GoPro Hero 2 – Last Action Hero
The first GoPro Hero was a sensation. It was the first action camera in South Africa that worked well. And not just well. It was great. You looked at the boxy little camera, and couldn’t think that something as small as that could produce full 1080p HD video footage. Yet, it did so in an astonishingly good way.
1080p Full HD Video at up to 30fps
960p HD at up to 60fps
WVGA (848×480) at up to 120fps
Different Field Of View Settings
Retail Price: +/- R3999
The Hero 2 has some big shoes to fill and really needs to raise the bar of what has become the industry standard. That is not small task for the Hero 2. GoPro claims it’s twice as powerful as the original Hero.
On the outside:
This isn’t the sort of camera that’s going to win any design awards, not even as an action camera. Here form follows function. The Hero 2’s basic form is exactly the same as its predecessor’s with only a few cosmetic changes. The only big differences are the addition of a mini-HDMI port, a 3.5mm Mic port and the lens.
I’m still not sure whether I like the addition of the HDMI port, as it compromises the integrity of the outside shell. If GoPro can add a HDMI port, why not add another button or two to make working with the camera easier, or at least logical? At least now it’s easier than before to watch the footage of a HDTV.
The lens seems looks a lot different and you can see that this wasn’t carried over from the previous model. When you read the spec sheet, you see why this lens looks so different. The new lens actually gives the Hero 2 various zoom lengths. This is an extremely clever addition to the camera, as the extreme wide-angle, sometimes is too much, and now you can zoom in, without having to crop it. The zooming happens in the menu structure though and you can choose between Wide (170º), Medium (127º) and Narrow (90º) for video, and Wide (170º) and Medium (270º) for photos.
Another of the Hero’s strengths is its plethora of accessories. You can connect this camera to just about anything that moves and GoPro even has a helmet with mount. You can also take it into any environment, be it up in the sky, way under water, or icy snow. There is even a 3D system, for you to mount 2 Hero 2’s together.
The one accessory I am a bit disappointed with is the suction cup mount. It’s the same design as with the previous model, and as with the first model, I still think there is too much movement from the mount and not enough adjustments to get the framing just right. The Gobii Action Camera I recently reviewed had a way better and much easier-to-use suction cup mount.
The camera only has three buttons, which you use to switch it on, navigate menus with, review videos or photos and record. They aren’t very logical and not intuitive at all, but due to the fact that there only is three buttons, you quickly figure out what the buttons do. I personally feel this needs a rethink. Other action cameras I’ve worked with have much more intuitive and logical button designs.
A great feature of the Hero 2 is the screen. Not the fact that it is a great screen, which it isn’t. Other action cameras I’ve tested, doesn’t have a screen. With the Hero you can get your framing perfect, and if you don’t need to use the screen, you can simply detach it. A clever new feature of the screen is that after a minute or so of recording, the screen switches off, extending battery life immensely, as the screen is the main culprit when it comes to battery usage. I mean, you aren’t looking at the screen, when you are plummeting to earth at 120 km/h or streaking down a mountain on your bike, or flying around corners in your WRC rally car.
On the inside:
The form following function theme continues when you get to the menu structure of the camera. It is as basic as it gets. Big white text, on a black background is all you get. The menus are really easy to navigate and clear as to what you are setting or changing.
This new Hero 2 adds more options to video shooting. You can shoot at various frame rates at 480p, 720p, 960p and 1080p. And at 720p and 960p, you have options for double frame rates for smooth slow motion.
As stated before, you can change the Field of View to wide, medium or narrow for video and wide or medium for photos.
Another nice new feature is that you can flip the recording mode upside down. Say you end up having to mount the camera looking upside down, it can now actually record the right way around. This again helps with framing more than anything else.
When it comes to the photos, things get a bit weird. You have a choice between 11MP, 8MP and 5MP photos. At 11MP, you can only shoot on the Wide field of view, and at 8MP you can only shoot on the Medium field of view. With 5MP, you can shoot either Wide or Medium. But you can never shoot at the Narrow field of view setting.
You can shoot single photos or use them in a time-lapse function at 0.5, 1, 2, 10, 30, 60 second intervals.
The video produced by the Hero 2 is good, but doesn’t stand up too well to close inspection. This camera relies on motion. Scrutinizing frames, reveals that there is a lot of compression still in shadow areas and that overall the whole frame seems to suffer from compression artefacting.
The Hero 2 is also less contrasty than the original, which gives more scope for grading in Post Production.
The Hero 2’s white balance is better than the original, given a warmer toned picture to work with, yet being accurate most of the time.
The metering also seems very good, but not really better than the original. The adjustments seem to be much smoother and more intuitive than the original Hero. Here is a comparison video between the GoPro Hero 1 and Hero 2.
The main gripe I had with the original Hero was that the video was always a bit noisy (grainy), even when shooting in bright daylight. The Hero 2 addresses this issue and produces much cleaner video than the original. Here’s a video shot with the Hero 2.
The Hero 2 manages up to 11MP photos, but as with the video, when scrutinizing the photos, they seem overly compressed with artefacting everywhere. There also isn’t a lot of detail in the photos, compared to most point and shoot cameras I’ve used the last while. The photos will do well in videos, but won’t stand on their own. The fish-eye effect also gets irritating quite quickly with the photos, which is why I cannot understand why you cannot shoot at the Narrow field of view, to minimize the curvature.
The Hero 2 is a great camera that betters just about every aspect of the original Hero. The only problem is that it doesn’t better it that much. You get a cleaner, sharper video, with different field of view options, and more frame rate options for the videos. I am also a little disappointed that they basically recycled 90% of the original Hero. Where’s the thinking ahead? Surely the original box-shape could not have been perfect?
This is still, and by the looks of it, will be for a while, the de facto action camera today. The video quality and metering is good and GoPro has done their homework as far as marketing goes. It is not perfect by any means, but better than any other action camera out there.
And to see just how professional looking footage with the GoPro Hero 2 can be, have a look at the video below, shot entirely on the GoPro Hero 2.
If you want to rent the camera, you are welcome to do so at Sunshine Digital Company.