Some of you may know GoPro as the leader of action sports mountable cameras, and rightfully so. GoPro has pioneered the sports camera for consumers over the years. GoPro cameras aren't just used by us amateurs, but most of all by professional athletes and filmmakers. The GoPro Hero HD camera shoots full 1080p HD video that captures both yourself and the world around you in one small, ultra rugged waterproof enclosure. Need to mount a camera on say, anything? This is one camera you must have a look at. Let's take a look at what GoPro's HD Helmet Hero kit has to offer. Catch the full review right after the jump!
At the time we got to review the Hero HD camera, GoPro has released the HD Hero 2, a more advanced and capable shooter with all the familiarities of its predecessor only that it boasts a better image sensor ranking 11 megapixels vs the 5 megapixels found in the HD Hero we're reviewing. The good news it that the price of the HD Hero has been reduced from $299.99, down to $239.99. Also, the HD Hero is now referred to as the "Original" whereas GoPro calls its latest and greatest HD Hero 2 the "Professional".
Before you get even more confused, as with all of GoPro's cameras - the HD Hero comes in three different kinds of bundles to best suit your action shooting needs. The HD Helmet Hero bundle will run you $239.99 and is best suitable for mounting the camera on any kind of helmet and on your forehead for a point-of-view shooting angle. The rest include different types of modular mounts for motorsports like car and bike mounts to surfboard and snowboard mounts. What's so great about using this camera is that it's compatible GoPro's slew of accessory mounts that make up for virtually endless possibilities in which you can shoot HD video.
Out from it's protective cage, the HD Hero is so small it can be used as a hidden camera. You wouldn't think of it as a tough camera holding it naked, but at least its got a nice soft, rubbery coating making it grippy.
The HD Hero's see-thru tough enclosure is really remarkable. Button controls are easy to operate in any condition while the top locking buckle lets you quickly open and close the enclosure for swapping out memory cards, batteries and different types of enclosure doors. If you end up scuffing and scratching the enclosure's lens, you can replace it with another for $20.
Possibly the most important key feature of the HD Hero camera is its mounting capabilities. The base is a modular clip mount with a large screw fastener that keeps your desired angle tightly. For the most part it has held up just fine after some impacts while other forceful impact caused the tension to loosen up brining the camera angle down or up depending on the situation and causing you to re-adjust. GoPro should think of a better more secure way of designing its fasteners.
As far as cables and inputs go, the GoPro HD Hero camera comes with standard composite and component RCA video cables. No HDMI support here so you'll just have to use a computer to get the best HD video playback or step it up and go for the HD Hero 2 if HDMI support is important to you. Charging is done via a mini-USB to USB cable, but you'll have charge up using a computer because GoPro does not include a simple USB wall charging adapter.
The GoPro HD Helmet Hero in particular comes with head and helmet mounts. There are a few options you can use to mount your camera on your person using the vented helmet strap, head strap and by sticking one of the 4 included flat and curved 3M adhesive mounts with the pivot arm extension for more versatile angles. They are ridiculously strong and capable of staying put no matter what kind of damage your camera gets hit with and require at least 24-hours to reach their full stickiness potential.
There are many ways you can use each mount and not necessarily for one particular task. The head strap mount is surprisingly comfortable to wear, much like a forehead head lamp strap and is ideal for a point-of-view shooting angle. Rubber inlays on the inside of the stretchable strap keep your camera rig snug without moving around your head. You could use this strap on a helmet without any venting ports if you don't want to use the 3M adhesive mounts and it works very well.
A removable 3.7v 1100mAh battery powers this tough camera and I found the battery life to be sufficient enough to 2 hours of shooting before I ran into the low battery life status. You can always carry an extra battery ready to go for swapping in case you plan on shooting for hours on end.
One of the major downsides to all of GoPro's Hero cameras is that they don't include a screen for viewing what you've shot or even properly composing what you want to be shooting making sure you have everything you want in frame and the correct angle. As an answer for that, the BacPac is GoPro's little removable accessory add-on you can purchase for $79.99 that attaches to the back of the HD Hero camera and adds a speaker for audio playback as well. Not the greatest of LCD screen quality, but it gets the job done. I wish this was more cheaper or included in a bundle because it really is a must have if you don't want to ruin a rare opportunity with badly composed video or photo.
Adding the BacPac LCD screen to the back of your HD Hero will of course make it bulkier. That's also why it comes with extra backdoors that are used to get different types of tasks done to fit your enclosure.
The user interface isn't the cleanest and easiest to use especially when you need to rely on the small front display that displays very little information that's understandable. Kind of like Morse code if you don't resort to the user manual. This is where the BacPac comes useful, yet it doesn't change the ease of use of changing settings.
The video above was shot in 720p for 60fps resulting in the widest viewing angle possible and the ability for slow motion editing. Having no helmet to mount the HD Hero on, I know right?, I had to use what every was at my disposal. In this case I went ahead and attached it to a Traxxas Slash buggy I had lying around and thought would make for an interesting video testing of both quality and durability. And boy, did it give the HD Hero a run for its money. After bashing around like a little kid and after numerous counts of high impact crashes, the HD Hero proved to be the toughest mountable camera I've ever had my hands on. GoPro doesn't just say the enclosure is waterproof, shockproof and even bombproof for nothing. A good example to see the HD Hero take a beating and prove to be as reliable as it promises to be, is to watch the Mythbusters where the show constantly uses GoPro cameras in every episode to help film explosions, impacts and other sorts of crazy and entertaining stuff.
Video quality is outstanding for such a small sports camera. It's one of the more affordable and well equipped mountable tough cameras you can get. That rounded fisheye glass lens has a special purple coating to reduce glare and at the same time it adds a lens flare effect to your videos and photos whether you like it or not. Focus is fixed at infinity to make sure everything is in sharp focus at all times. You can shoot full 1080p in 30fps for a 16:9 widescreen aspect ratio with a 127 degree viewing angle. The 720p setting will perform best in 60fps resulting in smoother video that can be slowed down using your favorite editing app or GoPro's free CineForm Studio app available for both PC and Mac. Your best bet for slowing down your 60fps footage if you aren't familiar with editing would be using the CineForm Studio app. Even with that, I couldn't get silky smooth slow motion results, however it isn't bad either. Don't even bother trying to use the HD Hero at night, low light capabilities are utter crap.
Beside shooting in 720p for the 60fps, this mode will show the HD Hero's full potential and fisheye lens for that ultra wide angle at 170 degrees getting almost everything around in the shot without any vignetting or the need for cropping your video later. Now if you want to take some photos using your HD Hero camera with its 5 megapixels, you can and the quality isn't bad for a video camera. You aren't going to print out any postures with the photos you take, but it's nice to know that you can take photos when you want to in addition to video.
The sound quality isn't very good when using the waterproof enclosure for obvious reasons. For best results you'll need to use a backdoor with sound opening which will also help eliminate wind noise entirely but will still sound pretty bad. Good thing you'll be adding music over your videos.
Extreme sports or anything extreme for that matter, are no match for the HD Hero's mighty array of mounts, seriously durable and strong enclosure, and nothing can escape its wide angle lens. If there's a need for taking video at extreme conditions and circumstances, the HD Hero will get the job done capturing amazing, hard to shoot angles. Without adding a BacPac LCD screen though, you aren't going to enjoy using the HD Hero as much and for that you'll have to drop around $300 depending on the kit.