Go Pro HD Hero 4 Review

Have Go Pro managed to keep their no.1 position in this market with the HD Hero 4?

Does the HD Hero 4 have enough goodies to encourage you to upgrade? Read our Go Pro HD Hero 4 review below.

Go Pro HD Hero 4 Review

Every year Go Pro update their cool range of small, POV, wearable cameras. These are designed for extreme sports and are always adding to and updating the features. However, these additions aren’t always enough to make me, or others want to upgrade.

For example, the promise of sharper images from the Go Pro HD Hero 3+. This wasn’t enough to make me upgrade from the already great HD Hero 3. I was getting superb results from the Hero 3 and there simply wasn’t enough going on with the + to entice me to fork out more cash.

4K Priority

However, I had been waiting with bated breath for the release of the Go Pro HD hero 4. I was seriously hoping it had the features I wanted such as 4K video at usable frame rates and faster frame rates for the other resolutions.

Having owned the previous Go Pro HD Hero’s 1, 2 and 3, it was obvious I was going to get my hands on the next version. The HD Hero 4 Black Edition, as long as it was a worthy update from the Hero 3, would have my custom.

Note: I always go for the Black Edition Go Pro’s (top of the range) as I prefer to have all the features at my fingertips should I need them. The Go Pro 4 Black has them all (except a rear LCD screen).

Anyway, as soon as the Go Pro HD Hero 4 was released, my prayers were answered...and then some.

Here are the main features:

  • Waterproof to 131′ (40m)
  • 2x faster video frame rates (than its predecessor)
  • 2x the performance
  • 4K @ 30fps. 4x the resolution of 1080p
  • 12MP Burst photos at 30 frames per second
  • New Night Photo and Night Lapse modes
  • Built-in Wi-Fi + Bluetooth
  • HiLight Tag your best moments
  • SuperView, a GoPro-exclusive video mode
  • Time Lapse videos made in camera
  • Auto Low Light mode
  • QuikCapture convenience
  • Professional audio performance
  • Protune, now for photo + video
  • Improved camera control

Go Pro HD Hero 4 Review - Video Resolutions

The Go Pro Hero 4 Black Edition has a wide range of resolutions including:

  • 4K at 30, 25, or 24 fps with an ultra-wide viewing angle
  • 4K SuperView at 25 fps with an ultra-wide viewing angle
  • 2.7K 50 and 1440p 80 to 1080p120 and 960p120
  • 720p 120 option rising to 240fps with the latest firmware update

4K at 30/25 frames per second is exactly what I was after. The ability to zoom in, pan and crop (and straighten the warped effect) whilst still giving an amazing 1080p output is so handy and just what I wanted.

Sample Videos

The following footage was all shot in 4K and then rendered out to 1080p after straightening and cropping. It was filmed from a Phantom 2 drone using the Zenmuse H3-3D gimbal.

Even 2.7K at 50fps is highly desirable as I can still crop in etc but with the added bonus of being able to slow the footage. In fact, this may be my most used setting for many shoots.

Being able to shoot 240 frames per second is a dream for many extreme sports fans but this has its limitations. Firstly, you can only shoot in narrow mode (bummer). Secondly, the resulting footage is soft and needs some sharpening. Check out the video below…

If you reduce the frame rate to 120fps (which is good enough for most people, you are back to being able to use wide mode again. In the following comparison between the Go Pro HD Hero 1, 2, 3 and 4, you can see where the differences lie during the evolution of this camera.

The image quality from Hero 1 to Hero 2 was a huge improvement. Very noticeable and the sound from Hero 2 to Hero 3 was a also massive improvement.

The image quality from 3 to 4 was fairly significant (though not ground-breaking). The sound, which was already pretty good, hardly changed. The images from the HD Hero 3 and 4 looked different to each other because the colour settings weren’t matched.

Go Pro HD Hero 4 - Video Quality

I have to say I am very, very impressed with the video quality from the Go Pro HD Hero 4 providing you edit it well and render correctly. As you saw above, the footage from the Phantom 2 quadcopter was fantastic and when watched on a 1080p TV, it is stunning…really.

The following clips were all taken in France using the Feiyu Tech G3 Ultra hand held gimbal specifically designed for the Go Pro HD Hero 3 and 4. Again, they look amazing on a full HD TV but not quite as good when uploaded to various video hosting sites.

Best watched in HD

As mentioned above, shooting in 4K and downsizing to output as 1080p gives much better video quality than shooting natively in 1080p. To enable shooting in 4K for extended periods, you are going to need a decent (fast) memory card. My previous card used in the HD Hero 3 was not good and kept stopping. A card such as the SanDisk Extreme PRO 64GB microSDXC UHS-I/U3 Memory Card should suffice.

