It used to be that you needed some serious camera gear to do photos or video underwater: a high-end camera, big waterproof housing, various filters, frames and plenty else. Everything was crazy expensive, bulky, and really only meant for professionals.
But, GoPro (and action cameras in general) changed the game the moment they created a compact and actually-affordable camera that could be used underwater by just about anyone.
As you may know, I’m a huge, huge fan of using a GoPro to capture my memories made while snorkeling. With relatively little investment or effort, I’m able to hold onto those memories forever and quite literally share them with people all around the world. It’s all been something that would have seemed impossible even a few years back.
As different as action cameras have made things, though, it can still seem really tough to get results that look like the huge, expensive professional set-ups once you try them out underwater. Instead, photos and video can easily look blurry or muddy with a really gross blue and green mask on everything. Majorly disappointing.
But, it really doesn’t have to be that way, and you don’t need any of the professional equipment to drastically up your underwater GoPro game, either.
Of course, the first thing that you want to do is to make sure to learn the right settings to use for your GoPro when underwater. That will make sure your camera isn’t holding you back in any way.
Muddy blue and green images are still a common problem, though, even with the right GoPro settings. The solution? Get a red filter for your GoPro. It’s easy, inexpensive and makes a world of difference.
For me, PolarPro’s DiveMaster red filter set (Hero11/10/9 version on Amazon) is the best GoPro red filter out there.
But, let’s walk through the needed information for you to pick out your best GoPro red filter and what exactly you’ll need to do put it to awesome use.
First, why does finding the best GoPro red filter even matter?
Well, because of the physics of light and water.
Typically, the deeper you swim in water (or the more cloudy certain water is), the more the red portion of the light you see disappears (along with orange and yellow), leaving you primarily with blue light first along with plenty of green second [source].
So, some of the only light that you (and your GoPro) can see deeper beneath the waves is blue and green. That’s why your photos look that way.
A red filter looks to counterbalance what’s happening, filtering out some of the blue/green that your GoPro is taking in and replacing the missing red. This makes your underwater photos and video look less like a blue and green muddy mess, and instead a lot more lifelike and professional.
And, the results can be huge. For example, look at what this simple photo of gorgeous coral and beautiful tropical fish looks like when blue and green light dominate (left) versus when the red, orange and yellow light are held onto:
It definitely goes from a bit of a sad photo to something vibrant and awesome, and becomes something you’d be proud to share on Instagram, YouTube, or to show friends and family. And, when you’re swimming with whale sharks, snorkeling in Maui or diving in bucket-list locations, you definitely don’t want all of your memories to look like the left-hand photo.
That’s why picking out the best GoPro red filter matters for snorkeling and scuba diving.
Is there a difference between a GoPro red filter and a GoPro underwater filter? No. Any underwater filter for your GoPro meant to be taken with you snorkeling or scuba diving is going to be a red filter made to add back the red light which is lost under the surface.
The terms “GoPro red filter” and “GoPro underwater filter” can more or less be used interchangeably, but “red filter” is the much more common term.
There are a couple of things you’ll need in order to get your GoPro red filters rockin’.
First, you need to grab a GoPro Protective Housing (Hero11/10/9 Black version from Amazon) — a seemingly simple but powerful snap-around case for your GoPro — for your particular camera version. The reason for this is twofold.
One is that while your GoPro Hero itself is going to be natively waterproof down to 10 meters or 33 feet, the GoPro Protective Housing ups that waterproofing to a whopping 60 meters or 196 feet. You likely won’t need the extra waterproof capability unless you’re scuba diving versus snorkeling, but it’s nice to have a little extra protection even if you’re sticking to snorkeling.
And, more relevant for the red filters that we’re talking about, the second reason is that almost any GoPro red filter is going to attach in some way to the protective housing. So, its a must if you want to get into the red filter game with your GoPro.
Next, the other item that I consider an absolute must for snorkeling or scuba diving is a floating handgrip for your GoPro, even though it’s not officially required for snorkeling while using a red filter with your action camera.
While your GoPro is nice and waterproof (especially in its protective housing), it definitely does not float. And, there have been way too many instances of people dropping their GoPro while on a boat or in the water which always results in the camera sinking to the bottom of the sea, along with all of the memories stored on its memory card.
