33 ft or 10 m. I didn’t want to take any chances and also bought GoPro’s Super Suit for the camera. The Super Suit is an additional housing for the GoPro which adds extra protection. With the Super Suit, my Hero 7 Black becomes waterproof to a depth of 196 ft or 60 m. As my current certification allows me to dive up to a depth of 60ft or 18 m, I am well within the range of the super suit. Last but not least I also bought “The Handler” a floating hand grip for GoPros. All these items are official GoPro products and no aftermarket accessories.

GoPro Hero 7 Black

The GoPro Hero 7 Black is the camera, the heart of the whole setup. By itself, the GoPro Hero 7 Black, as well as many other GoPros, is waterproof up to a depth of 33 ft (10 m). My current certification as an Open Water Diver allows me to dive up to a depth of 60 ft (18 m). Of course not every dive will go that deep and the camera might handle the 60 ft mark as well, but I didn’t want to take any risks and therefore added a few more accessories.


Super Suit

With the Super Suit housing, I am able to extend the depth to which I can take the GoPro. By putting it in the housing and using the solid backplate my GoPro is now waterproof up to a depth of 196 ft (60 m). This is way beyond my current certified diving limits and should be sufficient for most recreational divers out there, no matter what certification you have. The Super Suit comes with two different backplates. One is solid and the other one has a cut-out to use the touch screen. I recommend you to use the solid backplate, as it gives you the most protection especially against accidental bumps of the camera against your gear or rocks. Both give you the same rating for depth. Pre-set your settings before the dive and you won’t need to use the touchscreen at all during your dive. Everything can be done via the buttons on the camera. See my setting recommendations below.

A friend of mine had a GoPro as well but didn’t use the super suit housing on a dive. Even with the dive not even being deeper than 10m, the GoPro was dead after the dive and couldn’t be revived. Besides the depth, the housing adds extra protection for the lens. If you drop the GoPro, it will only damage the housing, which is better and cheaper than damaging the camera itself.


The Handler

Now I needed a way of handling the GoPro while diving and handling all my other dive gear. That’s where “The Handler” comes into play. This is a floating hand grip and has a few advantages over holding the GoPro just by itself.

  • Better Grip and easier to aim the camera where I want it to.
  • The handler floats and if the camera slips out of your grip for any reason, it will float to the surface.
  • The orange cap at the end of the grip makes it easy to spot it in the water if you lost it.
  • Wrist strap lanyard gives extra security and that’s also how I secured the gear to myself

The wrist strap lanyard is a must-have. While entering the water and getting to the dive location, I had the camera in a pouch mounted to my BCD. Once ready to take pictures and videos, I pulled it out of the pouch and immediately secured the camera with the wrist strap lanyard around my wrist. You can also start out your dive with the camera already secured to your wrist. By using the wrist strap, you can leave the GoPro hanging off your wrist while interacting with your gear, for example checking your dive computer or gauges.


GoPro Hero 7 Black and Accessories
My Dive Camera Kit

Setting up the Gear

Before you go out on a dive, set everything up the day before. Make sure you charge your batteries. If you have spare batteries, leave them on the boat as you can’t change batteries during your dive. Before you proceed, put a fully charged battery in your GoPro as otherwise, you have to undo everything which follows.

Next is mounting your GoPro inside the Super Suit. When I did it the first time, I didn’t check the instructions and wondered why my Hero 7 Black didn’t fit all the way in and I was unable to close the back lid. I always used solid backplate for the Super Suit. There is one which has a cut out to use the touch screen, but this would mean water pressure will directly act on the screen and the screen can also get scratched if the camera dangles from your wrist and you hit a rock or a reef with it.

Here is a short video of how to remove the protective lens cover from the GoPro to be able to fully insert the camera in the protective Super Suit housing.

Once you have it mounted in your Super Suit housing, mount it on top of the Handler. Check if the wrist strap is in good condition. If you keep your GoPro on the Handler, your camera won’t fall down into the abyss of the ocean as the handler will float up to the top. There is a chance for you to follow it and grab it before it surfaces. Make sure you don’t ascent to fast as this will be bad for your health. Rather ascent slower and search for the camera later on the surface.

Conclusion

The GoPro Hero7 Black is still a great action camera, even tho the Hero8 already got released. This is actually a benefit, as you can now buy the Hero7 cheaper than ever before. Remember, the Hero8 needs a different housing.

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