GoPro: Little camera, huge possibilities

GoPro HERO3+ Black Edition

Professional quality images in the palm of your hand

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By now most people under 40 know what a GoPro camera is. And if you don’t, you need to know.

If you have ever watched a surf video, snowboarding footage, or the view from a skydiver’s perspective, then you know what a GoPro can do. A GoPro camera is a tiny camcorder which shoots high-resolution video and stills. They are mounted to the “photographer” with a plethora of different style mounts. A high quality wide angle lens allows the photographer to capture the stunning beauty and awesome action around them.

Launched in 2004, the GoPro series of cameras have become a huge hit for people wanting to capture their action sports. GoPro has become a critical pieces of the action-sports enthusiast gear. But as the quality improves and size and pricing shrinks, more and more people are picking up this little powerhouse.

Features and design

The Hero3+ Black Edition is the latest incarnation of the GoPro. Its the smallest, lightest, and has the best image quality of any GoPro camera. Coming in at a whopping 1.55 x 2.30 inches, the Hero3+ Black Edition is the tiniest GoPro yet. Without the case, it weighs just 2.6 ounces. With its small size (and the right mount), this camera can be attached to anything. This opens up so many possibilities for the pro and novice alike to get some pretty amazing shots.

Just because its small, doesn’t mean you loose quality. To get those action shots, quality is key. The Hero3+ Black Edition features an ultra-sharp 6-element aspherical glass lens which, in lameness terms, means awesome quality. It has an ultra wide angle field of view and is at a fixed f/28 aperture allowing the photographer to capture as much of the scene as possible.

Your able to capture video at high resolution at high frame rates. From 720p at 120fps to 1440p at 48fps, the Hero3+ Black Edition allows you to shoot professional quality footage. There are advanced video capture settings which gives the photographer complete control over their footage.

  • SuperView: Allows you to capture more of the scene with full widescreen playback at up to 1920×1080
  • Protune: Captures images with less compression which makes image quality even higher. Neutral color profile offers more flexibility during post-production.
  • Auto Low Light: Automatically adjusts frame rates according to lighting conditions for enhanced low-light performance.
  • White Balance: Adjusts video and photo color tones to match different lighting conditions.

Besides professional quality video, your are also able to take some amazing photos. You can shoot 12 megapixel stills at up to 30 images per second. There is also a Time Lapse mode for automatic captures at set intervals as well as a continuous shoot which allows for a 3-10 images per second burst.

There is a down side to such a small size. Some key features one would expect to find is shockingly missing. You won’t find a viewfinder or LCD screen for viewing your scene or playing back video. Its just a lens attached to a box. The lack of visual feedback can seem strange at first but makes sense. You are either wearing the camera or attaching it to your gear as document your activity. You are not viewing the world through a viewfinder but experiencing the wind in your hair and spray on your face. There is an attachable rear LCD display which can be purchased. Or you can download an app for your mobile device. The camera’s built-in Wi-Fi allows you to sync it to your phone to view what you are shooting in near real-time.

Performance

After watching hours of amazing videos of surfers, snowboarders, kayakers and other athletes, I was eager to rip open the box, strap on the Hero3+ Black and go shoot some awesome videos. Unfortunately, I couldn’t. You need a microSD memory card in order to shoot video as well as to download the firmware upgrade. After a quick trip to the big department store, I was ready to shoot. The Hero3+ Black comes with a few different mount to attach your GoPro to your gear; one curved and one flat adhesive mount, and a three-way pivot arm. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a mount included for me to use when hiking. I could have mounted it to a helmet with the curved adhesive mount or create some DIY mount but it would work right for me. I ended up getting the Head Strap Mount + QuickClip for $20 at a local retailer. It was the best mount for what I’ll be mostly filming (hiking, swimming and kayaking).

Now that I was finally able to use the GoPro, I brushed up on the user’s manual and went out to the bush for some filed testing. I found that it takes some practice and memorization to select the filming mode and to record your video when using the buttons on the camera. To turn the camera on you press and hold the power button until the red light next to the button blinks and beeps three times. To power down, press and hold the button down until the light blinks and beeps seven times. To start a recording you press the shutter button once. You can change the modes by repeatedly pressing the power button to cycle through the modes.

I found that it was much easier to use either the iPhone app or the accompanying Wi-Fi remote. You don’t need to fiddle blindly with the camera strapped to your especially trying get to different modes. A quick tap on your phone and you’re filming. Its also very easy to switch modes and take photos with the app.

I spent a few hours hiking some trails, spotting wild life and enjoying a beautiful cold day. The head mount fit perfectly under my winter hat, leaving the camera free and my head warm. Using the app, I was able to start and stop recording and line up some shots for pictures. It was nice to also be able to share some pics thru the app while I was out exploring. I was surprised on how long the battery lasted. Using the Wi-Fi and filming more than an hour, I thought the battery would have died but it lasted the whole time.

Back at the house, I connected the USB cord and began uploading all of my awesome footage. Depending on your video settings, the file sizes for your clips can be pretty large. I filmed at the highest quality which made those sizes huge. I could have used a lower resolution and frame rate which is what I am now doing.

I’m eagerly waiting for warmer weather to film some snorkeling trips and maybe mount it to a net when crabbing. The Hero3+ Black Edition comes with a waterproof housing that is good up to 131 feet. All in all, the Hero3+ Black was easy to use and produced pro quality video.

There’s an app for that

The GoPro App is available for iPhone, Android and Windows devices.

The GoPro App is available for iPhone, Android and Windows devices.

Of course there is an app for the Hero3+ Black Edition. iPhone, Android, Windows, it doesn’t matter. You can download the free GoPro app from one of those app stores. The app allows you to connect your device to the GoPro allowing you to see what the GoPro is shooting in near real-time. There is a few second delay but this feature does allow you to set up a shot. Your are able to start and stop recording from your phone as well as switch modes and take photos. Like any app, you can share your videos and photos to your favorite social media site. I’ve this app to be really helpful. I can strap the Hero3+ Black Edition to my head, get ready for a hike (or some other activity), and start filming from a tap on my phone when I’m ready to start. Its very easy to set up and is a must have.

In the box

The Hero3+ Black Edition comes with the GoPro Hero3+ Black Edition camera, Waterproof Housing (Up to 131 ft./40 m), Wi-Fi Remote, Li-ion battery, Quick release buckle, Vertical quick release buckle, One curved and one flat adhesive mount, Three-way pivot arm,USB charging cable. The optional GoPro mobile App can be download for your iPhone, Android device or Windows phone.

The bottom line

The only negatives, if you want to call it that, is that it doesn’t come with a memory card or a wearable mount. Those are extra. A head mount can be easily found for about $20 and a memory card for $15. Not a huge issue but you want to play with the camera as soon as you take it out of the box. Not having those means a trip to the nearest store or to make sure and order one along with the camera.

To say you must have this because it’s awesome is a really good reason why. Though it is. It’s an awesome camera. The video and image qualities are superb. The Hero3+ Black Edition takes photos as good as my professional camera and shoots footage better than my camcorder. Its tiny, super light-weight and can be attached to anything. This allows you to document those exciting adventures with your friends or record those special outings with your family. The prices is comparable to other camcorders and digital cameras which makes it excusable to most households.

The Hero3+ Black Edition is must have.

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