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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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Resurrection this to ask if Ken if he had found workaround for the side distortion?

It's one of the main reasons why I want to move away from GoPros - I went from GP4 to GP6 then GP7, and the transition from "medium" to "linear" fov was a major letdown...

I've tried correcting things in post on FCPX but no luck...

Here's a snippet in ambient light with a UR Pro filter in Komodo - pretty characteristic: image quality is what it is, but you can see the distortion on both sides, pretty horrible - i chose this clip because camera movements + vertical structure of the reef make the side distortion quite obvious - haven't managed to correct such issues in post.
 

 

Edited by ben gazzal

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May be a dome could fix this. I think the flat port on the Gopro is causing the wide angle lens to distort. Fortunately these domes are quite affordable. Make sure you get the right one for your camera, if you are buying. In this video, there are some shots underwater, you be the judge if the footage is less distorted.

 

 

 

BAC22107-1BA5-4FB7-BC27-F36360F3BAAC.jpeg

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Thanks for the dome thoughts. haven't really thought about this much since that Nov 2019 trip. One immediate issue would be that I normally shoot with warming filters that snap on over the GoPro dive housing. Don't think that's an option with a dome.

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Thanks for the idea Thani - same issue  - I have an SRP/UR Pro CY dome shaped filter that gives results (an updated version of this https://wetpixel.com/articles/review-snake-river-prototyping-dome-for-gopro ) I'm really happy with for wb in posts, so I wouldn't want to give up on that -

while it does seem like a dome does improve this on the footage, I still see the corner blur / distortion. The GP4 in medium fov didn't have this is issue, which is really visibile on GP5 and up if panning slightly, or if you have any vertical lines in the corners.

b

Edited by ben gazzal

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8 hours ago, Ken Kurtis said:

Thanks for the dome thoughts. haven't really thought about this much since that Nov 2019 trip. One immediate issue would be that I normally shoot with warming filters that snap on over the GoPro dive housing. Don't think that's an option with a dome.

Here is a dome with a filter on/off function. please note I haven’t any of those domes before.

If you only shoot in shallows or where ambient light is strong, then a setup with ought artificial lights is going to work. But if you dive deeper, a pair of affordable lights should do the trick even without a red filter. Remember, that videography/photography is the art of capturing light :)

 https://www.amazon.com/Underwater-Switchable-Magnifier-Photography-Compatible/dp/B0882XB2Q7/ref=pd_rhf_eeolp_p_img_3?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=H5T54SMCBQBZAP89H3N6

 

B170DE9E-1613-4F63-BB55-0861F06BA022.jpeg

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4 hours ago, ben gazzal said:

Thanks for the idea Thani - same issue  - I have an SRP/UR Pro CY dome shaped filter that gives results (an updated version of this https://wetpixel.com/articles/review-snake-river-prototyping-dome-for-gopro ) I'm really happy with for wb in posts, so I wouldn't want to give up on that -

while it does seem like a dome does improve this on the footage, I still see the corner blur / distortion. The GP4 in medium fov didn't have this is issue, which is really visibile on GP5 and up if panning slightly, or if you have any vertical lines in the corners.

b

The red filter dome looks quite different than the 6” dome advertised on amazon. I couldn’t find the specifications of the Snake River dome but it looks much shallower and thus the optical performance should be different. The price of these are quite affordable and I feel they are worth the money. But you can do your own research. 

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1 hour ago, thani said:

The red filter dome looks quite different than the 6” dome advertised on amazon. I couldn’t find the specifications of the Snake River dome but it looks much shallower and thus the optical performance should be different. The price of these are quite affordable and I feel they are worth the money. But you can do your own research. 

Thanks thani - the filter is not a dome,  I just meant that I'm not willing to give up the colour balance I get with this specific filter + flat profile for the dome port - and lights would not cut it for what I do.

As a side-note, the same distortion is also visible on land on the GoPro, so I don't think a dome will help much for this issue.
Not really convinced by the dome footage, as I still see the same distortion, I think these are mostly designed for split shots rather than to reduce refraction. 

It really depends, sometimes I find the distortion isn't as distracting, on this clip for instance
 


But I'm leaning towards getting a compact to move forward and get better image quality.

Anyway, thanks again for the advice

cheers

b


 

Edited by ben gazzal

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1 hour ago, ben gazzal said:

Thanks thani - the filter is not a dome,  I just meant that I'm not willing to give up the colour balance I get with this specific filter + flat profile for the dome port - and lights would not cut it for what I do.

As a side-note, the same distortion is also visible on land on the GoPro, so I don't think a dome will help much for this issue.
Not really convinced by the dome footage, as I still see the same distortion, I think these are mostly designed for split shots rather than to reduce refraction. 

It really depends, sometimes I find the distortion isn't as distracting, on this clip for instance
 


But I'm leaning towards getting a compact to move forward and get better image quality.

Anyway, thanks again for the advice

cheers

b


 

Nice clip, thanks for sharing.

For the OP and others to benefit from this thread, here is a video that shows side by side comparison in a pool. On my big TV there is a noticeable improvement when using the dome.

Remember that even a good camera setup when used with wide angle lens and a flat port, will also produce similar effects your getting with the gopro flat port.

All the luck with your new compact camera setup :)

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Thanks for the tip Thani - the thing is this issue wasn't present before gopro introduced the new fields of view, with the GP5 - Never had an issue like this with the GPH4 I was using for instance

I filmed this on the GPH4S for instance,  in the "medium" fov
 


From the GPH5 onwards, GoPro changed the fovs, switching to software correction instead.
see:

https://havecamerawilltravel.com/gopro/gopro-fov-linear/
and
 


But despite the still, in real life, the distortion is higher in thecurrent linear fov than on the former medium fov...

Now back to the issue at hand, if you take this clip here, and focus on the sides of the image:

https://youtu.be/2Kf9AIFWGQ8?t=99

You'll notice the distortion increases when he's moving or panning with the camera, from around 1:38 onwards for instance -
This is very common underwater, when there's motion such as fish entering the field of view, or camera movement
I'm wondering if this is not because the GPH7's "linear mode" in-camera digital distortion correction is too slow to be applied to the image when there is too much motion on the corners, whereas forner models like the GPH4 used a sensor crop for the "medium" fov.

Maybe something like lowering the framerate to 30 fps instead of the 60 fps I'm shooting in might help speed calculations up, I'll have to give it a try

 

 

Edited by ben gazzal
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As a follow-up and caveat, I found this thread on using 6" domes for GoPros underwater, might end up causing focus issues

"Don't have any of these domes to test, but if I remember correctly, GoPros have a minimum focus distance of around 30cm. An air-filled dome underwater will create a virtual image inside the dime that is closer then the go-pro's minimum focus distance, so the image will be out of focus. The only way to correct it would be to put a diopeter on the go pro to allow it to focus closer.

Basically, these domes aren't designed for use underwater, just for split shots where you don't care if the underwater portion is in sharp focus."

On another note, here are some lens modification options for the GoPro, that I would look into if I wasn't in SE Asia at the moment
these would work in the Supersuit housing:
https://www.peauproductions.com/collections/gopro-hero-7-6-5-cameras-and-lenses

this is a little bit more experimental:
https://www.back-bone.ca/gopro-mods/

The Peau Production lenses sound like a good way to get rid of the fisheye in wide - I might give it a try.
If one was to go down that fiddly route, any idea/tips on what would work best with a camera like the GoPro?

 

Edited by ben gazzal
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