This is a more conventionally shaped camera, a bit larger than the OLFI. It comes in a box along with the usual selection of mounts and bases, all of the self-adhesive persuasion except for one that would allow you to attach your new camera to the handlebars of your bicycle, or anything else that’s tubular and not too large in diameter.
I know you won’t be taking your bike diving, but it does point up that all of these action cams are developed for above-water use, then tweaked for those who like the life aquatic.
What you won’t find in the standard package is a housing for use under water, because the GoXtreme Barracuda doesn’t need one. It’s fully sealed and can happily be plunged beneath 33ft of briny without fear of unpleasantness.
Of course, 10m isn’t a lot of depth, so a 30m housing is available as an additional purchase.
I really like this idea. Leaks are a fact of life for underwater photographers, and having a waterproof camera inside my no-longer watertight housing could have saved me three cameras over the years.
The lens is front left of the camera and has a claimed 170° field of view. Above water, I wouldn’t argue. A true fisheye should show 180° across the diagonal, but the GoXtreme lens is close enough not to lose sleep over. And yes, diffraction reduces the field of view under water, but the lens remains decently wide-angle.
What else? 4K video at 25fps, 2.7K video at 30fps and a variety of 1080 and 720 resolutions are available to film-makers, plus you can take stills with up to 20 million pixels.
Round the back you’ll find a decent built-in screen that you can use to compose and also read the various menu-settings.
Selecting the options is a doddle when the camera isn’t housed or wet. The rear screen is touch-sensitive and is quick and positive in use.
The screen itself is a reasonable size, and the information displayed on it is clear and easily interpreted. You won’t find yourself squinting at a tiny icon and wondering what exactly it means.
Other photographic controls include a number of white balance settings, though no manual white balance or Underwater mode, and an exposure over-ride of plus or minus two stops in full-stop increments.
Once in the housing the touch screen isn’t usable, so you’ll need to use the two buttons on the camera to make changes.
The power on/off button is on the front and a second button on the top right starts and stops recording or takes a picture.
When you’ve turned the camera on you use a combination of short presses on both buttons to scroll through the menus and confirm settings, but it’s not the easiest of jobs.
Better to get the camera set up before you hit the water, especially if you’re wearing gloves.
Which brings me to the housing – which was a bit disappointing. Not that it leaked. It was perfectly watertight and did that part of the job extremely well. It’s just that it seemed flimsy and in need of better quality control at the factory.
The camera drops easily into place and is held tightly by a strip of flexible plastic either side of the rear door, but on the housing I had the strips were of different sizes, the camera wasn’t pushed properly forward into the housing and the lens wasn’t centred in the port.
The result was that the buttons needed to be pressed really hard to operate the camera.
I also found that the soft white plastic used as the seal between the rear door and the front of the housing didn’t always seat properly, so it was better to close the door and check the seal, then use the over-centre latch to hold it shut.
Finally, the latch itself was large and positioned on top of the housing where it could easily be pulled open. I wrapped an elastic band top to bottom around the housing as an extra safeguard.
I’ve lambasted the housing a bit, but it’s watertight and I reckon some neoprene off-cuts and double-sided tape would have it tickety-boo in no time.
Both the OLFI and GoXtreme have wi-fi functionality and can beam their footage to either Android or iPhones, so you can shoot your video and have it posted to social media before you’ve rinsed the water from your ears, if you want.
GoXtreme Barracuda sealed battery and socket compartment.
Both cameras ran for more than an hour on a fully charged battery, more than enough oomph for an average dive, and took a couple of hours to fully recharge.
The GoXtreme battery did seem prone to discharging over time, especially if the wi-fi was enabled, so it needs to be charged close to the time of use. A spare battery and charger unit would be a good idea for either camera if you’re doing more than one dive in a day.
A 10-minute full-HD 1080 video at 30fps was 1.6Gb from the OLFI and 1.2Gb from the GoXtreme, so the OLFI records more data and should produce the better results. If you shoot in 4K you’ll need to invest in fast cards, but the OLFI was picky about cards even at 1080 resolution. It’s not a big issue, but worth bearing in mind.
Above water, both cameras recorded sharp, detailed footage. Action cameras tend to be set to produce punchy recordings with high contrast and saturated colours that give the user in-your-face results out of the box, but that can often lead to washed-out highlights.
OLFI One.Five rear, showing sockets and screen.
With exposure set flat and colour balance to auto I found that the OLFI produced slightly darker footage with a slightly warmer colour balance than the Barracuda. This meant that the highlights were controlled better, but shadows could block up.
By adjusting the camera settings and post-processing the files in editing software, I could get equivalent footage from both cameras.
GoXtreme Barracuda rear screen showing set-up information.
Both cameras were able to record decent colour down to about 5m in green water, which doesn’t sound much but is actually a pretty sound result. After that the Barracuda colour correction was banging against the stops, and the deeper I went the greener it all got, while the Underwater mode of the OLFI allowed better colour a bit deeper, say 8-10m in optimum conditions with some post-processing allowed.
You can colour-correct files from either unit in post to get better results, and the slightly larger OLFI files help to minimise quality loss, as does shooting in 4K and outputting your edited video at 1080.
Housed OLFI One.Five showing screen with video settings.
I expected nothing different. Colour-correcting underwater video at the taking stage isn’t easy, but at least these two cameras were consistent in their rendering of colour and exposure levels.
External colour correction was useful with both cameras, though you’ll need filters of the Flipfilter variety, because the housings aren’t shaped for readily available colour-correction filters. Add additional lighting and the differences vanish, as you’d expect, but then videographers tend to spend more on lights than cameras for a reason.