I know, I know.
If you have even heard of it, you know it is the camera that mad and stupid people strap to their heads when they throw themselves out of aeroplanes or glide through impossibly curly waves, yes?
Well, yes. And no.
It IS that thing, yes, absolutely.
But.. it’s not ONLY that thing.
As regular readers will know, a month or so ago we were picked along with just a handful of other bloggers to complete the #GoProAdventures challenges, in order to find GoPro’s most adventurous family (and, just as an aside, to win a trip to Colorado to see the X games. Oh yes *cue teen-boy whoooping*).
When it arrived we set to, and over the course of a couple of weeks our lives revolved around this little box of gadgetry. And there’s not many things that will engage and interest every single member of a family of six.
We have jumped off cliffs with it, we have been surfing with it (well, we ended up on Stand Up Paddleboards as there WAS no surf to surf), it has been on rollercoasters and sickeningly gyrating fairground rides. It has been thrown, it has been up trees, it has been in the sea, strapped to a kayak oar (don’t do that, by the way. The resulting film is sick-makingly whooshy)… it has gone everywhere. It even managed to record something pretty out of me hosing dog vomit out of a rug (there’s not much more mundane in life that that, now, is there?).
And that’s the point, really. This little camera fits in the palm of your hand, is practically indestructible, and is probably one of the best pieces of kit we’ve ever owned as a family.
It’s unbelievably clever – and yet it is the pure, sheer simplicity of it that is so perfect. It’s genuinely hard not to love it.
So, having had plenty of time to test it, here’s what we really think. And I do mean ‘we’. This review has been added to and edited by all six of us – the GoPro has been a truly family experience. Which is wonderful, of course, but makes writing the review impossible to accomplish – I may have got cross and just told everyone to go away and leave me to it…
The GoPro camera that we were sent was the “Hero3+ Black Edition”. *NB – here’s the dull technical bit*
It films up to 4K resolution (No.1 teen says that I need to tell you that “this is INSANE”. So consider yourself told), and it films with GoPro’s unique SuperView™ lens. Which means it has a ridiculously wide angle which allowed even a selfie taken from just arms reach to capture all six of our family!
The Auto Low Light mode is great – we noticed the first time we took it out that it handled the light changes in a sunlit forest with ease; we didn’t get the black-blacks and then the blinding blown highlights as it attempted to adjust to the tricky changes. It was so good that we left it on constantly – we’ll probably investigate it further at a later stage when we’re trying to get clever with the photography.
And of course it’s waterproof for all those splashy action shots – for up to 40 metres (*cough* No.1 says to say “That is a Crazy depth!”). So this thing can’t be drowned, and with its protective case on it can’t be dropped and smashed. And now we start to see why it started out in the extreme sports range.
The thing is that the GoPro is kind of like a monumentally brilliant video cameras little baby brother.
It has the same genetics, but it hasn’t grown the shoulders and muscles and beard yet. So it has an amazing lens, brilliant processor, and excellent abilities. It stays so sturdy and small by leaving out anything extraneous. There is no viewscreen on the back so you can see what you are filming. There aren’t a million different capture options, or filters, or sharing abilities, or… anything. Just a really. good. camera.
So of course they are ideal at being strapped to Surfboards, motorbikes, Skateboards, Bungee Jumpers, Sky Divers etc.
But we just aren’t that extreme a family (*cough* some of us might aspire to be a little more extreme than others), certainly no more than any other average active family is. So really – what relevance does the GoPro have for us?
Well, take a look at our highlights, and judge for yourselves. Yes it shows us jumping off a cliff, and hanging in the tree tops. but it also shows a simply family bike ride in the forest. And the rain on the garden furniture. And me hosing up the dog’s stomach bug (yes, I know, that’s a bit gruesome, but you can’t actually see that bit , you can just see the super-pretty patterns the water was making, I promise). The very best thing about the camera is that once it’s mounted to something (whether that is your chest, head, bike, Kayak or car ) it’s hands free. You just get on with your adventures, and the GoPro gets on with capturing it perfectly. Just imagine – no more juggling one-handed activities whilst the other hand holds the camera/phone up – ready to be dropped into the water (or out of the tree/into the sand/under the car) and get drowned.
