I had the opportunity to take the Backscatter Flip 3.1 for a spin on my GoPro 3+ Black, which I use with the wrist mount and dive housing. Here are my firsthand impressions of the system.
What’s in the box
The Backscatter Flip 3.1 comes in a surprisingly small box. Inside, you’ll find the mount itself, which is a square plastic unit with a number of Allen wrench screws and attachment points, the deep, shallow, and dive filters (more on these later), the top filter attachment, and the adapter for securing the filter mount to newer, slimmer GoPro housing lenses.
As I dive in northern waters, I also grabbed a green-water filter, which is a magenta filter designed for use in fresh water or in temperate oceans.
The Shallow filter works best at depths between five and 20 feet — anything above five feet the filters should be removed altogether — and is suited for snorkeling and shallow dives. The Dive filter is the general-purpose filter, which works best at depths of 20 to 50 feet. The Deep filter is intended for dives beyond 50 feet, but do note that general lighting conditions do start to limit image and video quality and color, filter or no filter.
The Green-Water filter is generally intended for shallow dives in water that has more of a green rather than blue tinge, which is often the case with freshwater and temperate oceans. The Nightsea filter is a special-purpose filter for capturing underwater animals that produce their own fluorescent light. Backscatter points out that this filter is not intended for night diving.
The Shallow, Dive, and Deep filters come as part of the Backscatter Flip 3.1 Combo package, and the remaining filters can be bought separately.
Mounting the filters
Getting the filters attached to the GoPro is quite easy. Simply slide the mount onto the GoPro lens and tighten the bolt to secure it. The attachment seems more secure than many filters I’ve tried, which can have a tendency to pop off when you least expect it. The individual filters are then screwed onto the side or top flip-hinge using an Allen wrench. My two main concerns as I attached rig to my GoPro was that the filter you’re not using extends from the housing quite a bit, and may be at risk of getting entangled in kelp, fishing line, or similar, and that an unused filter might “flip” in to the frame and ruin a shot — but that was what I intended to test. The top filter did protrude from the camera quite a bit when in the “away” position, but if you dive without that, and only use one filter, the profile is very tight indeed, and the risk of entanglement is minimal compared to the GoPro without a filter.
Diving with the Flip 3.1
I went to a local dive site, armed with the Dive and Green-Water filter. Given the conditions, I knew that the Dive filter wouldn’t do much good, so it was only mounted to test my hypothesis that an unused filter might get in the way, and to test the flipping mechanism. As this was a cold-water dive, and I was wearing my dry gloves, I was curious to see how easy the unit was to operate with the flipping mechanisms.
Ultimately, my hypothesis was proven wrong. Even though I did a considerable portion of the dive with both filters flipped to the “away” position, neither of them came into view of the lens, even when I was drifting down current for a while. And flipping between filters was a breeze in spite of my dry gloves and double inner gloves.
As for image quality, my test wasn’t completely fair, as the conditions didn’t really lend themselves well to filming. In spite of this, the material I got was surprisingly good, and in better conditions, the filters can really make a difference in what you end up with.
To see the difference between the Green-Water filter off and on, I shot a short video of my dive buddy just before we ventured out on our dive. Again, the conditions were sub-par, but you get the idea.
For examples shot under better conditions, this video from the Backscatter web site gives a good indication of the sort of difference you can expect.
Of course, getting the exact feel for when to switch from one filter to the next (or no filter at all) takes a bit of practice and trial-and-error, but that is true for almost anything to do with diving and underwater videography and photography.
The Backscatter Flip 3.1 can have a huge impact on the quality and professionalism of most divers’ underwater photos and videos, and while the system isn’t cheap ($130-plus for the combo), it’s still a relatively low price for a system of this complexity. I appreciate how secure the system feels when attached, and it seems unlikely to accidentally come off. I’ve spent a number of dives using other filters, worrying that the filter might fall off at some point. The drawback is that the Flip 3.1 requires tools to secure and remove from your camera; it’s not a snap-on-snap-off kind of system.
All in all, this is one of better filter systems out there for GoPros. The filters and the mount system in itself are strong players, but the added option of easily switching between filters makes this a hard setup to beat.
I would probably hesitate to bring the Flip 3.1 with me on any kind dive in an overhead environment, or other types of diving where there was a big risk of entanglement, at least not with the top flip mount attached. But for any other kind of diving, I see this becoming my go-to filter.