At the start of the summer I was rather delighted to hear that I had been selected, via the Tots100 blogging index, to work with GoPro to test out their Hero 3+ video camera. I’ve been lusting after this camera (and its predecessors) for a number of years now, so I was very excited to be finally able to get my hands on one! I’ve already shared the video we made as our entry to the blogger competition, and now I’m ready to share my thoughts on this rather nifty piece of kit.
So what is a GoPro? Well, it’s a very high quality HD video camera, but made in a very very small case. It will literally sit in the palm of your hand. It’s such a small device that you can use it in places you wouldn’t normally use a video camera. There are also a variety of mounts, harnesses and accessories made for it, to make it even easier to use in unusual places. It’s made a big impression on the world of extreme sports, and you can find any number of videos taken from helmet mounts or chest harnesses on YouTube. Now the geek family isn’t known for our participation in extreme sports, so we were interested in testing the GoPro Hero 3+ to see if it was useful in general family use.
The GoPro Hero 3+ may be small, but it packs a whole heap of features. Not only does it take beautiful quality HD video (1080p at 60 frames per second), but it will take 10MP stills and even do timelapse video. It has a built-in microphone and also copes extremely well in low light. Obviously to get a video camera in such a small package something has to give, and the biggest thing the GoPro doesn’t have is any kind of screen to monitor what you’re recording. It does, however, boast an extremely wide angle lens, so you can generally be pretty sure that if you’re pointing it in the right direction you’re capturing the action. And if you do want to monitor what you’re filming you can get a free app for your smartphone (iOS, Android and Windows phone) that will connect to the GoPro’s built-in WiFi and allow you to control the camera, monitor what it is filming and also copy the videos to your device for easy sharing. Be warned though, this makes the battery go flat a good deal quicker.
The GoPro Hero 3+ shoots video in mp4 format, which you can edit on your desktop computer in any video editing package (it certainly works with both Windows Movie Maker and iMovie). You can also download the free GoPro Studio software which allows you to make really professional looking videos using pre-defined templates. This piece of software seems to have its own particular “quirks” – it seemed to struggle with large video files, and also crashed whenever we tried to include a still photograph in the mix. But if you learn to work with it you can get some great results.
One of the things we liked about the GoPro was the fact that you can set it up on a mount or harness and then just forget about it whilst you get on with whatever you’re doing. You can film a trip to the park from your child’s point of view with the chest harness, for example, or use the suction mount to set it up in the front of your car to film the whole family singing along to your favourite songs. I was particularly amused one morning when my daughter asked to wear the chest harness and then filmed herself reading all about earthquakes from her encyclopeadia. And I can tell she’s a blogger’s daughter because she then went on to record a demo of one of the products we are reviewing at the moment! Just before our GoPro was delivered my daughter was in a dance show, and I saw one of the other parents there using a GoPro mounted on a monopod to record the whole thing – I can see now it would have been perfect for that, and I’ll definitely be taking it along to our kids’ next production. I recently danced as part of a flash mob at the MAD Blog Awards, and just before we started I set the GoPro up on the table to record it. Considering it was low light I think it did an outstanding job capturing the action – I really can’t fault the video quality at all with this little camera.
The downside of the GoPro Hero 3+ is that it isn’t what I would call a “spontaneous” video camera. It’s not the kind of camera you would just pull out of your pocket if you spotted something fun happening that you wanted to capture. It needs a little bit of planning to use – what mount is needed, what harness, make sure it’s both switched on and recording before you start. So for me it hasn’t replaced my iPhone, which is still my “go to” video camera that lives in my pocket for that kind of filming. But the GoPro definitely has a place in the family when we want the kind of camera we can set up and leave somewhere interesting to capture insights to our family life.
The GoPro Hero 3+ Black edition has a Recommended Retail Price of £359.99 although you can find it cheaper by shopping around – it’s on Amazon (affiliate link) for £279.99 for example. It’s probably reduced this much due to the fact that GoPro are releasing a new camera, the Hero 4, in the next few days, which has even better specs than the 3+. I would recommend holding off until that one is ready before you buy. The GoPros are not cheap video cameras, but they really are fantastic quality, and we think any family wanting to make creative, fun videos would find them a very useful piece of kit.
If you want to know what other families made of the GoPro Hero 3+ I recommend you read the reviews by my fellow bloggers A Mother’s Ramblings, Little Stuff, My Two Mums (who won the competition with their #GoProAdventures video, very well deserved) and Thinly Spread.
Disclosure: We were sent the GoPro Hero 3+ Black edition along with a selection of mounts and harnesses for review purposes.