The original GoPro Hero wide POV camera was a hit with mountain bikers and sporting enthusiasts of all types, offering the ability to relive the adventure again at home and easily share it with friends. With a low and extremely accessible pricing of about $200, it was the obvious choice when shopping for a POV video camera on a budget. With a number of various mounting options available, it was easy to get a variety of perspectives for the camera’s view, unlike several of the competitor’s models, which were limited to helmet mounts. The unit we have been using has proved to be extremely durable as well. Ours took a rolling tumble down a rocky trail while attached to a full face helmet, and with nothing other than a few scratches on the protective casing, continues to work perfectly well. The two button operation is a bit confusing at first, as there are a number of recording options, but once you take the time to learn the camera operation, it is easy to use while still offering a number of different modes in addition to providing video.
We recently received a sample of the most recent model, the GoPro Hero HD. A major upgrade from the original GoPro, the new Hero HD now offers higher resolution and is now packaged with a quality battery, with the base model priced at only $259.
The Original GoPro Hero Wide
The original GoPro camera was a smashing success, and with its extremely reasonable price point was an easily justified purchase. When POV cams first became popular, we had some experience with the VioSport model. While it was a quality unit, it was difficult to import the video onto a Mac. It also was priced at almost $700 at the time. The $200 GoPro unit, with the inexpensive price point, durability and no-brainer operation was the obvious choice for many consumers.
Our only issue with the original HERO was the low resolution and image quality.
In this clip, the camera is mounted on my girlfriend Inga’s full face helmet facing rearward in order to record the rider following.(me) In this application, it is obvious she is wearing a pack, which is a bit annoying for the viewer as it bounces in and out of the frame. (sorry)
For my uses, I found the GroPro footage was best utilized in conjuction with handheld footage shot with my compact camera, a Canon G10. With this combination, it is easy to put together fun mini edits from various rides and events. As both cameras are compact, there is a minimal weight penalty for having the gear in my pack, which meant I always had them with me, and I’m more likely to use them. The big question was 1. Would I want to stop during a ride to record footage? and 2. Do I want to commit to the time needed to edit said footage? If the answer was yes, creating a web edit to share with family and friend is a simple, if time consuming matter.
Edited using the free software (iMovie) that comes packaged with any Apple computer, putting a sample clip like this together is simple. On average I’ve found myself spending upwards of 8 hours editing a substantial amount of footage just to put a 3 minute clip together. Once exported, it is easy to upload and share edits to YouTube, Facebook, Flickr, or Vimeo. iMovie even offers a direct export to YouTube option, making the process a one button effort. It doesn’t get much easier than that to share the experience.
Unfortunately the quality of the finished product has been a bit disappointing at times. POV footage tends to be hard to watch for longer cuts as it is, but with the GoPro, it is easy to mount the camera on a pole for unique perspectives, or to mix up the mounting points for different perspectives that can make for a more enjoyable viewing experience. However, it kept coming down to the image quality. After spending that much time working with it, (if not more) the resulting clips end up looking acceptable on my phone, but the poor image quality is all the more apparent the larger the viewing size. And as my skills with the editing software has progressed, I’ve found myself utilizing the POV footage less and less, preferring to use the better quality footage from the compact camera. When I upgraded SLR bodies to a Canon 7d and had even better quality raw footage to work with, I stopped bringing the POV cam out on rides almost altogether. Overall though, it has been a great product that with its low price, has been a worthwhile purchase, and introduced the masses with an easy way to document our adventures.
Introducing the new GoPro HD
All of our issues with the original model have been addressed with the release of the GoPro HD HERO. A major upgrade to the original GoPro model, the HD offers a number of upgrades. The two that stood out the most to us: a higher quality image, and a lithium ion battery. The original unit utilized AAA batteries which were basically a pain in the ass. I found to always be dead when I wanted to use them, and carrying spares was a pain. The new lithium ion battery has a significantly longer lifespan, and is worth the slightly extra weight. The important part though is that I have yet to have issues with the unit going dead in the middle of a ride. (Assuming I’ve charged the unit beforehand)
Combined with the higher quality image, GoPro has taken their product to the next level. And even more remarkably, they recently reduced the MSRP and are now offering the HD model at the same price point as the original offering.
Take a look at this sample edit from the Woodward Bike Park in Fresno, CA, shot with our GoPro HD using the chest harness mount:
Compared to the original, it is a massive improvement in image quality. The only downside is the additional weight. Using the helmet mount with a light weight XC lid was overly noticeable, and the new model has the same drawback. (but worse)
The Chest mount
Fortunately we also received the chesty harness with our sample. This mount has quickly become our favorite, with its ease of use and easy access to the controls. With a helmet mount, one has to remove the helmet to verify its on. (unless you are comfortable trusting the beeps) The chesty is convenient, and for us means we’ll use the camera more often. It’s fairly comfortable to wear, and having the camera there didn’t interfere with our riding experience.
