Something we follow pretty closely here at Coral Nomad is the latest in action cameras for snorkeling and scuba diving. Maybe the top thing on my list to further enhance the magic of snorkeling and diving in paradise on earth with incredible marine life is being able to capture those memories to hold onto and to share with friends and family.
And, if you’ve joined us along the way as we put action cameras through their paces in the water, you know that we pay particularly close attention to anything new that rolls out GoPro’s San Mateo headquarters. Right on cue, they’re back with their newest action camera: the Hero11 Black (and, actually, also a new sibling in the Hero11 Black Mini).
In my opinion, GoPro revolutionized action cameras for snorkelers with all of the new features that it brought in the Hero9 Black and the company doubled down on improving on them in the Hero10 Black.
Now, with the GoPro Hero11 Black (here on Amazon), there’s plenty of new features, specs and opportunities in GoPro’s newest action camera. Is the Hero11 Black good for snorkeling in the same way were the Hero9 and Hero10 Black? Let’s look what what’s new, what’s the same (for better or worse), and how that all stacks up in the water against previous models.
At first glance, you might not even be able to tell the difference between the GoPro Hero11 and Hero10 Black — and that’s a good thing.
The Hero11 Black uses the same shaped and sized chassis in use since the Hero8 Black, which is excellent since that means we won’t need to buy new versions of any of our accessories that rely on the shape of the camera like red filters, floating hand grips, or any of the other crucial accessories necessary to make the Hero11 Black good for snorkeling. That’s always welcome news for the pocketbook.
Next, the GoPro Hero11 Black is waterproof down to 33 feet or 10 meters of depth, just like the Hero10 Black before it. You’ll also find the same removable hydrophobic lens cover in the new version of this action camera, which isn’t necessarily crucial to make the Hero11 Black good for snorkeling and scuba, but it’s highly useful if you want to transition and bring the camera up out of the water during a shot (without it, you would almost certainly have a water-streaked lens).
The Hero11 Black also continues the split screen strategy, having both a large rear-facing screen for framing what you’re seeing in front of you, while also incorporating a forward-facing screen that’s great for filming yourself or framing selfies with a snorkel buddy.
And, finally, the features that GoPro introduced with the Hero9 Black which immediately and uniquely upped everyone’s snorkel game — Horizon Lock, Hindsight and HyperSmooth (though previous versions of HyperSmooth had been around earlier) — are back and making even more of an impact.
Hindsight, which allows your camera to continually record and automatically discard footage in a 15- or 30-second lookback window unless you hit the record button (in which case it would save that previous 15- or 30-second footage, plus new footage going forward), works pretty much the same as it has since the Hero9 Black, helping you to not miss any great shots of marine life that might have quickly come and gone before you could start up your camera and get recording otherwise.
Horizon Lock and HyperSmooth are back, as mentioned, but with further updates. More on how these features can be hugely helpful for snorkeling and scuba diving as we continue.
While the newest camera in the Hero Black line might look nearly identical to previous iterations, there’s still plenty of tantalizing new updates that make the Hero11 Black good for snorkeling and scuba in new and interesting ways. Let’s run through them.
With pretty much every new Hero Black, you should expect a bump in terms of photo and video resolution. You’ll certainly find such a bump in the Hero11 Black, but this year’s upgrade is a little different.
With the Hero11 Black, you’ll be able to record 5.3K video at 60fps, 4K at 120fps and 2.7K at 240fps and take 27-megapixel photos while capturing 24.7-megapixel frame grabs from video (up from 23MP and 19.6MP with the Hero10). This is all excellent and represent nice increases from the Hero10 Black, but where this year is unique is in the physical size and shape of the new sensor.
This year’s sensor is up to 1/1.9″ (which accounts for the increased photo and video resolution), but it’s shaped in a 8:7 format instead of the typical 4:3. I’ll spare you the technical details, but ultimately this allows the sensor to capture taller video.
