Review: GoPro HD HERO2

Cameras Pro Reviews

Camera Operation
Before using the camera, charge the battery if required, and insert an SD card in the camera’s slot. To turn the camera on, just push the front power button, and it announces itself with three beeps and LED flashes. After choosing the desired resolution and recording mode from the menu system, you push the top shutter button to start the recording. The camera beeps once, and the indicator lights begin to pulse or blink. To stop the recording, push the shutter button again, and it beeps three times, and the lights stop blinking. I did appreciate the increased volume level of the beeps compared to its predecessor, as they are now loud enough to hear over environmental background noise. To turn the camera off, press and hold the power button for 2 seconds, and it will shut down, ending with seven quick LED flashes and beeps.

When you’re using the helmet mount, it was difficult to know if it was actually recording, and the only method to verify its operation was to remove your helmet and see the recording lights or status screen. When mounted anywhere else, the new additional indicator lights assist with ascertaining its operational mode. Cameras with a more mechanical on/off lever, such as the Contour, alleviate that issue. Another point of contention, is that it’s sort of hard to know what you are capturing on the unit, so you have to use the camera body alignment, or use the optional LCD BacPak and eventually the smartphone to Wi-Fi BacPac interface. Depending on where the camera is mounted, you can use the LCD to align the viewpoint or record a short video, and play it back to check what you were capturing, and then make any tuning alterations. Like many of the mini monitors, the LCD was difficult to use in bright light, and you sometimes had to look at in the shade or cover it from direct light for viewing. I found the additions of the new louder modal beeps and four led indicator lights to be highly beneficial to the form factor of the unit, and greatly assisted knowing its current operational status.

Interface to Computer
To download or view the videos or pictures you recorded, take the HERO2 out of the housing, and using the supplied USB cable, connect the mini USB to the camera and the other end of the connector to a computer USB port. The unit will appear as a Removable Disk, and just navigate down to the appropriate directory (example: F:\Removable Disk\DCIM\100GOPRO) and either download or view the video straight from the camera. For faster downloads, use a standalone SD card reader, and bypass the camera as the downloading interface. The recorded footage can also be viewed on a TV by using the HDMI or composite video ports of the camera, using the buttons to tab through, and start each of the video’s stored on the SD card. The controls are very rudimentary, but the results are quite impressive on a larger screen.

In the grand scheme of things, GoPro has the best mounting system and the largest assortment of mounts of the sport POV camera manufacturers. They are extremely functional, and allow placement in just about any location desired. The mounts, adapters and swivel arms can be set up to shoot a lot of variations, attachment points and viewpoints, making for some interesting footage. Everything fits together like a small tinker toy set, with clamping and connection done by a plastic ended screw with a nut, which are tightened by hand or screwdriver. The housing can be attached directly to the quick-release buckle or the arms, and the assortment of mounts for biking includes a seatpost/handlebar, curved and flat surface, tripod, vented helmet, and others. I predominately tested with helmet placements, which included the vented strap and stick-on surface mounts. It does give the footage a sort of floating in space viewpoint, but it was my preference. I occasionally used the optional seatpost/handlebar mount and chest mounted harness (aka The Chesty), the latter giving a unique vantage point. The “Chesty” was pretty cool, and was excellent for skiing and kayaking, where it ruled. I didn’t like it as much as most people, since I tend to move around too much, and the saddle and other things got in the way. The handlebar mounts gave an interesting perspective, and it kept the camera out of my way. The seatpost setup was less than ideal for me, as I tended to snag the camera when I hung out over the rear of the bike. The quick-release buckle system just plain rocks, and it’s so easy to take the camera on and off, as all it requires is a quick backwards push of the buckle into any of the mounts.

Overall, the quick-release buckle is a well-thought-out unit, and it snaps into any of their mounts, making it universal throughout their product suite. Sometimes this system can be sloppy, allowing the unit to flop vertically on its axis, but it be remedied by using the vibration or locking plug (aka the nose plug) or adding some strips of electrical tape on the mount’s slider surface.\

The mounts can also be tough to tighten down properly without resorting to a screwdriver, although roughing up the shiny arm joints with sandpaper help somewhat. Even after doing the workarounds, the camera can creep around during a ride, or get hit accidentally and move out of position, ruining subsequent recorded footage. The toaster shape of the housing means it’s tubby, and not streamlined nor svelte in any manner, so it can get easily caught on things, and it seems to suck tree branches into its vortex! You quickly learn to check the camera on occasion to make sure it didn’t go out of position, especially after going through the trees or if your head got whacked by a branch.

Expansion Port/BacPak’s
The back of the camera has an expansion port, that will allow optional expansion packs, or BacPac’s to be connected, which extend the functionality of the camera. The current BacPac list is an LCD screen to view videos/pictures, and a battery extender. The BacPac kits come with the BacPac and an expanded back door, so that the fatter camera (camera with attached BakPac) will fit inside the housing. To install it, just hook one end of the BacPac onto the camera, and insert it into the expansion port. Pop off the housing’s door and replace it with the BacPac’s expanded waterproof or skeleton door, depending on your requirements, and you’re ready to go. The soon to be released Wi-Fi BacPac will allow live video streaming and remote control, through smart-devices, computers, etc., opening up a plethora of features and functions.

About the author: Brian Mullin

Brian likes to push the limits in all the sports he obsesses in, whether it's mountain biking, whitewater kayaking, 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 articles. Whenever he's not on the bike, he might be found watching MotoGP racing, otherwise look for him out on the trail.

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  • Francis says:

    I’ve been using the Hero 2 a lot lately. I think it’s the best in the POV category cause the quality is awesome and the selection of mounts is second to none. But it’s not perfect. Here’s my pros and cons.

    - impeccable video quality
    - ruggedness, durability and versatility of mounts
    - chest mount design is worth noting

    - way too expensive
    - no screen and have no idea where it’s aimed
    - user interface is still bad. It took me 10 rides to be confident that it’s turned on.
    - battery life is so short. it seems battery life is wasted as it is always heating itself
    - construction and button feel is very far below regular ‘camera’ or ‘phone’ quality.

  • Donny says:

    Excellent write-up and videos!

  • russ says:

    Thanks for the review! Is it best for the battery to be topped of with a charge after each use even if it won’t be used again for more than a week?

    • Brian Mullin says:

      Russ: It depends on how long you go between periods of usage. If it ends up being a couple of weeks, then top it off, otherwise it should be fine. And as I mentioned, get a spare battery and carry it with you!

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