I’ve had the GoPro HD Helmet HERO for 5 or so months now so figured it was time to review it.
Some background info: My first GoPro experience was at the Mt Panorama racing circuit. The initial GoPro hadn’t long been released and a guy there was fitting the camera to cars participating in DriveBathurst. Very cool I thought, especially when I viewed the footage of my own hotlaps. Not long after that I ordered my own GoPro Helmet Hero Wide (reviewed here in May 2009) – it was a fun thing to use but seriously let down by low video resolution and being powered by 2 AAA batteries which didn’t last at all. There were other minor annoyances with the package, like the cryptic menu system and the fairly average mounting system, but you could put up with those.
Bottom line: the original GoPro Helmet Hero Wide spent more time in the cupboard than anywhere else. Even on Youtube the videos looked shite. Continuously feeding it high quality AAA’s was too expensive. All up too much hassle for what you ended up with. Bummer.
Enter the GoPro HD HERO!
If the original GoPro HERO camera demonstrated anything it was that guys across a wide range of sports wanted to capture their activities on film to make cool POV (Point of View) movies. They just needed the right gadget for the job. All GoPro had to do was nail it with the HD.
Fortunately with the HD release GoPro did address the main problems with the original camera — video resolution and power/battery — and voila, overnight a huge POV video community was born. There are now a huge number of high quality POV videos on Youtube, Vimeo etc of all types of mundane through to crazy activities, with the GoPro HD strapped to people, machines, animals, pretty much anything. It’s not just about online videos though — play a high quality render of a GoPro HD movie on a full HD TV and you can really appreciate the quality of the video captured by this cool little gadget.
Here’s a video shot entirely on my GoPro HD HERO, set to play in HD:
You can view the full spec’s of the GoPro HD camera at the official GoPro web page, so I’ll just include the key bits here.
GoPro HD Video Resolution Modes*:
* 1080p = 1920×1080 pixels (16:9), 30 fps
* 960p = 1280×960 pixels (4:3), 30 fps
* 720p = 1280×720 pixels (16:9), 60 fps
* 720p = 1280×720 pixels (16:9), 30 fps
* WVGA = 848×480 pixels (16:9), 60 fps
* The GoPro HD can also shoot 5MP photos, both manually at automatically at set intervals up to 60 secs.
GoPro HD Power/Battery:
* Battery Type: Rechargeable 1100 mAh lithium-ion
* Battery Life: Approx. 2.5 hrs
So yeah the GoPro HD HERO is a cool gadget, much more usable than the original. GoPro have also promised a range of useful accessories though most are yet to be seen.
GoPro HD HERO Positives
* Video quality
GoPro HD HERO Negatives
There are some negatives though to keep in mind:
Camera size and weight
Even though the camera is still relatively small it is larger than the original and still must be used in its housing. When the camera is mounted to one side of your helmet for example you really do feel the bulk and weight, much more than you might expect.
The camera really needs a better menu system, which largely comes down to the tiny LCD screen currently used. Settings and modes are abbreviated in often nonsensical ways — think back to the 1970’s, turning your huge calculator upside and trying to spell words using numbers — funny, sort of, but not very user friendly out on the trail. So many small gadgets have good menu systems, maybe next time for the GoPro.
The mounting system mostly made up of plastic arms combined with nuts and bolts often doesn’t hold the camera firmly in position when you’re on the move, and can be a major fiddly PITA to work with out on the trail. Mounting system add ons are also grossly overpriced. I wouldn’t class it as absolute rubbish but the mounting system is a LONG way behind the capabilities of the camera and a definite let down and source of frustration as time goes on. To get acceptable results you often need to make your own mounts or use another system altogether. There is definitely an opportunity for a third party to come along and provide a versatile, high quality mounting POV camera system.
GoPro have been fortunate to grab a chunk of the action with the HD HERO but they’ll need to stay on top of their game as other POV manufacturers have already introduced cool useful features like GPS, wireless transfer of files etc which the HD lacks.
POV cameras have definitely come of age with the GoPro HD HERO.