You’re in the backwoods - just you and your GoPro (because what else do you need - you feed off awesome footage, not food). Turning the bend you take notice of wildlife (let’s say a bear to make it exciting) only 300 meters away. Whether he knows you’re there and doesn’t care or your ninja adventurer ability fooled him, it doesn’t matter because you have time to set-up for an awesome shot undisturbed.
There’s only one problem - GoPros have but one lens that does not zoom…
Even with 4K the bear is too far away…
unless you thought of purchasing a Back-Bone GoPro modification that is.
Back-Bone, a company located in Canada, has revealed a new line of GoPro camera modifications that allow you to mount different lenses onto your GoPro camera through their ribcage modification series. With the modification in place - lenses such as Computar, Kowa, Tokina, Fujinon, and Tamron can now be mounted and utalized. In addition, if you own other adaptors, it’s possible to hook adaptors together to attach other lens types such as Canon and Nikkor/Nikon. One such set-up is to have a C-Mount (see below), then a Nikon to C-Mount adaptor, with a Nikkor lens on front!
With this sort of versatility, GoPro kits can now act as mini portable cinema kits - action shooters especially are now able to infuse their craft with all sorts of unique perspectives once restricted by the singular wide angle lens.
Advantages and Drawbacks to shooting with Backbone
That being said and as with all good things, there are ways in which shooters will be limited from the use of various lens attachments for GoPros. For one thing, only manual lenses can be mounted as GoPros do not have the internal motors or electronic components necessary to activate autofocus features. However, such problems are often solved simply from flipping the lens to manual mode (usually via a switch on the lens body).
Second, although many lens mounts are supported not all that can be used should due to the inherent image crop factor issue (as explained below). Instead, only the following lens types are suggested for regular use:
This comes about as a result of the inherent crop factor that results in using non-GoPro lenses. This means any lens focal length attributed to a particular lens is reduced due to the size of the camera sensor in relation to the size of available glass real-estate of the lens. Certain lenses that are not wide angles will not produce the same quality image as other wide angle pieces of glass since a cropped wide angle will still leave some image behind - by contrast, a cropped 42mm, for example, will result in a very narrow image.
As such, be careful to choose your lens wisely - check out back-bone’s lens suggestions before purchasing (back-bone.ca/support/ribcage-lens-buying-tips/) to insure the image you get is what you expect.
Another downside to this sweet rig is the price. Though understandable, prices range from just under $500.00 up to $900.00 minus the bells and whistles and, you know…lenses…That being said, if you have the budget, this kit will provide you tons new shooting options (not to mention you can reattach the original GoPro lens when needed!).
Lastly, and this point is to be expected, action shots become difficult with different lenses are attached. With larger lenses, GoPro protective cases no longer fit thus exposing the gear to the inherent risks of action shooting. Activities such as skiing and biking prove challenging and require special care if different lenses are to be used when shooting (though the original GoPro lens can be reattached when action shots on tap).
On the plus side, consider the possibilities of using various lenses with a drone or other such device. All sorts of new possibilities for shot creativity open up as each lens brings to the table a unique perspective.
Also, you are able to prevent issues like unwanted fish-eye distortions by simply changing the lens instead of relying on “fixing it in post”.
Regardless of some drawbacks in function and price, this is an exciting option for the avid GoPro user and adventuring cinematographer - gone are the days of shooting with a single GoPro lens. Now an arsenal is at your shooting disposal for those instances variety is a must. No need to pack large camera bags with just a few lenses.
Now you can just bring a GoPro such as the Hero5 and lenses for days.
Speaking as a professional editor and occasional travel shooter, this option allows me to bring a full media kit for capturing and publication. In one backpack I can travel with my laptop, hard-drives, camera, and multiple lenses for those weeks on the road and in the wilderness. Consider other possibilities and leave them in the comments for others to glean information from!