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Go Pro HD HERO Review and Tips

Considering that we are a video production company and that we publish online magazines, it comes as no surprise that we occasionally geek out a bit on new camera hardware. The latest gadgets to really get our techno-blood pumping are the new Go Pro HD HERO cameras.

We recently picked up a few of these small but feature-packed units for use as on-car cameras. Our expectations were modest to say the least, but after just one afternoon with these pocket sized gems and our original opinions were blown away. The Go Pro HD HERO is one of the best action sports cameras that we have ever used! Let’s learn more about these full HD cameras, as well as show you some of our tips for mounting and using them to record motorsports action.

Camera Overview

Many may remember the first Go Pro camera released just a few short years ago. The original HERO camera took still photos at 3 megapixels and could shoot video in 512×384 pixels at 30 frames per second (FPS). The latest version of the camera, the HD HERO, features a bump up in resolution to 5MP for shooting awesome photos in both single shot and action burst mode.

Just to give you an idea of how compact the HD HERO is, this is the camera in front of a standard-size business card from one of the Go Pro guys.

As cool as the increased still resolution is, it’s really the video side of things that impressed us the most. These cameras, which are literally matchbox-sized, are now capable of shooting video in full 1080p resolution. For those who know more about engine compression than video compression, that means the HD HERO records movies at the same level of quality you get from a Blu-ray DVD player.

Racers will get the most use out of the HD Motorsports HERO suction-cup mount, but the kit comes with several alternative ways of securing the camera to your car, your helmet, or even yourself.

A Tool, Not a Toy

Sure, you can stick this camera on your car and have a blast watching all the footage you start collecting, but there can be more to the HD HERO than just entertainment. Look closely the next time you’re at the track and you’ll see professional race teams using video cameras as a data logging device. Drag racers use them to see how the car is maneuvering down the track, and the circle track guys use them to see their line. By a large margin, Go Pro’s products are the cameras of choice for recording in- and on-car video for testing and analysis.

The HD HERO features simple controls to make it easy to set up and use without being a professional videographer.

We recently had the chance to put these cameras to work on a film shoot with Nitto Tire for their line of off-road tires. Some sample video from that shoot is just below, and be sure to take a look at the demonstration videos from the Go Pro site as well – it’s amazing!

Mounting Tips and Tricks

Go Pro made it very easy to mount these cameras almost anywhere on a vehicle. Their incredibly small size lets them physically fit in places that other cameras simply can’t, and their wide angle lens ensures that you won’t miss the shot even if the camera isn’t perfectly framed.

The suction cup mount will securely attach to most any relatively flat, smooth surface, including body panels and glass or Lexan.

For drag racing, one really cool shot you’ll frequently see from HD HERO users is when the camera is mounted on the trunk of the car. Looking backward, it’s easy to see how the car moves relative to the groove on the launch, all the way down-track, and even when the parachute deploys. Plus, you might just get to see your competition falling behind as well, if you’re lucky…

Thanks to the water-resistant housing, spray from the burnout box won't do any permanent harm.

Who doesn’t love burnout shots? Besides the entertainment factor of watching smoke boil off the tires, a closeup video of the tire can also be a tuning aid. The Go Pro camera is capable of shooting in both 30 and 60 FPS modes. The higher frame rate lets you slow it down during playback on your computer and see more detail of things like sidewall wrinkle and suspension compression.

The polycarbonate case and tempered glass lens cover are both very durable, but should you somehow damage either piece, they're inexpensive to replace.

Don’t worry about mounting the camera in a compromising position because these things are truly built to last. The waterproof case makes it submersible up to 180 feet under water, and it also helps to protect the camera from debris like flying rubber. Go Pro has also gone to considerable trouble to design both the camera and case to minimize wind noise – a useful feature when it’s mounted to the outside of a racecar!

The suction mount will work equally well on steel or fiberglass bodywork.

Because there are a number of ways you can position this camera thanks to the adjustable suction mount, the angles that you can achieve with these cameras straight out of the box is limited only by your own creativity.

Interior mounting is easy, too, either with the suction cup or one of the included self-adhesive mounts.

With a Go Pro camera you have the ability to keep an eye on the driver as well. The suction mount can be placed on any flat surface, outside or inside the car – just make sure it is clean. We used a quick shot of detail spray or glass cleaner and a microfiber cloth to prep the surface before sending the car down the track.

Go Pro HD HERO Kit Options

Go Pro sells the HD HERO in a few different flavors for various uses. The only difference between the kits are the types of mounts included in them. The camera is the same no matter which one you order. Here is the quick overview:

HD Helmet HERO

The Helmet HERO was designed for sports where helmets can be used as a mounting point for the camera. A great example of this would be motocross, FMX, street bike riding, and even go karts. We’ve seen base jumpers and skydivers use this one as well.