We quickly found that the stock chesty set up didn’t work well for the forward riding position of mountain biking. This was easily fixed by adding an extension. The best camera position looks weird when off the bike, (see above image) but once you threw a leg over the top tube and started down the trail, the angle was perfect.
(update: see the comments below- the camera can also be mounted upside down to simulate our setup to be pointed in the correct direction. )
Besides the upgrades in image quality and battery life, the HD HERO offers 1080, 960, and 720p HD resolution options. You also have the capability to run up to a 32GB SD card. (not included, although the battery is) The mounting accessories are backwards compatible with the original GoPro, so if you are upgrading and keep the old model, you could easily capture two angles at once. It also means you can purchase the HD HERO Naked package, and reuse all your old mounts.
The GoPro HD starts at $179 for a barebones kit with limited capture options, the HD Hero 960. Our set up, the HD Helmet HERO, will set you back $299.99. The chest mount harness is available separately for $39.99. You’ll also need a memory card, sold separately.
What you get for $299.99
- 1 HD HERO Camera (5 megapixel)
- 1 Rechargeable 1100 mAh Lithium-Ion Battery
- 1 Waterproof Quick-Release Housing (180’/60 m)
- 1 Headlamp-Style Head Strap
- 1 Vented Helmet Strap
- 2 Curved, 3M™ Adhesive Mounts
- 2 Flat, 3M Adhesive Mounts
- 1 Three-Way Pivoting Side Arm Assembly
- 2 Quick-Release Buckles
- 1 USB Cable
- 1 Component Video (HDTV) Cable
- 1 Composite Video + Audio Out Cable
- Warranty: One Year
- Lens Type: Fixed Focus (2ft/.6m – ∞), glass
- Aperture: f/2.8 (high performance in low-light situations)
- Angle of View: 170º ultra wide angle in WVGA, 720p, or 960p mode
- Angle of View: 127º wide angle in 1080p mode
- HD Video Resolution Modes: (subject to change, pending final firmware release)
- 1080p = 1920×1080 pixels (16:9), 30 fps, 15 Mbit/s data rate
- 960p = 1280×960 pixels (4:3), 30 fps, 12 Mbit/s data rate
- 720p = 1280×720 pixels (16:9), 60 fps, 15 Mbit/s data rate
- 720p = 1280×720 pixels (16:9), 30 fps, 8 Mbit/s data rate
- WVGA = 848×480 pixels (16:9), 60 fps, 8 Mbit/s data rate
- Sensor Type: 1/2.5″ HD CMOS, 2.2µm-sized pixels
- Light Sensitivity: Super low-light sensitivity (>1.4 V/lux-sec)
- Video Format: H.264 compression, saved as Windows- & Mac-compatible MPEG4 (.mp4) file
- Exposure Control: Auto with user selectable center weighted average and spot metering settings
- White Balance: Auto
- Microphone: Built-in, mono with AGC (automatic gain control)
- Audio Format: 48 kHz, AAC audio compression
- Resolution: 5 megapixel
- Capture Modes: Single shot, photo every 2, 5, 10, 30 or 60 secs.; 3 photo burst; self-timer
- Memory: SD card, up to 32GB capacity (SDHC)
- Average recording times (using 32GB SD card):
- 1080p (30 fps): 4h 21m
- 960p (30 fps): 5h 26m
- 720p (60 fps): 4h 21
- 720p (30 fps): 8h 09m
- WVGA (60 fps): 8h 09m
Camera Connectors & Cables
- PC Connection: USB 2.0 (data connection and battery charging)
- HDTV Out: HD NTSC & PAL (component cable incl.)
- Audio Out: Combo 2.5mm jack with stereo audio and composite video out
- PC Compatibility: Windows® Vista or Windows® 7; Mac OS® X 10.4.11 and later
Power & Battery
- Battery Type: Rechargeable 1100 mAh lithium-ion
- Battery Life: Approx. 2.5 hrs
- Charging: via USB to computer or optional power adapter
- Charge Time: 80% capacity after 1 hour with optional power adapter; or 2 hours with a computer’s USB port
Waterproof Camera Housing
- Depth Rating: Up to 180 feet / 60 meters
- Construction: Polycarbonate and stainless steel
- Hardware: Stainless steel
Size & Weight
- Dimensions (H x W x D): 1.6” x 2.4” x 1.2” (42mm x 60mm x 30mm)
- Weight: 3.3oz (94g) incl. battery, 5.9oz (167g) incl. housing
thanks to Rick at GoPro for setting us up.