GoPro HERO3 Black biased review

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You can get plenty of ‘unbiased’ reviews elsewhere.

Why I bought one: so that the next time a student asks whether we can hire a Phantom camera because they need a cool slow motion effect, I can can shove this at them and end the whining. By the time they realise that the GoPro is a decoy, the end of term will have got them out of my face.

Does the GoPro approach the kind of quality that the Phantom offers? Can you play basketball with the moon?

Getting one: GoPro have a great strategy going where they combine relentless spamming of your mailbox with GET A HERO3 NOW OR DIE combined with a complete shambles of distribution. There’s no units anywhere, let alone accessories. My solution was to buy from a professional video supplier, as no one would expect them to stock it.

Unboxing: I am not a nerd so if you expect photos go to Engadget. But I can say that you should open this over a bucket so you can catch all the shit going everywhere. There’s a whole bunch of crapola in there which greatly resembles what falls out of a Transformers die cast kit. It’s not identified in the manual – because there is no manual. Once you’ve downloaded that you still don’t get told what all this crap is about.

Updating the firmware: this sucked shit. You charge up the battery, connect the camera to a computer, then visit their web site to be told You Don’t Have Java! So you visit Oracle and they say You Do Have Java, but you install it anyway then Firefox tells you Java Has Been Disabled Due To A Security Risk and Chrome says We Don’t Do Java so you end up finally trying Internet Explorer which does it, the camera turns on and off in a few seconds and you’re left wondering DID I UPDATE THE FIRMWARE OR WHAT?

So you go to their forum and read all the messages from people trying to work out WTF and it seems that the little piece of paper that tells you to update the firmware is out of date. Great work team. It’s on this visit you read the apology from the CEO and start to get worried.

Ergonomics: without a doubt one of the worst control systems I have ever used. Push a button to select from a menu, push another to OK. Sounds reasonable. Except if you’re not quick enough it will fall out of the menus. So be quick – but not so quick that you double press one of the buttons and have to go back through it all again. I’ve played Gameboy games like this except that you can actually read what’s on a Gameboy screen. The screen on the GoPro is really, really REALLY small and you’ll be looking in the box to see if they included the magnifying glass. This doesn’t compare to any camera I’ve ever used  – they were all better.

gameboy

Game Boy display

 

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GoPro display for comparison.

 

Wireless: I’ve managed to get the wireless controller working but I am truly flummoxed by the iPad app which relentlessly says YOU LOSE no matter what I do. This might be my stupid, so I will award the GoPro 1 star in that case. Update: got the iPad app working and it makes the whole thing 10x less painful. Seeing what you’re doing is the start – and being able to make settings helps too.

Quality: it overheated and froze in the first ten minutes of use, not even inside its proofing. Did they actually run QA on it? To get it going requires pulling the battery out, and given all the wrappings that’s non trivial. Here’s a law guys – power button always works no matter what.

So Having Got All That Sorted Out – How Does It Look: the GoPro is one of those tiny cameras with cheap optics like Bloggies and iPhones. The first test I did outside was bad – really bad – because the situation called for a neutral density filter for glare and that’s not even within the dreams of the GoPro. Framing the subject was impossible without any kind of viewfinder and the iPad app not working. And despite selecting a narrow setting the image is a great big unusable fish eye. The recording quality is soapy. None of these things are a surprise nor should they count against a camera that was never designed to do what I tried. It does what it supposed to do, which is record you falling off cliffs and stuff like that – it doesn’t serve as a general purpose camera.

GP

Torture test – 720p + muggy glaring day and a building that normally has straight edges. You’d normally filter it and adjust the lens and maybe there’s a way to get that out of the GP – but it’s going to take a lot of figuring out.

So the decision comes down to this: if you are someone that uses a tripod this is probably not for you. If however you are somebody who uses a suction cup or a head strap, you should wait for them to get it working for more than ten minutes without dying.