GoPro Hero3 Black: Be A Hero
From the Arabian Sea to the mighty Himalayas, Ketan Kundargi pushes the GoPro Hero3 to its limits for the ultimate action camera test.
Search Google for GoPro and you will be flooded with images and videos of skydivers, surfers, skateboarders, cyclists, scubadivers, skiers, motorcyclists and more. The ten year old company has been at the forefront of revolutionising a new way of using the camera. Now in its third generation, the Hero3 Black edition is currently the flagship camera by the company. It also comes in the mid-range Silver and the entry-level White edition, but the feature-packed Black edition takes the cake, albeit at a costlier price.
And while a lot of people often dismiss the GoPro for a toy camera, one look at the specifications will tell you that the company means business about making this a choice of the pros.
The Hero3 Black comes with a fixed focus, wide angle f/2.8 lens combined with a 12MP, 1/2.3-inch Sony sensor. While one might not be immediately impressed by this, you cannot help but appreciate it in the ultra compact body of the GoPro. But you fall in love with the it only when you see it show off the fast image processing capabilities. It can shoot a burst of 30 images in one second at full resolution or a crisp 2.7k video at 30fps.
Unlike most of its rival action cameras, the Hero3 is just as good with photography as it is with video. Now equipped with Spot Metering and manual White Balance (with a tricky Kelvin meter), it makes shooting stills a much better experience. With a wide variety of shooting modes to trigger the shutter, you can choose what works best for your current adventure.
Video gets a boost with several new options for resolution and frame rates. It even boasts of a new 4kCin video capability. While it sounds very interesting, the 12fps frame rate limit makes it impossible to shoot usable good quality videos. However, it does churn out excellent quality 2.7k video at 30fps. You can also use the 720p 120fps option that can be slowed down in post processing to make a dramamatic slow motion video.
One of the best additions that all three editions of the Hero3 have seen is the inclusion of WiFi. You can sync your camera to the phone with the company’s app (available on iOS and Android) to see what you are shooting as well as to trigger the camera. The recently launched update of the app also lets you store photos and videos directly on to your phone for instant sharing. What breaks the deal for an such an excellent app is the exasperatingly long delay in the live view.
But how often will you have an accessible smartphone on you when jumping off a plane or riding a motorbike? This is where the remote comes to rescue. Once synced with the camera, it takes the controls off the camera and into your hands. A small and rigid device, the remote can be inconspicuously carried along almost anywhere which makes using the GoPro a breeze.
With only two buttons for operation, the handling of the GoPro could not get simpler. A combination of the Mode and Shutter button allows you to toggle through every mode and setting that the camera has to offer. While you might take some time to understand and explore the menu, you can sift through it without a second look soon enough.
The polycarbonate housing that the camera comes with is strong enough to take some severe beatings. Drop it, throw it or drown it and you will still be able to pick it up again and use it like nothing ever happened. The hinge that locks the housing comes with an additional switch preventing it from accidentally opening up when in use.
What makes the GoPro so versatile is the wide variety of accessories and mounts it comes with. You can mount the camera on almost everything around you, including wear it on yourself. And each of these mounts and the attachments are made from the best-in-the industry materials making them extremely sturdy. Once you have secured it firmly, you can completely forget worrying about its safety and concentrate on the adventure ahead.
If you are comfortable with the ultra wide-angle perspective of the GoPro, then you will love taking stills on the camera. The barrel distortion, though now reduced, still looks like an image from a fish eye lens. The Sony sensor at the heart of the camera offers impressive image quality and ensures that compression artifacts and chromatic aberrations are significantly reduced. Colour reproduction is accurate with an effective manual WB being an added option to tweak them. The metering performs very well across a range of light conditions. This is a huge help when not continuously reviewing your images. The camera manages to recover considerable details in the highlights but fails to do the same in shadows.
After experiencing the excellent features and stunning imaging quality of the camera, the battery life feels like a tragedy. On a single charge, you can shoot only 90 minutes of 1080p30 video or about 600 pictures on a 10sec interval timer. This is further reduced when using WiFi and at low temperatures.
If you are someone who spends more time out in the sun than indoors, then the GoPro Hero3 is the perfect companion for you. Keep in mind that the camera is designed for extreme sports and adventure. If you are looking for a simple fun camera, the Hero3 Black is a complete overkill of features as well as cost. If the price tag of Rs. 37,200 is too much for you, consider the Hero3 Silver which at Rs. 29,100 offers a lot of features similar to the Black edition but leaves out the WiFi remote. You do have the option to buy it separately later and pair it with the camera. On the other hand, the cheapest White edition makes a lot of compromises when it comes to performance and features making it a weak contender.
The primary concern for any buyer of the Hero3 Black would be the fact that GoPro has no service centre for the camera in India. Although, the camera does come with a one year replacement warranty. So if anything happens to the camera, for reasons other than physical damage, then the company will replace it for you on the spot.
Simply put, the Hero3 Black is the best action camera option currently available in the market. The combination of image quality, excellent features and mounting capabilities, makes this camera stand out compared to all its competitors. The only complaint one can have is the meager battery life. But with GoPro, there is nothing that an additional accessory cannot fix.
Excellent image processor, sharp f/2.8 lens, several shooting modes
Good image quality, correct metering, hard to recover shadow details, low battery life
The polycarbonate casing is like Fort Knox for the camera, fogs at rare occasions
Compact and lightweight, simplified two function buttons, LED indicators
Warranty & Support
One year immediate replacement warranty, no camera service centres
Value For Money: 4.5/5 stars
Who Should Buy It?
Anyone looking for a camera to capture all of their extreme adventure exploits.
No other action camera comes close to matching it in versatility, features or performance. It is a great option for beginners wanting to explore action photography.
Tags: ketan kundargi, Video Camera, Sports Photography, September 2013, GoPro Hero3 Black, Action Sports