Review: GoPro HD HERO2

Cameras Pro Reviews

Biking GoPro HD Hero 2; HD Hero; Contour Plus comparison - courtesy of Lee Lau

POV Camera Shootout
I am going to do a full-blown and detailed POV camera comparison sometime in the next month or so, but I thought I would give a mini shootout of three cameras, the GoPro HERO2, Contour+ and Drift HD (joined later by the Reply XD). I picked some features and functions I think are important, and gave a general viewpoint on their respective qualities. High marks go to the GoPro HERO2 11MP sensor and mounts, but the competition still has other things they do better. When it comes down to it, it’s a matter of personal choice, as they all take great footage, and have different features and functions that set them apart.

Bottom Line
The GoPro HERO2 is an outstanding camera, and the addition of the 11MB sensor and sharper lens, greatly increases the clarity, vividness, and the colors that are captured. The colors were warm and vibrant, although the reds and yellows were overtly so. The new low light sensitivity extends the metering range, and when combined with its excellent bright light characteristics, it makes for a synergistic package, although it still doesn’t have the capabilities for exposure or contrast adjustments. The upgraded UI is intuitive, and it’s much easier to perform configuration settings and modal changes, with the highlight being the main mode screen, which offers a plethora of information, including resolution, FOV, and battery and SD resource constraints. The menu is still cumbersome and too linear, albeit it’s at least effective. Other additions, such as the battery warmer and HDMI output supplements its functionality. The form factor of the camera is somewhat lackluster, as the buttons are stiff, and as it’s tough to know what the camera is capturing, and the operational status, such as power and recording, can be difficult to ascertain, albeit the new louder mode beeps and additional LEDs help greatly with the latter.

It has a nice suite of video resolution settings, including 1080p 30fps, 960p 48 fps or 30 fps, 720p 30 fps or 60 fps, and SD at 120 fps or 60 fps. The 1080p mode now has three FOV’s, 170º, 127º and 90º, while the 960p, 720p and SD all stay with 170º. The highlight for me was the new 960p 48fps, and it was my favorite resolution mode, offering great coverage of the trail and smooth transitions and flow with the slow mode setting.

The photo section got a slight revamp, and can do single, 10 photo burst, time-lapse (pictures every 1/2 to 60 seconds), and self-timer pictures, in resolutions of 11MP, 8MP and 5 MP, and FOVs of 170º and 127º. The action specific modes of a time-lapse picture every 1/2 second, and 10 photo burst in 1 second should provide some interesting footage.

The mounting system is excellent, and the vast assortment of mounts and connectors, allows attachment and placement in almost in desired location. The quick-release buckle is easy to use and works universally within their system, although the interface between it and the slider mount can be sloppy without some minor modifications. The smooth arm pivots can slip on each other unless some force is applied to the thumb screws, usually using a screw driver, otherwise things move around too easily. The camera and housing are tubby, and sit up perched high on your head and bike, and tend to get knocked out of position, especially if riding in the woods.

Final Thoughts
GoPro has a superb new camera on their hands with the HERO2, and their excellent mounting system, is joined by an upgraded UI, and better form factor additions with louder beeps and recording LEDs, and a battery warmer and HDMI output, and a 960p 48fps, and finally two quick action photo modes. The highlight of the camera is the 11MP sensor, sharper lens and faster processor who work in synergy to create stunning footage.

Pros

  • 11MB sensor
  • Image and color quality
  • Upgraded User-Interface
  • Low light sensitivity
  • Sharper lens
  • Louder beeps
  • Additional recording lights
  • HDMI output
  • 960p 48fps
  • Battery warmer
  • Mounts

Cons

  • Housing is tubby, aka the Toaster
  • No exposure and contrast adjustments
  • UI is greatly improved, but still a bit slow, cumbersome and too linear
  • Stiff buttons
  • Red and yellows are too vibrant
  • Without optional Wi-Fi or LCD BacPac’s its difficult to position viewpoint
  • Quick-release buckle can be sloppy
  • Mounts can be difficult to tighten
  • Housing can creep or get knocked out of position

MSRP: $299.99

Overall Rating: 4.5 Flamin’ Chili Peppers

Follow Brian Mullin at http://www.gramslightbikes.com

GoPro HD HERO2 Specs:

What’s Included

  • 1 11MP HD HERO2 Camera
  • 1 Waterproof Housing (197′ / 60m)
  • 1 HD Skeleton Backdoor
  • 1 Rechargeable Li-ion Battery
  • 1 USB Cable
  • 1 Vented Helmet Strap
  • 1 Head Strap
  • 2 Curved Surface Adhesive Mounts
  • 2 Flat Surface Adhesive Mounts
  • 1 Three-Way Pivot Arm
  • Assorted Mounting Hardware
Camera Optics

  • 2X Sharper Professional Glass Lens
  • f/2.8 Fixed Focus
  • 170º Wide FOV (Including 1080p)
  • 127º Medium FOV (In 1080p)
  • 90º Narrow FOV

Video

  • HD RESOLUTIONS:
    • 1080p: 1920×1080, 30FPS
    • 960p: 1280×960, 48FPS + 30FPS
    • 720p: 1280×720, 60FPS + 30FPS
  • STANDARD DEFINITION RESOLUTIONS
    • WVGA: 848×480, 120FPS + 60FPS
  • High Performance,1 /2.3” CMOS Image Sensor
  • Light Sensitivity: .84 V/lux-sec
  • Video Format: H.264 codec, .mp4 File Format
  • Exposure Control: Spot, Center Weighted
  • White Balance: Auto

Photo

  • RESOLUTIONS: 11MP, 8MP, 5 MP
  • FOV: Wide 170º FOV, Medium 127º FOV
  • CAPTURE MODES: Single, 10 Photo Burst, Time-Lapse*, Self-Timer
  • * Now supports time-lapse photo every 0.5 seconds. Requires Class 10 speed SD Card.

Audio

  • Mono, 48 kHz, AAC Compression, Auto Gain Control
  • Stereo External Microphone Input (3.5mm)

Storage

  • MEMORY:
    • SDHC: Up to 32GB (Class 4 or Higher)
  • AVERAGE RECORDING TIME WITH 32GB SD CARD:
    • 1080p30: 4 hours
    • 960p30: 6 hours
    • 720p60: 4 hours
    • 720p30: 6 hours
    • WVGA 120: 4.5 hours

Included Cables

  • USB Cable For Charging and Data Transfer

Battery & Charging

  • 1100mah Rechargeable Lithium-Ion
  • Charge via USB

Operating System

  • Microsoft Windows® Vista, 7 and Later
  • Mac OS® x 10.5 and Later

Compatible with all GoPro BacPacs

  • Wi-Fi BacPac and Wi-Fi Remote (Coming Soon)
  • LCD BacPac
  • Battery BacPac
  • 3D HERO System



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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  • 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.

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

    Cons:
    - 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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