GoPro’s brand spankin’ new line of its popular action-cams offers a lot of great upgrades: The cams are smaller, lighter, and have higher frame rates. Sweet! The Black version also offers 4K video recording — a feature sure to make headlines and widen the eyes of video gear-heads. It is ultimately nothing but a vacuous gimmick.
The 4K video standard — which amounts to double the resolution of HD — is the future of moving images. Not the future as in next year, but the future as in you might have a 4K TV in your house to watch Season 8 of Game of Thrones. Sure, there are commercially available 4K projectors for your superfly custom home theatre, but, to give some perspective, Sony is about to start selling its very first 4K capable TV — for around $28,000.
The 4K video a GoPro Hero3 records will probably not be viewable on your, or anyone you know’s TV set unless it is scaled down significantly. In fact, the average user’s computer monitor probably doesn’t reach the necessary 3840 x 2160 resolution to display 4K at full-size. Finally, let’s not forget that 4K images carry large file sizes, forcing you to fill your pockets with extra memory cards. So what’s the point?
GoPro will probably say that they are “future-proofing” their cameras, so that you can be sure your new toy won’t grow obsolete in the face of the 4K revolution. That’s all well and good in philosophy, but I hope you are used to watching your footage at 15 fps, because that is the maximum frame rate the GoPro Hero3 allows for at 4K.
Here is a random YouTube video shot at 15 fps. It’s a choppy affair, and that is what your GoPro 4K footage will look like — not very conducive to the kind of fast action that GoPro cams are meant to show off. (Or you can speed it up to look like a slapstick film from the 1920’s — cause everyone likes that look.)
Don’t get me wrong, the latest GoPro line looks really great in almost every area, and you can buy a cheaper Silver or White version without the 4K. But even hyping the whole 4K thing is a transparent attempt to produce a WOW-factor in a market that is getting quite competitive (thanks to Sony and Contour). That translates to a higher pricetag for a feature that offers little actual benefit.