Go Pro HD Hero 4 - Image (Stills) Quality

The Go Pro range of cameras have never really been about the stills but when required, they can produce useable images. I personally don’t think much of the stills quality but then I am a professional photographer and am used to much higher resolutions and better cameras.

If you are shooting in wide mode, the images are very, very distorted which can be time-consuming to correct. Medium or narrow mode may be better but then you lose resolution.

Here is an image shot in 12mp wide mode, Pro Tune on and straight out of camera (click for full resolution image):

Go Pro HD Hero 4 Review

Being able to shoot 30 stills per second at 12mp wide is pretty good but remember, you will end up with a shedload of images that all need correcting for distortion ; )

Alternatively, you can pull 8mp stills from the 4K footage which I actually prefer.

Go Pro HD Hero 4 - Time Lapse

With a firmware update that came out in February 2015, the Go Pro time lapse feature in the HD Hero 4 has been upgraded to allow the Go Pro Studio software to produce the time lapse video "in house" rather than you having to load hundreds of images into some other software (such as QuickTime Pro) to create the clip.

All you do is import all the images into Go Pro Studio and the movie is automatically produced. Then you just convert, edit (if required) and then output to whatever media you like. This is great and a massive time saver.

Time Lapse Video Intervals

  • 5, 1, 2, 5, 10, 30 and 60 seconds

Go Pro HD Hero 4 - Night Lapse

Are you a fan of those dreamy star trail time lapse clips at night? The Go Pro HD Hero 4 now has a night lapse mode to make this a doddle!

The following clip was taken throughout an entire night with continuous 30 second exposures. These were simply thrown into Go Pro Studio in the morning and "voila"! A time lapse of the night was made in minutes.

Night Lapse Photo Intervals

  • 15, 20, 30 and 60 seconds
  • 2, 5, 30 and 60 minutes

Go Pro HD Hero 4 - Video and Photo

If you want, you can also take time lapse photos at the same time as filming with the Go Pro HD Hero 4. For example, you can shoot time lapse intervals of 5, 10, 30 or 60 seconds whilst filming at 1080p 30, 25 or 24fps.

Go Pro HD Hero 4 - Looping Video

This is perfect for drivers and bikers or anyone in an environment where you may need proof of an accident. Cameras typically designed for this can be expensive but with the Go Pro HD Hero 4, you get it as standard.

Obviously if you are on a 2, 3 or 4 hour journey, you don’t want to be filming the whole trip. You can set the Go Pro to film on a loop of either 5, 20, 60 or 120 minutes and there is a "max" setting. Not sure what that does.

Go Pro HD Hero 4 - Ports

Mini USB

  • Charging
  • Connecting to a computer for playback/file transfer/charging
  • Supports 3.5mm stereo microphone via optional adapter (sold separately)
  • Supports playback to composite TV via optional cable (sold separately)

Micro HDMI

  • Supports playback to HDTV via optional cable (sold separately)
  • HDMI playback is certified up to 1080p

Memory Card

  • Micro SD

Things I like:

  • Video quality
  • Sound quality
  • 4K at 25/30fps
  • 7K at 50/60fps
  • QuikCapture meaning "one touch" to turn on and start recording
  • Night lapse
  • Time lapse
  • Looping video
  • Shooting video plus time lapse at the same time
  • HDMI out
  • New button layout and menu system
  • The new, smaller case
  • The case opening clip is back to one touch making removal of the camera easier

Things I don’t like:

  • Detail at high FPS (120/240fps) is poor
  • Rolling shutter/Jello effect
  • Stills quality
  • Battery life (1 hour max)
  • No LCD screen like the silver version (no biggie though)

Some things I would like to see on the Go Pro HD Hero 5 (black edition):

  • The re-introduction of the 3.5mm microphone port from the Hero 2
  • Longer battery run times
  • Built in screen?

Overall though, I absolutely love this camera and am always looking for an excuse to use it. I know my Go Pro HD Hero 3 and 4 will be used at this year’s weddings. I may even do some aerial footage as long as I have my license by then!

If Go Pro can address the minor niggles in the next version that would be cool. However, I am struggling to see what else they can add to this little powerhouse to make it better.

Faster frame rates than 240fps would rarely get used unless the image quality dramatically improves. 4K is still in its infancy and will be around for a good few years yet. 8K not needed just yet. Plus this camera is already jam packed with excellent features.

Only time will tell…

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