A week with the incredible GoPro Hero3

How much fun can you have in five days with GoPro's latest sports camera?

Private jet, sirs? Don't mind if we do...

Older GoPro's were a bit fiddly and hit and miss to use. The need to keep things simple on the camera itself meant you only had a couple of buttons to control everything and that was a recipe for cycling through endless menus.

There was also no view finder as standard, so getting the right shot required experience or the addition of an optional extra. With the Hero3, the combination of Wi-Fi connectivity and a smartphone app means you can use your phone as a viewfinder and also changes settings in a jiffy.

GoPro Hero3 app

Not that you really need to know what you're doing. It's most a case of choosing what resolution and frame rate you want and maybe what orientation the camera is located (ie up or down). And that's about it.

Fiddle-free focus

There's no focus to fiddle with or exposure settings to worry about (well, there is the spot exposure option, but it's hardly complicated). Just hit record and you're good to go.

But for my videos I didn't fiddle with anything apart from resolution and frame rate settings and was rewarded with very consistent results. It's incredibly easy to use.

Probably the most impressive aspect is the way it handles exposures in different lighting scenarios. I joined GoPro for the Winter X Games in Tignes and got lucky with a day on the slopes in stunning sunshine.

As you can see from my video, the Hero3 has no problem with the sun shining directly into the lens. And the sun doesn't get much brighter than when it's shining through thin mountain air.

Film yourself skiiing? Easy peasy

Visiting the Winter X Games also gave us a chance to hook up with some pro snowboarders including Tom Wallish, Bobby Brown, Eric Willett and Sage Kotsenburg. Plastered in GoPros, they hurled themselves down the hill to snag some course previews for the host broadcaster, which gives you an idea of the quality the output. It's good enough for broadcast with little to no polishing.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, I went skiing, drove cars, sauntered across runways, played tennis, the works. For a week I took the Hero3 pretty much everywhere. The Hero3 captured it all in immaculate HD. And I really didn't know what I was doing.

Now for the niggles

If you're wondering whether there must be at least some downsides, the first problem is the direct flip side of the Hero3's mega spec. This thing pumps out immense quantities of ridiculously high bit-rate video.

Just dumping the content on a PC is a phaff when you're cranking out a gigabyte or more of video every five minutes.

That high bit rate makes editing an issue, too. As a tech journalist, I'm lucky enough to have access to some serious encoding kit. I used an eight-core, 16-thread Xeon.


But it still felt like I was spending most of my time sitting around waiting for encodes to finish so that I could check my handy work. And I was only knocking out a three-minute short. Putting out a longer video and doing it on a normal PC must be simply hideous.

Editing options

And the thing is, you'll want to use the highest settings and capture the best video possible. It's what the camera can do and it's a real shame to crush the quality just to make the editing process go a bit quicker.

More generally editing video is a bit of an issue. Apart from the performance issues, if you're not an experienced video editor you find a steep learning curve and some additional cost. You want to buy some decent video editing software.