The longingly anticipated GoPro HD HERO was released early this year, and I have gotten around 6 months of testing experience with the camera. It brings a lot of unique features to the table, such as its waterproof and durable housing, and an incredible assortment of attachment accessories, such as the best quick release vented helmet mounts in the business. The HD HERO records in a vast array of high definition video resolutions up to 1080p, and has proven itself to take excellent footage with great clarity and vivid colors.
“Being a hero is about the shortest-lived profession on earth.”
Note: I am cross comparing the HD HERO to the old HERO Wide and VHoldR ContourHD 1080p
GoPro’s HD HERO is a POV (point of view) high definition sports CMOS camera, that can take video and still shots. It can record video footage in 1080p, 960p, 720p and SD formats, and 5MP photos in several modes. It records data onto SDHC cards (not included) up to 32GB in size, and is powered with an internal rechargeable battery that gives around 2.5 hours of recording time. The camera is encased within a plastic waterproof housing, that attaches to a plethora of mounting accessories, and can be mounted to a wide array of objects. The camera can be used for an assortment of outdoor activities, including motorsports, biking, kayaking, surfing, skiing, base jumping, etc.
The HD HERO can shoot in High Definition (obviously), in 5 video resolutions. It can shoot in 1080p (widescreen) at 30fps, 960p (full frame) at 30fps, 720p (widescreen) at either 30 fps or 60 fps, and SD at 60 fps. The 720p 60 fps allows for slow motion playback, which is pretty cool to watch. Each of the video resolution’s are captured at different bit rates, which entails varying recording times and storage requirements, meaning greater resources are needed for the higher usage formats. The resolution settings are done within the camera’s menu system, which is managed by its 2 buttons. In fact, any of the programmable features and settings can be done through the menus, allowing in the field changes as required. The camera records in 2 viewing angles, unique to its video resolution, so 1080p is 127 degrees, while 920p, 720p and SD are at 170 degrees. The default setting is 960p.
The HD HERO can shoot still photos in either a manual or automatic mode. In the manual mode it can be set to shoot either a single or triple sequence of photos, and even has a 10 second timer if desired. The automatic mode allows photos to be taken every X number of seconds, where X is 2 (default), 5, 10, 30 or 60 second intervals.
IMPRESSIONS AND USAGE
The camera is operated using the power/mode (located on front) button, and the shutter/select (located on top) button. Once the desired camera options are set using its deep menu system (viewed from the status screen), a simple push of the shutter button stops and starts the camera’s recording operation. The camera’s settings are accessed through a combination of the 2 buttons, using the menu system as a visual aid. This can be a bit tricky, since it isn’t always intuitive, and the menu icons can be difficult to see and interpret. Perhaps a slightly large screen might help? I was always clicking past the video icon, which meant I had to cycle back through the menu to get there again.
To turn on the camera, just push the front power button, and it announces itself with 3 subtle beep. The beeps were not loud enough to be heard over the typically noisy outdoor conditions. The wind, terrain, and loud compatriots all make hearing them difficult. This meant you spent a lot of time looking at the front of the camera to verify its status. LOUDER beeps please!
“Eleven. Exactly. One louder.”
After choosing the video resolution, you push the shutter button to start the recording. The camera beeps once, and the indicator light begins to blink. To stop the recording, push the shutter button, and it beeps 3 times, and the light stops blinking. The buttons were a bit soft, so it was tough to tell whether it actually started or stopped, exacerbated by the subtle beep, so a visual check was required, which meant a lot of face shots at the beginning of recordings.
The HD HERO was problematic in that I am not sure what it is up to without taking it off my head, and looking at the indicator light or the status screen. It can be a moot point sometimes if I just leave the camera running continually, but that uses up battery and storage space. Cameras with a more mechanical on/off lever alleviate that issue.