1 HD HERO Camera (5 megapixel)
1 Rechargeable 1100 mAh Lithium-Ion Battery
1 Waterproof Quick-Release Housing (180’/60m)
1 Headlamp-Style Head Strap
1 Vented Helmet Strap
2 Curved 3M™ Adhesive Mounts
2 Flat 3M™ Adhesive Mounts
1 Three-Way Pivoting Side Arm Assembly
2 Quick-Release Buckles
1 USB Cable
1 Component Video (HDTV) Cable
1 Composite Video + Audio Out Cable
Warranty: One Year

The HD HERO is available in several different kits, depending on which mounting options are most important to you.

HD Motorsports HERO

Designed for use on vehicles, the mounts included with this kit give you plenty of options for mounting the camera in a number of different angles. Whether you are drag racing, autocrossing, have a hot street car, or anything like that, this is the kit for you.

1 HD HERO Camera (5 megapixel)
1 Rechargeable 1100 mAh Lithium-Ion Battery
1 Waterproof Quick-Release Housing (180’/60m)
3 Flat 3M™ Adhesive Mounts
2 Curved 3M™ Adhesive Mounts
2 Quick-Release Buckles
1 Vertical Surface “J-Hook” Buckle
1 Suction Cup Mount
1 Three-Way Pivoting Side Arm Assembly
1 USB Cable
1 Component Video (HDTV) Cable
1 Composite Video + Audio Out Cable
Warranty: One Year

HD Surf HERO

As the name says, this one is for those that like to get wet.

1 HD HERO Camera (5 megapixel)
1 Rechargeable 1100 mAh Lithium-Ion Battery
1 Waterproof Quick-Release Housing (180’/60m)
1 3M™ Adhesive Mounting Base
1 FCS™ Plug-Compatible Mount
1 Quick-Release Buckle
1 Leash
1 USB Cable
1 Component Video (HDTV) Cable
1 Composite Video + Audio Out Cable
Warranty: One Year

HD HERO Naked

This is the kit for those that are not looking for a lot of mounts. It is the perfect way to purchase a second or third camera, which is what we did.

1 HD HERO Camera (5 megapixel)
1 Rechargeable 1100 mAh Lithium-Ion Battery
1 Waterproof Quick-Release Housing (180’/60m)
1 Curved 3M™ Adhesive Mount
1 Quick-Release Buckle
1 USB Cable
1 Component Video (HDTV) Cable
1 Composite Video + Audio Out Cable
Warranty: One Year

Full Go Pro HD HERO Tech Specs:

Camera Optics

Lens Type: Fixed Focus (2ft/.6m – infinity), glass
Aperture: f/2.8 (high performance in low-light situations)
Angle of View: 170º ultra wide angle in WVGA, 720p, or 960p mode
Angle of View: 127º wide angle in 1080p mode

Video

HD Video Resolution Modes: (subject to change, pending final firmware release)
1080p = 1920×1080 pixels (16:9), 30 fps, 15 Mbit/s data rate
960p = 1280×960 pixels (4:3), 30 fps, 12 Mbit/s data rate
720p = 1280×720 pixels (16:9), 60 fps, 15 Mbit/s data rate
720p = 1280×720 pixels (16:9), 30 fps, 8 Mbit/s data rate
WVGA = 848×480 pixels (16:9), 60 fps, 8 Mbit/s data rate
Sensor Type: 1/2.5″ HD CMOS, 2.2µm-sized pixels
Light Sensitivity: Super low-light sensitivity (>1.4 V/lux-sec)
Video Format: H.264 compression, saved as Windows- & Mac-compatible MPEG4 (.mp4) file
Exposure Control: Auto with user selectable center weighted average and spot metering settings
White Balance: Auto

Audio

Microphone: Built-in, mono with AGC (automatic gain control)
Audio Format: 48 kHz, AAC audio compression

Photo

Resolution: 5 megapixel
Capture Modes: Single shot, photo every 2, 5, 10, 30, or 60 secs.; 3 photo burst; self-timer

Storage

Memory: SD card, up to 32GB capacity (SDHC)
Average recording times (using 32GB SD card):
1080p (30 fps): 4h 21m
960p (30 fps): 5h 26m
720p (60 fps): 4h 21
720p (30 fps): 8h 09m
WVGA (60 fps): 8h 09m

Camera Connectors & Cables

PC Connection: USB 2.0 (data connection and battery charging)
HDTV Out: HD NTSC & PAL (component cable included)
Audio Out: Combo 2.5mm jack with stereo audio and composite video out
PC Compatibility: Windows® XP (Service Pack 2 or later), Vista, or Windows 7; Mac OS® X 10.4.11 and later

Power & Battery

Battery Type: Rechargeable 1100 mAh lithium-ion
Battery Life: Approximately 2.5 hrs
Charging: via USB to computer or optional power adapter
Charge Time: 80% capacity after 1 hour with optional power adapter; or 2 hours with a computer’s USB port

Waterproof Camera Housing

Depth Rating: Up to 180 feet / 60 meters
Construction: Polycarbonate and stainless steel
Hardware: Stainless steel

Size & Weight

Dimensions (H x W x D): 1.6” x 2.4” x 1.2” (42mm x 60mm x 30mm)
Weight: 3.3oz (94g) incl. battery, 5.9oz (167g) including housing

Sources

Go Pro


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