Monday, March 5, 2012

Modifying My GoPro, Adding a Flat Lens

Now having own and used the GoPro as my primary dive camera for a month, here are some of the benefits and disadvantages I’ve noticed.

Pros: - It is less bulky compared to other cameras. Great for keeping your dive profile streamline.
- Compact and lightweight makes it easy for travel.
- The fish eye lens creates an incredible field of vision.

- There is always some kind of vignetting. You can reduce it by playing with the resolution (a lot of site recommend 1080 or 720).
- The fish eye lens creates a slight distortion.
- Not as easy to switch between video and picture as a traditional camera.

It is overall a very fun camera to own and use for sports activities. It is great on land but when it comes to taking video and photos underwater, it does leave things slightly blurry. Everyone says this can be fixed with a flat lens mod and they are correct. The quality of the images and video improves DRAMATICALLY. Here are some of the flat lens mods for GoPro. They are all from third party suppliers. It is rumored GoPro is going to release their own OEM flat lens by the end of 2012 first quarter but I cannot find anything to support this at this time. I provided a brief cost analysis of buying the mod and a red lens filter for the GoPro Hero2. Also housing must cover up to 180 ft (original rating of GoPro oem housing). I am also not taking shipping into consideration.

Eye of Mine -
This is one of the most popular one that a lot of people talk about. The company is located in Signal Hill, CA. They not only sell the flat lens mod but also tons of other accessories and mounts for the GoPro. They also released decorative housing as well.
Cost: $99.00/housing or $109.00/orange filter housing (permanent built in)

Backscatter -
This is the only mod I found that uses a glass lens instead of a plastic/acrylic one. It allows for quick additional of filters by slipping it into the slot and clipping it in place with bands. It also looks to have the option of using traditional 55mm camera lens as well.
Cost: $119.00/housing + $39.00/filter = $158

Blurfix -
They offers a complete modified housing unit with a glass lens or a do it yourself kit for you to modify your own GoPro housing. Their complete housing unit uses a redundant seal system on top of the OEM seals. Since I have a relatively new housing, I am only going to look at the kit. But for your reference, the complete housing is $139. The housing unit also has a slot for you to throw in some desiccant balls to suck out the moisture.
Cost: $77.00/kit (cheaper on for under $75.00) + $77.00/filter (the ones they recommend on their site) = $154.00

Mako Speargun -
Since we are promoting frugal diving, I ended up going with Mako Speargun’s flat lens mod. Cheapest one among the ones I found including the price for the filter and shipping. Simplest of the group and I personally like how it is clear instead of black. I think it matches the housing more. Company is located in Virginia and also sells a lot of other free dive gear as well. They also carry a GoPro mount for your speargun!
Cost: $21.95/kit + $1.95/filter (or a bundle of four for $3.90) = $23.90

It took about five days for the Mako flat lens to ship from Virginia to California. Total cost for me was 28.40! See below to watch me install the lens. It was overall very easy and fast to put together. Now it is time for me to go diving with it.

Written by: Wayne Lu, Mar 5, 2012

2012-04-09: Corrections made on Blurfix product.

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