If you’ve been with us here at Coral Nomad for any length of time, you’ll know that using a GoPro for snorkeling is one of our favorite parts of diving in. Being able to capture those life-long memories made underwater alongside epic marine life, coral forests, and friends and family extremely easily and relatively inexpensively? Yep, sign me up!
Plus, while the various GoPros and other underwater action cameras that have been in play over time have always been great for capturing those snorkeling experiences, last year’s GoPro HERO 9 Black (here on Amazon) was the biggest game-changer for snorkeling that we’ve seen in years with the addition of features like Horizon Lock, Hindsight, and a second screen. It was immediately our head-and-shoulders-above top pick for best GoPro for snorkeling (or any action camera for snorkeling, for that matter) when it came out.
[ You can check out our snorkeling-centric review of the Hero 9 Black along with all the new features from when it came out right here: The New GoPro Hero9 Black: Is it the Best GoPro for Snorkeling? ]
Now, GoPro’s latest action camera is here: the GoPro HERO 10 Black (here on Amazon).
So, is the GoPro HERO 10 Black good for snorkeling? Yes, the GoPro HERO 10 Black is good for snorkeling and builds on the HERO 9’s already-excellent snorkeling feature set by adding more video modes and faster hardware while being natively waterproof down to a depth of 10 meters or 33 feet.
OK, so the HERO 10 Black is a good GoPro for snorkeling — great. That’s settled. But is it actually the best action camera or even the best GoPro for snorkeling, especially at the new-model price point? Is it worth buying if you’re considering your first action camera? Should you upgrade if you already have a GoPro for snorkeling? That will depend on a handful of key factors, so let’s take a look at what’s new in the HERO 10 Black and use that information to get some answers.
The 5.3K image sensor found in the HERO 9 Black is the same one found here in the HERO 10, but the biggest new addition to the GoPro HERO 10 Black is its brand new processor: the GP2. This beefy new processor allows the camera to do a lot more with that 5.3K image feed, providing 91% more resolution than 4K videos [source], which is already pretty bonkers.
Now, the HERO 10 Black can newly record video all the way up to 5.3K at 60fps and 4K at 120fps. That may or may not sound like gibberish to you, but it essentially means that you can shoot really high-quality video at some excellent (and previously impossible) frame rates for slow motion.
This typically isn’t a big deal for us since one would almost never need this level of slow motion for something underwater when using your GoPro for snorkeling, but it’s the biggest gain from a pure numbers standpoint for the HERO 10 Black. Otherwise, the 2.8×2.2×1.3″ size, 2.3″ touchscreen display, 1.4″ front “selfie” screen, 1270mAh battery, and other specific metrics are more or less identical to the HERO 9.
Let’s move on to look at some new and upgraded features that make a difference for snorkelers specifically.
GoPro’s motion-stabilization system, HyperSmooth, has always been fantastic. And, version 4.0 is no exception.
You may not always feel it when you’re out in the ocean, but you’re moving around a lot more than you might think because of the motion of the water, even when you’ve stopped to just float and film something. So, it’s crucial to have excellent motion stabilization when using a GoPro for snorkeling or you’ll often end up with nausea-inducing, sloshy, unusable footage when you check out your clips later.
GoPro has updated HyperSmooth to work with the new GP2 processor to allow it to stabilize more video more efficiently, which is really helpful when shooting in higher resolutions like 4K or 5K. Turn on HyperSmooth every time you get in the water — your future self with thank you.
Better Horizon Leveling
One of the best new features for snorkelers to come with the GoPro Hero 9 Black last year was Horizon Leveling, which locks your video to a perfectly flat plane despite how you move around. This essentially took HyperSmooth (which still allows movement in your video, just much smoother movement) to a new level and almost made it feel like you were a fish in the water with whoever was recording.
Now, the extra power of the GP2 processor in the HERO 10 Black allows Horizon Leveling to up its game further and keep your video locked to a flat plane even as you twist the camera up to 45 degrees (up from 27 degrees in the HERO 9). This is especially helpful if you’re trying to swim and film at the same time and the output is really impressive even as you motor through the water.
Hydrophobic Lens Cover
One problem that I didn’t even realize was a problem in the past (because I didn’t know that there could be a solution) when using a GoPro for snorkeling was that if I ever wanted to lift the camera out of the water while filming to capture something above the waterline, there was a very real possibility that water would kind of stick to the lens and drip down through my shot.
I’ve used this filming technique for dolphins leaping out of the water, sea turtles surfacing to breathe, or just to get a shot of the beautiful cove I happened to be in. Sometimes I’d get lucky and it wouldn’t drip, other times it would and it’d distort the image to the point where the footage was unusable.
