The GoPro HERO 2014 is more of an underdog

The new ₹12,400 ($129 in the US) GoPro HERO is an entry-level model that offers most of the features that the GoPro range has been known for, but cuts a few corners to make it affordable. It’s a great price, certainly – I didn’t even think thrice before jumping on to it – but is it the one for you? I think it’s a bit of a cape vs. no cape situation.

heronumber1

Here are my initial impressions.

  • Full HD 1080p video at 30fps (25fps for PAL). That sounds good on paper, but the actual quality is very average. You’re not going to be able to get the kind of stunning shots you’ll find on the GoPro YouTube channel with this one.
  • 5mp normal pictures are just that – very normal quality and nothing to write home about. If you want spectacular photos, you might still have to lug around your DSLR for the finer parts.
  • Slow motion with 2x frame rate – 60fps – but at the cost of the resolution, which gets bumped down to 720p.
  • Time lapse mode, but only with 0.5 second intervals. This can be alleviated by using a separate max 32GB card and then discarding the unneeded interval shots. With two ~2mb shots every second, the HERO filled up around 22GB of the 32GB card in just around three hours. So if you’re thinking of pretty 24-hour timelapses, don’t get the HERO.
  • No WiFi or LCD viewfinder and you can’t even add the add-on BacPacs, so there’s no way to see what your frame looks like while you’re shooting, unless you download a sample in that position. It’s tedious, but it can be dealt with. The positive turn to this is that the angle is extremely wide, so even if you just barely point it in the direction of what you want to capture, you can rest assured that it will be in the frame.
  • The GoPro mobile app is useless for this HERO, because doesn’t have WiFi or Bluetooth or anything. The only workaround (for on-the-go editing) is using an Android tablet with USB OTG, a large enough memory card (which, at this point, is 128GB) and some video editing app.
  • The auto low-light thing is rubbish. Low light videos still turn out pretty grainy and dark, probably because it needs to slow down the frame rate to let in more light, but it can’t do so in a fast action situation. I went for a ride at night on the streets of Mumbai with the HERO in 5 different places (each time) – the only usable shots are the ones where I’m on the main roads with brighter streetlights. Inside lanes? Darkness.
  • I like that it’s still rugged and waterproof, just like the older or even the most expensive current model, but it’s a bit sad that the camera cannot be removed from the housing. If you ever scratch the lens area or – this is the worst – snap one of the mount hinges at the bottom, you’re simply fucked. You have no option but to buy a new camera (unless you just duct tape it and continue to use it). I don’t see how this particular thing works in favor of anyone. Does it really save the cost to glue the housing? I’d actually have preferred it if they sold simply the camera without the housing. This might actually bring the price down from $129 to a far more enticing $99, with an additional $49 for the waterproof housing if you need it.
  • I like that it’s compatible with all the mounts for the entire (recent) HERO range. You can even get plenty of cheaper, third-party mounts from the likes of DX.com. You can even use one of the several thousand custom-designed 3D printable mounts available on Thingiverse!

So, if I were to sum it up, the cheapo ₹12,400 HERO a.k.a. the HERO ZERO is at best a ‘trial version’ to see what kind of angles and shots you can get and if it’s practical to actually do the things you want to. It’s also a good test to see if you can be motivated to get off your lazy ass and actually go out and do something interesting for once. If you’re a little more serious get the HERO 3+ Silver at least.

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