Do GoPro Touchscreens Work Underwater?

Wondering if the touchscreen on the back of your GoPro camera works underwater?

Now that touchscreens on the back of GoPros have become standard–at least, with the larger, non-Session models–it makes sense to wonder if they’ll work underwater.

And the answer is no, GoPro touchscreens don’t work underwater.

For now, the touch-sensitive displays that we’ve become used to on all sorts of devices don’t work underwater. That’s true of the touchscreens on smartphones and cameras, including the screens on the back of GoPro cameras.

Current touchscreens use technology that is sensitive to a slight electrical charge, or what’s known as capacitance sensing. Patents have been granted for technology aiming to solve that limitation by using other methods of registering input on touchscreens, but right now it’s not technology that’s available in consumer devices.

If you’re using it at the water’s surface, part in and part out of the water, you’ll also find that a drop of water can also confuse the touchscreen, and you can get some wacky results. You’ll see this quickly if your smartphone gets some droplets on it. I often find that it can change the shooting mode or activate things like the auto exposure spot meter. So it’s worth keeping an eye on it, just in case you find it in the wrong mode when you go to shoot. When I’m shooting in wet conditions, I usually turn the screen lock on to prevent this problem.

Of course, your GoPro can work underwater—that’s one of the great selling points of GoPros, after all. And the touchscreen will continue to work normally as a digital viewfinder to display the live view, playback videos and photos, and access menu options. Being able to see what you’re shooting is especially useful underwater. You just won’t be able to interact with them with touch (or wifi, for that matter) to change settings. For that you’ll need to the use the buttons or get the screen mostly dry.

Worth noting, now that the newer models come in their own waterproof case without the need for an external housing, is that this limitation remains true for them as well.

For mode and menu changes, the buttons generally work well. But not every feature and setting can be set just with buttons alone, so it’s not always a perfect alternative. For example, you can’t control exposure control through the buttons.

Do GoPro Touchscreens Work in Rain?

Yes, GoPro touchscreens do work in the rain, although the responsiveness might not be as good as when it’s dry.

If the camera is not fully submerged, you should be able to get response out of the touchscreen. Drops of water, and even wet fingers, can still make it work, although you’ll probably find it’s not as reliably responsive as normal. And sometimes you can end up accessing features accidentally, such as the exposure point feature. But you should be able to get enough of a signal to get where you want in the menus.

Waterproof Depth Ratings for GoPro Cameras

Newer GoPro models have a waterproof body. Older models required an external waterproof housing. Here are the depth ratings for the cameras themselves.

GoPro ModelWaterproof Depth Rating (without external housing)
HERO12 Black33 feet / 10 meters
HERO11 Black33 feet / 10 meters
HERO11 Black Mini33 feet / 10 meters
HERO10 Black33 feet / 10 meters
HERO10 Black Bones EditionNot waterproof or water-resistant.
HERO9 Black33 feet / 10 meters
HERO8 Black33 feet / 10 meters
MAX16 feet / 5 meters
HERO7 Black33 feet / 10 meters
HERO7 Silver33 feet / 10 meters
HERO7 White33 feet / 10 meters
Fusion16 feet / 5 meters
HERO6 Black33 feet / 10 meters
HERO (2018)33 feet / 10 meters
HERO5 Black33 feet / 10 meters
HERO5 Session33 feet / 10 meters
HERO4 Session / HERO Session33 feet / 10 meters
HERO+ LCD131 feet / 40 meters
HERO+131 feet / 40 meters
HERO (2014)131 feet / 40 meters
HERO4 BlackNot waterproof. Requires external waterproof housing.
HERO4 SilverNot waterproof. Requires external waterproof housing.
HERO3+ BlackNot waterproof. Requires external waterproof housing.
HERO3 BlackNot waterproof. Requires external waterproof housing.
HERO3 SilverNot waterproof. Requires external waterproof housing.
HERO3 WhiteNot waterproof. Requires external waterproof housing.
HD HERO 2Not waterproof. Requires external waterproof housing.
HD HERO OriginalNot waterproof. Requires external waterproof housing.
SD HERONot waterproof. Requires external waterproof housing.

To go deeper, you can put the camera inside a protective dive housing. These are the compatible protective housings for recent cameras.