Enter the folks over at GoPro Labs and the HERO 10 Black’s new hydrophobic lens cover.
The new lens cover, which does come standard on all HERO 10 Blacks, has a special coating that actively repels water and virtually eliminates footage with water streaks. Again, I wouldn’t have even necessarily labeled the old lens cover as a problem in the past, but now that I’ve experienced the freedom of hydrophobic lens covers when using a GoPro for snorkeling, there’s no way that I’ll go back.
Improved Video Processing
On the other hand, one thing that I definitely did know was a problem with past GoPros and action cameras in general was that they often really struggled in low-light situations.
This isn’t entirely surprising considering that even much more expensive camera set-ups can still struggle without ideal lighting, but it was definitely a buzzkill when I experienced something amazing underwater that I wanted to capture but happened to occur in dimmer light (yet which still looked fine to my eyes since the human eye is way better at sorting these scenes out than cameras currently) and I ended up with grainy or muddy footage later. It was fine most of the time, but not ideal.
Now, with the bump in power from the GP2 processor, the HERO 10 Black now has much-improved local tone-mapping algorithms and and video noise reduction which really do make noticeable differences in those situations where you might be snorkeling on a cloudy day or in deeper water.
The better tone mapping works to enhance detail in situations where video might otherwise come up muddy-looking (which can be a real problem underwater when there is less definition of color and contrast, especially at depth) and the noise reduction comes into play when the scene may be darker than average and the camera needs to open up the lens aperture further. Both work quite well and certainly do make for better snorkeling videos.
5K Video Photo Stills
The most common way that I use my GoPro for snorkeling is to shoot video of everything that I want (and even everything that I didn’t know that I wanted thanks to Hindsight, which allows your camera to record continuously and then just delete any video that you let pass by in a 30- or 60-second history window unless you hit the record button to save it and continue recording normally) and then make clips out of the videos later while pulling out any photos that I may want from the video clips. This has always worked quite well because of the quality video that GoPros record along with the ease of their basic editing software, GoPro Quik.
And, now with the support of the GP2 processor, you can pull 19.6-megapixel photos from your 5.3K video which are plenty large enough to both look great on Instagram and even come out sharp in many print formats. The image sensor in the HERO 10 is the same as in the HERO 9, but the photo stills were previously limited to 14 megapixels and the improvement is all thanks to the new GP2 processor.
Also thanks to the GP2, the highest-resolution photo mode in the HERO 10 Black can output 23-megapixel photos, which is the maximum capacity of the 5.3K sensor. Photos were previously limited to 20 megapixels with the HERO 9 Black just because of the upper limits of the previous-generation processor, but the GP2 has done away with those limits. Rarely will I enter photo mode while using my GoPro for snorkeling (fish don’t stand still very well), but the extra capacity is always nice to have.
Faster Start-Up Time
Before Hindsight, it was always a battle to figure out how to balance not filling up my memory card with inconsequential video while also not missing any action.
Fortunately, that problem was fixed with the HERO 9 Black, but there was still the other battle of balancing battery life on a particularly long (or late-day) snorkel. Do I keep the camera turned on in order to be able to record instantly and not miss anything in the short-term, or do I keep the camera off to preserve the battery longer to maybe catch more later, but risk missing capturing something while I wait for the camera to start up?
The battery in the HERO 10 is the same as in the HERO 9, so it’s not really a different calculation of capacity, but it’s now a calculation of speed.
(As an aside, though, while the battery capacity between the HERO 10 and HERO 9 is the same, if you use the higher-level video modes on the HERO 10, the battery will run a little quicker. So, it’s smart to grab an extra battery and charging pack on Amazon so you’re never caught out with low battery.)
Again thanks to the GP2, the camera turns on a good deal quicker and really rapidly jumps into recording video if using the capture button on top of the camera. In absolute terms, this maybe saves a couple of seconds, but over time I’ve definitely missed plenty of incredible marine life that’s glided by me before moving on where I wish I had an extra couple of seconds to get my camera rolling. So, I consider this a real win for using a GoPro for snorkeling.
As I mentioned earlier, whether or not the GoPro HERO 10 Black is worth it for you to buy right now, in my opinion, depends on what your current action camera situation is. Your calculus may vary, but below is my two cents on what I would do for myself if I were in each of these three situations:
If I’m currently action camera-less and this is my first GoPro for snorkeling, I would absolutely go for the GoPro HERO 10 Black (Amazon). I would be getting a top-line action camera that works really well for snorkeling; a camera that takes everything which made the HERO 9 better than everyone else for snorkeling and then adds more fuel to the fire. In my opinion, it’s the best you can do right now for a snorkeling action camera.
