GoPro Hero 3

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Tonight GoPro released the specs for its HD Hero 3 which introduces 4K imaging to the tiny, wearable camera. (Note: The camera shoots 4K at a max of 12-15fps [depending on the aspect ratio selected], and 2.7K at 30 fps [the bump in resolution will help nicely for stabilization].)

One of the things I’d like to mention about GoPro in general is how they have fundamentally changed the public’s relationship with cameras.  Prior to this little camera appearing on the market, I remember a time where people were usually more focused on how to properly use a camera – or more to the point on how to figure out the manual and settings.    While the overly simplified initial LCD menus of the GoPro could in themselves be a bit of a juggernaut in their own right, what I’ve seen happen is something that I think is very much worth noting:    

Other than the smartphone, and notably the iPhone,  I’m not sure any single camera in the past decade has had more of an impact on how the average user interacts with their cameras.   The trick?   Well it’s actually a series of very important things packaged together just right…

First the experience:  Basically: point or mount then hit record or the shutter button, most users have chosen to focus more on their experiences, then the PROCESS of making an image or a video.   And I think that’s genius.  

There will always be a need and room for craft, lens selection, exposure decisions, shooting angle, camera movement etc. AND NECESSARILY SO!   But for most of th public out there (and many pros!), the GoPro is the perfect introduction to the value of simply capturing a moment – AND ENJOYING THE MOMENT rather than being stressed about framing, sharpness, focus distance etc.  let alone worrying about damaging the camera or having it stolen…

Then there’s the rest of the genius:  incredibly affordable (if you lose/break it – you may cry, but not as much as if you lost a 5D MKII with a 24~70mm 2.8…)   Size – so small you can wear one, two or even ten of them on your body.   In some ways I think GoPro introduced the concept of coverage or multi-cam to many average people – without them ever even knowing about it.   And lastly – the waterproof housing and mounts.    Go Scuba diving, kayaking, jump out of a plane, mount in on your car hood, motorcycle or bicycle helmet – we’ve all seen it done.

Until the release of the GoPro Hero (1) – the prosumer end of the market had products that were riddled with numerous buttons, menu settings, and technical jargon that average person was simply not familiar with – and it frankly stood in the way of many people getting into it…   The GoPro simplified all of that and has also become a standard tool on a huge number of top television shows and productions around the world.   Nothing about this camera impedes the user from experiencing something, and it allows them to capture the entire experience so they can revisit it later or share it with friends.

So in some ways, this is the most groundbreaking camera technology to come out in recent years, and that is likely all too often overlooked.  It is suited and built for an age where everyone is recording everything all the time and wants to effortlessly share it with others – not necessarily share an image with a note on their lens choice…   

Now the GoPro has released the third generation of its Hero camera – and the specs are pretty impressive.  The new camera has undergone a redesign which is 30% smaller and 25% lighter than its predecessor.  Once again, they have improved the sharpness of the lens, and claim to have doubled the low light performance (with the black edition model), as well as improved the sound recording so that it captures more "natural" audio (for things such as conversations), while still having a built in limiter that stifles wind noise at high speeds.  On top of that the camera has WiFi built in as a standard.  

There are three versions of the camera – White, Silver, and Black – which all include the improvements listed above.  In terms of frame rates and resolution, the White ($199) and Silver ($299) versions, are similar to the specs on the Hero and Hero 2, respectively.  The top end version of this camera is the Black Edition – which has a MSRP of $399 and boasts the following resolutions and frame rates: 4K @ 15fps; 2.7K @ 24, 25, 30fps; 1080p @ 60, 50, 48, 30, 25, 24fps; 720p @ 120, 100, 60, 50fps.  So not only is this camera capable of 4K imaging, it is also capable of 2.5x slow motion in full HD.  This version also comes with a wifi remote that can control the camera.  The WiFi also enables you to stream images to your mobile devices (Apple currently supported, Android coming soon) and after using the WIFI on a shoot just this past week I can state:  once you use it on your iPhone/iPad:  you’ll NEVER GO BACK… (do keep in mind there is a 3-6 or so second delay between what you are shooting and when you see it on your device.)   Also note: GoPro recently announced Protune feature – which is a firmware update for the Hero2 and included in the Hero3 – that allows for 24p, a neutral color profile,  and a 35Mbps data rate (vs the previous rate in the teens) which means you will get a much cleaner image (a lot less compression artifacting.)

Check out the below video to see how I have used my GoPro’s over the past few months (I keep them on me on almost all of my shoots).   While I’ve definitely used them on commercials (see below)  and numerous shoots – I love these because I can mount a few in several locations and then let them roll – or "fire and forget" as I like to refer to it – and just focus on the actual activity I’m shooting or experiencing.  

I Can’t wait to get one of the Hero 3s to go out and shoot with (I did get to play with one tonight in San Francisco.)

 Below is a Mountain Dew commercial I shot – you’ll notice the GoPro was mounted to the bottles for several of the shots.