Are you thinking about using a GoPro for snorkeling? Good idea.
If you really want a small snorkel camera, the new GoPro Hero 6 is great, with a number of worthwhile improvements for snorkelers over the previous Hero5.
The most important improvement is that it can now detect underwater scenes automatically, and adjust white balance to suit. So colors will be much improved and you may not need to use a red filter for deeper water.
It also has much better image stabilization, better high ISO performance, better tonal range, color accuracy and exposure adjustment speed, all thanks to a new sensor chip.
It is still waterproof to 33 feet without a separate housing (although we recommend you also get the dive housing), takes great wide angle videos and pictures, and it takes good still pictures and amazing video.
These cameras do have some limitations that we explain below.
Currently there are 4 models available.
We would get the Hero6. It costs the most, but has many features that are valuable to a snorkeler compared to the other models. If you buy the Hero6 we highly recommend you also get the waterproof housing (the same housing fits the Hero5 & Hero6) for some cheap insurance. The Hero6 and Hero5, although waterproof, have tiny doors and seals that are much more likely to fail, and there have been reports of issues with sand in the buttons.
For sure, the biggest advantage of a GoPro for snorkeling is how small it is, at the expense of some drawbacks. The GoPro lacks features of larger more complex cameras.
The View Screen Is Tiny (If It Has One)
Some GoPros have a screen, some don't. Either way the screen is so small you can't really see much underwater. And the touch screen does not work underwater or when your finger is wet.
Lens Is Super Wide Angle & No Zoom
These cameras are designed as sports selfie cameras, so they are super wide angle, which can be fine underwater, but it means you need to get close to your subject to see any details. And there is no mechanical zoom option. The new Hero6 has a touch screen zoom feature, which is a digital zoom, but it does not work underwater.
Auto Everything - Less Control
The camera also sacrifices controls for size. Almost everything is automatic. If you like more creative control of your pictures this is not the best camera.
Battery Life Is Limited
These cameras are so small that their battery life is fairly low compared to other cameras. We would buy extras.
Note: The remote control available for these cameras is cool, but it does not work underwater.
You need to choose how you will hold your GoPro for snorkeling. Most people either use an extending or fixed length pole, or a short floating handle. The extending pole is nice because you can get your camera close to the fish. We own one of the better extending poles for the price, the XShot 2.0. It extends to 37", is stainless steel, and is very compact when
not extended, although it is a bit heavy.
But the short handle option is also very good. The Handler by GoPro is very popular. The CamKix handle is cool because it has a built in compartment for valuables. And this CamKix model has it all, it can be just a grip, or extend into a longer translucent pole (so the fish can't see it), and it has a valuables compartment!
People also mount them on their masks or their wrists. Neither is great. The problem with the mask mount when snorkeling is that your head is not very close to the fish, and the camera is up high and will come in and out of the water. The wrist mount is also not great because you will end up getting your hand in the video or picture.
If you don't have a handle for your GoPro for snorkeling, make sure and get a floating wrist strap. And be very careful to keep your fingers from getting in front of the lens when taking pictures or videos.
Finally, to avoid getting a foggy lens from moisture, adding some anti-fog inserts into your case is worth doing. The ones at right are made of a natural fiber and are reusable after putting them in the oven.