This also assumes that I’m OK with the price tag which the new models of HERO Black cameras carry, which is typically $449-499. That’s not nothin’, of course, but for what you’re getting (and considering that alternative professional underwater camera set-ups very quickly range into thousands of dollars), it’s still a very solid value and ultimately the best GoPro for snorkeling. Plus, I’ll know that I will have more time before technology advances further to the point where I’ll need to upgrade again.
If I was feeling a little price-sensitive, I probably would go for the GoPro HERO 9 Black (Amazon). I’d be getting all of the major features that make the HERO Black line such a great GoPro for snorkeling (HyperSmooth, Horizon Lock, 5K video, Hindsight, dual screens, etc.) and I could save a chunk of change with the last-year GoPro typically going for $349-399. I wouldn’t have the 100% latest numbers on performance, but it’d still work great for my underwater purposes.
If I’m someone who prefers to have the latest version of my gear whenever possible (and I usually am) and don’t mind the price, by all means I’d go for the GoPro HERO 10 Black (Amazon) even if I already had the HERO 9. I would definitely be getting the latest, greatest and best GoPro for snorkeling along with all of the features that it brings.
However, if I felt on the fence about upgrading from the HERO 9 (likely because of price), I would personally hold off. The new GP2 processor is great and it does up the HERO 10’s performance in some really nice ways, but it’s not leaps and bounds ahead of the HERO 9 for my purposes.
Instead, I would put a little cash into some helpful accessories that will immediately improve my underwater video like one of our recommended red filters (which helps you achieve a lot truer color in your underwater video) and/or a couple of our items from The Best GoPro Accessories for Snorkeling: 5 I Can’t Do Without. Ultimately, these will have a lot more immediate impact on my results when using my GoPro for snorkeling than the camera upgrade in this situation.
Plus, the HERO 10 and HERO 9 are the same size and accessories and attachments for either fit both, so I do have some flexibility if I change my mind down the road. There’s no way of knowing whether any potential HERO 11 would follow suit down the road, but that’s the rollercoaster we ride every year.
If my GoPro for snorkeling is a HERO 8 Black (or 7, or 6…) or pretty much any other action camera that isn’t serving a special purpose (like 3D video), I’ll be getting a huge bump in performance and possibility by upgrading to the HERO 10 Black (Amazon), so that’d be a recommended buy for myself.
GoPro has always made solid cameras, but the leap forward in technology that really benefits snorkelers made from the HERO 8 to the HERO 9 (and now benefitting the HERO 10) is just too big to ignore. Just like in case #1 above, the HERO 10 will get me the best of everything available, so that’s the best way to go if it’s in my budget. Or, again, if I’d like to save a little cash, the HERO 9 Black (Amazon) is a good way to get those excellent snorkeler-friendly features with just a little less horsepower (and lower cost).
In either case, I’d be getting myself an excellent GoPro for snorkeling.
The Deep Dive
GoPro’s new HERO 10 Black has maintained the HERO line’s lead as the best GoPro for snorkeling by improving on what made the HERO 9 already great for snorkelers. Features like HyperSmooth, Hindsight and Horizon Lock continue to kick butt in the water while the new GP2 processor adds new video modes and better video processing which really do help when shooting underwater. Add in a hydrophobic lens cover and easy stills from 5K video and we have an underwater winner.
That being said, whether or not it makes sense to buy it for yourself right now might depend on your current action camera situation. Picking up the HERO 10 could make a ton of sense if you don’t yet have an action camera or are upgrading from a HERO 8 or older (or other similarly-aged camera). The HERO 9 could also make good sense here if the HERO 10 isn’t quite in budget since the core features that benefit snorkelers are still present on the 9.
If you already have the HERO 9 and aren’t sure about the cost of the HERO 10, you might also get more immediate benefit for your money by tapping some cool snorkeling photo/video accessories for your GoPro. But, no matter what you decide, you’ll have a fantastic GoPro for snorkeling and be plenty ready to capture those irreplaceable memories made in the underwater universe. Happy snorkeling!
First, here are the links to the product pages on Amazon for the HERO 10 and HERO 9 cameras which we discussed:
Next, once you lock in which GoPro is right for you, check out some of our other guides on getting started with action cameras for snorkeling and getting the most out of them along with info on what other items are musts if you’re new to to snorkeling with a GoPro (for example, floating handgrips so you don’t lose your camera, the right types of microSD memory cards, etc.)