Buying Guides

Choosing Video Lights For Your GoPro

GoPro cameras are awesome! No doubt about that. They work great above water and produce stunning video and cool wide angle photos. The problem starts underwater…

As you all know, colors fade away the deeper you dive underwater. This proves difficult for photographers, as the essence of photography is capturing light and color. Even at a shallow depth of 15ft/5m, your GoPro starts producing blue-green footage, which end up being boring and lifeless.

Sure, filters help. A red filter brings back some of the red hues and produces a nicer result, but it doesn’t really produce natural colors. For that, you will need to introduce artificial light!

Since the GoPro is a fairly basic camera, it suffers from limited dynamic range and WB range. This makes it even more important to provide the GoPro’s sensor with good lighting, and only then does it really shine! But choosing the right light could be a daunting process. With so many options out there, what’s the best video light for your GoPro?

Lumens

We’ll start with a video light’s most dominant feature – Lumens! In the end, it all boils down to power.  Light intensity is measured by lumens and the more the more the merrier. Contrary to common belief, you cannot have too much light. A GoPro is used to working in bright sunlight conditions, which produces far brighter light than anything you can generate with an LED light. It will adjust to the amount of light you produce.

However, it is a factor of distance as well, and if you shine a really bright light from a very close distance, such as when shooting macro, you may reach the limit of the GoPro and wash out (overexpose) the scene. The good thing is that all lights can be dimmed – set to a lower power mode for macro situations, so it’s not really a limitation.

The more lumens you have, the better, and the further away you will be able to light up a subject.

So how many lumens do you really need? as I mentioned before, the more lumens you have, the better, and the further away you will be able to light up a subject.
LED technology is advancing very fast, so what I’m writing right now may not be relevant in two years time, but at this point in the market, 1000-2000 lumens would be a nice basic light, 3000-5000 would be a medium range light, and 8000-12000 would be some serious lighting power.

Remember that beam angle and whether you’re using one or two lights is also an important consideration.

You can read more about beam angle in the Ultimate Guide to Underwater Video Lights, but here I will only mention that since the GoPro has a wide angle fisheye lens, it’s best to use 2 lights over one, so that you can light up the entire frame and get nice coverage. If you’re using 1 light, then make sure it’s a very wide beam. You may still get fairly dark corners, but the majority of the frame and your subject will be well lit.

Light Modes

As opposed to video lights for regular cameras such as compact, mirrorless or DSLR, with a GoPro you will likely need just one mode on your light – Flood. This would be the main mode for shooting either photos or videos.

That being said, Spot mode can come in handy, when using it as a dive light to spot marine life. I usually like to dive with my spot light on, checking little crevices and hideouts to find cool critters. When I start shooting, I would switch to flood mode, record and then back to spot light when I’m done. This would also conserve battery life, as spot feature uses less power than flood.

Another cool mode that you might want to experiment with is UV / Blue light, AKA fluorescence photography. With this mode, you will also need a yellow filter on your GoPro, and a yellow mask filter, to witness and record the cool effect of fluorescence underwater.

Red mode, which is usually used as a focus light on night dives for compact cameras, isn’t really needed with a GoPro.

Tray and mounts

There’s a variety of ways to mount lights to your GoPro:

  1. Mount GoPro directly to light
  2. Create some distance between the light and the GoPro
  3. Use a tray and arm set – single or dual

Mount GoPro directly to light

This method is quick, easy, compact and cheap. The actual adapters you need depend on the mount of the light you chose to use, but the most common method is to get a ball mount for your GoPro, add a standard 1″ ball clamp, then mount the light on the other side of it. If the light has a ball mount – great! If it has a YS mount, use this YS to Ball adapter to connect it to the clamp.

The problem with this method is backscatter. Your light will be very close to the actual lens, resulting in unavoidable backscatter in your frame from the little particles in the water. That’s why I wouldn’t recommend it with strong lights, or with poor visibility. Use this method with an 1000 lumen light in Cozumel-visibility or similar.

Create Distance between the Light and the GoPro

This method involves using the above ball mount and clamp method, but adding another arm segment and clamp between the light and GoPro. This is still relatively cheap and easy, usually solves the problem of backscatter as your light is further away from the lens, and highly customizable, as you can use any length or arm segment that works for you.

The difficulty here is that the rig becomes a bit messy, and there’s no real shape to the whole thing.

Use a tray and arm set

This would be the preferred method to mount a light on your GoPro. There are plenty of trays out there, most consist of a base tray, where you mount your GoPro, and an arm of some sort on which you mount the light.

