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Wednesday, 15 August 2012 09:50

The GoPro HD HERO2 Camera

Written by  David Hurd
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When my GoPro HD HERO2 camera first arrived, I was pretty excited. I had been watching the company improve their products for the last few years, and now I was going to have a chance to test their latest creation.

Just in case you’re not familiar with this product, GoPro cameras are tiny, stainless-steel boxes enclosed in a tough waterproof housing. They are wearable, gear-mountable, waterproof cameras capable of capturing professional full 170-degree, wide-angle, 1080p video and 11-megapixel photos at a rate of 10 photos per second. The HERO2’s main function is to serve as an inexpensive camera for shots that are too dangerous or in too tight of a spot for your main camera. For this reason, it’s very popular with professional athletes, sports filmmakers and anyone in need of some very cool-looking B-roll. The HD HERO2 Outdoor Edition model is the most advanced GoPro camera yet, and it comes with some very useful mounting accessories. Included are mounting accessories (that you’ll most likely use during outdoor sports, like biking, skiing, skating, or kayaking) and other accessories available via links on the GoPro Website.

I tested the GoPro HD HERO2 camera, which came with a waterproof housing that’s good to the depth of 197 feet. I tried it out in a swimming pool and instantly realized its potential for all kinds of projects. For fishing shows, it would be an inexpensive way to have a camera underwater. It would also allow for cool camera angles by shooting from underwater up at the actor. This could be a reverse shot of an actor looking at his reflection in the water or a Navy SEAL’s view of an enemy on a boat or dock. The cool thing is that the GoPro is so inexpensive that these extra shots take little time to set up — and cost you almost nothing. You can also fly the camera! A filmmaker friend attaches his GoPro camera to a toy helicopter to get quick establishing shots from the air. He claims that it’s faster than using a crane and, since the shot is only used for a few seconds, he’s able to cut in the footage to match his larger cameras.

Another accessory is the HD Skeleton Backdoor, which is used when mounting the camera to an automobile at speeds of less than 100 mph. While not waterproof, the slots on the camera’s back allow it to pick up a better audio signal. The Vented Helmet Strap and Head Strap are great ways to mount the GoPro on your forehead for hands-free shooting, like when climbing up a ladder or crawling across the floor. The two Curved-Surface Adhesive Mounts and two Flat-Surface Adhesive Mounts are great for easy mounting to handlebars or other surfaces, and the Three-Way Pivot Arm and Assorted Mounting Hardware complete the Outdoor Edition mounting kit.

A rechargeable Li-ion battery and USB cable are also included with the camera. The USB cable allows you to transfer data to your computer as well as charge your camera. The only thing not included is an SD card, so you may want to order one along with your GoPro. It can take SDHC memory cards up to 32GB, and they need to be at least class 4 (class 10 is needed for the Burst mode). You can expect four hours of 1080p30 or six hours of 720p30 on a 32GB card.

The camera’s new 2X Sharper Professional Glass Lens is an f/2.8 fixed focus, so there’s no need to worry about focusing while concentrating on the action. There’s a 90-degree narrow FOV available in the lower resolutions, a 127-degree medium FOV and a 170-degree, wide-angle in the 1080p mode. Since I normally shoot with a Sony FS100 camera, I prefer to use the1080p/1920×1080/30FPS preset on the GoPro. The other high-definition presets are 960p/1280×960/48FPS or 30FPS and 720p/1280×720/60FPS or 30FPS. The standard definition preset is WVGA/848×480/120FPS or 60FPS.

The GoPro’s high-performance CMOS image sensor is a little over a ½-inch wide with a light sensitivity of .84 V/lux-sec, which, along with the automatic white balance, seems to do a decent job in most lighting situations. I used it while indoors, outdoors and underwater, and I found it incredible that a $300 camera could get such great-looking footage. Most of you probably won’t be using this camera for still pictures — but if you do, here are the specs. You have your choice of 11MP, 8MP and 5MP resolutions at medium and wide 127/170-degree FOV. Amazingly, with a class 10 SD card, you can shoot a single 10-photo burst, a time-lapsed photo every .5 seconds, or even shoot yourself using the self-timer. The camera’s audio is actually better than you would expect. Although there’s a stereo external microphone input (3.5mm), audio is recorded as mono 48 kHz with AAC compression, using auto gain control. For B-roll types of sound, it’s fine.

How do you edit GoPro footage? The USB cable is included for charging and data transfer. The nice thing is that the battery can be charging while you transfer data. The HD HERO2 records an H.264 file in the .mp4 file format, which will work with Microsoft Windows Vista, 7 and later systems and Apple Mac OS X 10.5 and later systems. After shooting my tests, I loaded up the footage in Final Cut Pro X by selecting the Camera icon. FCP seemed to like the footage fine, but it seemed a little slow after adding a couple of effects. In Adobe Premiere Pro CS6, the files were right there in the Media Browser. And since I had set up the project and sequence to use a bigger codec, Red Giant Looks and Boris FX Final Effects Complete Light Rays, it looked great — and it was actually faster and more solid in CS6 than FCPX.

The GoPro HD HERO2 is just an amazing little camera. It’s also inexpensive, very usable and really fun to use.

MSRP: $300


My review system is a Mac Pro 2.93GHz, 12-core, 24GB RAM, running on Snow Leopard and Lion OSX. I use an ATTO R680 card in RAID 5 to control 16 Seagate SAS drives in two Ci Design cases. The NVIDIA Quadro 4000 card powers an EIZO ColorEdge CG243W and a 2s2 24-inch monitor, both of which are mounted on Monitors in Motion stands. Connected to a Blackmagic Design DeckLink HD card is a TVLogic LVM-170W monitor for video reference. Data backups are done on a G-SPEED Q RAID and Thermaltake BlacX Duet 5G. The Avid Artist Color panel is used to control various software, such as the DaVinci Resolve.

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