I have got given the rather snazzy and rather long winded technically named GoPro HD Hero 3 Black Edition camera as a shock birthday present earlier this year, shockingly for my birthday 🙂 There is a large number of reviews about these and I am sure you have seen them strapped to peoples bikes at track days, so I am going to keep this review fairly bike and racing specific.
Technically it’s very over specced for what I need, capable of recording up to 4K, which is a bit pointless for me as I have no way of watching that sort of clarity, but I am sure you get the idea that it can record at high res, current mainstream Hi Def TVs being 1080 so a quarter the res the camera is capable of recording. At 1080p it is also capable of recording at 60 frames a second. This is the resolution I have tried to record in, mainly. I work on the assumption that I can loose resolution as I upload video and frames per second easily or take individual frames, or slow down the action easier and the loss of quality and frame rate if the settings are set at these settings. You can set the camera to Wide, Medium or Narrow field of view as well. You can use it as a standard camera, but I haven’t tried that yet, I’ll come back to that if I do use it, but I am not a big photo taker, using mainly my phone to take images. The Black Edition comes with a rechargeable remote control to camera, this is handy but I must admit to not using it as the Apps for mobile phones also give you a preview of what the camera will capture makes them more useful, and as they all use the WiFi on the main unit there is no real benefit I can see to using it. The one thing I have noticed is, that having WiFi active does have a detrimental effect on battery life, more on this later.
So… the spec is good. In fact it’s good enough to film full TV programs, and as most of my videos will end up on here, via youTube or Vimeo and more likely both then the quality is more than enough. So what is the quality like…. well you can see for yourself on this site. All the videos I have added this year (2013) are recorded on this camera, and the source files are even more impressive. I am properly impressed. If you slow the play back down there is still enough frames to make it smooth and watchable, well if any of my riding is watchable. I haven’t tinkered too much with the settings at this point, but have found that a 1080p Wide 50fps is a good base setting and it’ll do all a race weekend without the need for any more.
So that’s it? It’s all good right? Well no. There are a couple of things which annoy a bit. The first is that for a camera that cost a rather large amount of money there is no memory card included, so you can’t use it straight away, which isn’t shown on the package or mentioned at the time of purchase is in my world bang out of order. This made Sarah, who bought me the present fairly unhappy as she had put a fair amount of time and effort in to “getting the right one” and felt she had made a mistake. I myself thought I must have dropped the memory card in opening the rather impressively stubborn to open packaging. This was rectified fairly quickly getting via Amazon, by me getting a SanDisk Ultra 64Gb class 10 (the last bit is important, you need a high class microSD card to record at hi res) and as I was buying it I thought bigger is better. You get about 4 hours of recording at 1080p 50fps on that card. I really didn’t want to be swapping the tiny and very loose-able cards in the pits. Now to the other problem. Battery life, it’s quiet bad. Your card maybe able to do 4 hours, but your battery wont. I haven’t done full test yet, but I intend too so you can come back and I’ll tell you the results. It maybe that I have a duff battery or that my fiddling with it ate through the battery. I don’t know yet, I have friends with earlier models and a few who have multiple camera, and I intend to do back to back comparisons in the future. For piece of mind I have bought another 2 batteries so that I have more than enough spares. The batteries are slightly larger in capacity (ohm/hours) so hopefully this will be a benefit as well.
I have mounted the camera on this bracket as I thought best to not have the camera able to take the full whack of any fall. The case maybe water proof to 30m (my diving friend says 60m) and sturdy but I like to give it a fighting chance. The mount works quiet well and means I can spin the camera around for different views. I haven’t moved it around too much as I am currently using at a “learning aid”, which I was going to use to justify buying one at some point. I do intend to mount it in different positions and see if I can remember how to edit (it’s been a while).