I’m so happy to welcome to The Stereoscopy Blog my friend Thomas Asch. I’ve known Thomas for many years and he has always been so generous with his experience and help, I have a lot to thank him for. He has also been a great inspiration to me with his incredible stereo-photography skills and humour. I’m proud to share his first article for the Blog, all about an affordable stereo camera rig.
An illustrated field experience review written by Thomas Asch, Zurich, Switzerland.
All stereo pictures are taken with the GoPro Dual HERO System by the author.
The GoPro is a typical action camera system which produces photos and videos, even in difficult circumstances, independent from weather conditions or even underwater. The GoPro Dual HERO System Housing couples two GoPro cameras with a perfectly synchronised operating system for taking both stereo photos and videos. This field report is limited to producing still photography as I have no experience (and no ambition) with taking 3D videos.
First of all, what is contained in this GoPro System?
These are the main components of the rig:
- GoPro Dual HERO System Housing (AHD3D-301), which includes the orange Sync unit (Attention: there is also another version of a Housing system on the market for even older GoPro camera types, this will not work with the GoPro 3+ Black Editions!)
- 2 x GoPro HERO 3+ Black Edition Cameras (only this model works in this system and these are sold separately to the Dual HERO System Housing)
The Housing has a fixed stereo base of 34mm or 1.34in.
To complete the Rig ready for shooting, I recommend:
- a strap which you can wrap around your wrist while taking pics and
- an arca swiss plate for the quick mounting on a tripod. It’s also gives you a good grip to hold your camera with whilst shooting.
The standard GoPro remote control is useful for tripod sessions.
Here are some specs of the GoPro HERO 3+ Black Edition: 12 megapixels, CMOS sensor, Wide-angle lens f/2.8, focus free, to use with a microSD card.
Where to get the GoPro system
GoPro Cameras and and the Dual HERO System Housing are frequently offered on eBay or similar platforms. All components can usually be purchased nowadays for a total of around $300. Often the cameras come with the remote control and additional accessories, like substitute batteries, cables, charging units, mounting aids, etc.
How to take photos with the GoPro HERO System
No Rangefinder. As a spoiled photographer with today’s equipment the first deficit you will realize is: The GoPro 3+ camera has no built in rear screen or range finder. The rear screen for the GoPro 3+, which is available as add on, doesn’t fit into the Dual housing. The possibility to use the GoPro app on the smart phone as a range finder is normally not compatible with spontaneous photo sessions. So the best way is to get practise in shooting “blind” and fix the final detail view by cropping. You will see, after a while it works very well!
This is a sample of “blind shooting” with the rig near the ground:
There is nothing to configure on the camera before taking your pics, so fully focus on your stereo idea and the subject: You press the button and the GoPro does the rest…
Perfect Synchronisation The excellent synchronisation of the two GoPros 3+ is managed through a hardware module which is part of the housing set. It allows the user to control all recording functions, or settings, for both cameras, using the three control knobs on the right camera from outside the housing.
Here are two examples which show the perfect synchronisation and the outstanding ability to take snapshots:
The Base of 34mm/1.34in and the wide angle objectives allow you to take photos in a very close position to the objects. As a GoPro newbie you will choose a “normal” distance, but with time you will go closer and closer.
Waterproof Housing. Another strength is the waterproof case. You could dive with it, but it is also a great advantage for bad weather photography and for holidays at the shore. You are able to take pics very close to the (salt-)water or even in it.
Fully automated picture taking. Place the system in unusual positions to take photos and enjoy being free from having to observe any control screens. This way you’re able to concentrate on the subject, creating fantastic pictures. The automatic system works great by day and by night.
A night shot from Paris (without the use of a tripod)
Remote control. The system can be alternatively managed via the original GoPro Wi-Fi remote control (included accessory with every new camera) or over the GoPro app on mobile devices, which also includes the nearly-live range finder view. In my opinion, these options are especially useful when working with a tripod.
Here you see a tripod-based stereo, which I triggered using the smartphone in my right hand:
And, as you can see, it is also easy to take just an ordinary selfie with this rig:
After a short time of adaptation, the GoPro Dual system is a well-valued companion for a wide range of stereo shooting occasions. The system is compact, sturdy and also quite discreet in use. There is one thing to address: You will often forget to turn off the rig after shooting. So make sure that you always have a couple of reserve batteries with you.
Our dog feels always a little bit unsure when he looks into the two “eyes” of the GoPro system.
About the Author: Living in Zurich, Switzerland as a passionate collector of stereoscopy (Instagram: @historic_stereofoto_collector) and stereographer (Instagram: @thomas.asch_3d_passion), currently using as my main camera rigs: The GoPro Dual system with a small base. The Canon G1X rig and the smaller Sony RX100II rig, both with a light “hyper base”.
Rebecca: Yesterday I put one of these systems together from mostly second-hand parts, using Thomas’ recommendations and guidance, and I’m really happy with the results of the photos.
My initial thoughts are: Remember with these GoPros to get closer to the subject than you expect (but not too close!). Note that this rig has a fixed small stereo base; you can always buy a separate rig which allows for a variable baseline between the cameras to use in different situations (but you will lose the fantastic synchronisation as the Wi-Fi remote sync isn’t as good). Anticipate the GoPro’s fish-eye lens distortion; you can find examples online if you’re unsure. There are ways to counter this if required, such as using a filter in Photoshop or Barrel distortion correction in StereoPhoto Maker. Remember that these are not new cameras, so there may be issues with the legacy software and current iOS or Windows OS, especially for 3-D video content. Note that the system mentioned only works specifically with GoPro HERO 3+ Black cameras, there are HERO 3s without the plus and other colours available, but they will not work; also try and check the cameras work before purchasing second-hand. The perfect synchronisation and automatic photo-orientation is amazing, much better than using just a Wi-Fi remote and two GoPros; it works very well with cats who won’t sit still, and that is enough of a reason alone for me to have purchased this kit.
This system is so light, compact and British weather-proof, that I’ll be taking it on a lot of adventures. Thanks Thomas!
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