GoPro HD Hero
Good quality build; fine image quality; convenient size; reasonable price
Auto-everything can produce funky exposure; clunky menu system; no LCD
From about $350
This one tip will make your videos better: Move the camera to meet your subject. If you’re shooting children, get low. If you’re shooting skyscrapers, try an aerial view. And if you’re shooting a surf sequence, find the nearest point break and get into the barrel of the wave.
The only problem with the latter scenario is budgeting for an HD camera, an underwater camera housing and an expensive insurance policy, since underwater housings fail with surprising frequency. Or you could just pick up a GoPro HD Hero.
The HD Hero is a tiny camera designed mainly to shoot HD video (1080p at 24 fps, or 720p at 60 fps for high-speed subjects or buttery-smooth slow-mo in editing) and 5-megapixel stills in adverse conditions.
It comes with an underwater housing and various bits for attaching it to almost anything. On its website, GoPro shows it in action on a surfboard, on ski helmets, on a racing car and more.
But this isn’t a typical consumer camera: You can’t look at images you’ve taken without a Mac (the camera has no LCD). You can’t change the focal length or adjust the exposure. And the HD Hero only has two buttons: On/Off and Start/Stop.
It’s what it can do on the cheap – shoot up to 60m underwater, mount to almost anything, continue to work while in super-cold conditions – that makes it stand out.
As a photographer and journalist whose work falls in the ‘adventure’ category, I couldn’t wait to give the HD Hero a spin. The plan was for a progressive series of (ab)uses.
I started with a quick test under the tap to be sure the seals worked, moved on to a few lazy dips in the sea and finished with a series of high-velocity kiteboarding crashes with the camera mounted to the helmet, the board and the kite.
The image quality for stills was good, and even better for video. In good light, colours were crisp, but because the camera runs full-auto-everything, and the lens offers such wide coverage, I sometimes had issues with wonky exposure, white balance and colour shifts.
Build quality – of the camera and housing, at least – was solid, but the plastic mounting components left something to be desired.
And any review of the HD Hero would be remiss not to mention its clunky menu system. With no rear LCD, and two buttons, configuration takes patience.
Once configured, however, using the camera is excitement/adrenaline-proof: Turn it on, choose video, stills or timed stills and hit start.
The GoPro HD Hero can be bought online direct from www.goprocamera.com, or from Australian retailers such as Launch Helmet Cams (www.launchhelmetcams.com.au) and Rogue Gear (goprosport.com.au).
Australian Macworld’s buying advice. The HD Hero is for people willing to invest a little extra time to get shots that would otherwise be prohibitively expensive, or risky, to film. It’s a godsend to those who don’t want to risk trashing an expensive DSLR.