There's a lot to like about the GoPro hero 9 black, but is it the best gopro for snorkeling?

There’s a lot to like about the GoPro hero 9 black, but is it the best gopro for snorkeling?

UPDATE: The GoPro Hero10 Black, the latest iteration of this camera, is now available; we evaluate whether or not it is the best GoPro for snorkeling in our in-depth review at The Newest GoPro for Snorkeling: 3 Keys for Purchasing or Upgrading to the HERO 10 Black.

The Hero10 improves upon many of the innovations introduced by the Hero 9, and the following breakdown of its primary capabilities should be helpful nevertheless.

Our fondness for utilizing GoPros to record our underwater adventures is no secret (Check out our informative article about How to Snorkel Underwater?). In our opinion, GoPro makes the most incredible action cameras, and having one that is waterproof means that the fantastic memories we produce while snorkeling may be preserved in a truly novel and creative way.

Years ago, I invested in my first GoPro camera, and now I have countless priceless memories at my fingertips, including selfies with school bus sizes, whale sharks, and videos of octopuses casually strolling through a coral reef. While activating all of its different types of camouflage to evade predators, and Instagram posts of our view of whale after whale breaching, spinning, and diving as male humpbacks compete to mate.

My snorkeling trips have been much improved by my recent purchase of a GoPro. Indeed, it was. (You can read our related article about Can you Snorkel with GoPro?)

With the Hero9 Black (Amazon) release, GoPro has made perhaps the company’s most significant improvement between versions. There are many brand-new additions, like a 5K image sensor, live video recording, and many more functions that were previously only possible in the experimental GoPro Labs.

However, not all of the enhancements and new capabilities of the GoPro Hero9 Black will have any bearing on your ability to use it while snorkeling. What, then, are the most critical developments in snorkeling technology? When it comes to snorkeling, does GoPro even produce the top-tier Hero 9 Black model? OK, let’s check this out.

GoPro Hero 9 Black features:

New 23.6 megapixel image sensor

When a new model of a particular camera series is released, a larger image sensor is generally one of the upgrades that can be counted on. The sensor is critical in determining the maximum image size and image clarity achievable by a camera.

Compared to the 12-megapixel sensor in the Hero 8 and Hero 7 Black, GoPro has genuinely pushed the limit with the new sensor in the Hero9 Black.

GoPro hero 9 black: is it the best GoPro for snorkeling?
The new 23.6 megapixel sensor on the GoPro Hero9 Black allows you to grab massive 5K video and 20 megapixel photos.

Insanely high-resolution 5K video and 20-megapixel still images are now possible thanks to the new sensor [source]. The new sensor’s benefits for snorkeling go well beyond its compact size since it eliminates the need to trim photographs and videos after the fact.

It’s not commonplace to take images or video where the subject seems too far away or off-center because you wind up more away from whatever you’re shooting (often marine life) than you would for a regular shot and because whatever you’re often filming won’t sit still.

In contrast, the higher the image or video’s overall resolution, the more you can crop in to properly frame your topic without the image or video being deformed or low quality. Indeed, that’s fantastic news for snorkelers.

Hyper smooth 3.0 & horizon lock

HyperSmooth digital picture stabilization, first released by GoPro with the Hero7 Black, is a fantastic feature for snorkelers. Even if it doesn’t seem like it, the constant motion of the water, the waves, the paddling, etc., will likely show up on your film as a noticeable shake. HyperSmooth does a great job at preventing shaking in your images.

There's a lot to like about the GoPro hero 9 black, but is it the best gopro for snorkeling?
Horizon Lock helps keep your footage on the Hero9 Black smooth and level, a huge help when above and in the water both.

The newest HyperSmooth (3.0) version in the Hero9 Black from GoPro continues to improve performance. However, the jump from version 2.0 to 3.0 isn’t quite a quantum leap. Instead, it’s only an enhancement over the previous version. (However, stability is aided by the new 23.6-megapixel picture sensor.)

The new Horizon Lock function, previously only available through GoPro Labs and the GoPro mobile app, is a considerable improvement for snorkelers and was included in the Hero9 Black.

Horizon Lock is a revolutionary step forward in image stabilization, allowing the user to practically make a 360-degree barrel roll while filming in a level, vertical orientation with little distortion. Initial testing appears to produce wonderfully smooth footage when you previously would have noticed every bump from a wave, push from a current, or vibration from a fin kick. More research into its use in water (rather than on land) is still needed. (You Can Check our another article regarding Can you snorkel with Glasses?)

Removable Lens Cover

Many users were unhappy that the Hero8 Black didn’t allow them to access the lens cover and clean it themselves, a common criticism about previous GoPro models. While it’s unlikely that you’ll lose your lens cover while scuba diving, the fact that GoPro has always locked it in place have prevented manufacturers from developing integrated lenses for your camera.

However, snorkelers will be happy to know that the Hero9 Black now again features a detachable lens cover. Being able to quickly and easily swap between different lenses may be helpful while photographing underwater, where conditions are very different from those on dry land.

The new GoPro Hero9 Black comes with a Max lens upgrade that expands the camera’s field of vision to a dizzying 123 degrees. For snorkeling, it’s not ideal, but it shows how future lenses may be switched out.

