After this cute gadget landed on my desk I got to spend a little time with it doing everything from filming around the house to downhill skiing – but nothing a’do with motorsports. These didn’t become available until after the snow fell here in the frozen white north, so I had to improvise abusive situations in which to test this new HD video camera. I say “cute” only because it’s small; about 3” wide and 2” tall when housed in its protective polycarbonate casing.
Smallish dimensions and cute accolades aside, the HD Hero camera packs big video capabilities: VGA f60, 720p f30, 720 f60, 960p f30 & 1080p f30 are all yours to choose from, just add your preferred SDHC memory card (class III or better), charge the battery, mount it up and you’re ready to go. Well, first you have to un-box the HD digital camera and all of its accessories. You get five 3M adhesive-backed pads: two for curved surfaces, three for flat substrate and a (relatively) gigantic suction-cup apparatus which is perfect for any surface you’d rather not have a mount permanently attached to. Then there’s the waterproof polycarbonate case to protect the little gray box when submerged down to 196 feet below the water’s surface. Clever, though the waterproof box does put a damper on sound quality, which is why there is an open-back trap door also included with the kit for less hazardous applications. But wait, there’s more! A set of RCA cables AND RGB cables for the hi-definition hookups are included too. There’s also a USB cable for charging the unit from any USB 2.0 compatible device.
Whew – there was a lot of stuff packed in that little three pound box, which has a nice jewel case display on top to boot – the showoffs! Where HD video cameras for motorcycles are concerned, the little gray box looks decidedly old-fashioned when up against something like the ContourHD 1080p camera and it’s especially obtuse when attached to a helmet or the front of the motorcycle, but the quality of the video more than makes up for aesthetics. One thing we’ve noticed in lesser mini-camcorders is their sloppy white balance which leads to inaccurate color portrayal and overall funky look to the video; that’s not the case with the GoPro! Color reproduction is the best we’ve seen from such a small device, regardless of lighting indoors or out … and the sun doesn’t completely black-out your video either. Both of these aspects speak to the high-quality engineering built into the unit.
All operation for this HD video camera are controlled with two buttons, the Power/Mode button on the front and the Shutter/Select button on top. Simple enough, but it’s the user interface that isn’t exactly the best if you’re an occasional user. A small LCD on the front of the camera is all you have and most are probably not going to memorize the menu structure, so if you plan on tweaking things a bit, keep the manual handy. For the most part, the only two things we played with are resolution and exposure measurement. Using the 720p at a 60 frames/second rate is ideal for slow-motion replay though; the only downside to this is the old-school 4:3 screen format. Most of our viewing pleasure came from the 1080p 30 frames/second 16:9 format for showing off on the big screen. The only time we tweaked exposure was when we filmed from a dark area to a lighter one, like a dash cam inside a car looking out.
The only major complaint we can level at the camera comes when wearing/mounting it in a position from which you can’t see the LED indicator. While there is an audible beep when you activate the camera, if it’s not close to your ear, you’re not going to hear it, even when mounted to a helmet. More than once I found that I hadn’t pressed the record button hard enough to activate it. That and until the GoPro LCD BacPac came along, there was no way to tell if the camera was pointed in the right direction. A reticle of some kind would be nice for those that don’t want/need the LCD BacPac, but if you’re mounting it in the same place repeatedly, you’ll get a feel for where the camera is actually pointed.
Not included with the GoPro HD Hero Motorsports Digital Camera Package are a few potentially useful accessories like a chest strap, helmet strap and even a surfboard mounting kit. The versatility of the device is only limited by your imagination … and your daring. While we’ve yet to destroy the polycarbonate case, it’s a comforting fact that you can acquire a new one for only $40. We’re put these cases through the ringer on our racebikes (see our YouTube channel: www.youtube.com/ridersdiscount) and the only failure we’ve had is a cracked latch mechanism – probably from ham-fisted operators!
If you’re one for recording your antics in full HD, jumping out of airplanes, trail riding, skiing, snowmobiles, autocross – the options are endless and for a cost of a top-quality handheld HD camcorder, the HD Hero might just be the ticket for undisputed proof to your tall tales – just remember, when the camera comes out, brains hide and you may end up getting a little more in the way of entertainment than anyone expected!