GoPro HD HERO Review

Cameras Pro Reviews

Battery
The camera now has an internal rechargeable Lithium Ion 1100mah battery, so no more having to swap out your AAA batteries for another recharge, just plug it into your computers USB port for its replenishment. The battery fits very snugly into the back of the camera, so that it won’t give any issues with high vibration activities, like mountain biking. The battery is supposed to last 2.5 hours per charge, but it seems to vary depending on the chosen video resolution.

  • Battery time statistics: 1080p @ 2:20hrs, 960p @ 2:40hrs, 720p @ 2:16 hrs
  • Battery recharge: 2 hrs

A future expansion pack will have a longer life battery, so until then with the larger storage capacity of 32GB, a spare battery might be desired on multiple hour rides. I always carry an extra in case of unforeseen issues.

hd_battery
herohd_batt_long

RECORDED VIDEO
I recorded all the video resolution except for the SD with the HD HERO. The 1080p gave the best clarity, and its widescreen gave a great scenic value to some shots, but I preferred the 960p since its full frame viewpoint captured the maximum field of view, giving rise to what is perceived when actually riding a trail. I liked the handlebars or the helmet mounts, which worked at the best for my riding style, and also gathered footage that I preferred.

The captured HD HERO footage had good clarity and sharpness, with warm and vivid colors. I think that the HERO camera line deals extremely well with difficult daylight conditions, especially when alternating between sunshine and shade, and it just seems to deal with that adjustment in a more subtle manner. Like many of the CMOS sensors, straight on sun will cause some vertical colored bands (usually purple) and flares. Pixelation was good, with a mild amount of aliasing, and some slight edge artifacts. The framing was smooth, but heavy shocks and vibrations caused distortion.

Jump/Shake Issues
When recording in rougher mountain biking terrain, all the POV outdoor video cameras have an issue with what I call the “jump or shake” syndrome. It can be seen in the recorded media as in abrupt jump in the field of view, almost like one is in an earthquake. Attaching the camera using a more stable mount so that it literally becomes part of the attachment point helps this issue, but does not alleviate it. A great deal of the issue is due to the CMOS sensor, but the HD exacerbates the issue, since anomalies are more perceptible. Of course, in the price point range of the POV’s, compromises have to be made to get a rugged outdoor sport video camera to function within its design and cost parameters.

The HD HERO, like a lot of the CMOS video cameras use a Rolling Shutter, which makes videos seem a bit shaky and scattered (think sea sickness), due to motion artifacts (skew and wobble). A Rolling Shutter exposes different portions of the frame at a different point in time, hence “rolling” through the frame, while a Global shutter (CCD cameras use this) exposes the entire imager simultaneously. Neither does this in the physical sense. The degree that each camera exhibits the motion artifacts issue depends on a lot of factors. The GoPro due to its extremely wide camera angle (170 degrees) tends to compensate for some of those side artifacts, but they still exist. The final output can also display spatio-temporal aliasing, which has a rippled or watered appearance.

Editing
Raw footage looks the best, but to make the most use of things you need to do some video editing. There is plenty of video editing software on the market, from freeware to products that can cost several hundred dollars. I ended up using Cyberlink’s PowerDirector Ultra, which costs around $99. Most of the products allow a trail period, so you can test out their software and find one that suits your preferences. Editing allows cuts and piecing together of footage, and music and titles can be added, making a more professional and appealing product, even though it’s destined for the cyber world.

Download and Viewing
To download or view the video’s you will need a PC or Mac. Take the camera out of the housing, and connect the mini USB to the camera, and then the other end of the connector to the computers USB port, and click the power button (USB will appear in the screen). The unit will appear as a Removable Disk, just navigate down to the appropriate directory (example: F:\Removable Disk\DCIM\100MEDIA) and either download or view the video straight from the camera. You can also remove the SD card, and use a SD card reader or other device, and bypass the camera as the downloading interface. The video’s are in a MP4 (MPEG-4), and you can use them as is or edit them in your favorite video editing software.

You can also view video’s directly from the camera on a TV using the HDTV or Audio out connections. You use the camera’s buttons to tab through, and start each of the video’s stored on the camera’s memory. The controls are very rudimentary, but they do work. For a small video camera watching the video on a large screen is pretty impressive.

Technical Camera Fodder
The sensor is .4 inch HD CMOS (Complementary metal–oxide–semiconductor) with 2.2 micrometer pixels, and the video format is H.264 compression, which is saved as a MP4 file. It uses a fixed focus lens, with a f2.8 aperture, and has an angle of view of either 127 or 170, depending on the chosen video resolution. I believe the unit is made in China by Sky Light Industrial, a company that makes  electronic products for multiple partners.

ContourHD 1080p vs GoPro HD HERO
Here is a crude shootout between the 2 camera’s, ‘H’ is for HD HERO and ‘C’ is for ContourHD, a ‘+’ means its a standout, while ‘-’ means a black mark.

Colors:
H: warm and vibrant colors.
C: cooler, but slightly more realistic colors.

Varying Light:
H: + superb, great for going from shade to bright sunlight to shade, etc.
C: good.

Picture Quality:
A wash, they are both about the same.

Usability:
C: + superb, adjustable lighting settings, on/off is loud with mechanical switch, rotatable lens, laser beam sighting, but most settings are not field changeable.
H: on/off button and beeps make status difficult, all settings are field changeable, poor aiming ability.

Elements Protection:
H: + the housing is waterproof and tough, but the camera has to be in the housing unit else it’s fragile.
C: good, but can get a bit wet and dirty, they do have a new optional waterproof housing coming out (+?).

Mounts:
H: + has more mounts, but requires a good tightening, they’re stable and work well, but mounts can loosen up and rotate out of position, especially when hit/glanced by something.
C: It tends to wiggle a bit in their mounts, good helmet and frame mount if the goggle mounts are used with a large piece of Velcro.

Reliability:
H: – issues with SD Card compatibility, and I had some test units with other issues.
C: + never one issue with the unit, well made and robust.

Style:
C: + compact, stays close to the head.
H: Its a toaster? It gets whacked by trees on top of your head.

So which is better? It’s a wash, they both have their attributes and faults, both take good video for what they are, small sport video cameras. To be honest, 1080p is a bit shaky on either camera for most mountain biking footage, so I think the 960p is the best of the bunch, and I always use that mode. I like the ContourHD slightly better, mostly for its usability.

Next » Bottomline

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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