PolarPro FiftyFifty Review – A New Way to Compose Your Watersport Shots

The PolarPro FiftyFifty is the latest gadget for the GoPro HERO 5: a dome for split shots over and underwater. Read on for sample footage and my impressions.

Having used GoPro gear for the last few years, I am constantly amazed by the evolution of the cameras and their accessories. I recently got my hands on the PolarPro FiftyFifty, a dome shaped-accessory that allows you to achieve shots above and below the water surface simultaneously.

Now you may ask, why would I need a dome? Couldn’t I just hold the GoPro half way over and under water? There are two reasons why this isn’t a good idea. First, the GoPro’s tiny lens makes it difficult to accurately hit that half/half position. Secondly, there’s the small detail of physics blurring your image: the surface tension of the water, in addition to the air and plastic front lens creates a contact angle with a water surface curvature, acting like an optical element. If this happens directly on your front lens, it blurs a lot of your recorded image. However, if this phenomenon happens further away – hence the dome – then it occupies only a small portion of the image, and you get a clear split shot.

The PolarPro FiftyFifty

PolarPro FiftyFifty

PolarPro recently introduced their dome for the GoPro HERO 5, the FiftyFifty. It comes in a nice package, and includes a grip as well as a neoprene cover to protect the dome surface. Mounting the GoPro is a matter of a few seconds, and you are ready to go.

Shooting with the FiftyFifty

All in all, getting those interesting angles and split shots with a dome is not too difficult. It really adds another dimension to your compositions – a very valuable tool! Nevertheless, here are a few things to consider shooting with the PolarPro FiftyFifty.

I made the video below while visiting the Kornati Nationalpark in Croatia with my family. Below you can find some of the issues I encountered while shooting this film.

Things to consider while using a dome:

  • The air-filled dome exerts a considerable lifting force – holding it steady underwater for those split shots requires some practice.
  • The auto white balance on the GoPro camera will shift from daylight outside to something else underwater. On split shots it will constantly drift between the two, so you should lock the white balance (WB) to daylight (5600K). I had to do some heavy color correction in DaVinci Resolve to correct that. Also, even if the WB above water is correct, the underwater image will be greenish and present lifeless-looking skin tones, so this part at least will need some correction. I did some corrections for skin tones and water colors to add spice to the shots – I like the contrast between the blue water and the skin.
  • I tried different fields of view (FOV) on the GoPro (narrow, medium, wide and also the linear mode), but for decent split or underwater shots, the wide setting proved to be the best. All FOVs work fine in video mode, but be aware that some corner vignetting will be present in photo mode and the edges of the dome will become visible.
  • I enabled the digital image stabilization on the GoPro, which helped a lot. Together with the 2.7K mode you get very good image quality.
  • Sound: in auto mode, the GoPro will switch constantly between the front and rear microphones. You should set it to use the front stereo mics only, as they give quite decent sound from inside the dome – the ambient sound you can hear in the video comes from the GoPro.
  • Try to keep the outer dome surface clean, or dip it quickly underwater to prevent single drops spreading on the outer surface. For video, those drops are quite annoying.
  • Don’t let water get inside the dome. You can remove the dome lens and clean it, but its not something you’ll be able to do quickly on the beach.

Kornati Dreams from Gunther Machu on Vimeo.

For the boat sequences, I used a PolarPro ND32 filter to get some motion blur (reviewed HERE) and the GoPro Karma Grip (reviewed HERE).

Now, I have talked a lot about shooting with a GoPro and dome underwater. Is there anything specific to say about the PolarPro FiftyFifty itself? No. It just works. And that is a very good thing to say about any product. For more information, visit the official product page.

Do you shoot the kind of work that would benefit from using the PolarPro FiftyFifty? Let us know in the comments below!

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