GoPro and other sports cams

I’m curious about GoPro and related cameras (I assume there are other manufacturers).

Specifically, I’m wondering:

  1. if the waterproof models float without some sort of tethered float?
  2. What mounting options have kayakers found most useful?
  3. How easy are they to activate? Do you pretty much have to be holding them in front of you, or would it still be easy to operate if helmet- or hull-mount, for instance (I don’t suppose any have some sort of voice-activation)?
  4. What is typical battery life?
  5. How many minutes of video can you get on a full charge (and would memory capacity or battery life be the limiting factor)?
  6. Can you use one to take good quality still pictures?
  7. Do any have optical zoom?

Thanks for any input

I have the GoPro Hero 7 Black, so my comment will be specifically regarding that camera. The guy I bought my kayak from threw it in with the sale (as well as a bunch of other stuff).

  1. The GoPro cameras, even the waterproof ones, don’t float. Some models have a floating housing cover you can get that can be put on them. I don’t have one, so I don’t know how well they work. Make sure you tether your camera to something that won’t sink in the water either way. I use some string from the inside of paracord through the hinge on the camera housing with a small carabiner to clip on to whatever I can that’s close, usually the strap to the helmet or chest mount. Rule of thumb, always tether anything you don’t want to lose in the water.

  2. I have a chest mount and a helmet mount. Depending on where I’m paddling will depend on which one I will use (I use the chest mount when I’m not in a place where I need to wear a helmet). I have looked into mounting the camera to the kayak itself, but I don’t want to drill holes in my boat for a base. I’m thinking about a sticky mount and a pole, I might look into it more in the spring).

  3. Newer GoPro cameras (Hero 7 and newer) have voice activated controls for power on/off, video, and photo captures. You can also run the camera with a phone app via Bluetooth. I don’t know about the older models of cameras and their compatibility, or what features other types of cameras have.

  4. Battery life sucks to begin with, and will be even worse the more features you use (image stabilization, phone controls, voice activation, higher resolution, etc.) If you use it a lot, you might get an hour or hour and a half before you have to swap batteries. If you get a camera, invest in spare batteries and a waterproof case for them. Also, make sure you are either in a calm spot or on shore (preferred) to swap them so you don’t drop anything in the water or get the batteries/camera internals wet.

  5. Most cameras these days take removable micro SD cards, so memory isn’t an issue. Battery life will be your biggest concern with how much video you can take. Again, invest in spare batteries.

  6. My Hero 7 takes decent pictures when the lense isn’t covered in salt or has water droplets on it.

  7. Mine doesn’t have an optical zoom for video. I haven’t explored the photo features much, so I really don’t know. Other cameras might or might not. You will have to look deeper into any cameras you are considering to find the specs and features of them.

I hope this helps a bit. I know the GP Hero 7 is a little outdated at this point, but there are some really good deals on them, much cheaper than the latest models, and still has a lot of comparable features as the newer models on the market.

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Thanks for the Go Pro 7 review I am looking them, seem to be a good bang for the buck. I know some folks use a suction cup to mount to their kayak.

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I have a suction base, but it doesn’t stick to my Wilderness Systems Tsunami, otherwise I’d use that. The surface of the kayak is too rough. It would stick to a smoother surface though.

I have the GoPro Hero 5 Black. It is an older model now but I like it.
I keep it in a Supersuit housing all the time to protect it. it is rated waterproof to 33’ without it. I cannot use the touch screen while it is in there but I can control it with my phone.

It does not have zoom.

It has voice commands but you cannot power on the camera that way. If it is mounted out of reach it needs to be on (goes into standby mode if not recording). If you use voice command to stop recording that command will be heard at the end of every clip.

Manual power is a one button push.

I have two adhesive mounts on my kayak. One near the bow and the other in front of the cockpit. I attach a lanyard to camera and connect it to the deck rigging with a carabiner in case the adhesive lets go.

The batteries last quite a while if not filming the entire time. I carry two, a double charger and a battery bank (all in a small Pelican case) in case I need to recharge. Also what features are active will alter battery life.

