Gear Review: GoPro Hero 3 Black Edition
Posted on July 8, 2013 by
GoPro cameras have become ubiquitous in a wide variety of applications over the past several years. They have fed sites like YouTube with plenty of viral videos that previously were only possible if you had a professional film crew following you around. Though the GoPro cameras have some competition, at this point the company stands out in its niche so much that it has reached "Kleenex" status - when a product captures its market so dominantly that the brand name becomes the generic label for that type of product. Xploritall got its hands on the latest GoPro unit to see what all the fuss was about.
OUT OF THE BOX
With any electronic gizmo, you want it to be ready to use the second you open the box. The only major item missing from the base unit to give you a functioning platform is a microSD/microsDhC/microsDXC card. So you'll want to pick one up when you buy your GoPro. For optimal recording, make sure you get a Class 10 rated card, which is required for using the Protune or Time Lapse modes. The Hero will support up to 64GB capacity cards. On some message boards we have seen users relaying problems with certain brands of SD cards. It may have been a bug in some of the early units, and was resolved for some in the firmware update. We used a Sandisk Ultra HC I with no problems.
The base kit comes with a few options for mounts. There are 3 varieties of brackets included: one short and one long quick release arm, and a 3-way pivot arm. These attach to a flat or curved adhesive mount. If you are interested in a surf board application, there is a specialized Hero 3 Black Surfboard edition, or you can buy the surfboard mount separately. Other OPTIONAL attachments include: a bike handlebar/seatpost/pole mount, a helmet front mount, a vented helmet strap, a head strap, a wrist strap, a roll bar mount, a tripod mount, a suction cup mount, and a chest mount harness. Consider your specific mounting application needs and particular Point-of-View desired for your videos. I've since picked up several different mounts for different applications, and to have a variety of camera angles. We'll cover some of the optional mounts in subsequent reviews.
The Black series comes with a Wi-Fi remote to control the camera. The Silver and White series do not include a remote, but the GoPro phone app can be used as a remote.
Battery life has been a criticism of the Hero series. As with almost any small electronic device, there is always balancing act to keep a device as small as possible without sacrificing the battery life. GoPro claims the Black edition has a battery life of 1.5hrs on the lowest power consumption mode (1080-30), or 1hr at the highest consumption setting (WVGA-240).
If battery life is a concern, additional rechargeable batteries can be purchased for about $20 each. There is an optional Battery BacPac accessory you can purchase that mounts on the back of the camera ($49.99) to extend the camera battery life. This will add some bulk to the camera unit, though.
The Silver and White editions reportedly have longer battery life ratings. So, if you don't need the extra features offered in the Black edition and battery life is more important, then consider one of those models.
IN THE FIELD
There is a definite learning curve associated with figuring out how to optimize the GoPro - from mounting options to learning the limitations of the battery life and memory card storage. We ran the camera in a bunch of different setting configurations to hopefully save you some of the trouble (see the table below). The GoPro has a tremendous amount of possible settings for resolutions and field of view, more than the average user will need but providing professionals with tools to manipulate the footage. I'm not going to claim to be an expert on video settings. But choosing your recording mode would depend on where you intend to output it. So, if showing off your adventures on a standard TV set, you might keep it at the 1080 setting. The key takeaway is that you have TONS of options.
As you can see in the chart below, the battery life can last anywhere from 63 to 125 minutes. Changing the frame rate and narrow/medium/wide settings each have an impact on the battery life. In the 2.7K CIN-24w setting, the 32GB memory card actually filled up before the battery died. In most settings, a second rechargeable battery would allow double the footage possible on the same 32GB SD card, with the card filling up about the same time as the batteries running out. We've heard that the Wi-fi mode being activated can reduce the battery life by 5-10%. Before we upgraded the firmware, that was about right for our unit. After the update, the impact seemed to be less. The data in the chart was gathered AFTER the firmware update, by the way. One annoyance is that the battery life indicator is only a 3 bar icon. It would be more useful if it displayed the percentage of charge remaining.
