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Project 602 - Underwater Fishing Camera
 
Project 602
(Something about otters)
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Underwater Fishing Camera
Posted - Jun 30th, 2014 6:30am
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There is something endlessly appealing to me about seeing things underwater.  I'm not bored of the world above by any means, but like seeing things in slow motion - everything is cooler underwater (a phenomena certain to be studied by future generations).  So it should be no surprise to anyone that I decided to bastardize an action-cam and try to use it as an underwater video camera on a recent fishing trip to Lake Powell.

I'm not sure why I didn't try this before.  I've had my little GoPro Hero for a year or two now.  I just never considered the option to drop it in a lake.  For the record, these things are supposed to survive up to about 200 feet.  Something I probably should have looked up before I left...

Regardless, I did learn a few things:
  1. You really need 2 lines to guide an underwater camera.  Having just 1 causes the thing to spin and makes it hard to keep it pointed in a single direction.
  2. Underwater videos work best when the camera is pointed slightly up from the bottom or slightly down from mid-water.
  3. Not being able to see the results of your filming till you get home from your trip sucks.
  4. Due to the bubble lens on the older GoPro's like mine - the autofocus doesn't work right underwater, and everything you film will come out blurry.

While it was still a fun experiment, the reality is that it didn't work out very well.  I blame everything above for the weird, blurry, boring videos I made on this first attempt.  I have attached a couple of them to this post below.  I have also been looking around for other solutions.

Turns out there are a few commercial options like the Aqua-Vu.  At first, this looked like it solved most of the problems I encountered.  It has a live view screen, and its designed with a little fin on the camera to keep it moving in 1 direction.  Unfortunately, after emailing back and forth with their staff, it became clear that the reason their website doesn't list things like camera and screen resolutions, is that they are waaaaay behind the technical curve.  $500 is just too much money for a 640x480 camera and a 320x240 screen to view it on.  The GoPro for comparison, has a max resolution of 1920x1080 and costs about $200 and my phone has a resolution of about 4 gazzillion googapixels.

Other companies do offer higher def models.  If you have 6 grand you can even buy a remote control submarine to film for you.  There are also a nearly endless number of professional solutions if you live in a fortress of cash...which I don't.  Fortunately, there seems to be another option if I'm willing to undertake another project.

The newer GoPros come in a case that films just as clearly underwater as they do on land.  Additionally, they come with a wifi transmitter that can use your phone or ipad as a live screen.  I originally asked my friend Hunter if this would work underwater and got an authoritative lesson in 2.4Ghz technology.  Short answer - No.  Long answer - it should be possible to use a waterproofed coaxial cable to transmit from the water to viewing device.... at least for 50-60 feet... in theory...

So now I just need to get a new GoPro, buy some coax cable, waterproof it, come up with a rig that lets me control the depth/angle/direction of the camera within its case, and go fishing again! Doable - but it will have to wait.  I'm currently working on a few other projects.  For now, feel free to checkout the blurry, green, underwater world of Lake Powell in the videos below.
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