That might sound kind of meaningless, but one of the main useful things this allows you to do is easily crop video in the kind of vertical formats which are used for TikTok, Instagram Stories and Reels, etc. (or any other vertical phone formats). So, if you have any desire to share your underwater adventures on social media in this way, being able to re-crop your captured video in the right format without any loss of quality will be huge for you.
One other new thing that the larger sensor allows for is a new super-wide-view lens which GoPro has dubbed HyperView.
HyperView is a digital lens option that uses the entire 8:7 sensor to record taller footage that ultimately fits in a 16:9 video, yielding a very wide view of what’s around you.
In general, most snorkel and scuba footage is best captured in regular view (since you usually can’t — nor may it be advisable to — get too close to marine life which you might want to be filming), or occasionally wide view if you’re swimming with something large like whale sharks. But HyperView could come in handy if you’re really looking to show the scale of something you’re swimming with (like a huge school of fish) or wanting to show a real fish-eye view of your surroundings.
More lens view options will always be welcomed and serve to further make the GoPro Hero11 Black good for snorkeling and scuba diving.
One complaint you could reasonably have had with previous GoPro Heroes is that they might be a challenge to get started with if you’re not very well versed in tech and photo/video terminology. It seems GoPro has heeded this issue and has made some changes to the Hero11 Black that offers better options for beginners, intermediates and experts alike in the space.
The GoPro Hero11 Black (Amazon) now ships in what’s called “Easy Mode”, which means that all you need to do to get rolling is to tell the camera whether you want to prioritize video quality or battery life and the software will sort out the settings for you. This is great for beginners and makes it really easy to get started with a new piece of tech, definitely making the GoPro Hero11 Black good for snorkeling action camera newbies.
If you’re at the level where you want more control over your settings, though, you can enable “Pro Mode” which will allow you the same fine-tuned control over white balance, frame rate, etc. I would argue that “Pro Mode” is a little bit of a misnomer (I would say that you really only need to be an intermediate user to get a lot of use out of manual settings, and following our guide, How to Use a GoPro for Snorkeling: 5 Easy Steps with Photos, will get you where you need to be), but that’s where the manual settings live.
For the advanced user who wants a ton of control over their video production, you can enable a 10-bit color profile for your footage (excellent for eventual color grading) and RAW format capture is now available in all modes.
As I’ve outlined before in previous action camera reviews, you’d be surprised how much you’re moving while snorkeling, even if you feel like you’re really not. This can easily make for shaky, nausea-inducing footage. So, it’s imperative that any action camera that you use while snorkeling or scuba diving has excellent image stabilization.
And, consistently the best action camera image stabilization that I’ve seen over the years comes from GoPro’s HyperSmooth.
This year’s version 5.0 of HyperSmooth is just that much slicker and smoother, and GoPro has also added another level of fine-tuning with AutoBoost which can manage the zoom on your footage to add better stabilization to super-shaky footage.
Perhaps you were swimming with something that is effortlessly much faster that you, and you had to put in a lot of effort to keep up. HyperSmooth 5.0 and AutoBoost can still help make the otherwise unusable footage in this case utterly sharable.
If you want to take stable footage to the next level, you’ll be into Horizon Lock which originally debuted in the Hero9 Black.
With Horizon Lock, your GoPro will lock your footage level with the horizon, regardless of how much you move around. Whereas HyperSmooth can stabilize your video so that it feels like smooth swimming, Horizon Lock makes your snorkeling or scuba footage feel like you’re gliding through outer space.
And, while the Horizon Lock was limited to 45 degrees of rotation rescue in the Hero10 Black, the Hero11 Black works a full 360-degree range of motion. So, feel free to do those barrel rolls in the water — your footage is still going to be completely level when you pull it off of the camera.
While the Enduro Battery was available as an upgrade for the Hero10 Black, it’s now standard on the Hero11 Black.
The Enduro Battery utilizes a more robust chemistry that allows it to last longer, especially in cold conditions. That doesn’t necessarily make the Hero11 Black good for snorkeling or scuba (more so, at least) for most people since the majority of swims are done in tropical water, but if you’re doing something awesome like snorkeling with orcas in Norway or beluga whales in the Churchill River, you’ll be extremely thankful for the Enduro when your GoPro actually turns on and works as expected.
