Updated – January 2023
Are you considering getting a GoPro for snorkeling? Do you want a really small camera? Do you take mostly videos and don’t mind a fish-eye like perspective? Do you want the camera to be almost fully automatic? If you answered yes, then a GoPro can be great for snorkeling. But it does have a number of limitations compared to other cameras you should be aware of.
On this page you can learn what model we recommend, the pros and cons of using a GoPro for snorkeling and what accessories you will need.
Note: Our suggestions come from hands-on experience. We hope you find them helpful. You can help us if you purchase from the links below. We may make a small commission, from Amazon or other companies, at no extra cost to you.
What GoPro Model Is Best for Snorkeling?
Hero11 Black – GoPro for Snorkeling
GoPro currently produces only two models that might be suitable for snorkeling. The brand new Hero 11 Black, and the Hero10 Black. They also have a Hero11 mini, and a 360 degree camera that both can be ignored for snorkeling.
The Hero11 and Hero10 have identical bodies. The Hero11 has a new nearly square sensor that allows for some different shooting modes. One of those is the ability to lock the horizon. With this on you can spin the camera head over heels, and the horizon won’t move. It is less clear how this might work underwater, or even if it will be useful.
The sensor also gives larger pictures, at 27mp, although that is mostly because it is now square.
The new camera also has a larger capacity battery, a slightly improved vibration reduction system (Hypersmooth).
The only other major difference is that the Hero11 captures 10-bit color, which basically means it has more color depth.
Both the Hero10 and Hero11 have touch screens on the back, and front screens without touch control.
Both cameras still have a slightly sluggish touch screen, meaning it is not the easiest to use, and takes a fraction of a second to respond.
Both cameras also still have a tendency to overheat, particularly when video is left on for a long time, without any airflow around the camera to help cool it.
Both cameras can shoot 5.3K video, with some higher frames per second options, so that you can slow down your footage later.
Both cameras have a hydrophobic coating on the lens, that appears to work well at keeping water drops from clinging to it. So when you pop your camera out of the water to take a picture above the water, you should have less water drops on your screen.
Both cameras provide the ability to download video and pictures to your computer or phone using a cable, instead of only by WiFi or SD card removal.
Both cameras are waterproof down to 33 feet without a housing, and they have the flaps that fold down on the bottom for attaching handles and sticks, so you don’t need a separate housing to attach things. You can also buy a waterproof housing for more protection.
Note that you may be able to still buy a GoPro Hero9, but we would not. That camera had lots of problems.
Important GoPro for Snorkeling Features by Model
GoPro Hero10 Black Important Features
- Waterproof to 33 feet
- Better front live preview screen
- 23.6mp sensor (23mp stills)
- 5K video at 60fps, and 4K video at 100fps
- 19mp video still captures
- Fast F2.8 lens
- Much improved touch screen (although not underwater)
- HyperSmooth video stabilization 4.0
- Horizon stabilization improved to 45°
- RAW picture format
- Lens coating that reduces water drops
- Downloads via cable
- Reduced battery life
- Continued long video overheating problems
What’s New With the GoPro Hero11 Black?
- New sensor with 16% increase in vertical field of view
- 27mp sensor
- 5K video at 60fps, and 4k at 120fps
- HyperSmooth video stabilization 5.0
- Horizon Lock
- Higher capacity battery – up to 38% longer life
- 10-bit color
- Still has overheating problems and a sluggish screen
Which Would We Get?
The Hero11 costs more than the 10. But if it were between the two, we would likely buy the Hero11, for the longer battery life, and better video quality.
Best GoPro Alternative?
The GoPro11 takes better video for sure than the DJI. But we would probably buy the new DJI Osmo Action 3 camera instead that was just announced.
Based on many hands on reviews, it costs less, has no overheating problems, and has a larger battery. The screens are bigger, and work better, and the front screen also has touch controls. And those touch screens work better when a little wet than the GoPro. And it has a new super fast battery charging system. You can get an 80% charge in just 18 minutes. It is just an easier camera to use all around. For example it has a quick settings button on the side to rapidly switch between your favorite settings. And, it is also waterproof to nearly twice the depth, at 52 feet.
We also like that DJI does not come out with a new camera every year. Instead they keep providing updates to their cameras for many years after you have bought it. For example, they have said they will be updating this camera to 10-bit color with a firmware release in the near future.