How much video you get is dependant on memory card size and battery life but also what quality video you are filming. The better the quality, the bigger the file.

A pet peeve of mine is if the camera gets splashed or dunked a water drop sometimes centers itself on the lens which blurs out the image. This becomes a problem if mounted out of reach. I would guess this is a common issue for all cameras near water.

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If you leave it on the drawer at home like Qruiser …it doesn’t take very good pictures.

If you put it on a helment mount and look around a lot it will make the viewer of your video sea sick.

A chest mount gets a lot of arm movement in the video.

Likewise, I have the Hero 5 Black. Although waterproof, It needs to be in a housing cage because, unlike the newer models, it doesn’t have the integrated mount fingers on the bottom of the camera.

My current GoPro 5 is my 2nd. The first was sacrificed to Neptune on a surf session. I was using a plastic quick release base and did not know to tether the GoPro to the perimeter line. On shore after the surf session, I noticed that the camera was gone. The plastic base was snapped apart by a breaker. Now I use metal quick release mounts that are then screwed into square pieces cut out from a .5" thick old plastic cutting board. I have holes on each corner of the squares where I run paracord that are tied tightly to perimeter lines and/or plastic fixtures that hold the permimeter line. The camera stays pretty solid/stable in normal paddling. It’ll get shaken up in the break zone, but I have lost the second camera yet.

The Hero 5 has voice activated commands. The problem I have with using that is that I cannot tell if the camera registered my command over the high decibel noise of the surf zone. So, getting shots or video can be hit or miss. And battery drains faster because the camera can be shooting when I thought I had shut it off with voice command. What I use now is an aftermarket remote which has not only mode and command buttons but an LED screen that shows what mode the camera is in and whether it is in recording or not. This really helps to extend the battery overall.

You can get GoPro knockoffs for a 1/3 of the price with pretty good features. Their shortfall is that these rely on a plastic (GoPro compatible mounting) cases for waterproofing. While effective, it cuts of the ambient sounds and noices. For the ones, that have “voice activation”, it only works outside of the case that inhibits sound recording.

The plus side is that these cameras often come with a remote. The downside is that remote is not waterproof. But, you can get a dry pouch size for electronic key fobs that work with the remote.

sing

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Paddling.com published an article awhile back titled, “The Joy of Paddling with a Voice-Controlled Camera” which focuses on using a GoPro Hero 8. Search for it from the home page, not, from within the Message Boards.
I bought one and have really enjoyed using it in voice activated mode with a head mount, but only for stills–often lovely stills. Following the advice in the article, the battery will go about 1.5 hours while taking about 125 shots, although less when the air temperature drops below 60. Background noise can interfere with the voice commands, but the Hero 8 has a setting that triggers a strong beep when the camera takes a shot, so I know when it failed to get the message and can try again in a louder voice or when the noise has subsided. Yes, sometimes a magical moment has expired, but I get far more beautiful pictures with the Hero than I ever did with hand-held cameras.

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I started with a Hero 5 Session, simple, small and most of all reliable. Fewer bells & whistles, but It always worked as advertised. And with my first REMO worked flawlessly.

I’ve had Hero Black 5, 6 & now 8. The video time is limited by battery life. Memory cards now have way more capacity than you will use before the battery dies. I get maybe 1 hour recording, depending on temp.
The voice control works occasionally. You can expect it to fail when you get a little water in the mic, or wind, meaning all the time. I’ve commanded my camera “GoPro start recording” and it would fail but trigger two other cameras on nearby boats to start. Quite comical.

There’s a “quick capture” feature so from dead OFF you command “GoPro Capture”. The unit should power up and start recording. Then “Gopro Stop Recording” should make it stop & power down. This is designed to maximize battery life. My Hero 8 NEVER, NEVER works, and often won’t even stop. Just runs until dead.
If you don’t use the very specific brand/type memory card the camera freezes, fails, has fragmented files, etc.
I’ve tried the Smart Remote. Total piece-O-Sh.%&!

