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GoPro HERO3 with Interchangeable C-Mount Lenses? The Novo Camera Mod Makes It a Reality

03.7.13 @ 3:32PM Tags : , , ,

When the GoPro HERO3 was announced, it quickly became clear that it was a huge upgrade from the HERO2, especially considering the addition of 2.7K and 4K modes. Some later tests certainly confirmed this, and while the camera packs quite a punch considering its small size, filmmakers are always looking for more control and more options. That’s where the Radiant Images and View Factor Novo Camera mod comes in. We’ve seen some mods for GoPro cameras in the past, but this is in an entirely different league. The Novo takes everything that’s great about the HERO3, and gives it manual control with a back-focus adjustable C-mount (a mount typically found on 16mm and security cameras). Check out some of the videos below to see this little guy in action.

A few people were asking about this mod, and Radiant seems to continue releasing videos so I was hoping to catch most of them at once. Here’s a bit on the mod which was developed and engineered by View Factor Studios in collaboration with Radiant Images:

Key new enhancements include a C-mount lens system with back focus adjustment, which allows for extreme macro shooting. In addition, the Novo offers exposure control capabilities that open up a wide-range of artistic possibilities for cinematographers and camera operators. An internal CPU interfaced to the camera permits users to disable the auto exposure feature and then adjust the aperture manually via the lens. This feature gives a cinematographer the control to set a desired exposure and stops. 

The lightweight aluminum housing itself is 20% thinner than the GoPro Hero3 and includes three 1/4-20 and two 10-32 mounting points. Also, four buttons on the front (REC, PWR, WiFi & AUX) are assignable to several functions depending on the application. The Aux button turns the auto exposure on/off, but in the near future will also be utilized for other functions, such as digital zoom, a tool to check critical focus.

Here’s a comparison between the HERO3 and the Novo:

A few videos showing off the image quality with C-mount lenses on the Novo:

Some accessories with the Novo:

Setting back focus on the Novo:

So what’s the catch? Well, it’s currently a rental-only from the Los Angeles-based Radiant Images at $250 a day and $750 a week. They don’t have any plans to sell it right now, and I’m sure the amount of work involved means it would cost more than most people are willing to pay. Regardless, this is the kind of modification that turns the HERO3 into a real powerhouse. You’re probably not going to get quite as wide with the C-mount lenses (I’m sure there are some that might come close to the angle of view of the original lens), but that’s not the goal if you’re renting the Novo anyway. It’s a specialty tool for filmmakers who want manual control over a tiny camera that’s capable of high frame rates. I can see tons of applications for this guy, even without it being rigged up as seen in some of the videos above.

What’s most interesting to me about this modification is why GoPro has yet to introduce something like this. Theoretically with a C-mount you’d be able to adapt a wide range of lenses, turning the normally super-wide GoPro into an extremely versatile tool. There are surely some hurdles to overcome with their own design, but I would be surprised if the company wasn’t taking notes based on the View Factor design.

What do you think of the Novo? Is this something you could utilize on one of your shoots? Have you seen any modifications similar to the Novo that allow manual control and C-mount lenses on the HERO3? What would you be willing to pay to buy a complete Novo?

Link: Novo — GoPro HERO3 — Radiant Images


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  • Wow! These sure are interesting times. I bet NAB this year will have a few surprises.

  • Attaching a nice lens and taking it out of the protective housing renders it completely useless for me. Anyone else feel this way?

    In my opinion the whole point of a GoPro is it to be small and indestructible.

    • I completely agree. While this is pretty sweet, my point for a gopro is to mount it somewhere that can be thrown about, covered in dirt, water, etc. If i’m going to use a pistol grip, I’m fine running my GH2 with variety of lenses. It’s damn near the same weight i’m sure.

    • agree completely. If I was going to go to the trouble of buying new glass, adding monitors and pistol grip, I would cope with the gear I have. – for me the gopro fills that niche for ‘action device’, as it can go underwater and get dirty, this does not. Having said that, it is a cool looking piece of technology that shows the progression of these mini actions cameras! It was under 4 years ago when the digital hero 5 came out with a resolution of 640×480!

