And Now, For Something Completely Different: GoPro Hero3 Review


All Photos by Kevin Sutorius

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Hello fellow Nerds! It’s Kevin Sutorius back again with a new gadget to review: The GoPro Hero3 Silver Edition. After spending about three weeks with this pocket-sized HD camera, I tested its capabilities in the conventional sense, capturing footage of my bike ride, and in the non-conventional sense, like a regular point-and-shoot digital camera. I would like to share my thoughts and some of the technical specifications with you and although there are several abbreviations for different formats, I will do my best to explain what they mean. But first, a little history.

The History:

Nick Woodman, founder of GoPro, was inspired while vacationing in Australia to capture footage of him surfing. Since there were no available cameras that were both high quality and waterproof, he raised some money himself and started his company in 2004. The first GoPro camera, the GoPro Hero All-Season Sports Camera, used 35mm film, but quickly switched to digital since there are more benefits in terms of video quality and camera design. In 2008, the next camera, Digital Hero 5, had a 5mp (mp=megapixel) sensor, used 2 AAA batteries & only captured in standard definition. The third camera, HD Hero 960, captured footage in 960p, slightly above the 720p HD. 3 years later, the fourth camera, HD Hero Naked, was released as the first GoPro to shoot in 1080p, using a 5mp sensor. One of the accessories available to buy separately for the Hero Naked was called the 3D Hero System, which allowed two HD Hero’s encased in a waterproof housing to shoot video simultaneously, and to be edited for 3D presentation. That same year, the HD Hero2 was released, truly creating a larger awareness for the GoPro brand. The Hero2, resized to a smaller and more portable camera, came bundled with an 11mp sensor, a li-ion rechargeable battery, shooting in a maximum resolution of 1080p, and came in 3 different bundles: Outdoor, Motorsports, and Surf, each with different accessories.

Today, the current model is the Hero3.

What Does it Do?

The GoPro cameras are made to be high quality “activity” cameras, designed to easily record awesome moments that you couldn’t really get before, like capturing surfing on a huge wave or snowboarding down a steep slope. Since its inception, the GoPro cameras have been used in a much larger capacity, from capturing Formula1 races by attaching cameras to the actual cars, to filming concerts by attaching cameras to the guitars, to capture the artists performing at creative & interesting angles. With a bountiful & versatile assortment of accessories, GoPro enables multiple possibilities of capturing an extreme moment, from a chest-mounted harness, to a bike helmet strap (which I got), to a simple tripod adapter.

photo gopro3_zps41ce50b3.jpg GoPro Hero3 with GoPro Vented Helmet Strap Mount Accessory

The Hero3, released in late 2012, comes in three variations: White edition ($199), Silver edition ($299), and the Black edition ($399). All three Hero3 cameras have built-in Wi-Fi for connecting to the GoPro App for iOS devices (free) or the GoPro Wi-Fi remote ($79.99), a mini-USB port for importing footage and charging, a micro HDMI port for viewing footage, and microSD card slot, for saving. The White and Silver editions share the same sensor as the Hero2, but vary in photo and video shooting capabilities. The White edition utilizes a 5mp sensor for photos, can shoot in 1080p & 960p video in 30fps (frames per second), and does not have GoPro’s Protune feature, which maximizes and enhances the image quality. The only downside to shooting with Protune on is that it’ll take up more space on your microSD card. One of the most notable features in the Black edition is that it can shoot in 2k and 4k video, the highest quality that can be shot on a camera for under $500. The other notable feature is that it comes with the GoPro Wi-Fi remote.

The Silver edition (the one I got) can shoot:

  • 1080p (1920×1080): 30fps, 25fps, or 24fps with Ultra Wide, Medium & Narrow shooting modes
  • 960p (1280×960): 30fps, and 60fps with Ultra Wide shooting mode
  • 720p (1280×720): 30fps, and 60fps, with Ultra Wide shooting mode.
  • WVGA (848×480): 120fps with Ultra Wide shooting mode.