Hey, if you find this page helpful our free monthly snorkeling newsletter has lots of snorkeling camera tips in it.
Housing Options – GoPro for Snorkeling
The GoPro cameras on this page are waterproof enough for snorkeling, without a housing. But they all have housings available for $50 or less that make them waterproof down to diving depths, and add protection to your camera from damage. It’s a good insurance policy. Another benefit of using the camera with a housing is that it gives you bigger buttons for easier use underwater and it allows filter mounting options for improved underwater color in deeper waters.
The Hero10 and Hero11 use this housing. We have heard folks say that the housing can make the overheating problem worse, so keep that in mind.
These cameras are so small that some sort of handle is nearly essential. They don’t have a standard tripod mount hole. They all now have mounts on the bottom that you can attach a variety of handles to.
Pros of a GoPro for Snorkeling
A GoPro camera with housing, an extra battery, and some type of handle will cost you much less than any other good snorkeling camera with a housing. GoPro and many aftermarket companies also offer tons of accessories for the camera at very good prices.
In the water many people use their GoPro for snorkeling on a extended pole, where its small size makes it easy to handle this way. And the small size is also great for packing in your luggage.
The GoPro is really optimized for taking selfie video of action sports, like surfing, snowboarding, and mountain biking. It does a good job of that, including underwater while snorkeling.
Simple to Use
It’s a very simple camera to use, since most all functions are automatic. You can make some menu setting changes, but for the most part you just push a button and let it figure everything out.
Cons of a GoPro for Snorkeling?
The View Screen Is Tiny
All of the GoPro cameras have touch screens, but they are tiny (and the touch screen does not work underwater, or if your finger is wet).
The Lens Is a Fisheye With 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 very close to your subject to see any details. Also, the perspective of the lens is a fisheye, not linear, meaning vertical lines wrap into curves, particularly on the edges. The 170 degree field of view on the GoPro is equivalent to a 14mm fisheye lens (35mm equivalent). And it is a fixed lens with no zoom. There are perspective setting change options that mimic a zoom, but those are done digitally, which crop the image and reduce overall image size and detail.
Not Great Still Pictures, Poor Low Light Performance
These cameras have tiny sensors, which yield still pictures that cannot compare to compact cameras with bigger sensors. Image details, tonal range, sharpness, and low light performance all suffer by comparison to a good compact camera.
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.
Essential Accessories to Use a GoPro for Snorkeling
Besides the underwater housing above, here are some accessories you will find useful with your GoPro for snorkeling.
Floating Handle or Strap
GoPros are small and they sink, so you really need a floating handle or strap for them. One diving friend has now found 50 of them on the ocean floor. So either get a floating handle, or make sure you have a wrist strap always attached to your GoPro for snorkeling. The GoPro Handler has an official GoPro mount, and it floats and has a wrist strap. If you don’t want to use a handle for your GoPro for snorkeling, make sure and get a floating wrist strap, or they also make a foam case that wraps around camera called the Floaty.
Get a Spare Battery or Two
GoPro is not renowned for long battery life. It’s best to have a spare battery or two and swap out between snorkeling spots. For the reasonable price of an OEM GoPro battery we would avoid aftermarket batteries and their associated problems.
Many folks prefer to use an extending selfie stick to take videos with their GoPro for snorkeling. It allows you to place the camera down closer to the fish and corals. But it is not easy to find a selfie stick that holds up well in salt water. Most have parts that start to immediately rust and cause problems. But lots of folks have left good reviews about using the GoPro El Grande stick in salt water, while diving and snorkeling. It does extend longer, and is waterproof, so the tubes don’t fill with water.
Get Anti-Fog Inserts
GoPro cameras can get hot shooting video, which can create moisture and fogging problems. Make sure and put an anti-fog insert in your housing before you snorkel to help prevent this.
Want to Shoot Cool Over/Under Pictures?
This is not an essential accessory, but a pretty cool and affordable one. These six inch domes make it possible to take those cool split above and below water pictures. It also increases your underwater field of view by 33%. I have not used one of these yet, but looking into the options the Telesin seems the most popular. It has a trigger for taking pictures or video. What I don’t understand about it is that the trigger appears to block your view of the camera screen? Most of these have a plastic dome, which is safer to travel, but also very easy to scratch.