Monday, 16 July 2012

BACKSCATTER.COM FLAT PORT HOUSING FOR THE GOPRO HD HERO 2

As I’m sure some of you are aware the GoPro cameras suffer from focusing and vignetting problems with the standard housing which is why companies such as Sartek and Silent Thrill have made aftermarket housings and others such as Snake River Prototyping have made aftermarket flat port lenses.  All have fixed the problem with varying degrees of results and there are various reviews and links on Yorkshire Divers.  The ‘official’ GoPro flat port housing was not yet released and dates were constantly slipping to the right. 
To that end please let me introduce you to the new housing from Backscatter.com which is sold through Deep-Ideas.  Following a post I made on Yorkshire Divers about mounting a GoPro to my Green Force torch, Rob Dobson who is associated with the company (but not directly employed) and I started chatting daily about the new housing, its development and how in his opinion it should fix the problems associated with the GoPro.  In his words: 
“I happen to know the design team who were commissioned to develop this housing and every time I spoke with them they had rejected another optic because technically it wasn't good enough. They are very happy with what they ended up with.....  Others take the GoPro housing, remove the dome and glue a cheap flatport on it instead.  The part cost about 6 Euro's from Germany and unsurprisingly isn't very good quality optics.  It corrects the fuzzy underwater issue and is fine for low res YouTube type dive films but it is not good for hi-res HD stuff.   The new one is designed by what I truly believe to be the finest marine technology design house in the world - these guys REALLY have their $h!t together.....The optics are in a different league to the other offerings - really delivering the best hi res quality that the HD hero can achieve; no vignetting in any modes; the ability to fit dome protectors to prevent scratching the optics during travelling.   Also available are neutral density filters to prevent over exposure and red filters for green water filming.  You can change these filters underwater.  It is my understanding that the housing is still based on the GoPro shell but they have replaced the optic section so therefore I believe the LCD and extended battery backend will fit perfectly.”

At £95 it’s more than the official GoPro housing, around the same price as some of the aftermarket ports and cheaper than some of the other aftermarket housings.  This is my first experience with Deep-Ideas and so far I’ve been blown away by their customer service.  I was sending Rob messages at all times of day and night, comparing it to other ports and housings and he was happy to answer based on his opinions.  If he didn’t know, he was big enough to admit it rather than blag it.  As soon as the housing was listed on the website I placed the order and was blown away when it arrived the following day.  So you, the readers are aware I ordered the housing and a protective lens cap.  Other items are available such as filters and mounting arms

Upon opening the box I not only found a packet of Maltesers but more importantly found the goods well packaged in snow foam.  Once out, the housing itself was wrapped in bubble wrap in its own box.  On inspection the housing is very similar (apart from the lens assembly) to the original housing and will take the LCD bacpak and all the other accessories. 

The housing also comes with a watertight back and the air vented back as well as instructions and is rated to 55m.  Both 55mm threaded and non-threaded (non-threaded using the o-ring filter mount) filters can be added however the instructions do warn that thicker threaded filters may cause dark corners in wide modes. 

I have mounted the GoPro to my Green Force torch. I've used a handlebar tripod mount and GoPro's tripod mountAfter 2 weeks I finally got to test the housing, not in Plymouth as I had hoped but at Dosthill Quarry with some buddies from The Dive Club.  The movie was filmed in the full 1080 dpi widescreen mounted on top of my torch.  It's the first time I used this torch head and it's a little bit of a lightsaber in the video so sorry.  I did try turning it off to film and the results seemed ok but every time I did my buddy turned to check I was ok as he couldn't see the light.  In regards to the housing I am very impressed.  No vignetting (as I've seen with some housings) and no loss of focus.  The housing is easy to use and the backs can be changed very easily if you need to.  No problems accessing any of the buttons.  This was also the first time I have used the GoPro.  My only criticism (but it may be the way I've set it up) is that the LCD bacpak goes into standby after a few minutes filming. The camera continues to film, I just can't see the footage on the screen.  I'm glad I had the screen though as without it I think I may have been off with the angle.  Apologies the video's a little boring, there’s not much to see at Dosty. 

I finally got a chance to get the housing wet again, this time over the Diamond Jubilee weekend diving with Discovery Divers who are based out of Fort Bovisand, Plymouth.  Although the visibility was a little poor due to the algae, the wife and I had a few good dives including HMS Elk, SS Persier and Fairyland’s Trawler. 

A similar review was conducted on Yorkshire Divers.  The discussions from the threads can be located here and here

It'd be interesting to see a comparison on the official housing when it's released but overall I’m very impressed with the housing and the service from Deep-Ideas and would certainly recommend them to anyone.

The boring bit!
All opinions expressed in my articles are my own and may differ to other instructor’s and agency guidelines; by no means are they wrong and I would not wish to disrepute any of them.  This article is for information only and should not replace proper training.

Safe diving!

Timothy Gort
BSAC, PADI & SDI/TDI diver training
l Mob: 07968148261 l Email: tim@rectotec.co.uk l