GoPro Hero HD Camera Review

The GoPro Hero is my favourite sports cam. Cheap, impossibly rugged, with endless mounts for cars, bikes, helmets, chests, surfboards and snowboards. The new HD version does HD, 60fps and recharges. I love it even more now.

Kinda Like the Old One

The GoPro Hero HD is squarely based off the old model. It has the same mounting system, case, physical shape and user interface. In fact, it's so similar that I suggest you read the original short review I did and then come back here for the low down on what makes this one better. Here's the link. Or you could just take these basic points as a foundation. • Awesome mounts for everything. • Meant to be semi cheap so you don't sweat it, yet capable. • It has a 170-degree field of vision and the case makes it waterproof to 30m. Very rugged. • Two buttons for controlling the basic UI. Shoot, toggle modes. The UI is so rudimentary you'll often forget how to use it, but all you need to do is turn it on and shoot. • There's no native LCD for viewing replays. • It's not tiny.

The Video is Now HD

Instead of the paltry 512x384, the $US270 camera with surf mount has several modes, most HD. On the higher frame per second mode, which was silky smooth when played back normally, there are standard definition resolutions of 848x480 or HD 720p/1280x720. Both are 16:9 ratio, which is recommended only for motorsports or other activities where you're not trying to catch yourself in frame standing up. The 60fps modes are noticeably smoother in normal playback but they're meant to also look better if you slow down the frame rate playback for slow motion in your favourite video editor. The grain was noticeably worse when using 60fps indoors, but it's not a deal breaker. At 30fps, there are modes for 720p again, but also 1280x960 which is 4:3 high def. That's the default and I used that for surfing. The 1080p mode is 16:9, and 30fps but limits the field of vision from 170 to 127 degrees. Again, the 16:9 modes are used less than you'd expect in sports shots. There's also a centre-weighted mode for exposing the road when shooting from inside a car, and it leaves the dashboard underexposed properly.

The bottom line is that this new camera is in HD. That's the big improvement

Quality

This is a still of the movie at full res, not the actual 5MP stills.

First, watch the movies the guys at the company produced here. Then watch my shitty one filled with shitty surfing. Colours were a little washy/green but the ocean and the sky together, with the lens collecting droplets, well, that isn't an ideal situation. Watch it for yourself and form your own conclusions, but note the reflections off the water which will inform you of pretty decent autoexposure and sharpness. It's a vast improvement over other sports cams and the standard def version. Oh, a little thing held over from the last generation that isn't a ding or a plus: the 170-degree angle is great for reducing apparent vibration and for making sure what you want in shot is in the frame, but it has the unfortunate side effect of making things like waves and jumps and other otherwise impressive looking things seem smaller.

Storage Capacity

The 51 minutes of video I took were 4.6GB big in the standard 4:3 ratio 1280x960 video. That was enough res for me to enjoy it on the screen. Here's what Justin at GoPro told me the camera would store, which is a little more generous than what I found but still in the same ballpark.

Average recording times: 1080p: 12 min/GB 960p: 14 min/GB 720p: 16min/GB @30fps; 11 min/GB @ 60fps

GoPro recommended you use fast SDHC cards to save battery life, and on a 32GB card you can get almost six hours of recordings, although you'd be constrained by battery life. Oh one annoyance — every time you clear the card, the files are named from 001, 002, again. So if you copy them over to the same location, they'll ask you if you want to overwrite. I wish the camera kept its file name numbers in series.

Battery Life

The other big change is that instead of being powered by a pair of AAAs, GoPro jammed a 1100mAh, 3.7-volt battery in the case. I did not do a full run-down test, but shooting 51 minutes of video didn't reduce the charge even one notch; GoPro estimates you can get 2.5 hours of battery life from the camera in normal climates, regardless of the definition of video you're shooting. The old model died quickly in the cold if you weren't using rechargeables but this camera's housing retains a bit more heat making it better for colder weather. You charge it by USB. Unfortunately you can't charge it while doing a USB transfer yet. They hope to fix this with a firmware update later.

