I have experience with each of the older iterations of the GoPro Hero series. I’ve owned all three previous major releases: the Hero1, the Hero2, and the Hero3. There are several different versions of each in the series, and I own the highest quality version of each… Only the top dog will do for my crew! Over the years, the GoPro has remained my favorite helmet cam manufacturer. Each of the three models I’ve owned has demonstrated superior filming quality, mounting options, a wide angle lens, and a small footprint. GoPro has successfully incorporated my personal priorities and functional needs into a neat, concise, easily maintained package.
My first concern in using any helmet cam is its mounting capability. Versatility is key, and I need to know that the equipment will stay where I want it. Fortunately GoPro’s concise, one-piece design makes that easy. GoPro’s sleek and functional design coupled with their consistency over the years have made the Hero series hugely popular and widely used. Given its popularity, many third party vendors have designed different mounting options that work well with almost all cams in the GoPro series. We use these offerings to mount helmet cams in awkward places, such as under a vehicle, on a dog, or even in a wheel well of an ATV, to get our viewers closer to the action and give them a whole new perspective. Our viewers have to be able to feel the ground rushing under their feet, or sense the wind as our vehicles cut through the forest at daring speeds. Mounting options, for me, are practically more important than filming quality. After all, film quality will occasionally be compromised as mud, dirt and water fly at the lens and obscure the view… but no one will forget the feeling of taking on a complicated path, eye-level with the trail, or staring down the WooFPAK as they conquer unfamiliar terrain. Coming face to face with adventure and overcoming it- That’s the experience we want to capture! With so many vendors offering compatible mounting equipment and even tripod extensions, we can securely position our cams practically anywhere, enabling them to safely brave the elements without compromising on great action-packed shots. More information on this is available on the mounting page, if you would like to see the specifications.
Some people see the GoPro’s wide-angle lens as overkill, but I am not one of those people. The 170 degree lens gave us results that were actually better than anticipated; it offers a cinematic feel and a dramatic flare as it captures the scene. I understand that there is sometimes a need for a tighter shot, but we usually accomplish that with a separate hand-held camera, where we have more autonomous control over the details. I greatly appreciate the cinematic effects of the wide-angle lens and feel that, for the majority of our helmet cam needs, these lenses never fail to capture the perfect shot and offer our viewers the feeling of being right in the center of the adventure.
The first in the GoPro series, the Hero1, was truly groundbreaking when I purchased it in 2006. GoPro was one of the first companies to offer a helmet cam with a relatively tiny footprint and an exceptionally good filming quality. I currently own two of these Hero1 cams and, although I don’t currently use them anymore, they were a great addition to my repertoire at the time. I had previously tried using a couple of other brands of helmet cams, but I did not appreciate the two-piece format of the Samsung and POV. GoPro offered a one-piece solution, combining its camera and media in one unit instead having the camera and base unit sitting separately, connected only by a wire, as the Samsung and POV had been designed to do. The one-piece format is substantially easier to mount and maintain. Despite the GoPro Hero1’s superior design in that regard, I was concerned that it didn’t have the ability to preview what we were filming. Without a viewing screen, we had no feedback mechanism and could only aim it and hope that we were filming the correct spot. My fears turned out to be unfounded, as the 170 degree lens easily captures everything in the surrounding area.
GoPro’s next offering, the Hero2, was much better in terms of film quality and compression than its predecessor. With these technological advances, we were able to fit more data on the storage card and could therefore capture more footage without having to closely monitor the contents of the card. The Hero2 also improved on picture quality, making it suitable for time lapse projects or other detail-oriented ventures. I still have seven of these cams in my working collection. I do still prefer them over newer cams, in some situations, for ease of operation. Using a Hero2 means one less screen for me to monitor. I recently converted four of these Hero2 cams to IR (infrared) capability, for use at night. I was not sure how successful the results of this conversion would be, so I did not want to risk disabling one my expensive new Hero3 cams. I would have experimented on the less-expensive Hero1, but with its older technology, inferior film quality, lower compression and inefficient battery, I didn’t think it would be up to the task and didn’t want to invest the time and money on upgrading it to IR capability. In the Hero2, I found the perfect middle ground of quality and cost to use for my wild whims and mad-scientist inclinations.
Rounding off my collection, I have four GoPro Hero3 Blacks, the top-of-the-line offering from GoPro. Though its labyrinthine system of menus is harder to navigate than that of its forebears, I have come to appreciate all the options this camera offers. It was certainly worth the time to familiarize myself with everything this devise can do! It has the capacity for great filming quality, but this feature is not noticeably different to me as I usually shoot in 720 (to maximize battery life and storage space) and produce in 720p. The difference in color rendition, however, is immediately evident and well worth the investment. The colors are richer in the Hero3. GoPro put in the effort to increase the contrast and color saturation, which really makes that sky-blue sky pop off the screen. There are options to adjust the color balance, if desired, but the Hero3’s standard arrangement works very well for my needs.
The Hero3 uses a micro SD card in contrast to the earlier GoPro devices, which used a standard size SD card. I prefer the micro SD card because of its versatility in the field. I can take it out of the Hero3 and insert it into a compatible tablet computer to see my recordings on a bigger screen, edit pictures and videos, and post the results to social media immediately! I love the instant gratification factor of the micro SD card. There is a workaround possible with the older Hero1 and Hero2 models, as you can use the larger format (standard) SD card in the camera and use an adapter to transfer the data to a micro SD card, which can then be inserted into a tablet computer’s micro SD slot. However, nothing beats the Hero3 for its convenience.
In the interest of greater mounting versatility, the Hero3 comes complete with a redesigned case, compatible with all prior mounts and accessories of the series. Its lighter weight and more compact shape make it ideal to work with a greater variety of mounting gear and mounting places. This marginal difference in weight probably wouldn’t have any impact on the average user, but it made a distinct difference with the specialized functions I need it to perform. Namely, the Hero3 can safely be positioned on weight-sensitive subjects, such as the dogs. I found the case’s opening latch to be a little stubborn, but at least I know it will remain securely shut and won’t risk exposing delicate mechanical workings to the elements. Overall, I have been very pleased with the thoughtful design and functional versatility of this model and the previous offerings in the GoPro Hero series.