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GoPro HD Hero 2 Review

Is this the best wearable HD video and stills camera currently available?

December 2011: Introducing the GoPro HD Hero 2. Man I love this camera so much, I have two!

I only wish this was around during my skydiving days in the late 90's. It would have made capturing those crazy moments an absolute breeze (it is so small)! This camera is so good. You may have seen it being used on TV programmes such as "I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here" and "Top Gear" amongst others. So what is it and what makes it so good? Well, for a start, watch this video in HD:

The GoPro HD Hero 2 is the latest upgrade of portable stills and video cameras from Go Pro. They are a truly innovative imaging company. This model builds on the amazing image quality, robustness and fun factor of its predecessor, the Go Pro Hero HD, with some very worthy upgrades.

Straight out of the box you have everything you need to start having fun with this thing. Even though it is tempting to run out and start shooting straight away, I suggest you familiarise yourself with the camera's handy instruction booklet. Whilst fully charging the battery of course.

This camera is aimed at a huge and diverse market as its applications are limited only by your imagination. Whether you shoot stills or video, this camera is superb in every way. Do I sound a little bias here?

This camera is right up there in my top 10 must have gadgets

Specs

It’s hard to believe that something so small can not only have all of the following specs, but also produce amazing quality images at the same time.

Camera Optics

  • 2X Sharper Professional Glass Lens (to the original Hero HD)
  • f/2.8 Fixed Focus
  • 170º Wide FOV (Including 1080p)
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    127º Medium FOV (In 1080p)
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    90º Narrow FOV

Video

HD RESOLUTIONS:
  • 1080p: 1920×1080, 30FPS
  • 960p: 1280×960, 48FPS + 30FPS
  • 720p: 1280×720, 60FPS + 30FPS

STANDARD DEFINITION RESOLUTIONS:
  • WVGA: 848×480, 120FPS (amazing slow-motion) + 60FPS
  • High Performance,1 /2.3" CMOS Image Sensor
  • Light Sensitivity: .84 V/lux-sec
  • Video Format: H.264 codec, .mp4 File Format
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    Exposure Control: Spot, Center Weighted
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    White Balance: Auto

Photo

  • RESOLUTIONS: 11MP, 8MP, 5 MP
  • FOV: Wide 170º FOV, Medium 127º FOV
  • CAPTURE MODES: Single, 10 Photo Burst, Time-Lapse*, Self-Timer
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    * Now supports time-lapse photo every 0.5 seconds. Requires Class 10 speed SD Card.

Audio

  • Mono, 48 kHz, AAC Compression, Auto Gain Control
  • Stereo External Microphone Input (3.5mm)

Storage

MEMORY:
  • SDHC: Up to 32GB (Class 4 or Higher)
AVERAGE RECORDING TIME WITH 32GB SD CARD:
  • 1080p30: 4 hours
  • 960p30: 6 hours
  • 720p60: 4 hours
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    720p30: 6 hours
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    WVGA 120: 4.5 hours

Included Cables

  • USB Cable For Charging and Data Transfer

Battery & Charging

  • 1100mah Rechargeable Lithium-Ion
  • Charge via USB

Operating System

  • Microsoft Windows® Vista, 7 and Later
  • Mac OS® x 10.5 and Later

Compatible with all GoPro BacPacs

  • Wi-Fi BacPac™ and Wi-Fi Remote™ (Coming Soon)
  • LCD BacPac™
  • Battery BacPac™
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    3D HERO® System*

What You Get

Housing

Straight out of the box, and this was something that was a no brainer for me when deciding to buy the Go Pro HD Hero 2. You get the main camera with a super tough, poly-carbonate, waterproof housing which is good for up to 60m. Excellent!

You also get what is known as a skeleton back which isn’t waterproof. However, you can attach when not using in water to allow sound to reach the microphone.

Battery

The battery comes with a decent enough charge for you to play with the camera straight away. I recommend charging it fully first though. The battery is a Lithium Ion.

Attachments

The attachments you get depend on which model you buy. All the basics are the same in each pack

  • Camera
  • Housing
  • Additional back cover
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    Cables
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    Battery
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    Booklets etc

The only thing that differs are the ways in which you use the camera.

