GoPros underwater research tools of the future

An international team, including researchers from the Centre for Marine Futures at The University of Western Australia’s Oceans Institute, recently completed a study which has found GoPros to be a cheaper and easy to use camera for underwater videography, compared to more traditional cameras.

GoPros are increasingly being used for underwater videography because of their low-cost, widespread availability and small size.  This convenience makes them ideal to use for marine videography, however uncertainty has remained about how accurately these cameras could measure marine species.

The research team compared the use of traditional handheld cameras to GoPros in a pool-based study.  The GoPro camera and a traditional handheld camera were used to capture measurements of marine species to test the accuracy of both cameras.

Several factors were tested included the distance to the camera, the angle and the speed.  Although the accuracy decreased with the increased angles and distance for both systems, the precision of the GoPros was improved for marine life at less than five metres with an optical angle of 25 degrees. 

Researchers also examined the capacity of both cameras to estimate fish length by measuring the same fish on a coral reef with two baited remote underwater video systems, one fitted with a GoPro and one with a traditional camera.  The measurements were largely similar, supporting the use of the GoPro small action camera when used in combination with measurement protocols.

Lead author, fish ecologist Dr Tom B. Letessier said the research indicated that while the GoPros were generally less accurate than other cameras, the difference was not significant. 

“This study supports the use of small action cameras such as the GoPro system, which are cheaper and easy to use, compared with traditional and more expensive handheld cameras,” said Dr Letessier.

“The cheaper and easy to use cameras allows for more data collection, which is particularly good when we study rare big predator fish that are of conservation concern.”  

The study was originally published in international journal Journal of Experiment Marine Biology and Ecology.

Story courtesy: UWA Oceans Institute