Thursday, February 24, 2011

Go Pro product review

About once a month or so I get a question about what camera do I use when filming outdoors, mostly on the bike. This week alone I was asked about it by 3 separate people two of whom are thinking seriously about making the purchase. Not everyone I talk to realized which camera I use. I decided maybe it's time for me to do a product review on the Go Pro, my camera of choice. I've only done one or two product reviews before and I tend to steer clear of them mainly because I don't enjoy getting all technical about things especially when I don't feel 100% confident that I know what I'm talking about. I don't know much about the mechanics of bikes, I can't describe why I like the way a bike rides, I can't talk about the different types of tire treads and I sure as heck can't tell you the pros and cons of suspension designs. So that's why I tend to steer clear of this subject.
I do know a little about the Go Pro cameras, mainly from trial and error in the 2+ years I've owned one. Actually I'm on my 3rd camera, I guess you could say I'm rough on them. Don't get me wrong they are tough little cameras but I really use them, in all conditions. I tear up our normal point and shoot cameras on almost a yearly basis.

So with that said here's what I know, like and dislike about the Go Pro.

First off I will start off with what I own. I don't have the HD version, mine is the standard wide lens version that uses 2 AAA batteries. I love the wide angle lens as it allows me to mount the camera in various positions where determining if the view will work or not isn't always an option. With the wide lens you almost always have a good shot because the lens can capture so much more area. I wish mine had the rechargeable Lithium Ion battery pack but having extra AAA's in my pocket on longer rides has been a plus on several occasions. I bought the energizer NiMH batteries with a charger from Wal-Mart and they work pretty good but tend to fade faster in the cold temps. I'm satisfied with the non HD version as I think about it this way. The HD version costs almost double the price for a little bit crisper image. I will probably buy an HD version sooner or later but I'll wait till the price drops a bit. I have 3 flat screen 1080 dpi TV's in my house but I refuse to pay the extra $10 per TV just so I can watch in HD. Call me crazy but I just don't feel it's worth the extra dough.

Ok back to the Go Pro cameras, what I will spend my $$$ on is accessories, I have almost all of them and I've even started browsing Go Pro user forums looking for ideas on how to make homemade mounts. The unlimited mounting positions of the Go Pro is what I really like about the camera. Why limit just mounting it to your helmet?

My camera came with several mounts when I bought it.

The headstrap which basically just goes on your head but for non-helmet activities. This one probably sees the least use. I'm trying to think of other activities to use it for but I'm having a hard time staying off the bike.

These mounts are basically adhesive mounts, some are curved, some are flat. I've really only used a couple. I've got one on my kayak and one on my truck. I should really use them more but I tend to forget about them.

This little guy is the helmet strap, it works really well and gives a cool perspective on the trail but like tools in my jersey pocket the extra weight on my head bugs me. I do have a new idea for this guy but I've yet to test it out but I will soon I promise.

This mount was the first one I bought that didn't come with my camera. It will mount to all kinds of stuff, handlebars, seatposts, chainstays with a little help, rigid forks, the roof racks on my truck etc. I've used this one a ton and I'm actually kinda burned out on it but it does work well. One note I did have to add a washer as a spacer to the mounting screw that attaches it to the camera to get it a little extra tight. The camera would not always stay in place when the trail turned rough.

This mount, the chest harness is probably one of my favorites. The point of view is awesome as long as you wear it tight and keep it positioned high on your chest. From this point of view you can see the trail, bike and rider movements. I've even mounted it backwards to film the rider behind me. The only bad part about this was I had to have someone else turn it off and on.

This mount will probably be my next purchase. It's very similar in design to the handlebar mount but in a much larger scale. The handle bar mount is limited in how big of diameter of object you can mount it too. This mount would allow me to put it on the downtube of my frame and who knows where else.

There are a ton of different things I could tell you about this camera that I like. It's tough, it's small, it's waterproof and it's simple to turn off and on when mounted to your helmet. I could go on and on but I did say I would tell you my dislikes as well. Other than the spacer I had to add to the attachment screw there is really only one other thing I can think of. The one bad fault I've found with the Go Pro is that they tend to lock up on occasion. The only way to remedy this is to remove the batteries and reboot the camera. My first one did this from time to time and finally quit working all together. It was over a year old and out of warranty but I talked to Go Pro and they hooked me up with a 20% off coupon on another. My second cam started doing the same thing within a couple of months and I sent it back, Go Pro sent me another free of charge within a week. I've had this camera for a few months now and it just started locking up on me again. I've yet to contact Go Pro about the issue and I may do so but I think I've figured out what is causing the problem. I think as the batteries start to fade or get old this is what causes the problem. My trip to Iron Mountain I began experiencing this problem after about 2 hours, I swapped out the batteries and the problem went away. I'm not 100% sure that was the cause but I'm hopeful. Even though this has been an issue Go Pro has excellent customer service. A year ago I snapped a mounting bracket off the waterproof housing during a race and Go Pro sent me a new one, no questions asked.

As far as software to edit my videos, I've been using the free version of MS movie maker that came with my computer. No fancy editing software is necessary but then again I'm no pro when it comes to making movies.

Oh wait I do have one other complaint, probably my biggest gripe of all but it's not with Go Pro, it's with my fellow Go Pro users who I know several. I can count at least 10 people I know personally that own Go Pro cameras some even have the HD version and other than Alan I have not ever seen one single video. This I don't understand, why buy a camera especially an HD camera if you never put it into video form and share. I've been told that I have set the bar too high but I call BS on that. I've seen a ton of videos online that make mine look like a chump. Looking back over my first videos they lacked sound (music), creativity and editing. Over time I learned what looked cool and what doesn't, it takes practice. I'm currently trying to learn that the longer the video is not always the better. Short and sweet Greg, short and sweet.

I hope that this was not too boring and maybe halfway informative for those who are thinking about taking the plunge. For those who could care less you've probably already stopped reading and moved on to something more entertaining, sorry.

If you've not seen them all my videos are posted to the right of my blog enjoy!

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