If you want to shoot videos underwater or in a very rainy environment, you can’t use a regular DSLR or mirrorless camera. Even a little bit of rogue moisture can ruin a regular camera, but that’s where GoPros come in handy.
GoPros should be your camera of choice in wet conditions. But are GoPros waterproof, and how waterproof are they?
Are GoPros waterproof without a case?
All GoPros since the GoPro Hero 5 are waterproof. If you have a GoPro older than the Hero 5, you will need to buy waterproof housing for your GoPro, or else you will most definitely ruin it in if you get too much water on it.
Buying a waterproof case will make your camera a little bulkier than you may like, and it may also muffle the sound a little. But that’s just what you’ll need to put up with if you want to use the older GoPro camera underwater.
If you have a newer GoPro camera, then you have nothing to worry about: they’re all waterproof up to a particular depth rating and will work like a charm.
If you need to go deeper than what the camera can handle(such as when scuba diving), you’ll need to get waterproof housing.
How deep can a GoPro go?
Not all GoPro models have the same waterproof ratings. Here’s a quick lowdown of the waterproof ratings for various GoPro camera models.
GoPro Hero 10: rated to 10 meters/33 feet
The GoPro Hero 10 is GoPro’s flagship camera and can capture amazing video all the way down to 10 meters deep.
This is good enough for the underwater photography needs of most people. Whether you’re going wakeboarding, surfing, waterskiing, snorkeling, or even on a trial scuba dive, you’re not going to go deeper than 10 meters. Just be careful to not drop your camera when you scuba dive or snorkel!
GoPro Hero 9: 10 meters/33 feet
The GoPro Hero 9 was the gold standard for GoPros but it was recently eclipsed by the Hero 10. It’s still an excellent camera and if you don’t mind a camera that’s one generation older to save a bit of cash(GoPros aren’t cheap, after all), this is the one to choose.
Like the GoPro Hero 10, this GoPro camera is also waterproof to 10 meters/33 feet.
GoPro Hero 8: 10 meters/33 feet
The GoPro Hero 8, like the Hero 9 and Hero 10 is also waterproof to 10 meters. 10 meters seems to be the standard depth rating for most GoPro cameras.
GoPro Hero Session: 10 meters/33 feet
The Hero Session was one of GoPro’s first waterproof cameras. It had a really neat, boxy form factor and it was also an amazing camera to mount on a drone. It also meant that if you crashed your drone in water, you could recover the footage!
GoPro Max: 5 meters/16 feet
The GoPro Max is slightly different from most GoPro cameras as it’s designed to record 360 degree video. It’s still waterproof, but not as waterproof as the Hero line of GoPro cameras.
Should I buy a waterproof housing for my GoPro?
You won’t need to shell out the extra cash for waterproof housing for most uses. Every newish GoPro is an excellent waterproof camera and will get you great underwater footage…up to 33 feet/10 meters.
If you need to capture underwater scenes at greater depths for some reason, you’ll need to pick up some dive housing.
So if you’re really into scuba diving and you’re PADI certified all the way down to 50 meters deep and you want to take a GoPro with you, you’ll need GoPro’s official underwater housing that is rated to 60 meters or 196 feet.
Aside from that, you’ll need underwater housing if you have an older GoPro model that you have not managed to destroy yet during an action shot!
GoPro cameras older than the GoPro Hero 5 need protective housing if you want to take your GoPro underwater.
Cons of waterproof housing
Waterproof housing does have some disadvantages, even though it is very effective at protecting your GoPro camera from water damage up to very deep depths.
For starters, the dive housing is very bulky, so your camera’s sleek, light profile will change into a clunky device that takes up nearly 1.5 times the space!
The waterproof case also blocks out your microphone, so some sounds will not be recorded as clearly as they would otherwise.
Having no sound is not an issue for some types of footage, but if you want the GoPro to catch sounds of splashes or your conversation as your treading water, the waterproof housing will muffle the input a little.
The buttons also become a little difficult to use through the waterproof housing, and the touchscreen obviously becomes completely unusable.
Best GoPro Waterproof Cases
Finest+ Waterproof Housing Case for GoPro Hero 8 Black
The Finest+ waterproof case is a great way to protect your GoPro Hero camera. You can comfortably take it down to 60 meters so if you’re into scuba diving, this is a great case to consider. You’ll also receive a red filter with this case which you can use for underwater photography.