    • It does defy the point. If you’re adding a lens, a rig, a monitor and a follow focus to an action camera, why not just get an actual camera?

      • You don’t have to add a rig and a monitor, you can mount it literally anywhere and it still works with GoPro’s wireless system so you can view it on any capable device.

        • I think it’s kind of amazing. The GoPro Hero 3 is 4K right? Then this mod is right up our alley!

          • Joe Marine on 03.8.13 @ 6:22PM

            It only does a max of 15fps at 4K. The 2.7K mode is the highest resolution full-motion record option.

    • Ehhhh….. Don’t get me wrong. It’s definitely awesome what they’ve done with this but I’m a little bit underwhelmed at the practical advantages of this. This would be cooler if it did something like wireless timecode sync with up to 50 cameras or wires video monitoring of up to 4 signals simultaneously with a tablet or smartphone or Made the entire system waterproof. I’m sure some people will love it though.

    • Sorry but we’re not all into action sports, dirt bikes and trying to kill ourselves thanks. Some of us WANT to utilise the potential the GoPro has.

      Ps, come and join our Facebook C Mount on M4/3 group.

  • blackespresso on 03.7.13 @ 4:30PM

    Actually the applications for the Novo would be similar to another camera made by Radiant Images :

  • Cool rig but you’re looking a thousands of dollars per week for a package with lenses, follow focus etc. This is truly designed for multi-million dollar shows that have the money for a camera truck full of toys and not the indie/guerrilla filmmakers like myself that the off-the-shelf GoPro is made for.

  • john jeffreys on 03.7.13 @ 4:52PM

    >thinking a gopro is something more than a bro-camera for rednecks and their outdoor sports
    >you gear heads will buy and get behind ANYTHING

  • When I first saw this, the camera nerd in me got really excited. Then practicality set in and I was left asking: if all you want is a tiny camera body with interchangeable lenses and manual controls, why not just use a NEX? Is the Protune 2.7K image really that much better? If for one would like to see a side by side on a big screen.

    • 2.7K ProTune + RAW curves via After Effects with software stabilizatoin and output to full 1080P.

      Yes, it is very much worth it and for some purposes it trounced on my Nex.

      However, it’s all dependent on what one needs. Not all needs are made equal, and hence, so are not the solutions.

  • Shamus McGee on 03.7.13 @ 6:19PM

    Don’t really see the point of this. It’s neat but why not use a digital bolex, gh2 (or3), something like that… It seems like an awful lota trouble to turn something into something its not, especially when we already have other comparable options.

  • If this is not enough to convince the people running GoPro that there would be demand for a dedicated interchangeable-lens camera from them, I don’t know what is.

  • If go pro put out an interchangeable lens camera I’d buy it in a second. Cineform is the shiznit

  • I say let one innovation lead to another. I feel like the rig he’s holding could really make way for some micro shotgun news broadcasting.

    And think of this too: considering the size of that rig without the grip and monitor it’s significantly smaller than any camera when it comes to mounting it to an RC helicopter. Imagine the possibilities!

    • A GH2 might be better for broadcast but the heli idea would be awesome:D

    • Right, that’s another potential use. The GoPro tends to be too wide for a lot of uses and there is no control once the thing is in the air. You could even view your footage wirelessly as you’re shooting.

      • I agree, but with the options of FOV now I think narrow looks pretty good with very little noticeable distortion.

  • The NOVO turns a light, cheap, rugged, semi-disposable sports camera into an expensive, fragile video cinema camera with a tiny imager. I appreciate the engineering that went into the NOVO, but I don’t get the point.

