GoPro Hero 2 Review: Best Sports Cam Ever?

We loved our GoPro HD Hero. It was simply the sweetest wearable action camera we'd seen... until now. The brand spankin' new Hero 2 isn't dramatically different, they just made everything a lot better. I may never take it off.

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Video shot with the HD Hero looked good. This looks way better. They put a fancy new sensor in there and it really delivers. Colours were way more vibrant and realistic, details were sharper, and brightness and contrast are much more balanced. The older Hero had a tendency to be washed out and blown out; that doesn't happen anymore (see first water shots in the video). You can also now get a full 170-degree field of view while shooting 1080p, and it has more options for frame rates and sizes. It can shoot stills at 11MP versus 5MP on the Hero 1, and it can process images much faster, meaning you can take a time-lapse with one shot every half-second, or you can shoot 10-shot-per-second bursts.

The Hero's UI has been refined, making it much easier to set up. It's actual words on the little screen now, not incomprehensible abbreviations. There are now four LEDs that blink while you're recording, so you know you're rolling no matter which way it's facing. The Hero 2 has added a mini HDMI out and some built-in Wi-Fi awesomeness. GoPro's upcoming Wi-Fi BacPac will allow for remote control and real-time streaming from the Hero 2, which is pretty sweet. Lastly, the Hero 2 is the exact same size/shape/configuration as the Hero 1, meaning all of your Hero 1 accessories will fit just fine, including the LCD BacPac which allows you to line up your shots and play them back. And yes, it still comes with its housing that makes it waterproof to 55m.

No Like

The Hero 2 performs poorly in night-time settings, as you can see in the night-biking shots at the end. Yes, it makes the images brighter than the Contour ROAM it was next to, but it brings in a ton of noise and graininess to do it. Also, while the UI is extremely improved over its last iteration, that's not saying a ton. Navigating through the settings is still a slow, unwieldy process. Also, the buttons can be stiff, which sometimes makes turning it on/off tougher.

Oww my ears! At the default setting the Hero 2 is super loud. I had to turn it down 4-7db in the video because it was peaking like crazy. There's a setting for wind-reduction which I haven' messed with yet, but it seems to me that the default should be a bit more easy on the ears. Also, while it's great that there's a mounting system for virtually every application you can think of, it's worth noting that setting these up is not always easy and intuitive. To mount it to my handle bars I would have had to put a strange 90-degree extender on it that would have made to extremely unstable. Instead opted to hang it upside down from a bar end, which wasn't ideal.

Last Word

Bottom line: this thing is killer. While I still want to do some more testing to be sure, if I had to pick one from all the similar sports cams currently on the market, I'd grab this one. The images it takes are great. It's not just HD-sized, it actually looks HD. I like the Contour ROAM a lot, but the Hero 2 has more options and the image quality simply wins. I really didn't like how it looked on my night-ride, but you're more likely to using it during daylight hours, anyway. I expect to see a lot these nestled under "Holiday Flora" come December (how's that for non-denominational?).

Notes on the Comparison Video:

- There are great waves and great surfers in Hawaii, and there are great trails and great mountain bikers in Colorado. I'm a blogger and I live in Brooklyn. Working with what I've got here.

- In the biking shots with the ROAM you'll notice that the vibration makes the screen look almost liquid, where as the Heroes managed it pretty well. It's possible that this is because of the way the ROAM was mounted (a special rubber strap), or maybe the Heros just absorb shock better.

- I haven't yet received my surf kit for the ROAM so I had to leave it out of the water test.

- The night shots were filmed on two separate nights. The ROAM had the disadvantage of it being slightly rainy, but for my money it still looks better. The Hero 2 may be brighter, but the image looks terrible.

WATCH MORE: Tech News


Comments

    Naw, I just bought a Hero 1 a few months ago, and a few days ago I ordered parts for wireless streaming.
    Amazing upgrades though! Not sure why they insist on huge megapixel bumps, especially on such a tiny sensor, and the fact that full HD video is only 2.1 megapixels

    Cheers for the review. Was only a day or so away from ordering a Contour ROAM, but now that the Hero 2 is out I think i'm going to have to go for it instead.

    I thought it would be 1080 60p, maybe in another 3 more years Hero3, I wish a bigger 1/1.6" sensor or even Nikon V1/J1 sensor...LOL

    Why would you even bother comparing it to a contour roam? Seriously, the ContourHD is the only contour cam worth comparing the gopro's to. At least make it a fair comparison. Contour roam would be compared to a Gopro ORIGINAL.

    Jason the Contour ROAM replaced the HD i think. Thanks for the review tho Brent! GoPro are obvs the way to go in this type of camera

    The liquid effect is a common thing among all Contours. I have the GPS and all my videos (to my disspointment) look like that.

    Needless to say I want the Hero 2!

    Whats the best setting to get less noise on the hero 2 when on video or time lapse fotos. cheers

    Just making sure people are aware that GoPro cameras DO NOT FOCUS properly underwater. There are 3rd party fixes and you need to be aware of that when budgeting, if you want to use it for diving, snorkelling etc.

    Hi gc what are the 3rd party fixes for underwater as I am thinking of buying hero 2 thanks

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