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Ken Kurtis

GOPRO HERO7 THOUGHTS

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(From my November Reef Seekers newsletter. Thought I'd share here for any thoughts/comments/insights.)
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GOPRO HERO 7 THOUGHTS

To steal from Charles Dickens: “It was the best of cams, it was the worst of cams.”

Just before our Maldives trip, I decided to upgrade from my GoPro Hero4 and go with the GoPro Hero7. The reason was that the 7 was supposed to have an upgraded and improved video processor plus it offered image stabilization (called Hypersmooth), which wasn’t available on the 4. The other improvement was that the 7 was watertight down to 33 feet while the 4 was not.

A week after I got the camera, GoPro came out with the Hero8 but the differences between the 7 and the 8 are very minor IMHO and many - like adding an external light, an external top-mounted monitor, and front-facing microphone - have no application underwater.

I have always used my Hero4 mounted on a tray with video lights attached at each end. The tray was actually wide enough, and had multiple drilled holes, that I was able to mount BOTH the 4 and the 7 on the tray side-by-side so I could initially do some simultaneous video tests. I was able to do this on one of our dives at the Aquarium of the Pacific in our Tropical exhibit. By shooting both cameras simultaneously, I could get a true A/B comparison.

To my eye, the 7 looked a bit better than the 4. (Everything was shot in 1080/30fps.) The colors from the 7 seemed a bit richer and more saturated (in a good way) and the overall exposure was better. On the 4, you’d lose some detail, especially in dark areas.

One thing I didn’t like abut the 7 was that you lose a field-of-view choice. On the 4, you have Wide/Medium/Narrow. On the 7, you only have Wide/Linear but they added Superview, which is even wider than Wide but adds a fisheye effect that’s very noticeable - especially if you’re panning the camera or if your subject moves off the edge of the frame - which I don’t like at all. But . . .

The 7 adds what I thought was going to be a great feature which is a zoom option in each mode. Now, you won’t have to toggle between FOVs to change your view. You can activate the zoom, slide it to whatever you want within the range, and you’re good to go. Except . . .

The only way to do this is through the touchscreen on the back of the 7. And once you put the 7 into the housing (now called the Dive Suit), guess what’s inaccessible? In fact, the biggest drawback to the 7 is that GoPro has given you a lot more control over the image you create . . . BUT . . . almost all of those controls have been moved to the touchscreen. So as soon as you put the camera into the housing, you lose all of that fabulous flexibility. Inside the housing, there’s no way to change the zoom, you can’t alter any of the video settings through ProTune, and you’re basically stuck with whatever you started with. There is a way to change the field of view, but it involves tapping both the shutter and mode buttons at the same time underwater (which is a little clunky to boot), and most of the time when I tried it, I either pushed one too hard and changed the mode to still photo, or pushed the other too hard and ended up turning the camera off.

So I ended up just setting the camera in Linear FOV (gets rid of most of the fisheye effect) and dealt with it that way. The first time or two on dives in the Maldives, I kept both the 7 and the 4 mounted on the tray and shot with both. (I had the 4 in Narrow so I had different FOVs to choose from.) But I finally decided that the images I was getting with the 7 were far superior to the 4 and ended up taking the 4 off of the tray and just used the 7.

That all being said, and I’m going to do some more fiddling with the camera outside of the housing since you can take it down to 33 feet, to see if the touchscreen will work submerged (GoPro says it won’t), I was really happy with the stuff we shot in the Maldives. We ended up creating five different videos, including one where we essentially kept the came only inches away from a turtle while he grazed around the reef, and everything looked really good.

Although I had to pre-set everything before I went under, you can do things like lock in ISO settings so the camera isn’t constantly adjusting for changing light and you can even play with video shutter speeds and white balance if you’re so inclined. But again, everything had to be done before you snap the Dive Suit shut.

I also shot everything through a red filter. I found an inexpensive filter set through a company called SandMarc and found them to be as effective as ones I’ve gotten through FlipFilter. The SandMarc ones are definitely cheaper ($30 for a set of five filters - three for day UW varying redness by depth, plus one for green water, and one for night) but since the filter holder snaps over the Dive Suit lens, make sure you  tie it down with the provided string. Also the filter slides in the top of the holder through slot but it also slides out too easily as well. So I added a small piece of duct tape over the top to make sure I didn’t lose a filter during a dive.

The other thing that’s a vast improvement over the Hero4 is that the Hero7 takes pretty good still pictures. The Hero4 takes fairly crappy UW pix because it generally gives you a very slow shutter speed so everything is blurry. Not so with the Hero7. All the still shots we did generally came out pretty good, although they pixilated a little bit if you blow them up too much or crop in too tightly.

But overall, the Hero7 is a huge step above the Hero4 and I’ll look forward to refining my technique and trying other tricks as I play with it more. If you haven’t already seen the videos we shot on this trip, go to the Reef Seekers website home page and click on the “Pix & Videos” link for the Maldives trip. Let me know what you think.
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Sample video from the Maldives trip: 

 

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Looking at this video the distortion at the edge is getting worse than the old Hero2 model I have it is really disturbing and basically means the camera can only be used steady as any pan or finning results in some really gross movement at the edges

Which parts are on the 4 and which on the 7? 

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8 hours ago, Interceptor121 said:

Which parts are on the 4 and which on the 7? 

I don't think any of this was with the 4, all 7. One work-around is to put the cam in LINEAR and zoom in before you put it in the housing. BUT . . . you have to leave the camera on because if you turn it off, it defaults back to the zoomed-out position and the distortion at the edges returns.

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