  • marklondon on 03.8.13 @ 1:18AM

    I saw this recently in person. Its very cool and has already been used on a couple of commercials. Also, if anyone saw NBC’s national news broadcast tonight, they saw 8 GoPros in use in 2 different items.
    The 2.7 does look good. It may be designed (and marketed) as a sports camera, but I know very few doco/news shooters or prodcos that don’t own a GP3 or two. Also, just worked a spot for a major beverage where GP3 footage was cut in with Arri RAW (at 1080). Graded in very well. When its out I’ll give you the link. I got killed on here suggesting semi-seriously it was the best value cam under $1k. It may not be, but the market likes it a lot.

  • A GoPro with C-Mount and manual exposure control. Y E S !!!

  • Interchangeable lenses and all is nice. But what I really want from the Novo to be implemented in my GP3 is exposure-control. :)

  • I see a great potential for using this camera in a specific kind of production where you want to mix the utterly unique placements of the GO-Pro and intercut those angles with traditional dialogue, shot-counter shot, medium and close up coverage and not notice the camera at all. I’m an editor and when I get go pro stuff it looks cool but it’s a dead give away when used in a narrative scene and it completely takes you out of the scene usually. The lens on the GoPro is just such a signature of the camera that everyone says “GoPro” in their head when you cut to one. This camera will allow you to design a scene where you will never notice the camera at all which I believe is the hallmark of great technique and direction.

  • The price point really narrows the field of use, imo. But, if I could buy a GoPro, and buy a kit from Novo to make this myself, and spend less than a grand………now we’re talking useful to the ultra-low budget filmmaker or short filmmaker.

    It doesn’t though, so I’d rather go Black Magic or Digital Bolex.

    Still what they’ve done is a great thing.

  • Keep in mind, the GoPro essentially has a 5.5x crop factor compared to a 5DMKII or similar. The comparison video of the girl in the warehouse was shot on an 8mm lens. Imagine putting y our 70-300mm on this camera.

    That turns it into a 1500mm lens, which puts you into astronomy range. Now someone needs to hack the gopro firmware to allow for long exposures and we’ll have, literally, a pocket telescope.

  • As I commented last, its seems comparing your camera to a gopro is apples and oranges…you should be marketing to people who want a less expensive alternative to DSLR…the gopro has been and is still marketed to the action sports enthusiast and it seems an attachable lens would just make the thing more fragile and impractical for the POV user. However, I do like your cameras manual aperture setting, something gopro could (and probably will) take a cue from. Good luck.

  • Its great to see a great camera like the Hero 3 being re jigged to make it do more than it was designed for. Being able to change lenses is a great idea! Well done Viewfacto and Novo

  • I also am wondering why GoPro hasn’t already made one not just for making cinema movies but, more yet, for home use. They could probably make a home camera with interchangeable lenses that would cost 1/2 the competitors cost. I think they would dominate the market (poor Cannon, ;-) ) I would buy one. The Black 1440p picture is just fantastic. I’m carried away watching videos of it. I wish I had one and could plug a Blue Spark Digital USB mic into it. What a dream!

    • I’m also thinking that since the camera (a home version) wouldn’t have to be built as rugged as the regular GoPro it may actually cost less. The only difference in the cameras would be the ability to change lenses and that it could be used on the internet for things like Skype, Live Stream, etc. And I’m sure since the cost would be low, much lower than competitors, there would be a Live Stream user market for it.

      Sorry for digressing and talking about a home version and not the NOVO. But I can see only that such a cam would be low cost and have an awesome quality picture. I really would want one.

  • The real message here is that, this is the first viable platform for the tinkerer. The fact that the 2.7 imager is under $500 makes it viable to experiment with on your own. Imagine taking an old 35mm still camera and tossing this chip in it? I may buy one and tear it apart myself….

  • I think this is the direction it’s all going to go. Although right now as a “for hire only” it’s not for me just now, as I would rather buy it and spend some quality time testing it out and getting use to using it.

  • Ok. So they took small waterproof and shock-proof action camera, disassembled it and make a bigger non-waterproof and non-shockproof camera of it. Great. Similar idea is to buy a 10″ high-end netbook, and use it only in docking station it with 30″ LCD, keyboard and mouse.
    I thought the idea of gopro was it is small and durable. When I want bigger profi cameras, there are another choices on the market..

