Review: GoPro HERO3 Black Edition

Cameras Pro Reviews

“The highlight of the camera is the 12MP sensor, sharper lens and faster processor…”

How does it compare against the competition? The HERO3 still has the best video clarity, though it has overly warm colors, followed by the HD Ghost and then the Contour+2 and Replay XD. The HD Ghost has the best usage factor, followed closely by the Contour+2, then the Replay XD, with the HERO3 way behind in this category. We’ll have a six camera shootout out shortly, which will help rough compare each model against each other.

Bottom Line
The GoPro HERO3 Black Edition is an outstanding camera, and the addition of the 12MB 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. It does an excellent job in bright and variable light conditions, with a slight drop in quality in subdued light, and it unfortunately lacks the capabilities to adjust exposure or contrast for lower light conditions. It has a plethora of useful and functional features, including a built-in Wi-Fi, a remote with indicator light and LCD status screen, and a tough waterproof housing, and a superb mounting system. The UI is intuitive, and it’s easy to perform configuration settings and modal changes, with the highlight being the main mode screen, which offers lots of information, including resolution, FOV, and battery and SD resource constraints. The menu system is still cumbersome and too linear, albeit it’s at least effective. The built-in Wi-Fi lets the camera wirelessly converse with mobile devices using the GoPro App to align the camera, change settings and modes, and delete recorded footage. I found the App to be extremely useful for alignment and mode configurations, and then reverted to the normal buttons to start and stop recording. The remote was quite functional, and its LCD screen and two buttons emulated the camera, and although it was nice to have the start and stop located on my wrist, the battery life wasn’t very long, and it frequently would be a dead-on arrival unless the unit was always juiced up.

It has a nice suite of video resolution settings, including 1080p at 60, 48, 30 or 24 fps, 960p at 100 or 48 fps, 720p at 120 or 60 fps, and SD at 240 fps. It also has new professional resolutions of 4K at 15 fps, 4K Cinema at 12 fps, 2.7K at 30 fps, 2.7K Cinema at 24 fps, and 1440p at 48, 30 or 24 fps, and a Protune mode. The 1080p has three FOVs, 170º, 127º and 90º, the 720p has 170º and 90º, while the 4K, 2.7K, 1440p, 960p and SD only use 170º. The highlight for me was the new 960p 100fps, and it was my favorite resolution mode, offering great coverage of the trail and smooth transitions and flow with the slow mode setting. I didn’t really use any of the professional resolutions or modes, and kept footage in basic raw or unedited formats. I think professional and technical amateur videographers will find the new resolutions and Protune mode extremely useful, and will give them a lot more functionalities for the post editing process.

The mounting system is excellent, and the vast assortment of mounts and connectors, allows attachments and placements in almost in any 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 HERO3 Black Edition, and their excellent mounting system, is joined by a mobile App, built-in Wi-Fi, a remote that emulates the camera’s screen and buttons, and a slew of new resolutions and frame rates that make for a great overall package. The highlight of the camera is the 12MP sensor, sharper lens and faster processor who work in synergy to create stunning footage.

Pros

  • 12MB sensor
  • Image and color quality
  • User-Interface
  • Bright and variable light sensitivity
  • Sharper lens
  • HDMI output
  • Professional resolutions – 4k, 2.7k, 1440p and Protune
  • Mounts
  • Remote
  • Wi-Fi
  • GoPro mobile App

Cons

  • Housing is tubby, aka the Toaster
  • Slight drop in footage quality in subdued light
  • No exposure and contrast adjustments
  • UI is greatly improved, but cumbersome and too linear
  • Red and yellows are too vibrant
  • Mediocre battery life – 1.3 to 1.5 hours
  • Mediocre battery life for remote
  • Can’t view recorded footage in GoPro mobile App
  • Quick-release buckle can be sloppy
  • Mounts can be difficult to tighten
  • Housing can creep or get knocked out of position

MSRP: $399.99

Overall Rating: 4.5 Flamin’ Chili Peppers

Visit the GoPro HERO3 Black Edition Website


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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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  • Brandt says:

    Gave up on the Black after 2 weeks. 1080p @30fps in 30 degree temps won’t last more than an hour. Also jammed up countless times. Super disappointed in the reliability despite following all the tips online. Swapped out for Silver and much more stable and battery also last much longer. Still recommend the bacpac though to last same duration as GP2. Great pics and video but battery life the issue. Good thing it will be warming up soon. Check out the boards/online reviews and you’ll see I’m not alone with the results.

  • Dabberdog says:

    I spent a lot of time comparing different brands and models, ultimately deciding between the contour roam+2 and this unit. Ultimately I saved a lot of money by going with the Contour Roam2. I didn’t need the GPS, or the remote viewing, or any of the other extra features. I just wanted a higher frame rate than 30 fps. The Roam2 has 60 fps at 720p. It isn’t quite the outstanding image quality of this unit, but its close, and I only paid $175.

  • Barry says:

    Interesting to read there are issues with it. I had the original GoPro (used AAA batteries) and the videos were exceptional. I sold it to get the new one mainly so I have a rechargeable battery. I have all the mounts so was just going to get the White Edition. Will do more research, thanks for the review MTBR.

  • Jerry Hazard says:

    Its funny with all the different resolution settings, you’d think there is a constant level of quality between them. Not true, there are favorable settings to use, see here:
    abekislevitz.com/understanding-your-new-gopro/

    Still, imo, the most versatile cam on the market…

  • ReductiMat says:

    After 40 days on the hill with a Black this year, I can state with certainty that the video quality of this thing in certain modes is simply amazing.

    I can also say that these things are completely half-baked. Of those 40+ days, I’ve had less than ten days where I DIDN’T have corrupt video files or hard-freezes that required the removal of the battery to get it going again.

    I’ve tried many different flavours of SD cards including the SanDisk ones they suggest and nothing makes a difference.

    This includes an RMA replacement that is only slightly better than the original. Even though they know they have major issues with these things, they still strung me along for over a month before they set up an RA number for me.

  • Tony says:

    Nice you get the remote with Black version, but GP has totally cheezed on mounts vs what you got with the Hero2. The velcro strap for the remote isn’t even included! Of course, true to GP form, they have an “additional” remote pack you can purchase, go figure. So far I’m happy with operations, but peeved at the company nickle & diming me at every opportunity.

  • Armando Gomes says:

    At the moment i am happy with the GOPRO 3 Black Edition, but sometimes it jams a little bit if i play the movie directly from the gopro (ON) connected to the laptop by the USB cable (exploring and playing the movies on the laptop, but running on the SD card inside de gopro).

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