You know you’re reading a good invitation when within it are the words, “what adventure would you like – Land, Sea or Air?” This was literally the starting point of the best product launch anyone has ever seen. But anyway…
I’m sat here in between two large American people on my flight back to ol’ Blighty and it’s the most comfortable of positions to be in, but the reason why makes it all worthwhile. I had the pleasure of being one of the lucky people invited to the sunny shores of San Francisco to see what GoPro had in store. Before I go on and on about how insane the week was I’ll warn you, it was nothing short of the best week of my life, but if you’d rather just look at the new specs of the GoPro Hero 3 or my review of it then you know what to do (scroll down!). For the rest of you that want to read about how GoPro throw a launch party, then reading on is your best bet and you’ll be surprised!
“GoPro is your mate whereas other camera companies might be like a weird Uncle…”
After a 5am start and a 10 and a half hour flight to San Francisco, I step into the hotel room that I’m calling home for the next couple of days. Everything between Monday night and Tuesday afternoon is pretty much filler. It was time spent on my own so I won’t bore you with the tourist-y details but I will go straight to Tuesday night when it all kicked off. We get picked up from the hotel in one of two GoPro coaches; coaches that were bought especially for the trip and apparently costs a cool $600,000 each (although that might have been a rumour). After a short drive to the conference hall we all mingle around and await the speech from GoPro C.E.O, Nick Woodman. The speech where he announced the GoPro Hero 3.
Let me break it down for you. The GoPro Hero 3 has some interesting new features:
- 30% smaller (20mm instead of 30mm)
- 25% lighter
- More than 2x as powerful
- 2x faster image processor that captures video 4x higher res than Hero 2
- Capable of capturing 4k video at 15 frames per second
- Good lowlight performa nce
- If shooting in 4k at 15fps you’re shooting the equivalent of still shots at 8.5megapixels per second
- 2.7k resolution available at 30fps but this is down scalable to 1080p
- 2x faster frame rate
- 1080p at 60fps
- 1440p at 48fps (capturing footage in 4:3 but you’re able to stretch this to 16:9 or cut it into 1080p)
- 960p at 100fps
- 720p 120fps
- 3x faster photo capture
- 12mp stills
- 30fps burst (this can be changed to 10fps)
- 2x better lowlight performance than the Hero 2
- Sharper lens with reduced distortion
- Improved sound quality in terms of capturing music and other audio whilst also improving wind reduction algorithm
- Built in Wifi
- Wifi remote that can control up to 50 cameras at one time
So those are the new specs, the main ones anyway, but how does the new Hero 3 work? Is it better than the Hero 2? Well, to help us find out the GoPro guys put on 3 adventures for us to test them out on.
Adventure 1: Scuba diving with sharks in the San Francisco aquarium followed by heading out on the water with the Americas Cup team.
Adventure 2: Hot air balloon ride in the morning followed by a trip in some jet planes (description does not do this justice!)
Adventure 3: Racing Audi R8′s at the Sonoma raceway followed by tandem superbike riding in the afternoon.
Now these adventures were put together so we could test out the new GoPro cameras and the mix of adventures meant that we would be testing them in different conditions. A clever ploy that we’d noticed but didn’t mind about! My adventure was number 3 and it might not sound scary but there’s nothing scarier than getting into a car that has gears and you have to be a passenger with an American! I’m not one to reinforce stereotypes but when you’re trying to race an Audi R8 around a track and he’s taking hairpins in 6th gear, you can’t help but uncontrollably laugh out of fear! It’s a scary feeling! The real action came in the afternoon when a couple of superbikes were covered in the latest GoPro’s to capture every little emotion I had as I sat on the back of the bike in someone else’s leathers. If you don’t know what this looks like then this will probably give you an idea.
Now I quite like going fast but there’s only so much speed you can get on a BMX or skateboard whilst staying within your comfort zone but these guys take that to the extreme. You may have a comfort zone but you aren’t in control of the bike and therefore not in control of your comfort zone any more! Strangely enough, being scared to within an inch of my life by going 120mph was not the worst part. That was when I needed help getting my leathers off and a burly man helped me out by pulling them off with such force it left me quivering in my pants on his truck. Delightfully embarrassing to say the least!
Let’s concentrate on the cameras though. If we’re comparing the Hero 3 to the Hero 2 then it’s already insanely better. The frame rate is incredible and the quality is noticeably better, especially when shooting in direct sunlight. The Hero 2 would have problems with this but it’s a problem they’ve addressed and, as you’ll be able to see for yourself, it’s not something that will ever have to bother you again. You can see from the technical updates that it’s already surpassed the Hero 2 in every single way and if you’re a GoPro user, then I suggest getting the camera but there were a few problems that I noticed. I was going to write about the low light shooting being a bit sub-par but I’ve just looked back at some of the videos I’ve shot when we were in a club for the launch party and it actually came out pretty well. For a camera without an attached flash it performed well. Taking photos in a dark place is always going to be a challenge when you have shaky-hand-syndrome! GoPro have definitely worked on it and I’m sure that if you mess around with the settings you will probably get something better than I did! It’s incredible that the Hero 3 shoots at 4k but it’s a concept that isn’t too widely known or used unless you’re into your cameras like they’re a weird fetish. What’s just as incredible is that it’s now available in such a small package and to everyone! This is similar to the option of shooting in 1440 – not many people will use it but it’s there for the people that do and you can see that GoPro are catering to every buyer out there.
One main thing that I did notice that I wasn’t amazed about was that the battery would overheat quite easily when you had the LCD viewer on it. That was my only real problem with it (a problem that only seemed to happen to me though!). The other problems are far outweighed by the good points of the new camera, it’s just that this was a big problem for me. You won’t generally be using the LCD display when shooting which is fine but it was something that I’d noticed.
After a full day of testing the new GoPro Hero 3, a tasty little edit was thrown together to showcase the footage that we took and I think you’ll agree that it looks pretty fucking good!
So where do you go from there? Well, it’s a pretty straightforward conclusion really. GoPro have gone all out to deliver the world something that works and is a bit of a market leader. They’re in the enviable position of every other action camera on the market at the moment being described as, “it’s a bit like a GoPro.” Then again it’s not like they haven’t worked hard to get in that position. After a frank discussion with some of the other invited journalists we pretty much decided on one conclusion and it goes as follows:
With every other action cameras out there we’re all a bit spoilt for choice. Knowing about each company and what each camera is capable of goes a long way in making your decision to buy their product, but after this week it’s safe to say that the feeling about GoPro is that they’re your mate. It’s a fun product with a fun team behind it. Companies like Sony with their action cameras may be just as good, but in terms of our industry you’ll see a lot more GoPro’s around because of the company. They are young and cool whereas other companies might not have that sort of pull, so you can understand why there are so many of the damn things around!