Using a GoPro for Inexpensive Wide Angle Photographs

GoPro Wide Angle Photographs

Wide-angle photographs taken with the GoPro have tremendous depth-of-field. Here I am holding the GoPro in my hand and yet the whole picture is in focus.
Wide-angle photographs taken with the GoPro have tremendous depth-of-field. Here I am holding the GoPro in my hand and yet the whole picture is in focus.
Park bench still photograph taken with GoPro
Park bench still photograph taken with GoPro.

Using the GoPro as a stills camera to take wide angle shots. You may not have considered the GoPro as an alternative to an expensive wide angle lens for your 35mm digital SLR. You aren’t going to get as good a quality as you are from a purpose made digital camera lens made by Canon or Nikon, but you are certainly going to get good wide shots that are going to be more than good enough for many applications.

Wide angle shot of the entrance to the Christchurch Botanic gardens taken with the GoPro.
Wide angle shot of the entrance to the Christchurch Botanic gardens taken with the GoPro.

The GoPro makes a good inexpensive wide-angle stills camera. Ideally you want the horizon in the center of the frame in order to avoid curvature of the horizon. Such curvature can be improved in Photoshop and other picture editing programs.

When used "naked" without the protective plastic case the GoPro is much smaller to use hand-held. However you have to be careful not to touch the front of the lens.
When used “naked” without the protective plastic case the GoPro is much smaller to use hand-held. However you have to be careful not to touch the front of the lens.
The GoPro Underwater case provides great protection but makes the camera bulky in the hand.
The GoPro Underwater case provides great protection but makes the camera bulky in the hand.

A GoPro makes an excellent inexpensive wide-angle stills camera. The 170 degrees field-of-view is the equivalent to 12mm lens on a 35mm camera. My GoPro shown in the pictures below is an early GoPro Hero which takes both stills and 1080p high definition video. The stills are about 3mb saved as jpegs to the SD card. The later models have higher resolution.

I’m not suggesting that the picture quality will be as good as a Nikon or Canon digital SLR with a 12mm wide-angle lens but the pictures taken with the little GoPro will be more than usable in many applications. The GoPro’s 170 degree field of view is very wide making it possible to fit everything into the frame often even when you are right next to the subject. This is great when taking a picture in a small boat, or inside a room, when you can’t move further back from the subject.

You can purchase and attach a separate small screen to the back of the camera so you can see the edges of the frame. You don’t need the screen in most cases. Provided you are close enough to the subject the wide-angle lens combined with the great depth-of-field means that you usually get the shot. A bit of practice and you are good to go!

The field-of-view is so wide that you generally need to get the horizon close to the center of the frame to avoid distracting distortion of the “bowed” effect. Likewise it will produce a very unfaltering portrait picture when held to close to the face.

For street photography it is ideal being small and unobtrusive yet producing sharp pictures in good light. The colour saturation is outstanding. My early model GoPro doesn’t work that well in poor light and overcast conditions but I believe that later models have improved a great deal in this respect.

Using the GoPro “naked” without the protective plastic under-water case makes the camera much smaller and I think easier to use. However you have to be careful not to touch the front of the lens with your hand. Even small marks on the lens will show on the pictures. A scratch on the lens would be a disaster.

The GoPro can be set to take a photograph at timed intervals up to one minute. This makes it ideal to attach to the end of a pole for taking aerial shots. Nowadays users also attach GoPro’s to drones for aerial videos some of which are amazing affording a view that would otherwise require you to hire a helicopter!

Here is a Gallery of GoPro Sample Shots

More info on GoPro

Photo & Video in the Merivale Mall, Christchurch stock GoPro

GoPro Official Website

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