  • Not impressed with the “soft focus”, at least from this first demo. What I really wish someone would do is come out with a software patch that would defeat any AGC circuitry in the Go Pro. I have tested several mics on three different models and can hear a bit of noise from the AGC which relegates me to using a Zoom H4N in conjunction with a Go Pro Hero 2 or 3 when doing an interview where there is no background noise.

  • Very interesting but I don’t see much use for it with the important exception of aerial photography using small multi-rotor UAVs such as the DJI F450. I find GoPros have too wide a FOV. I’ve recently had to buy a much more expensive UAV to carry a Sony Nex 5r simply because of its weight. I’d prefer to have spent a couple of thousand less on the UAV to have a smaller lighter set-up, but no suitable very light camera was available at any price.

  • claude riban on 03.20.13 @ 12:57PM

    Until they fix the GoPro 3 battery life problems, I wouldn’t even considering doing anything more elaborate with it than rough and tumble outdoor use.

    • A home use GoPro wouldn’t need to have weight as a big consideration. It could have a much larger power source attached to the back of it–and, really, it still wouldn’t weigh much. They wouldn’t need to keep the battery small and light because it wouldn’t be attached to a helmet. You’d hold it in your hand or put it on a tripod as you are shooting.

    • And a cinema version doesn’t need to have a battery weighing in ounces. It wouldn’t mean much if it’s weight was measured in pounds—not a lot of pounds though. Cordless power source would be one of the smaller issues that would be easily dealt with.

      At least that seems to be the case.

  • John Bartonwood on 04.28.13 @ 4:42PM


    I was hoping that someone would come up with a rugged, small diameter (say 40mm or 50mm max.), C-mount camera with all the good points of GoPro and Novo imaging along with FULL control of ALL imaging functions such as binning (2×2, 3×3 and 4×4), exposure and frame rate. That would then be a truly versatile camera with a small footprint that would lend itself to other forms of digital photography such as microphotography, macrophotography and astrophotography (it could even be mounted at the prime focus of reflective objectives without interfering too much with the incoming lightpath.

    Surely, a cylinder is the most adaptive of all camera body formats. They could also produce a camera within the same footprint with a bigger sensor with bigger pixels to increase the dynamic range whilst still making it a 4K device. A well thought out device could prove to be as big a seller as the GoPro is and easily ruggedised by sleeving and by fitting a front window.

    My interests are sports/family digital still and video photography, time-lapse, aerial and scientific imaging hence the need for utmost versatility, i.e. a camera for all seasons and all reasons – I am still hopeful one will appear that fulfils all my requirements and that I can carry with me on my walks and cycle rides.

    So, for the larger sensored camera,16M pixels (4096 x 4096 usable), 5microns square (20.5mm square), RAW, H.264, hdmi, Wi-Fi, standard definition composite video + sound for transmission to remote receiver for FPV (2.4 or 5.8Ghz) whilst still storing Full HD content on SDHC, Wi-Fi control including all functionality available on buttons, external power supply, e.g. much larger batteries, for extended duration and, possibly, active sensor cooling for noise reduction and increased SNr. For the smaller device just reduce the pixel size down to around 2.5 or 3.5 microns square and keep everything else.


    retired engineer.

    Leeds, West Yorkshire, U.K.

  • C’mon GoPro, give Novo the licence to make these if you won’t!!

    Ps, come and join our Facebook C Mount on M4/3 group.

  • I have the GO PRO HERO 3, can you build me a fixed 50mm equivalent lense, with constant infinity focus, or adjustable infinity (either way is OK). ?????

    where to send my camera?


    Brent Smith
    Snyder, Texas

  • Farid Emami on 06.2.14 @ 2:04PM

    Hi, I have a Gopro Hero+3 black type camera and I’m going to use it underwater with a tele lens, cause the tele lens must be install on the housing, is there any accessories and tele lens that i can use it.
    I am going to Frankfurt next week, where can i buy it in Germany?