MXA PRODUCT TEST
GOPRO DIGITAL HERO WIDE-ANGLE CAMERA
WHAT IS IT? It’s a new-and-improved, wide-angle version of the original Digital Hero Camera.
WHAT’S IT DO? GoPro’s compact, self-contained video camera has achieved considerable success in the motocross community. The MXA wrecking crew is accustomed to seeing the cameras at the track on the helmets of factory pros and Vet Novices alike. Using the same basic unit that it introduced two years ago, GoPro has made significant improvements to the video, photo, sound and low-light performance with its new wide-angle version. The wide-angle GoPro boasts more functions, five megapixels (up from three) and a 170-degree, wide-angle lens.
The MXA wrecking crew had a lot of fun with GoPro’s original Digital Hero, so we set out to determine if the camera’s improvements would translate to improvements on the video screen.
WHAT STANDS OUT? Here’s a list of things that stand out with the GoPro Digital Hero wide-angle camera:
(1) Field of view. With its 170-degree wide-angle lens, the camera captures an amazing amount of action. The frame can show the handlebars and controls at the same time as the track ahead. It can even capture enemy riders on both sides of the camera at once! The fish-eye lens makes close objects look farther away and gives the sensation of higher speed.
(2) Ease of use. While the standard GoPro takes some tinkering to get oriented correctly, the GoPro wide-angle camera is almost never pointed in the wrong direction because it captures such a large field of view. Additionally, the GoPro wide-angle is already in video mode when you turn it on. The only difficulty is determining if it’s recording or not.
(3) Durability. Although it seems vulnerable perched up on top of your head, the GoPro is well protected. Encased in clear plastic armor, the camera is capable of withstanding direct roost, crashes on the head, and even submersion in water (providing the rubber seal is clean and undamaged). GoPro is confident enough to include a one-year warranty.
(4) Functions. In addition to shooting video, the GoPro wide angle will shoot a three-shot sequence of still photos, or shoot stop-action photos every two or five seconds. It also has a ten-second self timer and adjustable sound recording levels. Although you have to buy your own memory card, it will take almost an hour of video.
(5) Mounting. There are five quick-release mounts included: some curved, some flat, and all with strong adhesive. For motocross, helmet-mounted angles work great. There is too much vibration to get good footage with bike-mounted angles. Mounting on the bike also greatly increases the chances of the camera becoming detached, as we found out the hard way.
(6) Compatibility. You can download your videos to your computer (Windows ME/2000/XP/Vista and Mac OS 9.1/10.2 and later) or simply plug the camera into your TV. You can delete data from the camera too, so having a computer isn’t mandatory.
(7) Options. The difference between the Motorsports Hero wide-angle and Helmet Hero wide-angle is a suction cup versus a strap mount and ten dollars. We used the adhesive mounts that are included with either option.
(8) Upgrade. While the GoPro and GoPro wide-angle currently accept up to a 2GB memory card, GoPro will offer a downloadable upgrade on their web site to allow the cameras to use a 4GB card.
WHAT’S THE SQUAWK? As with the original Digital Hero, you must pay close attention to the little red light to be sure you have successfully begun recording footage. It’s easy to think you are recording when you really aren’t. Additionally, two regular AAA batteries don’t have enough juice to keep the camera going for very long. While Lithium and digital versions of AAA’s have a longer life span, you can save money by buying rechargeable batteries and changing them more often.
We gave the original GoPro camera three stars, but thanks to the wide angle lens and the host of improvements, we rate the GoPro wide-angle camera as a four-star product.