I-MTB

Go Pro Hero 3 Black Edition – Review

If you look around our website it is possible to see that we are often working with video cameras and digital reflex cameras daily. Therefore we often have the opportunity to scrutinise how good stuff is and if it actually works. We have produced over 120 videos using various Go Pro variants and our videos on our website have been viewed hundreds of thousands of times. With all this experience we thought that now we have had the Hero 3 Black Edition from Go Pro in our hands for the last 3 months it would be good to share our impressions of the camera.

Overview

The Hero 3 Black Edition is the top of the range camera from Go Pro and it has just about all the features that a POV camera could have except a screen. It has wireless remote control, remote view finder mode and can be set to record in very high resolution. Plus it is robust and water proof. The context we have used this camera is with regard to mountain biking, which is a good test for this type of camera in challenging lighting environments with lots of detail and dark to light changes.

Video – Various parts shot with the Go Pro Hero 3 Black Edition

Image Quailty

Compared the competition out there and all the different models we have used there is no doubt that for the lens and sensor size the image quality is outstanding and the best compared to the competition, even in the protective box. Video images are sharp, contrasty and in poor light conditions the camera works much better than the previous models. The high resolution greater than HD modes are really excellent, if not a bit unnecessary for the average user, however the greater resolution does allow for cropping and image alignment in video editing software without loosing quality too much, which is great. Of course with all small cameras the better the light conditions the better the quality of the images.

Excellent latch mechanism.

Hardware

The camera has so many attachments options and things you can do with it, that there was no doubt it is the most versatile camera out there for attaching to things. The newer slimed down case version is actually nicer to use and has a better closing mechanism compared to previous Go Pro models. If using the camera in dry conditions for better sound quality we always use the open back. The case it tough and resists all kinds of abuse and dirt, really great in a demanding environment like where we use it.

Controls

Obviously with this toy of camera it is not easy to have all the controls easily accessible, Go Pro have done a reasonable job of making it easy and simple accessing all the options within the menu system, which once you get used to it is ok, but not all people like it, especially if you miss the option and you have to recycle through all the others to get back to where you were or want to make a fast change. The Black Version comes with a WIFI remote, which we used where possible. The cool thing is that it has the possibility to be controlled by an APP for smart phones and tablets. Both options work well and at a reasonable distance, preview mode with the APP is particularly useful as it allows you to line up the camera correctly to get the perfect composition. The buttons on the actual camera are pretty solid but sometimes don’t always respond well to a command and this can be frustrating at times. We would also query why the remote comes with a different charging cable plug, another standard that makes it complicated and another cable to loose.

Excellent APP that allows all camera settings to be regulated and gives a live preview.

Battery life

All previous versions of the Go Pro we have used would last about 1.5 hours with the standard battery. The Black Edition, in our vast experience of using the camera in different environments with different ways of shooting from constant to intermittent use, without any features turned on, just video recording only, lasts around 45 mins. This is a significant hit compared to the old version, disappointing and in some cases annoying.

Turning on the WIFI remote or using the APP to control it and the battery life drops even more to the point that we can use it for about 30 minutes maximum, really not very good at all. If the original form factor of the Hero 2 and size was retained a suitable battery could have been provided that would mean all the extra features that drain energy wouldn’t lead to these reductions in battery longevity. As it stands at the moment we recommend to immediately buy the battery-pac add on…which is an extra expense.

Actual Usage

The camera is fun to use and also a great tool from a professional point of view. However we came up against some serious flaws in its software design that spoiled many occasions for us. The main problem is that the camera software even with the latest update is not stable, with the camera sometimes locking up, stopping recording randomly, not connecting to WIFI properly, and button functionality failing, meaning the battery has to be removed and the camera restarted. We queried Go Pro on what we considered to be the most annoying problem, with the camera stopping recording randomly after a short while or even after a few minutes. The problem was suggested by them to be a problem with the Micro Sd card not being fast enough.

The offending expensive class 10 memory card that is “apparently” not compatible.

The fact that we bought a class 10 card branded Toshiba 16GB card from a reputable camera shop annoyed us even more, as Go Pro suggested in emails that it might be the source of the problems as data rates are too high and the card can’t write fast enough. Formatting the card correctly and all the other work-arounds produced no solution. They finally recommended a number of other brands, that apparently don’t have this problem, however the keyword here is apparently.

This though is not the right way to approach the situation by Go Pro. If this is a known problem, then the cameras should be sold with the correct recommended branded cards to ensure this type of problem doesn’t occur. We now have to go out and buy another card at significant cost to rectify the problem. Googling around the internet though and it became obvious we were not the only people with this problem. Even people with the recommended cards have had issues at times. This is leaving us quite annoyed and culminated in a day of use with the camera failing to record by stopping randomly after 15 seconds, during a static shot on the top of a mountain, of bikers passing by at the start of the Mega Avalanche race. A shot lost due to unreliable equipment. In other conditions where there is more detail and movement in the shot the camera has recorded with no problems then randomly stopped after 10 minutes. The upshot of all this is that this camera is simply not reliable enough to be trusted and used as a professional piece of equipment for shots that can’t be repeated.

Conclusion

Overall then this camera promised a lot, has exceptionally good image quality for its size, is very versatile, fun to use, works in all kinds of places without getting damaged, but has software flaws that make it very frustrating to use at times. This camera though is an essential tool that really we can live without which makes the problems we found even more annoying.

Our most pressing issue is that if a consumer buys a camera that costs 450 euros, there should not be any problems regarding branded memory card compatibility issues etc, either sell the camera with the exact correct memory cards from the start included in the box, or make sure that every retailer that sells this version is highly trained to ensure that the correct brand of card is used. Otherwise like us, Go Pro are asking us to buy memory cards twice, which is unacceptable. Possible other solutions could be to have a test mode that the camera can be set to, so a speed test on the inserted memory card can be carried out to make sure, that even if the card is a high quality branded class 10 or greater card, it actually works.

www.gopro.com

Posted under:  MTB Bike Test, Parts Test

Tagged:  , , ,

I-MTB is an online MTB magazine and trail areas operator based in Tuscany, Italy

Sign up for email updates