I recently received an email from one of our readers regarding the Go Pro HD Hero 3. He wanted some questions answering prior to purchase and I thought it would be a good idea to make this post so everyone can read my answers…I hope they help you too!
“Hi Nick – I’ve been looking at these cameras off and on for a while – and then saw a Hero 2 in action on our last dive trip – very impressive, very clear movies on the computer from the downloads, and the diver using it was very pleased [a Canadian who I’ve been unable to contact again so far – it was a very busy dive safari trip]. Then I saw that you were doing a review on the Hero 3 when I looked further.
So, before I plunge in – since I am working on familiarising myself with Canon’s S100 as well[!] – can I ask for your thoughts, please?
From the reviews I’ve looked at, mainly there is praise – with just a couple of niggles – what have I seen? Well – specifically:
* lack of an instruction manual, and not much on-line support – tho’ the web site looks up-to-date and active:
* battery life – I’d hope for dive length, and sure it gives that, and I usually buy 2 batteries anyway:
* using the remote on the Hero 3, and its improvements over the Hero 2 – is the Wi-Fi for connecting to the camera, or does it link to the Internet:
* specific criticisms said that the colour balance can be ‘off’, that detail can be lost in dark areas [well, it would, surely?!], that the menu is time consuming to use, and lastly that the latch on the waterproof case is small – does that indicate ‘liable to break’?:
* and last, I guess, which attachments/ extras it is worth getting apart from what is in the box, which model for diving, and a recommendation on micro SD make, type and size?
Really, I am hoping that you’ll say how easy it is, that the ‘3’ is such a good buy, and to get it! It’s a new concept [the Wi-Fi as well as a mountable camera, like on the wrist, that takes excellent video, and supposedly very good at low light. Why am I a bit cautious? Well, there’s a lot of action on the web-site, but almost nothing below water … and there’s your name as an expert reviewer as well! Best price for the black, all singing model that I can find is £360 – £400 – so not a huge outlay perhaps, and clearly the Hero range is in use by many!
I look forward to hearing from you, and appreciate your help. Thank you.
Gosh, that is a lot of questions. Would you mind if I used your email as a blog entry as I think others would benefit too?
I originally bought the HD Hero 1 and thought it was great…until I bought the HD Hero 2. That camera had so many improvements it was amazing and I still love the footage from it and used it effectively in a dark-ish church. However, when the Hero 3 arrived, the improvements were, and are, vast.
Firstly, with regards to the manual, I think to save money that would be better spent on research and development, they now host this online (plus they were probably a little slow due to wanting to release the camera before Christmas). You can see it here (black edition):
Not great I have to admit. Over Christmas, I left the camera recording as the kids opened their presents and I think it managed just under an hour before:
- Running out of power
- Overheating to the point it turned the screen momentarily dark
However, I was using the Bluetooth feature and iPhone to watch it occasionally and I know for a fact that Bluetooth uses more power.
I am just running the camera again on a full charge using 1080p 60fps to see how long it lasts and to see if it overheats again. Will edit once complete.
Edit: Ok, the camera ran for a total of 1 hour 9 minutes before switching off and this time it didn’t get too hot. I will therefore assume that the Bluetooth uses up quite a bit of power and can also cause the camera to get a little hotter. Only use Bluetooth for shorter clips I would say. Other than that, with the battery pack I would say this will run for well over two hours.
I already decided to get the additional battery pack before the summer season starts and for £50, this is quite a hefty price tag but for me, worth it as you also have the built in Wi-Fi which is obviously a drain on the battery, but saves so much space over the Hero 2 because that needed an extra “bolt-on” accessory.
Having a battery pack or a couple of extra batteries is an easy work around. You have to understand that the functions of this camera require more power. Who would have thought 5 years ago that a camera the size of a matchbox could shoot 4K video or 720p video at 120 frames per second! We have to give Go Pro some credit here for the minor failings.
The Wi-Fi feature is just for the camera to be used via the remote or your Smartphone/Tablet, not the internet at the moment. I am hoping a future firmware upgrade will address this but it will probably be in the HD Hero 4.
Check out the colours in the following low, ambient light videos, both unedited and speak for themselves. I am pretty happy with colour balance.
If shooting underwater, you can buy a red/orange filter to combat the blue colour balance to warm it up.
Details in Dark Areas
I think the detail is pretty good but then I do like higher contrast images. You can use Pro Tune mode to shoot in the equivalent of RAW which will give greater, adjustable dynamic range but inevitably introduce grain much like any other camera. I use 2 5D Mark II’s and the Sony PMW EX1 and I must say, the Go Pro 3 comes close in low light.
Menu Schmenu ; )
I have seen a few people bitching about this online but to be honest, once you get used to it, it is pretty easy to navigate but the only thing is having to scroll through all items to get to what you want each time. I just set what I need for a particular shoot and then use the start and stop recording button! It’s all about creativity of footage and sound for me.
Rear Door Latch
Tough as old boots and I cannot see it breaking in a hurry. The new “double entry” system is a nice addition and will prevent unwanted openings due to snagging etc. I saw footage of a Hero 2 case coming undone as a skydiver left the plane and the camera feel 10,000 feet (and survived)!
I have two car suction mounts and love them but for diving, I would recommend the wrist or chest mounts. I also have the head strap mount which you may prefer as then you will film what you are looking at…good for diving I guess.
If you want long running power for longer clips (1 hour plus), look at the battery pack. If you want longer use in the field but with shorter record times, look at getting a couple of extra batteries.
Rear LCD Screen
The rear screen is ok if you need it but to be honest, I use the Wi-Fi app and my iPhone to align the camera…I mostly don’t tend to want to see footage until I get home (wastes battery time).
The frame is definitely a good extra to buy as it allows you to place the camera on a tripod without the housing which is great for sound. Speaking of which, perhaps look at a £5 or less adaptor to allow the use of external microphones (Go Pro version is £20 but probably better quality), although the on-board sound is now pretty good. The frame however, comes in at around £40…a rip-off for a bit of plastic if you ask me!
I also have an extension pole which you many find useful for diving…filming critters in hard to reach places, or sharks etc at close range without putting yourself in too much danger.
To be honest, the add-ons and attachments are all good but depend on what you want to shoot.
I bought a Sandisk Ultra 32GB Class 10 Micro SD Card with SD Adapter and it seems to cope with both the huge 4K files and super fast 120/240fps recording with no problem.
As for the camera itself, I would only go for the black edition but that is just me, I don’t want any regrets when it comes to imaging so I always try to get the best.
When you take into account all that this camera can do, I think it is worth the money, it’s all about how you use it. Then again, I do tend to have a positive attitude when it comes to any issues…i.e. I weight up the pros and cons before buying anything and for me, the pro’s of the Go Pro HD Hero 3 greatly outweighed the cons.
Go for it ; )
All the best,