With a floating handgrip, however, even if I fumble the camera at some point, it’ll easily float and I don’t have to worry about a really expensive butterfingers incident. I always, always, 100% of the time have my GoPro attached to a floating handgrip whenever I’m in or around water.
The floating handgrip which I’ve used for years is the CamKix Waterproof Telescopic Floating Handgrip (on Amazon). It’s inexpensive, well-built, easily floats with my GoPro attached, telescoping (nice for selfies or getting a closer shot of something I can’t quite reach), and its handle is even hollow and allows for storage of things like cash or rings which I might not want to leave elsewhere. It’s been a very worthwhile minor investment to not have to worry about losing a much more expensive camera to the ocean.
When I’m looking at any type of optical filter for my GoPro, I need it to do three things: 1) be built well (salt water, water pressure and general rough treatment aren’t friendly to flimsy camera gear), 2) be easy to operate (I don’t want to have to deal with a bunch of adjustors or tiny parts if I need to make a switch in the middle of the ocean), and 3) ultimately just do what it says it’s going to do and make my photos better.
With those requirements in mind, the best GoPro red filter for snorkeling or scuba diving that I’ve come across are the PolarPro DiveMaster Filters (Hero11/10/9 version on Amazon).
First up, they’re really nicely made. The lenses are made of polycarbonate and have shown themselves to be nicely resistant to breakage and scratches, which is helpful because they’ve definitely been dropped or haphazardly tossed into a backpack plenty of times. And, when sliding one of the DiveMaster filters onto the protective housing, it doesn’t bend or flex like many of the cheaper, thinner filters. It feels like it’s going to last a while.
Next, the DiveMaster red filters are dead simple to attach to my GoPro Protective Housing. Ultimately, they just slide right onto the front; no fancy tighteners or little screws that I have to try to fumble with which is especially helpful if I decide that I want a different filter after seeing the water conditions and am clinging to the side of a boat while trying to change things out.
The filters do also have an extra protective strap on their edge to loop around the housing, but the slide fit is snug, so it’s mostly just for extra peace of mind. Though, if the light or water conditions change while I’m in the water, the little strap is definitely nice to have if I might want to pop the filter off mid-snorkel without having the filter float away.
So, how well do they work? Check out this simple example:
The PolarPro DiveMaster red filters make a huge difference in getting more real-life color and a lot of the missing detail back into my GoPro photos and video. That’s what PolarPro says it’s going to do, and it does it. Great job, PolarPro.
Also, rather than just one standard red filter, the DiveMaster filters come as a set with a true red filter, a magenta filter and a pink filter. I really, really like having the options and they each work best for different water conditions. I use the red filter if I’m seeing more blue than green light, the magenta filter if I’m seeing more green than blue light, or the pink filter if I’m snorkeling or scuba diving in shallower or generally more clear water with less of an aggressive tinge of blue or green.
So, the PolarPro DiveMaster Filters (Amazon) are built nicely, very easy to operate, and ultimately make a huge difference in the color and quality of your GoPro photos and videos. Nearly all of the other GoPro red filters experimented with ended up being a mixed bag of my three requirements, so since the DiveMaster filters meet all three, they’re my definite pick for the best GoPro red filters for snorkeling or scuba diving.
The Deep Dive
Capturing your incredible memories made while snorkeling or scuba diving is one of the best parts of the sports. But, way too often, GoPro footage comes out looking murky and stained blue and green. That’s just the way water affects light as you head below the surface.
But, you don’t have to be stuck with underwhelming blue-green photos and videos with your GoPro. Instead, with this article as a guide, find the best GoPro red filter for your action camera. A red filter will really go a long way to balance the overwhelming blues and greens with reclaimed reds, oranges and yellows that naturally struggle underwater, and your shots will look amazing!
Check out even more info on the gear outlined in this guide:
- GoPro Hero11/10/9 Protective Housing on Amazon, or the Hero8 version here with the Hero7 version here
- CamKix Waterproof Telescopic Floating Handgrip (Amazon)
- PolarPro DiveMaster Red Filters for the Hero11/10/9 (Amazon), or the Hero8 version here, and a SOONSUN version [also good] that works for the Heroes 5-7 here
- And if you don’t yet have one, the excellent GoPro Hero11 Black (Amazon)
There’s also a lot more to learn about using your GoPro for snorkeling or scuba diving, so check out some of our other helpful guides below: