GoPro HERO3: Black Edition review
If strapping a video camera to your head and jumping off things is your idea of fun, then chances are you’ve already heard of GoPro. Its wearable action camera, the Hero, has now reached its third generation, and it’s been souped up with a range of new features, from 4K resolution video to ultra-smooth 120fps HD frame rates.
The Hero3: Black Edition is GoPro’s top-of-the-range model. While the White and Silver Editions look identical, they make do with 1080p recording at a maximum of 30fps, and use a more basic lens. The Black Edition adds a sharper glass lens, and offers a dizzying array of resolutions and frame rates, shooting 4K video at up to 15fps; 2.7k at up to 30fps; 1,920 x 1,440 at up to 48fps; 1080p at up to 60fps; and 720p at up to 120fps.
GoPro HERO3: Flying high
Jon Honeyball straps the HERO3 to a DJI Innovations Phantom quadcopter and takes it for a spin – Click here to watch the HERO3’s maiden flight
Physically, the Hero3 has also had a bit of a makeover – it’s shrunk slightly, and the rubberised casing feels noticeably less plasticky than previous models. A 1,050mAh battery clips into the rear, which is rated to last for 1hr 30mins of 30fps 1080p video recording. A microSD slot on the side is accompanied by mini-USB and micro-HDMI connections. Usefully, the micro-HDMI output is capable of outputting live video to HDMI recorders, and, with optional adapters, the mini-USB port can double as a composite A/V output or 3.5mm stereo microphone input.
Three buttons and a tiny mono LCD make it easy to flick through the Hero3’s vast array of video, photo, timelapse and burst options. Despite being smaller than a postage stamp, this display gives an at-a-glance indication of the current shooting mode; the remaining number of shots or recording time; and a small battery gauge.
The Black Edition also features wireless connectivity. It comes bundled with a pocket-sized Wi-Fi remote, which provides a second, identical mono LCD panel, and makes it easy to remotely trigger the Hero3 and flick between the shooting modes. It’s also possible to remotely monitor live footage over 802.11n with iOS, Android or Windows Phone devices, and tweak the shooting settings through a free app.
It’s an incredibly flexible camera. The included transparent housing is waterproof to a depth of 60 metres, and the supplied pair of flat and curved sticky pads makes it easy to mount the Hero3 to almost anything. Aftermarket mounts are available for attaching the camera to chest straps, helmets, handlebars or even surfboards, and there’s a huge range of accessories, too.
The video quality is better than ever. The Hero3’s 4K footage is little more than a novelty due to the low 15fps frame rate, but at 2.7K resolutions and below, the Hero3 produces stunning results. There’s impressively little noise, even in low light, and the level of detail is stunning.
Video pros will particularly appreciate the camera’s ProTune mode. This turns off the internal noise reduction, contrast enhancement and sharpening, it allows for the white balance to be set manually, and produces a more neutral colour response. Although the footage looks grainier and washed out, it’s intended to provide the most detail for post-processing and colour-grading purposes.
GoPro has outdone itself with the Hero3: Black Edition. It packs huge potential into a tiny, go-anywhere package that will survive the kind of rough-and-tumble that would spell doom for traditional camcorders or DSLRs. Casual users will be better off opting for the cheaper White or Silver Editions, but if you want the best quality action camera around, save your pennies and plump for one of these.
|Camcorder maximum video resolution||4,096 x 2,160|
|Camera megapixel rating||12.0mp|
|Camcorder recording format||H.264 (MP4)|
|Internal mic type||mono|
|External mic socket?||yes|
|Quoted battery life||90mins|
|Dimensions||79 x 40 x 75mm (WDH)|
|Memory card support||Micro SD|