GoPro: A Mini Review

I make no claims to understand a lot about photography. One the only things I’m certain of is that a good photographer can capture an awesome picture regardless of what technology they use and you can spend thousands of dollars on camera equipment and still take shitty pictures.

I had heard of GoPro before and said “Wow, that’s a pricy camera I don’t need.” I’m as removed from an athlete as I can be; the most extreme sport I participate in involves bacon and lunch. Neat device, but I said eh and moved on. Then one day I was at the park with Jolene and Kyle and I saw a 7 year old run by with a GoPro attached to his chest, with a harness. My head exploded. I thought this was the most amazing thing evar. Think about it: you put one of these things on your kid and you can show your kid what the world looked like when he was young. Three days later I had the required hardware in hand; almost three weeks later before I finally tried to set it up and was some time after that before we used it on Kyle…

Basically, about a week before the kid turned two, we put a GoPro on his chest and send him down Main Street at Disneyland.

The device is neat. It’s compact, fairly lightweight, and it pretty much “just works”. It does stills and other types of things, but to be honest, I’ve only used it as a video camera. Out of the box, it’s set to be in a wide angle type of recording mode – I left that alone, given Kyle’s current height – and left it in the waterproof case. To be honest, I think the case is actually heavier than the camera, but we went with that one because it’s all covering and we didn’t know if Kyle was going to jump in a puddle or not. There’s another case back that GoPro provides but it looks like it’s a pain in the ass to swap out. GoPro also tells you that if you are looking for a strong audio recording to not use the waterproof case; on playback, we can confirm that external sounds are fairly muffled.

Hardware wise, we picked up the Junior Harness and a GoPro3+BLACK which is a product name that I thought only Microsoft could manage to create. The 3 is the generation, the BLACK is the SKU/package, and I have no idea what the + is for. Either way, we capture 1080p/30fps quality. We also got a 32GB SDHC card for it – class 10 I think – and it told us we’d get about 2 hours of video, with the current settings. The MP4’s it creates are gaigormous but I don’t know if it’s because I took longer videos than I’m used to or if it’s capturing that much goodness that it’s going to have a large file.

The Junior harness was easy to set up, but GoPro warns you that it’s for kids 3+. I don’t know if this is to protect the kid, protect the camera, or protect GoPro from liability. I put it on Kyle a couple of times at home to see how he did with it… he was OK with the harness. The camera, on the other hand, did get pretty hot. It could have been from regular usage, the 90 degree CA weather, or the fact that the waterproof case traps excess heat… we’ll be trying it again soon, so we’ll know more then.

WiFi with the camera is weird. It is its own hotspot, so to speak, so you have to explicitly connect to it, if you want to use an iOS or Android device with it. What’s neat about that is that WiFi turns the remote app into a screen for what the camera sees. It’s not super fast but it’s close enough to real time to know if the camera (or the kid) is steady. The BLACK version also came with a remote control that also uses WiFi; once paired it can stop/start filming and change the mode of the camera without taking out a phone or tablet… it’s handy.

A short while ago the GoPro4 was released but I have no buyers remorse – I don’t think we need to capture video at 120fps. I mean, I get that when Kyle is older, we’ll have 54000pxi and he will make fun of our 1080p captures, but to be blunt: we used to watch slide shows of vacations and 8mm BW film with no sound and be happy because we could see what things were like then. I’m expecting the same retro feeling to apply to this.

Overall it works. The 32GB card is big enough because we had a PC to back off the videos to and I don’t think we were planning to get multiple hours of footage from our trip. It is interesting that while all of my other devices have gone to micro USB or Lightening that the camera takes mini USB. Their cable is small enough so that it’s easy to pack but it’s just… odd. Also as odd is the fact that there’s a completely removable door coving the ports – that they sell the separately tells me that they get lost all the time. In fact, here’s a YouTube hosted video from our first day at the park:

Now we just have to wait like 10 years before we can get Kyle’s opinion.

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