I bought two motorsports versions as they have an incredibly strong suction mount. This allows me to attach the camera pretty much anywhere such as on a car or motorbike without any danger of it coming off. As long as you attach it correctly.

With this version, you get the suction mount with various angling clamps. Plus 3 standard flat (3M) sticky mounts for your snowboard, skis or any flat surface. Finally, 3 slightly curved mounts for crash helmets. I bought the additional head strap just because it adds a new dimension to some footage.

Video

Wow! I thought the quality from the original Go Pro Hero HD was good but this is even better. Check out the video at the top of this page in HD if you haven’t already. It will blow you away!

I love the 1080p setting for many uses but to be honest, my favourite current video format is 720p at 60fps. The definition is high enough for great, super smooth HD footage for the web and even on my 32" HD TV it looks amazing.

Slow Motion

The fact that I can slow the footage down by 2.5 times to 24fps gives some beautifully smooth slow motion video. Lovely!

The 1280x960p at 48fps is particularly good if you use the camera on a chest mount when cycling, skiing or snowboarding. This is because you get some smooth (or 2x slow motion), high definition video. This has a "taller" field of view for you to capture more height in your video. Makes for funky editing.

The ability to change the field of view to a low 90 degrees is fantastic for some jobs I do. I can then to switch back to the amazing 170 degrees for everything else. I am amazed that even at this wide setting, distant objects don't seem that small!

It can be tricky in some circumstances to get the exposure right. The spot metering can help, but be aware of where you point your camera. For example, if it is a particularly dull day and you aim the camera more to the sky, it will expose for the sky leaving the ground somewhat underexposed and losing detail in the important things.

Angle the camera down more to be safe. Or, use the additional LCD BacPac to compose your shot before heading off on any long journeys.

Low Light

Low light footage looks pretty good. Not as good as purpose built video cameras but very good nonetheless. Think about adding light as you would using standard video gear if possible and when needed.

If you buy this camera, try out the super high speed setting of 120fps in standard definition mode (WVGA: 848×480). It looks amazingly smooth in normal playback. You can also slow this down 5 times (using editing software) for some beautiful slow motion video. Great for checking out your golf swing!

I have used two camera attached to my car using the suction clamp and I must say it works really well. I feel confident that the Go Pro Hero HD 2 will stick to the car without falling off. That is as long as I prepare the surface well enough (clean it)!

I use a microphone plugged into the HD Hero 2 inside the car and the sound is exceptional. Here are some screen grabs from the 1080p footage…

GoPro HD Hero 2 Review
GoPro HD Hero 2 Review

Photos

Being a professional photographer, I have pro spec DSLR's for most of my work. Even so, this little camera is great and very handy as an uber-portable alternative for certain events. Maybe you are likely to get soaked (water parks) or bashed about a bit (concerts). You need to know that your camera is capable of holding its own.

As a standard camera, you need some composition skills unless you use the LCD BacPac. Otherwise, you have no way of seeing what you are shooting. Use the wide field of view to make sure you capture the action in most cases.

The time lapse feature is fantastic. It has a good range of shooting times from every one minute right down to every half a second (using a class 10 SD card). Again, the possibilities to get creative with this are endless. As are the uses for the high speed, 10 frames in a second feature. Great for air shows, car shows, bike races or any fast action events you may attend or take part in!

The self timer (10 seconds) is also very handy if you want to be in the shots too.

This camera has no flash or built in lighting.

Audio

Bliss! One of my biggest gripes with the original Hero HD, and with the Contour HD I used in Africa, and something that puts off a lot of Vloggers (video bloggers), is the quality of audio on many of these small units.

However, the new Go Pro HD Hero 2 finally has a 3.5mm stereo, external mic input. This is great if you use your camera on a motorbike and want recognisable audio from within your crash helmet.

I use Sony radio mics so I can speak and record my voice even when 200 feet away from the camera. This is very handy indeed and the quality of sound is awesome. Using just the cameras built in mic, on both the Go Pro HD Hero 2 and the original HD Hero is ok and useable but not the best. I will say though, that the internal mic picks up engine noise quite nicely (if you like that sort of thing).

Get an external mic.

Accessories

The number of accessories, add-ons and gadgets for this camera is pretty impressive…but also expensive. Be aware that buying the camera with all the tasty additions cad add up so check your cart before pressing "buy"!