And photography is no longer the province of the big members of the family who can handle a camera. Some of our best footage was taken by the 7yr old and the dog. Not only is it great, but it’s just brilliant see the world as they do. It’s addictive. And records some utterly irreplaceable moments.
In keeping with the rest of the camera, the interface of the camera is as pared down and simple as possible – only two buttons needed to control all the menu screens on the tiny old-school LCD display.
And they’re not all about the video either – some of our favourite footage was caught when we set it to the timelapse mode, and just forgot about it. And as a stills camera it’s still great, recording deep and beautiful HD images with that wide wide lens.
The Hero3+ Black edition also comes with a very handy little extra – the Wifi option. This is used purely with the free GoPro app, connecting your tablet or smartphone with the wifi. And hey presto, clever magickery occurs.
Your phone can now see the live stream from the camera, you can operate the camera remotely, you can even take images and video on the GoPro – and share them from your phone! So the functions you’re likely to miss on the GoPro you can get right back by connecting to your phone for just those few times you might want them (though using this option does suck up the battery juice, so use it sparingly would be our advice).
Luckily, GoPro didn’t stop there though. Having given you the addictive ability to record EVERYTHING (and be entranced with the results), you’re now facing copious amounts of footage, pictures and such – what now? GoPro has an answer to that too! On their site, you can download a free GoPro video editor (every single video we have made of our #GoProAdventures was created using that editor). The video editor has a very clear interface – very friendly to the vast majority of us who are not used to editing videos. It also comes with some handy pre-sets for your videos, so all you need to do is drag and drop your clips into the programme! It is quite basic as video editing software goes – but that makes it perfect for anybody to just pick up and use, and is in total keeping with their only-what-you-need ethos. It can feel a bit cumbersome if you are used to editing with professional software, but this software is free – so there isn’t much comparison.
The one thing I do advise you is to make sure you have plenty of hard drive space – the raw video files themselves are quite large, and the software converts them to a different format when you load them, so you have a copy of each file but in different formats. If you are editing bulk loads, it can fill a lot of space (490GB in my case…).
The mounts and harnesses are not cheap, so we suggest you choose widely. We had a whole range sent to us, but ended up using just a few. The two which saw us through most situations were:
~ the Jaws Flex Clamp was just astounding – staying rock solid on the roof bars at 60mph, and on the side of the kayak.
~ the chesty – we pretty much only used the adult one, shortening the straps made it okay for the 7yr old (and the dog), though the junior one was a more snug fit only taking one with us was more practical. #lazy
While we were rock climbing we had no helmet mount – we rather reluctantly used the adhesive mount, thinking it would work, but would stay on the helmet forever. We were actually able to remove it from one helmet, and place it on another to get two different perspectives. I’m not sure how often you could do this, but as a one-off desperate measure it really worked for us!
So, would we buy one?
In fact, we most certainly will buy another – the one down side is it’s addictively entertaining and ambitious-making; you find yourself thinking that actually you really *need* two to catch things from different angles.
The best thing about the GoPro is simply its ability to work where cameras wouldn’t normally. To keep on recording when you’re just BUSY – whether you’re busy hurling yourself through a river, doing the washing up or watching a moonrise, it will create footage which looks… amazing. And it seems to fire up your creativity – we have several plans for exciting new film projects, the children are creating their own movies and rather than just recording themselves acting the script they have written they are now thinking about camera angles and directing the film footage with a far more artistic flair. we LOVE that this tiny little box of cleverness has done that.
Every single member of our family wore it, and nobody struggled with it, not even the 7 year old (or even the dog!). Because it’s so tough you don’t mind the children just taking it and seeing what they can do – and the results are often remarkable. We ’d like to thank GoPro for the fantastic adventures it pushed us into; we will never forget them. Especially as we have it all recorded from all perspectives!
And most precious of all, we are constantly seeing small glimpses into our children’s lives that we as parents would never ever get to see – and that is simply priceless.
We love this camera, and we promise you will too. Even if you have no intention of jumping off a bridge attached to a bit of elastic in the near future.
You can see all of our GoPro Adventures on our YouTube playlist – there were far too many for just one highlights video :)
The GoPro Hero 3+ is available for £360 from GoPro – though other retailers often have deals on, so do shop around.