Does the GoPro 4 have a zoom lens

Back-bone conversion kit: Use any lenses on the GoPro Actioncam

by Jan-Markus Rupprecht

Conversion kits for GoPro Hero models Action cams are more versatile than you might think. They not only stick to surfboards, snowboards and skate boards or helmets, but are also mounted on dogs, under quadrocopters and on diving robots to take spectacular, but sometimes simply useful, recordings. However, the ultra-wide-angle lens of an action cam does not always fit the special application. With the conversion that the Canadian company Back-Bone is doing to the GoPro Hero camera, the possibilities are really limitless. With the appropriate adapter, almost all lenses can be used or the action cam can be adapted to a microscope.

  • After the conversion with the Back-Bone Ribcage Mod Kit, any lenses can be attached to the GoPro Actioncam. This photo also shows part of the new "Ribcage EXO" aluminum cage, which has 1/4-inch threads on all sides. [Photo: MediaNord]

  • After the conversion with the Back-Bone Ribcage Mod Kit, any lenses can be attached to the GoPro Actioncam. [Photo: MediaNord]

  • In this photo you can clearly see that the sensor is located directly behind the front panel after the back bone conversion. [Photo: Back-Bone]

  • The standard GoPro lens can also be reassembled after the back-bone conversion; it then naturally protrudes far to the front. [Photo: Back-Bone]

At Photokina you will not only find interesting series products, but also all kinds of exciting special solutions. Including the GoPro conversions from Back-Bone from Canada. This converts new or existing GoPro Hero (3 and 3+, from November also the new 4 series models) so that the GoPro camera can be mounted on other lenses or other optical devices, such as microscopes, that have an M12 , CS or C-mount connection. Even normal camera lenses from Canon, Nikon, Pentax and Sony, among others, can be mounted using C-mount adapters. It is also possible, for example, to mount lenses for surveillance cameras.

The whole thing is only feasible because the sensor module of the GoPro Hero cameras is not soldered, but plugged in. During the conversion work, the sensor must be brought to the front from the rear wall of the camera and reinstalled there. The original GoPro lens, which is of high quality, but also has an extremely high angle of view, which is typical for an action cam, is usually located there. The strong pillow-shaped distortions that such a fisheye lens inevitably bring with it, however, basically restricts the application possibilities largely to the use as an action cam. Without this restriction, however, the converted GoPro Hero is a very powerful and extremely universal photo and video camera.

  • After back-bone conversion: Instead of the standard ultra-wide angle, a telephoto lens on the GoPro camera for a change. [Photo: MediaNord]

  • Application examples for back-bone conversions at Photokina 2014. [Photo: MediaNord]

  • The heart of the Back-Bone Ribcage Mod Kit here under the "GoPro microscope": The "Flexible Jumper", the extension adapter for the sensor. [Photo: MediaNord]

  • The heart of the Back-Bone Ribcage Mod Kit here under the "GoPro microscope": The "Flexible Jumper", the extension adapter for the sensor. [Photo: MediaNord]

  • The heart of the Back-Bone Ribcage Mod Kit here under the "GoPro microscope": The "Flexible Jumper", the extension adapter for the sensor. [Photo: MediaNord]

  • The Back-Bone Flexible Jumper bridges the distance that the sensor is moved forward within the GoPro camera. [Photo: Back-Bone]

The heart of the "Project: Ribcage" conversion of the Back-Bone is basically a short, elastic piece of circuit board with two special plugs (1 male, 1 female) that are identical to the plugs used by GoPro. This "extension cable" bridges the distance between the camera board and the sensor module and enables the sensor to be brought to the front within the housing. Then it sits directly on the same level as the front of the housing, so it has a flange focal length of practically zero millimeters and thus practically any lens can be used. In order to be able to mount this, the back bone also attaches a connection thread to the front of the camera that is screwed into a stable aluminum plate that is placed in front of the GoPro housing. A sturdy aluminum holding frame with several 1/4-inch standard threads on the underside is also attached there. This allows the camera-lens unit to be attached to common photo tripods and other mounts (the GoPro Hero models do not have a tripod thread themselves). In the latest version of the conversion kit, the infrared cut filter is located in a removable drawer so that the camera can also be used without an infrared cut filter.

The conversion usually takes place at Back-Bone in Canada, where new, completely converted cameras can also be purchased. However, all parts are also available as a complete kit and even individually, so that if you trust yourself to do the conversion, you can do it yourself. A complete Ribcage Mod Kit costs US $ 249.00, a completely converted GoPro Hero3 + costs US $ 849.00. It is sold through the manufacturer's website, but also through local dealers. There are currently five retailers listed for Germany, which can be found on the manufacturer's website, which is generally very informative.

  • Back-bone booth at Photokina 2014. [Photo: MediaNord]

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Jan-Markus Rupprecht, 56, has been taking photos with digital cameras since 1995, initially professionally for technical documentation. In 1997, out of enthusiasm for the then new technology, he founded digitalkamera.de, the online portal for digital photography, of which he is editor-in-chief and publisher to this day. In 2013 he started digitalEyes.de as another online magazine that spans the spectrum of digital image recording even further.