If you’ve read my blog recently, you’ve probably noticed that I’ve been using a GoPro camera quite a lot lately. Everything from aerial photos, to recording presentations, to recording apps on my devices, to time-lapse videos.
I think this camera is awesome! It’s really pretty amazing… While it might seem “bare bones” without a view finder or zoom capabilities, it is very rugged, it takes great still photos (12MP), and even better video (WVGA at 240 FPS all the way to 4K at 15 FPS). It excels in bright light and action shots, and is a very versatile and impressive camera. You can also use the GoPro app on your iOS, Android, or Windows Phone device as a remote viewfinder and controller, which is very cool. Though the GoPro is not without its quirks/annoyances.
Awesome camera. I want multiple of them. For video, either 1080p or 720p video is more than adequate for most circumstances. Audio capture is okay, but it’s better if you have an external mic and can sync audio in post-production. While 4K video is seriously awesome, it kills the battery very quickly, has HUGE file sizes, and isn’t my primary need. Still images look great, although there is significant fisheye distortion from the 170 degree lens. While this looks fantastic in a lot of cases, sometimes we don’t want it… Luckily we can get rid of the fisheye distortion with Photoshop!
The camera has some learning curve, but the output is very good, and it is very portable and compact (though, you may end up with more accessories that take up more space).
Here are some notes about the camera, mostly focused on using it as a lightweight travel camera:
Images & Videos Produced:
- Very good quality
- Images and videos look great in decent light, but the camera doesn’t function well in very low-light situations.
- Videos Must be edited – output files are broken into multiple .mp4 files that are uncompressed (HUGE)
- Must be converted to H.264 or other codec before you can upload them to YouTube successfully, otherwise they “fail in processing”.
- You can do all the editing and conversion in Adobe Premiere and After Effects. GoPro has their own Cineform video editing software, but I prefer Premiere.
- Amazing video & image quality
- Wide angle lens – great for capturing landscapes or presentation stage/projector (You only need the camera to be about 6-10 feet away for a decent stage coverage area)
- Great in both indoor and outdoor environments
- Small, very portable
- No view finder/lcd screen, though you can use a mobile device as a viewfinder
- No wall charger included, however you can charge it by plugging the USB adapter into an iPad (or other USB) power supply
- Relatively short battery life when capturing video
- Video files are huge (though it is because they are such high quality video)
Quirks & Annoyances:
- If you unplug it from your computer without ejecting, it will lock up the camera. You have to remove the memory card, then remove the battery and reinstall both before the camera will reboot.
- You can record video while plugged into a power source – However, you MUST start recording before you plug it in, otherwise it won’t let you record while plugged into computer or wall.
- If you improperly shut down the camera, the most recently recorded video may be corrupt. This can happen if the camera is dropped or jarred from a crash. If this happens, just re-insert the memory card, then reboot the camera. It will go into recover mode, and fix the corrupted file. If auto-recover doesn’t restore your video, you *might* be able to recover the video from the memory card, but there is no guarantee… this has happened to me.
- The camera does not automatically turn off. You must manually power off the camera when not in use. This can kill your battery unexpectedly if you don’t power off, however you can also change this behavior in the GoPro settings.
- With the battery pack connected and the “frame” mount connected, you might get a “hum” in the audio – you can reduce this in Adobe Audition, but if you have an external mic, then you don’t have to worry. I’m still not 100% sure if it was the camera/backpack, or something else in the room that caused the audio interference.
- Let the camera finish whatever it is doing when you are done recording. Don’t force a power-off, otherwise you might lose whatever is in memory buffer on the camera – I know this from experience & recently lost about 20 minutes of video.
- Opening the waterproof case for the first time is trickier than you might imagine. Once you know how to do it, it’s really easy.
- Although the camera is supposed to support 64 Gig memory cards, I strongly advise not using anything greater than 32 Gigs. I ran into some issues where the GoPro corrupted a 64 Gig Sandisk memory card to the point that it was unrecognizable by a computer or by the camera. After scouring the web and contacting technical support, I had to replace the card. It turns out the particular camera firmware version was not compatible with the file format for my memory card. Since switching to 32 Gig cards, I haven’t had any problems.
- Approximately 2 hours for a full charge from completely dead. This will take longer with battery BacPac – yes, this was very unscientific, as were my battery tests
- 720p, 60FPS, WiFi Disabled: Approx 1 hour (2 iterations)
- 720p, 60FPS, WiFi Disabled, with battery BacPac: Approx 90 mins (though the BacPac was not fully charged) – it is advertised to double battery life.
These are more than sufficient battery times for my normal circumstances.
- Micro SD Memory Card – Required, it does not come with one. I reccommend 32 Gig cards, and get multiple cards so you can quickly swap them in and out.
- Tripod mount – (if you want it on a tripod.) There is only the custom GoPro mount in the package, however you can use part of the package display as an inexpensive stand)
- “The Frame” mount - The only mounting option that comes with it is the waterproof enclosure. This isn’t great for presentations b/c you get better audio quality by just having the camera exposed. This also comes with a much needed lens cap.
- Battery BacPac - Extend the life of the GoPro with a secondary battery, although if you use this, you can’t attach the LCD back.
- Some sort of bag to put everying in. There are a lot of parts and accessories, although not all of them are essential to carry around with you.
These would be nice to have, but you can get by without them:
- Wall Charger – I use an iPad power supply… just plug in the USB adapter to the iPad “wall wart”.
- LCD Back Panel – I did not get one of these, I was fine just pointing it and shooting. However, you cannot use this with the battery BacPac.
Side by Side Comparison:
Here is a sample where I was recording one of Raymond Camden’s presentations. Compared with a Sony Bloggie (at exact same distance). Bloggie feels “closer”, but has worse video quality, worse in poor lighting, and doesn’t capture the full experience of the presentation. This is without any color correction or post processing other than resizing the image:
Other Sample Images:
My wishlist for the GoPro is that I wish it took higher than 12 MP photos. 12 MP is actually great, but *I NEEDZ MOAR P1XELS*. I also wish there was a way to interchange the lens with a non-fisheye lens, but otherwise I love this camera. Yes, I would buy another one in a hearbeat!