GoPro HD HERO Review

Cameras Pro Reviews

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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

HD HERO

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.

Video
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.

Photos
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

Camera Operation
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.

herohd_camera_layout

HD HERO Functional Layout

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.

Next » LCD Screen & Housing

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About the author: Brian Mullin

Brian has been part of the Mtbr team since 2007, where he has become an integral member of the review and test staff, specializing in technical articles. He likes to push the limits in all the sports he obsesses in, whether it's mountain biking, whitewater kayaking, extreme skiing, or sport climbing. He takes those same strengths and a good dose of insanity to his reviewing and writing on mountain biking products, creating technical, in-depth and hyperbolic articles. Whenever he's not on the bike, he might be found watching MotoGP racing, otherwise look for him out on extremely technical singletrack.


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  • Tommi says:

    Nice review, it was very helpful and well written.

    “Note: I am cross comparing the HD HERO to the old HERO Wide and VHoldR ContourHD 1080p”
    So how does it compare to these? I’m currently trying to decide which one to go for, GoPro or ContourHD.

  • Brian Mullin says:

    As requested, a crude comparison, at the bottom of page 4 http://reviews.mtbr.com/blog/gopro-hd-hero-review/4/

  • Pedro,Miami,Fl says:

    I have both of them and love them but if you want a clear perfect video and pictures HD is the way to go,only one down side is the file are too large to upload them in youtube or any website, The PLUS side and I mean it when I say that is the outstanding customer service and support, The also stand behind their products warranty.I hope it help.
    Pedro,Miami Fl

  • leel says:

    I’m not sure where you’re going with that Pedro? Vimeo allows really big files. You also don’t need to generate really big video files if you’re rendering for the web.

  • ProEdgeBiker.com says:

    We currently use the ContourHD 1080p but will be soon getting one of the HeroHD’s to try out.

  • JAB says:

    Well written, thank you.

  • Pedro,Miami,Fl says:

    HI Leel I tried Vimeo and yes you are right I could do it,thanks for the info,I still like the HD Hero over countourHD BUT like I say that is my opinion everyone is free to has diferent opinion.
    Regards

  • Jaymo says:

    I have both cameras. Both put out a great image. From an industrial design standpoint, the Contour is a great looking cam and is very sleek. However, the contours design limits its mounting capabilities. GoPro has 10x the amount of mounting options, and due to its design, much more room for creativity. Also, the Contour is not waterproof. The GoPro takes a licking. Waterproof to 180ft. What? That is some serious force and pressure. My biggest recommendation is to take the time and read the GoPro manual. Do not pull a “dude” and just start using the camera. You will fumble and jack your footage. Read the manual, take your time to learn the ins and outs of the GoPro. It is a tool, and when used correctly can give you amazing footage. Also, take the time to learn about codecs and compression. If you do the homework, your footage will like like something from George Lucas.

  • JP says:

    Great review! Check out some videos from all models of GoPro at:

    http://www.youtube.com/quik564

    What a progression in such little time… gotta love GoPro! Customer service rocks too!

  • Nardo says:

    You forgot to cover the following GoPro attributes:

    1) the GoPro comes with enough mounts to attach it to 4 helmets and 2 pieces of gear (4 total adhesive mounts + vented helmet strap + head strap) whereas the Contour only comes with one single helmet mount.

    2) GoPro comes with a waterhousing whereas Contour does not (you mentioned this but not in relation to #3 below)

    3) add up the above GoPro included parts and you’d have to spend about $440 with a Contour to match all that comes with the GoPro for $299. That’s a huge $140 difference between the two, 47%, basically.

    4) The GoPro shoots 5MP photos in single shot, burst and timelapse photos modes. The Contour doesn’t shoot photos.

    5) The Contour’s sound is horrible no matter what setting you put it in. Sure you can adjust the sound volume down but all that does is make crappy sound softer.

    6) The fact that you cannot change settings on your Contour in the field without a computer is a massive negative. If you set the camera up for a certain lighting situation and go on your ride and the lighting changes significantly, you are SOL unlress you have your laptop with you. The GoPro adjusts so well to different lighting conditions that it doesn’t need manual settings. That means the Contour is making up for design inefficiencies that the GoPro doesn’t suffer from. Massive point to anyone wanting a really good automatically adjusting camera.

    7) GoPro has a 1 year warranty whereas the Contour has a 6 month warranty. Important point for a camera like this.

    Your review was pretty thorough but you left out these important GoPro advantages that make it a much better deal, and arguably much better camera, than the Contour.

  • smith says:

    Does anyone know , where I can find this camera in Miami ???????????????,,,, Im looking all over the place but I cant find it

  • Brian Mullin says:

    You could go directly to the GoPro Link

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