Are you thinking about using a GoPro for snorkeling? Good idea.
While early versions were not good as a snorkel camera the new GoPro Hero5 is great, if you want a really small camera. It is now waterproof to 33 feet without a separate housing (although we recommend you also get the dive housing) and it takes good still pictures and amazing video.
These cameras do have some limitations that we explain below.
Currently there are 3 versions available in different models, and one older model that is still available and worth considering.
We would get either the Hero5 or the Hero4 Silver. If you buy the Hero5 we highly recommend you also get the waterproof housing, because the Hero5, although waterproof, has tiny doors and seals that are much more likely to fail, and there have been reports of issues with sand in the buttons.
If you don't care about 4K video and RAW, then the Hero4 Silver is a bargain.
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.
No Zoom Lens Or Controls
The camera also sacrifices controls for size. Almost everything is automatic. And it has a fixed lens focal length, which is not a big problem, but some people like having zoom when snorkeling.
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 camera 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.