All of the recent GoPro models use a design where the camera body is waterproof without the need for a separate housing. Older models used a different design that required an external housing to be waterproof.
The first model that came with the waterproof body design was the HERO4 Session. Since then, GoPros have been waterproof without the need for an external housing.
But there are also degrees of waterproofness. A camera that is fine for rain isn’t necessarily good for swimming and surfing at the surface. Spray and rain will usually qualify for “water resistant,” while “waterproof” usually implies that it can be submerged. But even then, the pressures of a short dunking while swimming near at the surface are different than if you’re taking it Scuba diving for an hour. Pressure increases the deeper you go, the longer the time the more chance for moisture to seep in, and things like whether it’s still water or a jet stream like out of a hose make a difference. That’s why you’ll often see waterproof ratings expressed as an IP number, like IPX6. GoPro has chosen not to use that standardized system of testing and rating waterproofness–they use their own simpler measure based on water depth.
The default waterproof rating for most of the recent GoPros is 33 feet (10 meters). But there are some variances.
These are the waterproof depth ratings for GoPro models:
|GoPro Model||Waterproof Depth Rating (without external housing)|
|HERO8 Black||33 feet / 10 meters|
|MAX||16 feet / 5 meters|
|HERO7 Black||33 feet / 10 meters|
|HERO7 Silver||33 feet / 10 meters|
|HERO7 White||33 feet / 10 meters|
|Fusion||16 feet / 5 meters|
|HERO6 Black||33 feet / 10 meters|
|HERO (2018)||33 feet / 10 meters|
|HERO5 Black||33 feet / 10 meters|
|HERO5 Session||33 feet / 10 meters|
|HERO4 Session / HERO Session||33 feet / 10 meters|
|HERO+ LCD||131 feet / 40 meters|
|HERO+||131 feet / 40 meters|
|HERO (2014)||131 feet / 40 meters|
|HERO4 Black||Not waterproof. Requires external waterproof housing.|
|HERO4 Silver||Not waterproof. Requires external waterproof housing.|
|HERO3+ Black||Not waterproof. Requires external waterproof housing.|
|HERO3 Black||Not waterproof. Requires external waterproof housing.|
|HERO3 Silver||Not waterproof. Requires external waterproof housing.|
|HERO3 White||Not waterproof. Requires external waterproof housing.|
|HD HERO 2||Not waterproof. Requires external waterproof housing.|
|HD HERO Original||Not waterproof. Requires external waterproof housing.|
|SD HERO||Not waterproof. Requires external waterproof housing.|
Of course, with any discussion of something being waterproof, there’s always a caveat: that it’s only as waterproof as the weakest part. In practice with GoPros, that usually means the seals on the compartment doors. They have small rubber seals running around them, but it’s pretty easy to get a piece of sand or grit lodged in there. And the rubber seal itself can become damaged or degraded (in which case, you can replace the whole door; see below). And, obviously, any damage or cracks in the housing or around the buttons are potential places for water to get in.
The default waterproof rating for most of the recent GoPros is 33 feet (10 meters). That’s good for anything near the water’s surface, such as surfing, swimming, snorkeling, or boating. It’ll hand rain and splashes no problem.
But if you’re going SCUBA diving or venturing deeper underwater with your GoPro, you can get stronger, more durable protective dive housings that are rated for the pressures of greater depths.
Make sure you get the one that’s compatible with your specific GoPro model because they’re not all the same due to camera body shapes and positions of buttons.
GoPro has official dive housings for recent models. You can also find aftermarket versions for older models (and newer ones, for that matter). For those, depth ratings and quality control will vary, so it’s worth spending extra care in choosing if going down that road.
These are the protective dive housings for recent GoPro models:
|GoPro Camera||Compatible Protective Housing||Depth Rating of Protective Housing|
|HERO8 Black||Protective Housing*||196 feet / 60 meters|
|HERO7 Black||Super Suit||196 feet / 60 meters|
|HERO7 Silver||Protective Housing||131 feet / 40 meters|
|HERO7 White||Protective Housing||131 feet / 40 meters|
|HERO6 Black||Super Suit||196 feet / 60 meters|
|HERO (2018)||Super Suit||196 feet / 60 meters|
|HERO5 Black||Super Suit||196 feet / 60 meters|
|HERO5 Session||Aftermarket Dive Housing|
|HERO Session||Aftermarket Dive Housing|
|HERO4 Session||Aftermarket Dive Housing|
|HERO4 Black||Aftermarket Dive Housing|
|HERO4 Silver||Aftermarket Dive Housing|
Things Worth Knowing about Dive Housings
- With most dive housings–and especially the better ones–the back touchscreen will become inoperable. That’s a good thing underwater, because the touchscreens can act a bit wacky in water, but it can be a consideration if you’re using your camera near the surface, going in and out of the water, and still want to the touchscreen accessible when out of the water. Most, but not all, have a clear back panel so you can still at least see the screen. Some come with an extra skeleton back door that allows access to the touchscreen. That does nothing for waterproof protection; it’s designed for when you’re using the housing only for protection against bumps and knocks.
- While waterproof housings are trickier for 360-degree models like the MAX and Fusion because of the nature of those cameras, you can nevertheless find aftermarket dive housings for those. I haven’t had the chance to try any of those yet, but you can find some here.
- The combination of heat from the camera, humidity and dampness, and cooler external temperatures in the water is a recipe for the lens port fogging up. There are various strategies for trying to minimize that risk, including packing in defogging strips, treating the lens port with an anti-fogging solution, and sealing the camera in a low-humidity room.
There are some basic precautions you can take to reduce the risk of leaks.
- Make sure that all the compartment doors are closed properly. It might sound obvious, but it’s pretty easy to forget to reattach a compartment door or close it properly after you’ve been charging your camera or using a different accessory. It’s also possible when removing and reattaching compartment doors that the locking hinge isn’t correctly attached.
- Check the seals regularly. Remove any grit. If the seals look at all damaged, replace the doors. You can find the doors for newer models as spare parts. Yes, they’re often overpriced for what they are, but it’s better than putting the camera at risk of water damage. You can find the spare part doors for newer models at GoPro.com. For older models, it’s worth checking at Amazon.
- Use an appropriate housing if necessary. The depth ratings are guidelines, and in practice, there’s often a little leeway. But if you’re SCUBA diving and know that part of your dive might dip below 30 feet, it’s worth being safe by using a dive housing.
Things Worth Knowing
- Touchscreens don’t work underwater (though you can still see the display). Nor will wifi, so you can’t use wireless remotes.