One of the main attractions of GoPros and other action cams is that you can use them in places that most cameras can't go. But that also means that there are times you'll probably want to use it without have the camera in your hand. And for that, you'll want to control your GoPro remotely. There are a number of ways you can do that, each with its own pros and cons for particular situations. So here's a rundown of how to remotely control your GoPro.
GoPro has three different remotes for their action cameras. Two of them are current models, one is an old model but you can still find it for sale in some places, and each has its own strengths and weaknesses. So here's a rundown of which remote works for what situations.
First, though, here's a quick overview of what the three remotes are. Further down the page, I have some alternative ways to control your GoPro remotely.
GoPro REMO Remoteunderwater). It works up to 33 feet (10 meters) away. And it recharges via USB.
GoPro Smart Remotedoesn't work underwater). And you can change the camera's settings using the small screen on the remote that mirrors what you'd see on the small front screen on the larger GoPro models. It's also compatible with all GoPro models that have wireless capabilities.
If you don't need the voice activation that the REMO remote has, the Smart Remote is by far the most powerful and flexible option.
GoPro Wifi Remote
You can still find these for sale new, but there's really no reason to choose it over the Smart Remote and some good reasons not to.
In terms of features, there is some overlap between the Wifi Remote and the Smart Remote. They're both waterproof (the Wifi Remote is less waterproof, rated down to 10 feet (3 meters), can control up to 50 cameras at once, can be used to change settings, and look very similar. But the Smart Remote has a much longer range, much better battery life, and is, in my experience, a much more reliable way to control your GoPros. In most circumstances, I'd recommend getting the Smart Remote rather than the Wifi Remote.
You can find them at Amazon.
Which GoPro Remote to Use When? GoPro Smart Remote vs Wifi Remote vs Remo Remote
If you want to control multiple cameras at once
Smart Remote. The clear winner here is the Smart Remote. You can control up to 50 camera at once.
One thing to watch, though, especially if you're mixing GoPro models, is that operations like start and stop are close but not exact down to the frame. That is, you can still end up with slight lags from camera to camera when starting and stopping recording.
Another thing I've run into is that sometimes some cameras will start while others don't. It's frustrating to find later that one or more cameras simply didn't start recording. So it basically means that you've got to visually confirm that they've all started recording. But the ability to control multiple cameras at once is still something I find very useful.
If you want to use voice commands
REMO. There' no competition here. Only one of these remotes offers voice control, and that's the Remo. It works directly with the voice control in the HERO6 and HERO5 models.
I'm personally a bit ambivalent about the voice control. I've had too many times where it hasn't worked as reliably as I'd like it to. But in those situations where voice control is important, the Remo is the only option for controlling a HERO6 or HERO5 remotely by voice.
I should point out that simply adding a Remo remote to the mix doesn't add voice control with other GoPro cameras that don't have their own built-in support for the feature. Put another way, there's no way to use voice control with a HERO4 Black, for instance, because the HERO4 Black camera doesn't have voice control support. (Note that although the HERO (2018) has onboard support for voice commands, it doesn't work with wireless remotes so isn't compatible with the Remo.)
If you need it to be waterproof
Smart Remote or Remo. If you're using a GoPro in damp conditions, both the Smart Remote and the Remo are waterproof. The Smart Remote is rated down to 33 feet (10 meters), while the REMO is rated down to 16 feet (5 meters).
But it's important to know that the wireless signal doesn't work through water, so while you can get the remote and camera wet and they work in rainy or splashy conditions above water, you can't use the remote underwater. If you need to do that, there are workarounds that involve running a cable to the camera, but they require some setup--I have more on them below.
I've found them most useful when doing things like kayaking or surfing, where you're mostly above the water but getting wet is inevitable.
Other Ways to Control Your GoPro Remotely
There are some other ways to control your GoPro remotely.
GoPro Mobile App. This one is pretty obvious. You can connect your phone or tablet wirelessly to your GoPro for full control over settings and shooting as well as a through-the-lens live preview and playback. You can only connect to one camera at a time, and it's as waterproof as your phone is. It's compatible with all GoPros that have wireless capabilities. It's available free directly from GoPro.check those before buying. You can find them at Amazon and B&H Photo.
Underwater Wifi Extension Cable. As you'd guess from the name, this isn't wireless. But since wireless signals don't work underwater, this is a way to control your GoPro remotely while it's fully submerged. There are DIY ways to do this, but CamDo offers an off-the-shelf option. While I haven't tried this product specifically yet, I've used other CamDo products in the past and been very impressed with them. You can get them directly from CamDo.
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Common GoPro Questions
Here are some common questions I get from GoPro users.
How to Maximize a GoPro's battery life
There are several factors that influence how long the GoPro's battery life lasts. Among them include what mode you're recording in (4K uses more power than 1080p30, for instance), the health of the battery, and even the environmental temperature (lithium batteries don't perform well in very cold temperatures). But there are some things you can do to maximize battery life. Not every GoPro has all of these features, but start with these:
- Minimize use of the back screen
- Turn off wireless
- Turn off voice commands
- Turn off GPS
- Turn off Protune
- Use QuickCapture mode
Is it normal for GoPro cameras to get hot?
Yes. Depending on the model and the shooting mode you're using, it's normal for GoPros to get quite warm while shooting. They can get hot enough to be uncomfortable to touch. It's especially noticeable when shooting high-resolution and high-framerate video. Some newer models have an overheating protection mechanism that will shut the camera down if it gets too hot. I have more details on GoPros getting hot, here.
How can I control a GoPro remotely?
GoPro makes a range of wireless remote controls. They don't all work with all GoPros--for example, the HERO (2018) isn't compatible with this type of remote control. Many of the newer models also work with the GoPro mobile app. Not every model can be controlled remotely, but most of the newer models have wireless compatibility that can be used for at least some methods of remote control.
Can you take pictures with a GoPro?
If you've been using a GoPro for a while, this might seem pretty obvious, but if you've never used one, it's not quite so self-evident. GoPros are best known for dramatic action videos, but they can most certainly take still photos too. In fact, they can be a very interesting alternative to a traditional camera so long as you work within its limitations. I have more more details here.
Do GoPro wireless controls work underwater?
No. You can't use the mobile app or a wireless remote control if the camera is fully submerged in water. They will normally work just fine in rain and spray--just not submerged. I have a more detailed explanation here.
Do GoPro touchscreens work underwater?
No. If they're just wet above water, they can work to some extent, although often less reliably. But the touchscreens won't work underwater.