Sound

Sound quality during dry sports is aided by an open back housing door. But even with the closed door during surfing, the sound was fine. A benefit of the closed housing door is that wind noise is nil.

Stills

I didn't test stills in this mode, but GoPro claims the 5-megapixel shots are better due to better processing. There are several still modes, as before: Single shot, triple shot that takes three shots over two seconds and a time lapse mode that can be set to record a shot every two, five, 10, 30 or 60 seconds. And a 10-second delay timer. For me, this is not why you get a sports camera.

The Surf Mount, in Particular

It's 3M double sticky and it seems to hold up just fine. You clean your board of wax and then use a bit of rubbing alcohol to apply it. Let it settle overnight. To get it off (permanently) you use a hair dryer, which sounds a bit scary when it comes to something nice and fibreglass, but what do I know? (That's why I put this one on a pop out longboard.

The Future

Another big but so far not useful thing on the new camera is the expansion port. They plan on offering a bigger back door for the case so you can fit in an external LCD screen for replays or an extra battery pack. I like the idea. I'm thinking they could probably go ahead and work on making the camera smaller even if it costs a bit more, in the next generation, though. I like GoPro enough to use it, even though gadgets on the mountain or in the surf piss me off by way of distraction. Now that they've got mounts, higher resolutions and battery endurance covered, I think making it even smaller is the next step to making it more enjoyable.

High def modes

Best mounting options in the business

Rugged, yet affordable case good for bumps and waterproof to 30m

Wide angle lens captures 170 degrees of motion so you fit in the shot and vibration is dampened.

Smooth 60fps great for action shots

Relatively cheap for what you get

Case kind of biggish


Comments

    So when's the giveaway?!

    The new HD version does seem to bring the goods- next we need a feature on different mounts- car/motorcycle/kite etc.

    Then a comp for Giz fans for content...

    tom

    Where can we pick one up in Oz?

    M@

    i have heard there are some issues putting what you have recorded onto your computer? i have a imac with imovie will that be good enough to process the hd videos?

    Love the idea of this camera and if it did everything they advertise I would praise it all day. Unfortunately it doesn't. The pictures are great, especially from such a small camera. There is a risk however if you shoot in 60 fps, that you will end up with only a small fraction of the footage you wanted. The makers are claiming this is a SD card issue but it still happens with the cards they recommend. Had 2 cameras running side by side with the same cards and one failed while the other didn't.
    You have to be careful when you turn the camera on that you do not hold the one button too long as it will switch from video to stills mode and you have to look closely to check.
    If you wish to use this camera for time lapse, the camera locks up after 9999 files have been recorded. This is in the history of the unit, not in the one sitting. Makers are telling everyone to remove the battery for 48 hours to resit it if this happens, but this doesn't always work and even if it does is only a band aid fix.
    A big selling point on this camera was the upside down feature. If you had to mount the camera upside down it would flip the vision so you didn't have to do this later. Unfortunately this feature does not exist.
    If you wish to use this camera underwater be prepared for soft pictures. The underwater housing has a design flaw and as yet there is no sign of a fix.

    If these issues ever do get addressed this would be one of the best cameras of it's type on the market.

      Mike
      what do you mean soft pictures if you use this camera underwater? Grainy, poor colours or what? Also what is the housing design flaw you mention - does it leak?

    What a piece of crap. The new HD with read screen has failed in a big way world wide.

    Make sure you do a good search prior to buying. Even their own (gopro) forum has many of us screaing for help & gopro is sitting back wondering how its going to fix thousands of faulty cameras.

    Remember even thought they say they will warranty the cameras...they will make YOU pay for the return postage even though its their product that wasnt ready for release.

    Dont buy this camera !!! My camera failed & believe me you can totally forget any help desk service. I swear i was getting bot answers. All you can do is do like the rest of us & troll online hoping all the 2 bit fixes that are being tried about the place work.

    LOTS of us with this bad new model.

    If you have an old model then stay with it...great camera but the new ones are a real mess. Buy another brand...any working HD camera will be better than what we all have.

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