GoPro CameraCompatible Protective HousingDepth Rating of Protective Housing
HERO12 BlackProtective Housing (for HERO11/10/9)196 feet / 60 meters
HERO11 BlackProtective Housing (for HERO11/10/9)196 feet / 60 meters
HERO10 BlackProtective Housing (for HERO11/10/9)196 feet / 60 meters
HERO10 Black Bare BonesNot compatible with protective housing.
HERO9 BlackProtective Housing (for HERO11/10/9)196 feet / 60 meters
HERO8 BlackProtective Housing (for HERO8)*196 feet / 60 meters
HERO7 BlackSuper Suit196 feet / 60 meters
HERO7 SilverProtective Housing (for HERO7 Silver/White)131 feet / 40 meters
HERO7 WhiteProtective Housing (for HERO7 Silver/White)131 feet / 40 meters
HERO6 BlackSuper Suit196 feet / 60 meters
HERO (2018)Super Suit196 feet / 60 meters
HERO5 BlackSuper Suit196 feet / 60 meters
HERO5 SessionAftermarket Dive Housing
HERO SessionAftermarket Dive Housing
HERO4 SessionAftermarket Dive Housing
HERO4 BlackAftermarket Dive Housing
HERO4 SilverAftermarket Dive Housing
* NB: Despite sharing the name, there are a few different versions under the same name of Protective Housing. So be sure you're getting the specific version for the camera you're using. For example, the HERO10 Black and HERO9 Black share the same one because their camera body is the same. But the Protective Housing for the HERO8 Black is different. And they're all different again from the Protective Housing for the HERO7 Silver and HERO7 White.

New Model: GoPro HERO12 Black

Released in September 2023, the HERO12 Black is GoPro's newest model.

GoPro HERO12 Black
  • 5.3K60 / 4K120 / 2.7K240 Video
  • 27MP Photos
  • Waterproof to 33ft/10m
  • HyperSmooth 6.0 Stabilization
  • Shoot 5.3K60 & 4K120 video at up to 120Mbps bitrate
  • HDR video up to 5.3K30
  • Horizon Lock keeps level even during movement
  • Take 27MP photos (5568 x 4872 pixels)
  • 1/1.9" CMOS sensor
  • Waterproof to 33ft / 10m, so you can take it swimming, paddling, surfing, or snorkeling without a separate housing
  • Built-in mount point
  • HyperSmooth 6.0 In-camera Video Stabilization creates smooth video without a gimbal
  • Shoot up to 8x slow motion
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David Coleman / Photographer

David Coleman

I'm a freelance travel photographer based in Washington DC. Seven continents, up mountains, underwater, and a bunch of places in between. My images have appeared in numerous publications, and you can check out some of my travel photography here. I've been shooting with GoPros for years, starting with the HD HERO, and have owned and used every model since. More »

2 thoughts on “Do GoPro Touchscreens Work Underwater?”

  1. I have used my GoPro Hero4 Silver while snorkeling, kayaking, hiking in the rain and swimming in Hawaii for multiple trips. It was in the waterproof case with the touchback door at all times, because I wanted better sound. I was able to use the touchscreen at shallower depths, up to about 3 feet… both while snorkeling in the ocean (five different snorkeling trips) and in a controlled aquarium pool, as well as in several freshwater pond/river settings with waterfalls. While kayaking, the camera spent a lot of time in the water shooting sealife as it passed under us, and it was sometimes attached to the boat for rougher seas (and also while we huli’ed). Fortunately, I had trusted the sticker that came on the door stating it was waterproof up to 10’… and had not read all of the online comments about this door mainly being for rain situations and not for swimming, or I might have been nervous to try it. It has proven to be reliable, protective and waterproof when used as warranted… up to a depth of 10′. I also have not confusion the confusion you mention with the touchscreen when the camera is only partially submerged. Have you tested your results on multiple cameras? I think perhaps this is an issue with inconsistency in manufacturing and not a one-result-happens-to-all situation.

    Reply
    • The touch issue you mention at the end happens with all of the HERO5, HERO6, and HERO7 model touchscreens. They have a different design to the HERO4 Silver–their touchscreens are part of the waterproof case and fully exposed.

      Reply

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