Here are several popular trays you can consider:

BTS Dual GoPro Boomerang Tray

Beneath The Surface – Dual Boomerang Tray with YS Locline Arms

The BTS boomerang tray is one of the most popular GoPro trays in the market. It’s made of high quality materials, features fantastic ergonomics and compatible with most of the lights in the market. The locline arms can be quickly disconnected with a twist-and-pull method, for easy packing and traveling. This model includes YS mounts on the ends of the arms, but other mounts are available for any type of light.

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BTS Single GoPro Boomerang Tray

Beneath The Surface – Single Boomerang Tray with YS Locline Arm

For those of you who are looking for a compact rig, BTS also offers a single tray, which is great for mounting one powerful light to your GoPro, featuring a comfortable grip, quick disconnect arm and a GoPro quick-release mount.

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Ikelite Action GoPro Tray

Ikelite Dual Action GoPro Tray

The Ikelite action tray for GoPro features a boomerang shaped tray, to get the arms out of the GoPro’s line of sight. It comes with two Ikelite signature quick release grips, which are the same type used on their Mirrorless and DSLR housings.

This tray features a comfy pistol grip, making it excellent for fast action shots and easy to handle whether using one or two lights, or no light at all. Standard Ikelite ball mounts can be inserted in the grips, or locline flex arms for mounting your lights.

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BigBlue Dual GoPro Tray

Big Blue Dual GoPro Tray with Ball Mounts

The Big Blue tray is a nice and affordable option. Solid design, GoPro compatible with standard 1″ ball mounts, with padded grips and made of durable materials.

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Best Underwater Video Lights for GoPro (Updated Sep 2017)

Hydra 2000

The Kraken Hydra 2000 is an excellent value compact light, capable of 2000 lumens with a beam angle of 110 degrees, two buttons to control the light, flood and red modes, cool carrying case and great over all design.

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Light and Motion Sola 2000 Flood

The Sola lights are well known in the market, with their distinct spring loaded control lever, factory sealed body and high quality beam. With a beam angle of 60 degrees, we recommend getting two of these to cover the entire GoPro frame.

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Big Blue Black Molly

The Black Molly is one of the best value lights in the market, with a very high ratio of lumens per dollar. It comes with an integrated ball mount, yellow filter for warming up the light and long battery life.

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Sealife 2300 Auto Light

The Sealife 2500 produces a nice and clean 2500 lumens beam at a 100 degree beam angle. Sealife’s unique design is user friendly and highly reliable. The light operates on 4 x AA batteries.

The best thing about this light is the Auto Power feature. The light will automatically dim itself when approaching a subject to prevent overexposure, and increase power when you back up. Very useful!

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Fantasea Radiant 3000F

Fantasea Radiant 3000F

This feature packed little light is capable of producing 3000 lumens of Flood light at a 120 degree beam angle, 1000 lumens of Spot with a narrow 15 degree beam, as well as red light and UV mode for night dives and fluorescence photography.

Two buttons control the power output and modes, a YS mount is included for mounting the light and batteries are interchangeable lithium type.

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Kraken Solar Flare Max

Kraken Solar Flare MAX

This beast will light up an entire cave without breaking a sweat! The Solar Flare is about as powerful as it gets, with a staggering 10,000 lumens of flood light, emitted by 5 LED’s at a 160 degree beam angle.

Control the power output with an easy push button with dial – 0-100% in 5% increments.

The light head is water resistant! So even in the rare case of a flood, your main investment is fully protected.

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Light and Motion SOLA Video Pro 9600 FC

Light and Motion SOLA Video Pro 9600 FC

Sola video pro 9600 is the ultimate imaging light for the serious pro with a new patented cooling system to deliver the best performance in the industry and ushering a new era of constant lighting for underwater imaging specialists.

9600 lumens at a 90 degree beam angle, with a floodproof design and OLED Dashboard Display for monitoring settings, battery life, etc.

Integrated Li-ion battery charges completely in 1hr 45 min!

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Conclusion

Getting quality footage from your GoPro depends on the quality of lights you get and how easy it is to control your setup underwater. Remember that a GoPro is a great base for a setup, but to get really good results, lights are crucial.

If you still can’t decide on the right light and tray for your needs, contact us via the online chat of over the phone. We’d love to help!

*BONUS*

Make the decision even easier with our Ready-To-Dive GoPro light packages! Determine your budget and pick the bundle that works best for you!

 

Ran Mor
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Ran Mor

Sales and Marketing at Mozaik Underwater Cameras
Ran is a professional photographer for over 14 years. His passion for scuba diving and photography has pushed him to combine his profession and hobby and become a professional underwater photographer. Teaching is one of his greatest passions and over the years he has shared his experience with many divers and aspiring photographers. Along with his wife Danielle, an experienced Scuba Instructor, they have founded Dive and More, leading dive trips and UW photo workshops all over the world. Ran is also an electrical engineer and an avid internet marketing specialist.
Visit his personal portfolio at www.ranmorphoto.com.
Ran Mor
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