The Hero3 records audio in Mono, but supports an optional 3.5mm stereo mic adapter that you can buy separately.

In Photo mode, it has 3 different photos levels to choose from: 11mp, 8mp or 5mp. The Hero3 also a photo burst mode that do up to 10 photos per second. Lastly, the time-lapse mode can be changed between 0.5, 1, 2, 5, 10, 30, or 60 second intervals.

The Hero3 Silver Edition comes with the following accessories:

  • 197’/60m Waterproof Housing/Case
  • Rechargeable Li-ion battery
  • QR Buckle
  • J-Hook Buckle
  • 3-Way Pivot
  • 1 Curved Adhesive Mount
  • 1 Flat Adhesive Mount
  • Assorted Mounts, Additional Back Housing Latch for Lower Wind Speeds
  • Go Pro Stickers
  • Mini USB cable

What Do I Think of it?

I’m someone who has been dabbling in photography for years, with a couple different high-end and low-end cameras. As a tech nerd, I don’t like settling for anything. Thankfully, the GoPro Hero3 (Silver Edition) does not disappoint. In an ideal world, I would’ve loved to get the Black Edition, but the Silver Edition is barely a compromise. My introduction to the GoPro was with the Hero2 through a friend named Jason when we went snowboarding (for my first time) in Tahoe. The footage he captured and seeing the versatility in action convinced me to get one.

The quality of the image for both photo and video is impressive for a camera, and for a lens that small. I’ve seen similar mounting cases out there that can house a smartphone, but with the phones getting bigger and bigger each year, it makes it more difficult to use in the multiple environments compared to the GoPro. I love the freedom of choosing my photo/video settings on the camera, although the physical buttons and sequence process requires you to commit it to memory.

Luckily, the GoPro app gives you the same ability to change the camera’s settings, but in a much more convenient and user friendly way. By activating the Wi-Fi on the GoPro, your smartphone can connect to the signal the GoPro produces, thus allowing you to change settings or view what the camera is pointed towards. In a way, the smartphone, through the app, turns into a remote with a screen, but the only drawback is you can’t view the video once you record and there’s a 5-second delay from what you’re pointing your GoPro at vs. viewing on screen. When testing the GoPro in the field, both as a typical point-and-shoot camera and as it was designed for, I was impressed with the results.

As a point-and-shoot, as long as you have a smartphone with the GoPro app (and a little patience), the camera works quite well. The shooting modes for photos range from Ultra Wide, to Medium, to Narrow, and you aren’t able to zoom. Drawbacks aside, I found many creative uses for it and actually had fun trying to capture a picture in a different way than I’m used to. Below are pictures I took during my day in Santa Cruz, CA, with the GoPro and my iPhone 4 as a way to compare.

Note: GoPro settings were 11mp, and Medium angle turned on and there were no touch ups or any cropping of the images. I stood the same spot and held the cameras in the same spot as best I could.

As you can see, there are differences in color and photo range between the two. The major thing I noticed was that my finger was in almost each shot taken by the GoPro. Lastly, I compiled several clips that I posted online to view at your pleasure of the video quality taken by the GoPro. Three of the videos are short, about thirteen seconds or so, of views and angles I found interesting from the GoPro’s perspective. The fourth video is about three and a half minutes long and is a compilation of footage taken while riding in Santa Cruz, but put to music due to a technical error on my part. To view the videos, I provided the website link and be sure to look for the videos labeled “Go Pro Test ” followed by its corresponding number:www.youtube.com/user/kevinsuto

I am a very happy owner of my GoPro and plan on getting more accessories to extend the possibilities of what I can shoot, including, dare I say it, filming me surfing or snorkeling under water! Despite a few minor quibbles, the GoPro is a fantastic and exciting product that encourages me to keep shooting and find more ways to film! I look forward to what the GoPro company will offer in the future, because they certainly have a me hooked!

Score: 9/10

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