Hongdak Waterproof case for GoPro
Similar to the Finest+ case, the Hongdak case is also waterproof up to 60 meters. The lens cover is made with extra-strong tempered glass, adding an extra layer of protection to your camera. This case is available in 3 different sizes for the GoPro 5/6/7, GoPro 8, and GoPro 9/10.
FitStill Waterproof Case for GoPro Hero 9/10
The FitStill is another top-rated case that you can consider for your GoPro Hero 9 or 10. In addition to using the case for extra protection underwater, you can also use it as an added layer of protection for rough use. This way, when the camera is impacted, the case takes the brunt of the impact and your camera is protected.
Where can you use a waterproof GoPro camera?
Having a waterproof camera definitely has its advantages. There are so many places where you can take advantage of a waterproof camera: the obvious is scuba diving, snorkeling, fishing, or swimming.
In all of these situations, you’ll frequently be in contact with or submerged in water, and having a waterproof GoPro around will let you get angles and shots that you couldn’t possibly get with another camera.
A waterproof action camera is nearly invincible in the rain, so if you’re trying to capture great footage in a rainy environment, you don’t have to worry about an additional waterproof housing for the newer GoPro models.
Since the GoPros are rated to 33 feet/10 meters, even heavy torrential rain will not be a problem for it to handle.
Waterproof cameras are also very useful for trekking through muddy and marshy environments. In case you have to trudge through a marsh or a muddy area, you can have the camera anywhere on your person and need not worry about spoiling it.
General Tips for Using GoPro Cameras In and Around Water
Before you take your GoPro underwater, here are some essential tips to keep in mind.
First and most important, you should check your camera to make sure that your camera does not have any damage. The joints along the sides of the GoPro where the front and back pieces fit together are sealed, and so is the lens cover.
Take a quick look at the camera to make sure there are no dings, dents, or scratches that may compromise the integrity of the seal.
Water is incredibly persistent, so water may manage to seep through even if there is a really tiny scratch or crack. In this case, you’ll definitely need to pick up some protective housing before you take your GoPro in the water.
Add a Float and Strap
Regardless of whether you’re using protective housing or not, picking up a strap and a float for your GoPro (GoPro Hero, GoPro Max, whichever GoPro model you may be using) is an absolute must.
The last thing you want is for the GoPro to slip out of your hand during underwater shooting and fall deep to its watery demise!
The strap will help keep the GoPro in your hand while diving or snorkeling, and if you’re using the camera near water, use a float to make sure the camera does not get lost if you accidentally drop it!
Touchscreens, Wireless Controls & GPS don’t work underwater
Another few things you need to keep in mind when using your camera underwater is that the touchscreen, wireless connections, and GPS won’t work underwater.
So if you do take the camera below the water’s surface, or even if your hands are wet or the LCD screen is wet, it will no longer be responsive.
In that case, you’ll have to use the buttons to control everything and you need to make sure to adjust all the settings before you submerge the camera.
Use Voice Commands instead
Voice commands are a great way to interact with your GoPro when it gets wet. Obviously, this is not possible underwater, but if you’re at a beach or in a swimming pool, have wet hands, and need to start or stop recording, you can use voice commands instead of pushing buttons.
Water drops on the lens
Make sure to clean up any water drops or smudges from the lens before you place the camera into the GoPro protective housing. Once the camera is in the GoPro protective housing, any smudges will remain on the lens, meaning your precious footage will not be quite as clear as you may expect.
The same goes for water drops. If you’re using protective housing, water drops won’t wash off by themselves, and you’ll be stuck with poor video quality.
Check seals on the protective housing
If you’re using external waterproof housing on your GoPro, make sure you check the seals on the rubber seals on the housing before you go underwater. If the protective housing happens to be damaged, water will start filling the case, and that will not spell good news for your camera.
Managing salt water
Even though the GoPro waterproof rating is 33 feet/10 meters, you must remember that it’s for fresh water, not salt water.
Salt water does a number on electronics, so if you do happen to use your GoPro in the sea, make sure that you rinse it off right after using it.
This way, exposure to air and salt water will be minimal.
Most GoPro models have impressive waterproof depth ratings, so if you’re just using the camera casually underwater, you have nothing to worry about and no need for external waterproof housing either.
Remember, all the new GoPros are waterproof to 33 feet/10 meters.
If you have an older GoPro or need to go deep water diving, adding GoPro protective housing will fix it.