Using Dome Ports with GoPros for Over/Under Water Split Photos

If you're looking to get split photos of above and below the water line, a dome port is what you want. Here's a rundown of…

If you’re looking to get split photos of above and below the water line, a dome port is what you want. Technically, it’s possible to do it without a dome port, but in practice it’s very, very difficult because of how hard it is to perfectly align the water line with the center of the lens. A dome port effectively pushes the waterline out away from the lens, vastly increasing the working size. And that makes it much, much easier to work with.

The dome ports for GoPros are typically 6-inch domes. They’re generally not designed for diving and aren’t hardened against water pressure the way that higher-end dome ports and underwater camera housings are.

They’re also not the most convenient accessories to lug around–there’s no way around the fact that they’re cumbersome, the acrylic is easily scratched, and they’re easy to damage in transit.

Those things aside, though, dome ports can be very useful for getting some distinctive and unique water shots from your GoPro.

Above and below of a small iceberg in the Arctic off the coast of Svalbard. Shot with a GoPro HERO5 Black in a dome port.

HERO5 Black with a Dome Port / Kayaking in the Arctic

How GoPro Dome Ports Work

Here’s a quick rundown of how they assemble and work in the water.

In this example, I’m using the Telesin 6-inch (Model GP-DMP-T05) paired with a GoPro HERO5 Black. After having tried a few different dome ports for the HERO5 Black and HERO4 Silver and Black, this is my favorite. It’s compatible with the HERO7 Black, HERO6 Black, HERO5 Black, and HERO (2018).

Vicdozia Telesin 6 inches Dome Port Lens Compatible with GoPro Hero7...
  • 【DESIGNED FOR GoPro HERO7/6/5/HERO 2018】Specially designed for GoPro Hero7 Black/ Hero7 White/ Hero7...
  • 【EXCELLENT ABOVE/BELOW WATER SHOOTING】Moving the waterline away from the lens makes it possible to...

It includes the dome, a handle grip, and a mechanical pistol trigger. It’s marketed under different brand names at some retailers. Make sure to get a dome port for your specific model of camera–a dome for the HERO4 models won’t work on the HERO5 and vice versa. But the model for the HERO5 Black will also work with the HERO7 Black, HERO6 Black, and HERO (2018).

The dome comes with a fabric cover that’s helpful in preventing scratches. Because of the extreme depth of field of GoPros, any scratches on the dome’s plastic will be very noticeable.

The handle and trigger have to be assembled. It’s just a matter of using the standard GoPro connectors between them.

The back of the dome has a space purpose-built for the HERO5 Black.

You close the back door. The top has a typical lock for a GoPro housing (old, simple style rather than the newer, more secure style).

Fully assembled.

The back door behind the camera is clear so that you can see the screen, but it’s still mostly blocked by the trigger mechanism. However, it can still be useful for at least some visual guidance with framing the shot.

Getting a Good Shot

Dome ports are easiest to work with in still conditions where the water line isn’t moving. Waves and ripples can make it harder to get a good shot.

That holds true when you’re moving, too, but sometimes you can mitigate it to some extent. When I use a dome port when kayaking, for example, I’ll reach forward and gently move the port back as I’m shooting, in an effort to keep the camera in the same place relative to the water. It’s not always easy or effective, but you’ll often end up with a better shot than if the camera is moving through the water. Of course, that’s not always true. Sometimes you can end up with something unusual in less-than-ideal conditions.

This one is shot looking straight up, with the dome only partially submerged.

Things Worth Knowing

If you’re used to using high-end dome ports for DSLRs or mirrorless rigs, there are some key differences here you should watch out for. They’re conceptually the same thing, but the key difference is in the quality control. These sub-$50 ports simply don’t have the same quality control or refinement as the lens ports many times that price. And some of the quirks are related to the unusually deep depth of field of the fixed-focus lenses GoPros have.

Scratches. One is scratching the plastic. That’s always an issue with dome ports, but the materials used here aren’t strengthened to be more scratch resistant in the same way that some more expensive ports are. And because of the camera’s unusually deep depth of field, those scratches will show up sharp and in focus in your images.

In most instances, if you’re taking photos fully submerged you’ll be better off not using the dome. But it can nevertheless work fully submerged–at least at very shallow depths–as this photo shows. But if you take it deeper there’s a strong chance of it leaking–they’re really designed for around water level, not diving.

Leaking. The second is leaking. Having been through several dome ports now, I’ve found that some are better than others when it comes to withstanding leaks, even when using them at the water’s surface.

Now you might think that doesn’t matter because the HERO5 Black (or HERO6 Black or HERO7 Black) is itself waterproof. And that’s true. But a leaking port creates a few thorny problems. Even a slight leak is likely to result in water droplets sticking to the inside of the lens port. And they’ll be marvelously in focus and prominent in your shots. I’ve included an example below. Drying it out takes some time because the only airflow can come through the relatively small opening where the camera goes. And even when it’s dry, there’s likely to be some residue marking the inside the port, something I found especially true with salt water and salt marks. So it’s well worth testing for leaks before you take it out for a real shoot.

This is a good example of two issues. The first is that the water droplets in the top part of the frame are actually on the inside of the dome, the result of a leak. The other is that with the dark water at the bottom, the reflection of the frame around the camera’s lens is clearly visible.

Reflections. Something else to watch is that in some circumstances the reflection of the camera itself shows up in the frame. This happens when there’s bright light from the top (as is normal during daytime) and a particularly dark section below. It’s not something I’ve found to be an issue in conditions like the beach, pool, or shallow reefs. But I did run into it while kayaking in the Arctic where the water is exceptionally clear but can also be very dark under the shadows of ice floes. Again, I’ve included some examples here.

Where to Find Them

You can find them at Amazon.

Vicdozia Telesin 6 inches Dome Port Lens Compatible with GoPro Hero7...
  • 【DESIGNED FOR GoPro HERO7/6/5/HERO 2018】Specially designed for GoPro Hero7 Black/ Hero7 White/ Hero7...
  • 【EXCELLENT ABOVE/BELOW WATER SHOOTING】Moving the waterline away from the lens makes it possible to...

Images and product information from Amazon PA-API were last updated on 2020-10-27 at 14:08. Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on Amazon Site at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product.

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This post was last modified on April 1, 2020 12:26 pm

View Comments

  • I have gopro 5 and first I bought Telesin dome but I have problem with buttons, it doesn't fit well so when I press power to change mode or just turn it on or off most of the time it doesnšt press actual button on camera so nothing happens. Then I saved som money and bought Shot dome first impression it's great you put gopro inside with it's own case and everything work fine, BUT it leaks not every time but nost of the time and dome gets filled with water and photos suck :(
    So do you have any advice what to do abouis there any dome that you can put gopro inside with it's owt leaking?

    • I haven't run into that issue, but have definitely run into the issue of them leaking in both Telesin and Shot versions. Short of some DIY silicon sealing around the rim join, I don't have a good solution, I'm afraid. There doesn't seem to be enough of a market for these to prod manufacturers to make higher-quality versions with better seals, unfortunately.

  • Hi, just got a GoPro Hero 6 and a Telesin dome and was hoping to take it with me when diving. Now I find out that domes are not good for diving. What a dissapointment!

  • Thank you - this post was everything I wanted to know about GoPros and domes and the example pics for the issues was great. Honestly appreciative of your efforts here.

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