It’s pretty much all wide angle, close shooting. My 6 does have 1.5X zoom, I think. But you have to re-select it in settings every time it turns on. The 8 has NO zoom, I believe. Forget about capturing anything distant. Where it scores high is the super impressive video stabilization. Also I’ve had no problems with water. Mine have all been totally waterproof. I apply Rain-X to the lens and it reduces the water spots considerably.
One place I value it is when practicing rolls. I mount mine at the edge of the pool and record myself. It’s excellent for reviewing technique and spotting faults, lifting the head, whatever.
There are other video modes. And several still photo modes. I think the image quality is pretty good. But it’s monitor screen is tiny.
I have the custom-fitted orange foam floaty jackets. They will float the camera only, but not with mounts attached. I use them as much for impact protection and color visibility. If one falls off I have a chance to spot it and recover it. I cut a piece of foam noodle and add that to the mount and/or tether. There are many mounts available for other activities too.
The suction cup mount will stick fairly well to smooth deck. Adhesive mounting pads work well. Far forward for yourself surfing, helmet mount for others. But get close and hold steady with minimal head turning. When breaking out through surf the camera WILL slip, turn & aim away from you, requiring assistance. “Hey, could you point my bow camera up a little?” becomes a constant nuisance. Tried several mounts and haven’t solved this one. Also, it’s easy to forget if a helmet-cam is running or stopped.

I’m not really a photo/video guy. I’ve all but given up on using the damn things. Maybe just when surfing days, but often not even then. I have a buddy who’s great. He’s using other brands now. Another buddy with good video skills claims the new 9 & 10, along with the new Bluetooth remote are much better. But sorry, I’m out. Way too many problems. After 4 diff models, 2 diff remotes, I’m more & more disappointed.

Oh, then there’s the editing. I have a program with my videos. I simply hand my SD card to my buddy. He takes it and uses what few moments I capture, if any. He swaps me a blank card for the next outing.

If you’re really into it then enjoy. But overall my opinion is these things suck. Just too much trouble. I’ll do the navigation, thank you.

I have a couple of cheap “Action Cams”, they are a small fraction of the cost of a GoPro. The video quality isn’t as good, plain and simple. But they’re like 10% of the price of a real GoPro. I went with the cheap ones as a toe in the water / proof of concept thing, as I’m mainly a stills photographer. I’ve used clamp with gooseneck and head mount (straps, no helmet involved) mainly, and also a gooseneck attached with nano tape.

For my purposes, the head mount gives the best angle but is hard to use. Have to remember to look aside using eyes only without moving your head :slight_smile: On the front of the hull is second best but you have to use a remote or just turn it on when you launch and let it run.

The $70 4K camera (filming at 1080) will record for a bit over an hour and a half on a battery, the $35 1080 camera will record for hours. Both came with spare batteries.

Operating them when you can’t see the screen can be tricky. In their waterproof cases you have to press the buttons pretty firmly to register. More than once I’ve had a button press not register then been out of sync the rest of the day. In other words, since it missed me turning it on, for the rest of the day when I think I’m turning it on I’m turning it off and vice versa. Instead of my 20 minutes of cool video I have two hours of the in between.

Both can be remotely controlled by smartphone. It works well but dramatically cuts battery life. The more expensive one came with a remote with a wrist strap and that works really well.

I normally bring a DSLR and a couple of lenses kayaking, my standards for what constitutes a good quality still picture may be skewed.

This video was shot with the 4K camera (shooting at 1080) and shows a few different lighting situations. All of the kayaking videos on my channel were shot with my cheap GoPro knockoffs.

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Wide angle is the opposite of what I look for in an outdoor camera but I have to admit it would be nice to shoot while paddling, something I can’t do with an SLR.

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I have a GoPro 9 Black with the Max lens mod. It’s an awesome camera.

I usually mount it to my helmet or to a PVC mount that I made that lets the camera shoot past my right shoulder.

As others have said, they don’t float without extra flotation. Tether the camera to you or your boat.