The Enduro is rated with the same 1720mAh capacity as the standard battery from the Hero10 Black, but its cold-weather ability and the Hero11 Black’s internal hardware updates make for a more efficient (and longer) runtime.
Beyond those that specifically make the GoPro Hero11 Black good for snorkeling, the new action camera also throws in a handful of interesting new features like modes for nighttime to capture star trails and other time lapses that will be plenty of fun out of the water.
You can read more about the other new odds and ends features of the Hero11 Black for landlubbers here on Amazon.
Something else never done before by GoPro and only new this year with the Hero11 Black is a separate younger sibling: the GoPro Hero11 Black Mini.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention it, but ultimately the Mini’s uses for snorkeling and scuba diving are limited.
The GoPro Hero11 Black Mini (here on Amazon) is a very similarly-powered smaller version of the Hero11 Black with two main differences (aside from its more diminutive size): it lacks both the front and rear screens that the Hero11 Black has, and as such it’s controlled remotely with your phone rather than with the touch screen options.
Ultimately, the Mini is meant more to be a compliment to the main Hero11 Black camera rather than a standalone shooter. Snorkeling with an action camera that doesn’t have at least one viewing screen would be really tough (you would have no way to know if you’re framing what you’re looking at correctly), and it’s different size would require you to buy new accessories.
Is the GoPro Hero11 Black Mini good for snorkeling and scuba diving? While the GoPro Hero11 Black is good for snorkeling, the Hero11 Black Mini isn’t as useful. However, if you’re really into creating more immersive ocean videos, the Hero11 Black Mini could absolutely be used for alternate angles on the boat, or if you are looking for a small camera to attach to your scuba mask for some POV B-roll.
The Deep Dive
Is the GoPro Hero11 Black good for snorkeling and scuba diving? Absolutely. GoPro has another winner for snorkelers and scuba divers in its latest action camera with its larger, taller sensor, 360-degree Horizon Lock and all-weather battery (among other things). I like it so much that it takes the #1 spot on our snorkeling gift guide.
The question you’ll now need to answer is whether you’re going to pick one up. Everyone’s situation will be different, but here’s how I would look at it for myself.
If I have a GoPro Hero from any time before version 9 (or no GoPro at all), this is a no brainer for me. I would absolutely buy the Hero11 Black because of the huge jump in performance and snorkel-friendly features I’ll get with this action camera, which I would rate best in class.
If I have a Hero9 Black or a Hero10 Black, I would think about what is most important to me in an action camera to capture my ocean escapades. Do I care about being able to crop video better for social media, super high-end image stabilization, or better battery life? If so, then I would seriously consider upgrading to the Hero11 Black.
If I’m totally fine just capturing video and images the way I have been with my 9 or 10, then I wouldn’t do too much hand-wringing over upgrading and instead I would maybe put a few dollars from my snorkeling videography budget towards some accessories for my current camera which will make immediate impact on my images. (Check out The Best GoPro Accessories for Snorkeling: 5 I Can’t Do Without.)
Or, if I’m without an action camera at all and really dig the Hero11 Black, but maybe it’s currently outside my budget, I could save a few bucks and get slightly scaled-back features with the Hero10 Black (Amazon), or save even more with the Hero9 Black (Amazon) and sacrifice a bit in terms of resolution and the refinement of features.
The GoPro Hero11 Black (Amazon) represents the new gold standard in action cameras for snorkeling and scuba diving, refining and further adding to the ocean-friendly features set forth since the Hero9 Black, though all three versions since the Hero9 will treat you well while capturing memories in the water.
First, here are the links to the product pages on Amazon for the Hero11, Hero10 and Hero9 cameras which we discussed:
Next, once you determine which GoPro is right for you, check out some of our guides on what other items are imperative that you pick up along with your new GoPro if you’re a new action camera user (for example, a floating handgrip so you don’t accidentally lose your camera in the water), how to get the best results from your camera, and more.