GoPro Hero 3 Gets Third Party Mod To Take Lenses

Side by Side Demo shows improvements and some issues

By James DeRuvo (doddleNEWS)

The GoPro Hero 3 is a fantastic camera, which can give action geeks 4K capability.  But in addition to snowboarders and surfers getting clips for YouTube, but the Hero has also become a go to production option for television.  With everyone from ESPN to The Amazing Race, to even Alton Brown using the Hero to shoot his cooking on Food Network, the high definition action camera provides yet another low cost digital production tool for shooters to use to get the shots they need. But one beef some cameramen have with it is that 170° field of view fixed focus lens. It doesn’t give much in the way of options like depth of field. Radiant Images decided it could take the Hero up to 11 for production work and came up with the Novo GoPro.

“Everything you can do with the Hero 3, you can do with the Novo, but with more features.  Basically, we just took the Hero 3, took all the guts out of it, and put it in our own body.” – Nick Lantz, Radiant Images

Essentially, what Radiant Images and their partners View Factor Studios did was rehouse the Hero 3 to give it a C-Mount lens attachment and added a high end low pass filter, which reduces the IR effect of the Hero 3’s back illuminated sensor.  The filter cuts down on the heat to the sensor as well.   They’ve also added some attachment points onto the Novo body which enables it to be mounted to a rail system so that shooters can use a follow focus to adjust the C-mount lens. That also gives users the capability of focal length that goes from macro to out to 150mm and above.   And it provides some nice depth of field capability, which is something that action geeks seldom need or use, while production thrives on it.    But it also does make the look more softer, and the colors a bit muted.  But it’s a bit warmer as well and something that color correction can certainly compensate for.

It is the ideal solution for cinematographers who are enamored by the capabilities of the GoPro Hero3 but held back by the Hero3’s cinematic limitations. – RI’s Nova Vimeo Page

They also removed the on board battery, in favor of the GoPro external battery, which makes swapping out cleaner and reduces the form factor of the camera body.  And thanks to the HDMI out, users can also attack a small, 5 inch LCD monitor for live view while filming.  RI also delved into the firmware itself and hacked it to turn off the auto exposure, giving the user controls to adjust it with.  Interesting.

Other specs include:

  • Interchangeable C-mount
  • Back focus adjustable
  • Auto Exposure Disabled / user controls on & off
  • Highest grade of internal OLPF looks filmic
  • PCB board allows for custom programing
  • Thickness .5in
  • Width 2.47in
  • Height 1.85in
  • Weight 3.2oz

Shared Specs with GoPro:

  • Sensor Size Back-illuninated CMOS Sensor 1/2.5″ 7.81mm Diag
  • 12.40 Megapixel
  • Resolution 4K, 2.7K, 1080
  • Frame Rate
  • 4K Cin 4096×2160 / 12fps
  • 4K 3840×2160 /15fps
  • 2,7K Cin 2704×1440 / 24 & 25fps
  • 1440p 1920×1440 / 24, 25, 30 & 48fps,
  • 1080p 1920×1080 / 24, 25, 30, 48, 50 & 60fps
  • 960p 1280×960 / 100fps
  • 720p 1280×720 / 120fps
  • WVGA 848×480 / 240fps
  • Base ISO 640
  • Latitude 8 Stops
  • Bit Rate / Format / Time
  • MPEG-4-AVC/H.264


Now unfortunately, neither View Factor nor Radiant Images has plans to put the Novo into production.  “These are VERY difficult to assemble and as such we aren’t going to be offering them as a product the good news is that we have worked out a rental program.”  Shooters can rent the Novo for $250 a day/$750 a week.  That seems a tad high to me, but they have done all the heavy lifting and invested in back engineering the Hero 3 to accept lenses and provide some exposure control.  And I have it on good authority that at least one big budget film is using it for some very difficult shots which require the footprint that only the Hero 3 can provide.  Check out the videos below for more (log in may be required).

About James DeRuvo

James has a multi-faceted career that spans radio, film and publishing. A writer about the technology in the video industry for nearly 20 years, James is also an award winning film director, having garnered a Telly Award for his short film Searching for Inspiration. He's also worked as a producer of many talk radio programs in Los Angeles with topics ranging from entertainment to travel to technology.


  1. Brian says:

    I would buy one in an instant. They need to sell these, even if they are expensive. I can think of a million uses for this. Name a price and I’ll pay.

  2. Nick says:

    Love what they have done with the Hero and I can see some good uses for it but one of the things I like about my GoPro is that I switch it on and go, no faffing about with anything else, just filming.

  3. Pretty cool stuff, but I’d imagine less people will want to rent it than own it, (I know I would!) which seems to me like it could be the biggest handicap going for it.

    Modbook takes macs and turns them into super tablets. I don’t see why it would be impossible to send in your new Hero3 to be modded for a fee.

    Just one man’s opinion.

    ~ MJ

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