A second, front-facing screen

To see how you’re framing any shot or video when the lens is directed at you, the DJI Osmo Action (Amazon) launched a front-facing “selfie screen” a couple of years ago, leaving GoPro in the dust for the first time in quite some time.

In response to DJI’s groundbreaking design, GoPro included a beautiful and functional front-facing screen on the GoPro Hero 9 Black.

While snorkeling, I usually point my GoPro camera in the opposite direction. Nonetheless, my wife and I have accumulated many exciting ocean selfies from various exotic aquatic locations that we adore; this is just one more way our numerous action cameras have been helpful. Snorkelers who enjoy taking selfies will appreciate the inclusion of a front-facing screen, as it can take many tries to capture the perfect shot.

There's a lot to like about the GoPro hero 9 black, but is it the best gopro for snorkeling?
The second, front-facing “selfie” screen on the GoPro Hero9 Black helps you frame yourself without guessing, plus the return of the removable lens cover paves the way for extra integrated lenses (like the Max Lens Mod, pictured) for the GoPro Hero9 Black.

Hindsight Recording

Making decisions about when to record, how long to record, how to manage your battery and memory card capacity, etc., when shooting while snorkeling has proven to be one of the biggest hurdles. You should avoid constantly shooting with your GoPro to avoid running out of battery and filling up your memory card. However, you also shouldn’t miss any of the action.

Snorkeling’s unpredictability may be a blessing, but there have been times when I haven’t had my GoPro ready in time to catch something incredible, like a pod of manta rays surfacing and gliding by a prime picture location. Frustrating as they may be, those are not.

However, GoPro has just developed a function called Hindsight that acts much like a contemporary DVR by keeping the Hero9 Black constantly filming but only saving what it has recently been viewing (in a 15- or 30-second backward window) if you manually initiate recording.

So long as I remember to reach out and push the record button within 15 or 30 seconds, I don’t need to worry about missing any moments as long as the GoPro is on and Hindsight is on and pointing to wherever the action could be.

Even if Hindsight saves your memory card, it still uses battery power at the same pace as regular recording (which makes sense, as that’s essentially what it is). For the price of an additional battery (Amazon), I can be assured that I won’t miss any incredible, unanticipated events.

Some Possible Drwabacks

We’re excited because GoPro has released a bunch of new features that are designed just for snorkelers. However, there are a few minor downsides to keep in mind.

Before anything else, the GoPro Hero9 Black is notably heavier and nearly 10% bigger than the Hero8 Black. However, this may only be mildly inconvenient when stowing it away and transporting it. It’s still relatively small and lightweight compared to regular cameras; anything of this size should be easily handled while swimming.

While many of the new capabilities are fascinating for snorkelers, the Hero9 Black hasn’t seen a significant performance boost over the Hero8 Black in terms of frame rates and the like. The Hero9 Black’s bigger image sensor and additional features make it an obvious choice for me, but keep in mind that if you’re upgrading from the Hero8 Black, you’ll be doing so more for the new features than for the improved performance (save for the substantial new image sensor).

Last but not least, the suggested retail price of the brand new GoPro Hero9 Black is $399, which is comparable to the asking prices of earlier iterations of the GoPro Hero series. The price of a new Hero camera is typically around $399, which is certainly not cheap but is also not excessive.

GoPro’s promo reel for the Hero9 Black shows off its new features on land, in the air, and in the water.

Bonus: other action camera options

The new capabilities of the GoPro Hero 9 Black (Amazon) waterproof action camera will make a massive difference in the quality of my underwater photographs and films when I go snorkeling. However, this does need some financial outlay, so it’s helpful to be aware of other possibilities. (You can also Check What snorkel gear should I buy?)

Because the Hero9 Black has been released, Amazon is now selling the Hero8 Black at a discount of $249. HyperSmooth 2.0 does not change the fact that the Hero8 Black is an exceptional action camera for use when snorkeling. Horizon Lock, Hindsight, and the significant increase in sensor size are some of the Hero9’s most notable features you could lose if you choose the Hero8 instead, although the latter’s lower price might be more appealing.

The DJI Osmo Action is an excellent alternative to the more pricey Hero8 Black if you’re on a tighter budget. Unlike the Hero8 Black, it includes a screen on the front for taking selfies, and while its image stabilization isn’t as refined as HyperSmooth’s, it still does a good job. The DJI Osmo Action (Amazon), which can be purchased for about $199, is an excellent option for those on a tighter budget who still want to capture fantastic footage while diving.

(For a comprehensive overview of the many alternatives available, head on to The Best Underwater Action Cameras for Snorkeling: GoPro & More.)

Want to purchase GoPro Hero 9 Black Snorkeling Camera


Over the years, I’ve used several different underwater action cameras, but GoPro has consistently been my favorite. Now, with the GoPro Hero 9 Black’s large new image sensor and novel features like Horizon Lock and Hindsight, the company has my interest once more.

Because of these improvements, the new GoPro Hero 9 Black (Amazon) is the best GoPro camera for snorkeling. Without a shadow of a doubt, I agree that it is. So far, everything that has come out of GoPro Labs in preparation for the GoPro Hero 9 release has blown me away, and I can’t wait to get my hands on one and start making new underwater memories.

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