These first impressions are based on the GoPro Hero3 Black edition.
So after six years of deliberation and disappointment with cheap alternatives I have bought a GoPro but why now? Previously, both the Sanyo Xacti and ATK2000 completely failed to live up to expectations and found themselves on eBay quicker than the footage made it’s way into the recycle bin. The purchase of a Pentax W60 three years ago was moderately successful – a great little waterproof point and shoot that offers timed stills and video recording. Although I was able to mount it to my kite with a home build version of the CamRig (when it was not available in the UK) it was let down by the low quality of the video – a negative that is comfortably addressed by it’s latest successors, the WG-10 and WG-3 which led them both to feature strongly during the purchase decision making process. However, in the end the GoPro led the field because: it is the industry standard for this type of camera; IMHO the quality of recordings now available is not going to be significantly beaten over coming years making the cost a worthy investment; and because Sarah Lee was able to convince me I could use it successfully as a quick point and shoot.
Now to the purchase. I considered buying it online but was perturbed by the £100 difference for what one the surface appeared to be the same item. Buyer warning – it appeared to me that many of the companies offered the unit at the cheaper price were not selling complete kits. Once you added mount kits and batteries the prices were more equal. At the last moment I saw that Currys were selling the standard kit for £25 off and it was available in store – bingo!
It’s a shame the same could not be said for the memory cards. If you read the documentation carefully it is clear that for many modes a class10 card is required. For 40ish pounds you can buy either: one recommended 32GB class10 card fromGoPro; two cheaper 32GB class4 cards in-store; or two of the recommended 32GB cards from SanDisk via Amazon (although guilt is the true price you pay) – again buyer beware.
Finally I stocked up on accessories from GoPro and quickly exceeded my budget, although I would compliment them on their service and delivery which arrived in two days from the Netherlands.
Straight out of the box I was immediately impressed by the weight and size, however, don’t be fooled the weight becomes more ‘real’ with the battery inserted and if you are planning on using the LCD screen then the weight is going to increase again.
All the components feel dense which seems to suggest quality. Everything feels well made, well packaged and you are left feeling like you have made a good investment.
When you unpack the camera, unless you read the instructions, you will probably be left wondering what the funny little white plastic clip is for. Well, it’s designed to stop the base release arms from shocking loose and letting the camera come adrift – genius!
Ultimately what kit you will buy will be based around your needs but I strongly advise that you buy a case to keep all the bits – something like the SP POV case works pretty well but I now wish I’d gone with the large edition and not the small.
Also keep the black plastic mount that the camera comes supplied with – this is a mount in its own right and can be modified to fit kites! Although the author of this YouTube video now claims it doesn’t work so well I’m sure there is some mileage in his idea. Rather than hack it apart, this will have to wait until I can CAD out the cutouts and run it under the laser cutter in school.
Updating the GoPro
I must admit to be a little disappointed that I could not update the GoPro directly from browser using the automatic method even though I used Safari on a Mac with the most recent version of Java installed – as they do in their demo video. I did manage to succeed with the manual approach but would suggest to anyone about to attempt an update write down the serial number before you start – it’s a pain to stop half way through and when you eject the camera wait a few seconds before unplugging so everything has a few moments to catch up. I was also disappointed that the camera appeared to crash just after the update when I tried to copy a video clip across using CineForm studio – hopefully this was just a little hiccup.
The Hero3 has a multitude of different modes depending on whether you are shooting video, stills or somewhere in between so it was really good to find the very informative post written by Abe Kislevitz who is a GoPro production artist. In particular, for video, I found the opinion/summary of the different modes led me directly to the 1080 60FPS Medium as my starting point.
The photo below was taken using a 12MP Wide 30/1s photo burst from about 15ft. Post production was a quick select and layer five minute affair in Adobe Photoshop after using Adobe Bridge to import images to layers.
Also quite impressive is that it can capture the flight of a wasp including the motion of the wings!
This short series of Canadian Geese was shot using 12MP Wide every 0.5 sec combined into a video using iMovie.
This video was shot using 1080 Wide at 60FPS. It shows a short section of the Avon Valley Country Park model train.
It’s a nice bit of kit that needs time, patience and experience to get the best from. In this first outing I have learnt you can get closer to the action that you think and that it is quite sensitive to low light. That said, I think you can easily capture some good memories to share with friends and family.
Post processing is quite a task and shouldn’t be underestimated. From this short experience I have decided that surviving a two week holiday on an iPad would not work and have decided I will need to take the MacBook instead.
Anyway, watch this space for more content from the GoPro.