The picture quality is amazing! The GoPro provides an immersive, cinematic quality that really impresses. One lacking feature we would like to see is the ability to zoom. There are some zooming hacks using iPhone zoom lenses - look around on YouTube for how-to's on that. We were also amazed at the sound quality. On a bike ride on a windy day we used the frame mounts, which offer little wind or weather protection, and were shocked that the audio was not washed out by the wind noise. Using the hard plastic case provides even better sound quality in high speed or windy conditions.
Speaking of the hard plastic case, I somehow managed to put a small nick right on the portion that covers the lens. Luckily, GoPro sells spare and replacement parts, including a kit to replace the lens cover section only (about $20). There is a float cushion attachment you can purchase so your camera doesn't disappear beneath the water in an aquatic mishap.
The camera automatically breaks the footage up into separate files; so, in the event of the battery running out, memory card filling up, or a crash, instead of the possibility of losing one continuous file the footage will be saved in chunks. Depending on the setting, the most common file segment times were around 11.5, 17.5, and 26 minutes long. This also helps when trying to transfer the footage.
Though we haven't gotten the chance to check out the other action cameras on the market yet, we can now understand the hype that the GoPro receives. And it's for good reason. They have created a wide range of opportunities to capture adventures - for just the recreationalist wanting to show off to their friends later, or the pro wanting to get action footage for promotional purposes. I also have a friend that mounts GoPros on his remote controlled UAVs to get incredible aerial still footage (one of which was just featured in National Geographic Traveler Magazine). Whenever we brought our GoPro along with us somewhere - a hike, bike ride, or a rafting/jeep trip - the guides and fellow adventurers never failed to get excited about being on film. Be warned though, the guides may ramp up the excitement factor knowing they are being filmed!
Make sure you get the correct SD card (class 10 and at least 32GB), an extra battery, and consider what mounting applications you'll need. That should get you going right away.
GOPRO HERO 3 BLACK FILE AND BATTERY TEST
|Setting||Battery Life||File Segment Time||File Size|
|2.7K CIN-24w||1:33:02*||11:38||29.6 GB|
|4K CIN-12w||1:26:32||11:39||27.5 GB|
|*32 GB SD Card filled before battery emptied|
• Ultra sharp ƒ/2.8 6-element aspherical glass lens
• Ultra wide angle / reduced distortion
• 2X Better low-light performance
- Video format: H.264 codec, .mp4 file format
- White Balance: auto and manual
• 12, 7, 5MP resolutions
• Burst: 30 photos per second
• Continuous Photo: 3 photos per second, 5 photos per second, 10 photos per second
• Time-lapse: 0.5, 1, 2, 5, 10, 30, 60 second intervals
• Simultaneous Photo + Video:
• 12MP + 1440p24 fps
• 8MP + 1080p30 fps 8
• 8MP + 720p60 fps
Battery & Charging
• 1050mAh rechargeable lithium-ion
• Charge via USB
- Extreme cold temperatures may decrease battery life. For use in these conditions it is suggested to keep camera in a warm place prior to use.
- To maximize HERO3 battery life when shooting longer duration activities, it’s is best to use camera with LCD Touch BacPac turned off or unattached altogether. Turning off Wi-Fi will also help conserve power.
- Using protune mode will increase power consumption. May vary per mode and camera edition.
• Mono, 48kHz, AAC compression w/ AGC
• Supports optional 3.5mm stereo mic adapter **
• MicroSD class 10 or higher required
• Up to 64GB capacity supported
• Record times will vary with resolutions and frame rates
• USB charging cable
• Microsoft Windows® Vista, 7 and later
• Mac OS® X 10.5 and later
For Best Playback Experience on Mac and PC:
• Minimum System Requirements:
• An Intel Core i5 or Intel Core-2 Quad system with discrete NVidia or ATI cards
• 4GB RAM
• Updated/Latest version of default video player from Microsoft*** or Apple
*Compared to HD HERO2 and HERO3 White and Silver Edition Cameras
**Optional accessories sold separately.
***Windows Media Player may require the installation of 3rd Party codec packs.