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GoPro Hero HD Camera
AVS Video Editor

by Martin Hackworth

Photos: Megan Broyles, GoPro


     The GoPro Hero HD camera is only the second product ever to earn a perfect MoJazz rating. The GoPro HD Hero is the best sports action camera ever we've ever laid our hands on - and that's out of quite a few. The GoPro HD Hero is light, durable, simple to operate, produces images of amazing quality and isn't even all that expensive to own. After having one for just a month we are quite taken with it.

     We have been acquiring helmet camera footage for over a decade (I even wrote an article for a motorcycle.com once on how to assemble a "relatively" simple system with a lipstick camera, a microphone and a camcorder). The GoPro blows nearly everything else right out of the water. It's amazing that such a light and compact device can produce such dramatic and enjoyable footage.

     We like cameras to be light, durable, easy to use and to produce high-quality images - and the GoPro Hero HD fits the bill. It's very compact and weighs just a few ounces. The GoPro camera is housed in a sturdy waterproof (to 180') and impact resistant case. There are only two buttons and five modes of operation. It takes less than five minutes to get going - less time than it takes to unpack from the display box. The hardest part for us was figuring out exactly where to mount the attachment base on our helmet (once mounted we haven't been able to get it to come off even after being whacked with numerous bushes and suffering a pounding crash in a MXGP race). After a month of hard use we've yet to find another thing about the camera that we don't like. It's versatile, bulletproof and has enough mounting options to make you dizzy.

     To power up one presses the Power/Mode
button on the front of the camera - an action that is followed by an audible series of three beeps discernible over an idling bike. Shooting modes are changed via the same button: video, 10-second timer, time-lapse, single-shot photo and triple-shot sequence modes are available. The settings menu is accessed by pressing the Power/Mode button until the "Set" icon appears on the LCD screen on the front of the camera. One then scrolls through the settings by pressing the shutter button on top of the camera: exposure weighting, upside down image capture and live feed (for sending video to your HDTV via wireless transmitter) are available.   
     The buttons are easy to use even with gloved hands. The camera beeps once when video recording begins and the red LED light on the front blinks while video is being recorded. Different combinations of LED flashes and beeps signal the various shooting modes and states of readiness for the camera. The housing that comes with the GoPro is equipped with two backs - one solid (waterproof) and the other with a slot in the back for enhanced sound. Other than wind noise at very high speeds (a very difficult problem to solve with compact omni microphones) the audio quality is superb.

The GoPro HD Hero records in MPEG-4 format using H.264 compression. For the uninitiated this means that  GoPro shoots in a high-quality but very highly compressed format. We use a Kingston SD10 16GB card for storage (the GoPro has no native memory) and are able to record about 2 hours and 15 minutes of video. The camera will accept a 32 GB card but battery life is only about 2.5 hours without the optional battery pack. We recommend (as does GoPro) class 4 memory cards or greater.

     The highly compressed format means that it may be difficult to view the raw (unrendered) video from the GoPro on many PC's or laptops not equipped with state-of-the-art video cards and updated HD codecs without some artifacts (such as jerky motion). We were also unable to use any of our stock video-editing software (Pinnacle, Sony Vegas, Adobe Premier) and achieve satisfactory rendering without the need for expensive upgrades to newer versions. We opted, instead, to purchase the inexpensive and richly-featured AVS Video Editor and are extremely happy with with the results.     
The Good: Rarely are we this impressed.
The Rad: Takes a lickin and keeps on tickin.
The Gnarly: Frequent upgrades make us prone to model envy.

Price Paid: $270.00 Pocatello Power Sports

Get your GoPro Hero HD right now at Competition Accessories.

Competition Accessories

AVS Video Editor, $59.00 (a free version of this is available - but we opted for more features and support).

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Reader Forum
     The standard GoPro HD Hero shooting resolution (1280 x 960) offers a very wide vertical angle that makes aiming the camera less of an issue than it normally would be. The fish eye appearance of the images renders very dramatic action footage. The only problem is that anything directly in front of the camera appears farther away than it actually is - so one trades foreground action for background scenery.

     We have shot video and stills with virtually every type of camera system in the known universe. While it is certainly possible to get better quality video (for a lot more money) it is not possible, at least currently and to our knowledge, to get it out of a more compact and easy-to-use package. We had a bit of a time deciding between the Contour HD GPS and the GoPro Hero but the necessity of using proprietary video editing software for the Contour (to accommodate the GPS tags) made the decision easier. We intend to test a Contour HD side by side with our GoPro as soon as we have time but there is simply no doubt that we chose a great camera in the GoPro. We are very happy with the camera and recommend it without reservation.

Compare this GoPro video to a video shot with another camera (same footage from the same bike). Same footage, same vantage: Fujifilm HD, GoPro Hero HD. Same GoPro Footage with Pinnacle and AVS rendering. Our extensive collection of GoPro HD vids on YouTube.
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