Guide to GoPro Filters for Underwater Video

Using Filters for Underwater Video with the GoPro HERO5, Hero4, Hero3+ and 3
By Brent Durand

Underwater Video has been changing quickly with the Full HD recording capabilities of DSLR, mirrorless and compact cameras. 4K video is almost old news. The GoPro HERO5 is a serious player due to its small size, great video quality, features for underwater & topside use, low price point, and wide range of accessories. There is a growing number of photographers building amazing portfolios with nothing but GoPro cameras. In fact, it's the only underwater camera I used while leading our 2016 La Paz photo workshop.

There are many different filters available for the GoPro HERO5, Hero4Hero 3+ and 3 that increase the camera’s versatility, allowing for more creative shots on land and underwater. Polar Pro makes an excellent range of glass filters for the HERO5 / Hero4 / Hero 3+ that we've used for the guide below. The filters snap onto the GoPro securely and easily, and the glass makes them very scratch resistant with higher optical properties than plastic. The range of filters includes:

 

  • Red Filter:  Used in blue water

  • Magenta Filter:  Used in green water

  • Macro Filter:  Used to shoot small subjects

  • Switchblade 5 Filter:  Flip between red filter for wide-angle and macro lens for small subjects

  • Polarizing Filter:  Used topside to control reflected light

  • Neutral Density Filter:  Used topside to slow the shutter speed

NOTE: This article has been updated for the HERO5 and Super Suit.


When to Use a GoPro Filter

GoPro filters are used to bring red color back into your underwater video, making that washed out blue or green footage pop with more accurate colors. Technically, the filter reintroduces the red color spectrum back into the picture, allowing the camera to select a more accurate white balance. The alternative to filters is to use video lights, which also bring vibrant color back into the picture, however their range is only a few feet (1m). Filters and lights should not be used at the same time, as the picture will look very red!

The GoPro HERO5 is waterproof itself, however we recommend using the Super Suit Dive Housing for freediving and scuba diving. This is important because it requires a new set of filters. If you are using the HERO5 without the super suit, then filters from the Hero 4 and 3+ should fit.

Want to learn more? View all of our GoPro Tutorials and Articles.

 

Red Filter

Red filters compensate for the lack of red light in underwater scenes (since red is the first color to be lost when descending in water). This shift in available light will often confuse the camera's white balance metering, so the red filter helps deliver accurate, vibrant color in your video, as well as much-needed contrast. A red filter is designed to be used in tropical and blue water, optimized for use between 10 and 80 feet.

Best Use:  Ambient light (no video lights).  Blue water.

More Info & Purchase:

 

 

Magenta Filter

Magenta filters also compensate for the lack of red light but are optimized for green water between 10 and 80 feet. Not only do the filters bring color back into the scene, but they also help bring back the contrast needed for interesting video.

Best Use:  Ambient light (no video lights).  Green water.

More Info & Purchase: 

 

Macro Filter

Polar Pro’s macro filter provides 2.2x magnification for capturing video & photos of small subjects from a close distance. The GoPro HERO 5 has a minimum focus distance of 12 inches (you must be 12” or further from your subject for sharp images). This macro filter has a focus range of 2-18 inches, which allows you to move the camera closer to the small subject to fill the frame with more detail.

Best Use 1:  Shoot macro in combination with the Red filter (check out the Switchblade 5). No video lights are needed since the red filter brings the reds back into the scene.  Or flip up the red filter and use only the macro filter with video lights.  Or use just the red filter without the macro lens. The Switchblade is an ideal GoPro filter setup since you're prepared for anything.

Best Use 2:  With video lights, add the macro filter to capture small details – just make sure the light isn’t too strong, which will overexpose the scene.

Best Use 3:  Use it for macro shots topside!

More Info & Purchase:

 

Switchblade 5 Filter

* Highly Recommended for Underwater Video *

Polar Pro’s Switchblade filter combines their two most popular filters (red and macro) AND allows you to use them at the same time. As discussed above, red will correct the white balance of your shots while the macro filter will allow you to shoot subjects within 12 inches and help to fill the frame with the subject. With the Switchblade you can use red and macro at the same time!

Best Use 1:  Shooting macro subjects without a video light (red filter flipped down).

Best Use 2:  Shooting macro subjects with video lights (red filter flipped up).

Best Use 3:  Red filter only for wide-angle shooting without video lights.

More Info & Purchase:

 

Polarizing Filter

Polarizing filters are a must in any landscape photographer’s bag, so it’s natural that you should have one for using the HERO5 topside during dive trips. The filter reduces glare (on the water, leaves, rocks, etc) and brings a bit of saturation and contrast into bright scenes (like sky and clouds). When out on location, you can hold this filter up to your eye to preview its effect and determine whether you’ll use it.

Best Use: Topside photo and video on sunny days.

More Info & Purchase: 

 

Neutral Density Filter

Neutral density (ND) filters are meant for topside use and are critical for certain video/photo situations. ND filters block light, making slower shutter speeds possible. The GoPro HERO5 uses a fast shutter speed by default, which freezes action very well. There are times, however, when some blur creates a sense of movement and enhances the action in the frame. The ND filter can be used to achieve this. Examples include moving pavement while driving and waves splashing against rocks.

ND filters are also very useful for timelapses, where slow shutter speeds (aka “dragging the shutter”) create slight blur, resulting in a smoother timelapse. Lastly, ND filters are very popular with drone operators, since they help reduce rolling shutter wobble.

Best Use 1:  Video & photos where frames need to be blurred to show speed or the passage of time.

Best Use 2:  Smooth video, especially for GoPro timelapses or when mounted on vibrating surfaces like a drone.

 

The Polar Pro filters provide many creative options for your GoPro HERO5 (as well as the Hero4, Hero 3+ and 3) underwater as well as topside. They will make all the difference in your underwater video and open creative possibilities for many unique shots.

See product details for GoPro Filters for Underwater Video at Bluewater Photo: HERO 5, Hero4, Hero 3+.

 

 

GoPro Filters Video Demonstration

 

 

View all of our GoPro Tutorials and Articles.

 

GoPro Camera Reviews

 

GoPro Tutorials

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brent Durand is a weekend wanderer and story teller from California.
BrentDurand.com   |  Facebook  |  Instagram

Brent is a writer for the Underwater Photography Guide, an avid diver and adventure photographer, and shoots underwater any time he can get hands on a camera system. He can be reached at brent@uwphotographyguide.com.

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