LCD BacPac

Very handy indeed if you want to ensure accurate composition of your footage and stills. This is totally detachable and easy to use and will also allow you to review footage and stills right from the camera.

You also receive a series of additional backs to the housing to allow for the extended body:

  • 1 LCD BacPac screen
  • 1 Waterproof LCD backdoor for HD HERO housing
  • 1 Waterproof LCD backdoor for HD Wrist housing
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    1 Non-waterproof LCD Skeleton backdoor for HD HERO housing
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    1 Non-waterproof LCD Skeleton backdoor for HD Wrist housing
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    1 Year Warranty

This turns the Go Pro HD Hero 2 into a handy, everyday digital camera…cool!

LCD BacPac Features

  • Attaches to 1080p HD HERO cameras featuring the rear HERO Port
  • Simple one button design allows for easy on/off and playback control
  • Normal speed, fast forward, and fast reverse video and photo playback
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    Integrated speaker with volume control

Battery BacPac

This handy little accessory will double the recording time of your cameras. It also plugs into any USB charging source and doubles as a charger for your spare batteries.

What's Included:
  • 1 Battery BacPac
  • 1 Li-Ion Battery
  • 1 Waterproof Door for HD HERO Housing
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    1 Skeleton Door for HD HERO Housing
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    1 USB Cable
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    Warranty: One Year

3D Hero System

Have two Go Pros? Want to shoot in 3D? No problemo!

With this handy pack and waterproof casing/housing, you are able to shoot both cameras, side by side simultaneously. All using a special synchronization cable specifically designed to align the footage or stills perfectly for great 3D action.

Note: The system includes FREE and easy to use 3D editing software (GoPro CineForm Studio)

What’s Included:
  • 3D Waterproof Housing
  • 3D Waterproof Door + Skeleton Door
  • 3D Hero Sync Cable
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    3D Anaglyph Glasses (3 pairs)
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    Helmet Front Mount
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    2 Flat + 2 Curved Adhesive Mounts
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    Assorted Mounting Hardware
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    FREE GoPro CineForm Studio software

I have saved what is for me, the best accessory until last!

The Wi-Fi BacPac™ + Wi-Fi Remote

Available from February 2012, this is one of the handiest and coolest additions you can have for any camera and again, read on and think about the possibilities. Simply attach the Wi-Fi BacPac to your camera and operate it (and up to 50 Go Pro cameras) remotely from long distances using either:

  • The included durable and waterproof Wi-Fi Remote or…
  • Any Smartphone, tablet, or computer running the free GoPro App!

From the Go Pro Website

When paired with the Wi-Fi BacPac, the HD HERO2 also supports live video streaming and remote control via smart-devices, computers and the Web wherever Wi-Fi or a mobile hotspot is present. Record one video stream to your HD HERO2′s SD card while sending a second video stream via Wi-Fi to your smart-device, computer or the Web. The original HD HERO is also compatible with the Wi-Fi BacPac and Wi-Fi Remote with support for remote control functions only. Video streaming is not available on the original HD HERO camera."

So, you can place the camera in a location and not only operate it remotely using your mobile phone, you can also see what you are filming! This is most definitely on my list of things to buy.

Update: It has been bought, used and reviewed here - Go Pro WiFi BacPac Review

Other Bits

Due to the way the Go Pro HD Hero 2 is constructed, there are many more accessories to add. Should you ever damage the housing or lens for example, you can simply buy a replacement and fit it yourself. You can also buy a "floaty" (McFloat Face) backdoor to prevent it from sinking should it become unattached from your surfboard!

Then there are auto chargers, Anti-Fog Inserts, 3D Glasses, Composite Cables, HDMI Cables. Plus a tripod mount (which I use to attach the Go Pro to my Gorillapod!)…

I hope you found this review useful and are now chomping at the bit to get hold of one of these little beauties. Whether you use it for fun, for extreme sports or for your photography/videography business, I am sure that you can see how all the benefits add up to make this a "must-have" product?

Please "Like" this, +1 it and/or share it with your friends and please leave any comments below.

Where to Buy

Nowhere. It's really old now but check out the latest Go Pro cameras at Amazon!

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