Bikerumor Review: GoPro Hero Wide Angle Video Camera

We’ve had the GoPro Wide HERO wide angle video camera on various trails, roads and rides for a few months.  The video above captures the highlights so you can see how the camera works in different riding conditions, night and day, road and mountain. It’s about 7:27 long, but shows most of the types of riding you’re likely to do with it.  It was edited in iMovie to add the intro, text and music, but the footage was not altered or color corrected in any way.

Overall, the GoPro Wide HERO performed very well and the footage came out pretty clean…good enough to make memories of your rides and show others how crazy fast you are.  We had a few nitpicks, but were generally pleased with it.  Hit ‘more’ to read the full review and see pics and specs…

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WHAT’S IN THE BOX?

GoPro makes a variety of cameras for everything from cycling to surfing to motorsports.  The Wide HERO is their wide-angle lens, which captures a broad 170º field of view.  The “Helmet” kit, which is what we reviewed, comes with the Wide HERO camera, a waterproof housing case, a variety of straps, mounts and clamps and USB/Video cable.  That bundle retails for $189.99.  If you already own a GoPro camera and mounts, you can get the Wide HERO with just the housing and cable for $139.99

GoPro also offers all manner of optional mounts, available separately to suit your intended use.  The camera has 16MB internal memory, but accepts a 2GB SD card (which we used) and can be hacked to accept up to a 4GB SDHC card with a download that’ll be available soon directly from GoPro.

gopro-hero-wide-box

The Wide HERO box was actually a tough nut to crack, which is a good thing for shop’s concerned with security.  It’s a bit big to stuff under a shirt, and there’s no way to get the camera out of the box without enough effort to attract attention.  Plus, the box itself makes a nice display case for the camera.

SPECS:

  • Resolution: 5 megapixel (2592×1944) photo, 512×384 video
  • Sensor: CMOS
  • Video Format: MJPEG, 30 fps, saved as .AVI file
  • Optics: glass lens, f/2.8 aperture, with ultra-wide 170º angle of view
  • Modes: video, standard photo, photo every 2 or 5 secs, 3x photo burst sequence, self timer, upside down photo/video flip
  • Exposure Control: auto
  • White Balance: auto
  • Self Timer: 10 seconds
  • Microphone: built-in with adjustable recording/input level
  • Audio Format: 8kHz, mono
  • Memory: 16 MB internal, expandable to 2GB with SD card (not included), expandable to 4GB with SDHC card (not included) via free software download from GoPro website—available soon
  • Capacity: 56 minutes video (incl. audio) or 1,945 photos with optional 2GB SD card. 1hr 52min video (incl. audio) with optional 4GB SDHC card

ON THE BIKE AND HELMET:

gopro-hero-wide-bike1The mounts that come with the kit make it easy to mount to the handlebar or seatpost, and other thinner tubes on your bike (seat- and chainstays, etc.).  There are also super-sticky tabs that you can adhere to other parts of the frame, but it’s not likely those would come off clean.  For practical purposes, the sticky tabs are probably more intended for motorsports or for sticking to your full-face downhill helmet.

The waterproof housing is solid and keeps moisture out.  The pics above and below show the aftermath of a very wet ride in VA during which we got surprised by two sudden downpours.  The buttons are a bit small for pressing with full finger gloves on, but not impossible.  It does make a beep when it starts and the red light inside the viewfinder flashes to show it’s recording.  If you’re starting the footage from a standstill, it’s easy to be sure it’s running.  If you press the button while riding, just make sure you press it hard since you can’t really see the flashing light from the rear unless your head it at handlebar level.

gopro-hero-wide-bike2

We really only have two minor complaints with the system, and neither involve the video quality, which is really the most important reason why you’d buy this.  The first nitpick is the mounting brackets.  You’ve got to get them really, really, really tight to keep the camera from slipping down or sideways (which you can see during the night ride footage in the video).  Unless you’re Popeye, this means using a screwdriver or pliers to get them tight enough.  Although I didn’t get any scratches on my handlebar, the mount is hard plastic, which could potentially scratch the bars, which may be an issue with carbon if you overtighten them.

The second nitpick is the audio…or lack thereof.  The GoPro HERO has two audio settings, and neither one really picks anything worthwhile up from behind the waterproof housing.  The little dots to the right of the viewfinder in the photo above are the microphone holes, but there are no holes in the housing.  If you were never going to ride in the rain, you could drill out that part of the housing, but to be honest, your videos are going to be much more entertaining set to some music anyway.

gopro-hero-wide-helmet

The helmet mount, however, is darn near perfect.  It has two independent straps on either side that loop into the clasps and tighten down, easily making it the snuggest bracket I’ve ever strapped to my helmet.  Bike light manufacturers could learn a thing or two from this design because a) it doesn’t rely on Velcro that gets stuck to the helmet pads; and b) it will work with any helmet design regardless of size or placement of vents.

Because there’s only one pivot, and because your spine and neck cushion a good bit of the bumps, you can hand tighten this mount and adequately keep the cam in place while still being able to make micro adjustments.   We thought the footage was much smoother when filmed from the helmet, but the point-of-view (in our opinion) was better from the handlebar. The only tough part about mounting it to the helmet is guessing at the right angle.  You can have a friend eyeball it while you’re tooling around at the trailhead, which generally gets it in the right range.

gopro-hero-wide-weight

At 185g with the clip, helmet mount, batteries and SD card, it’s reasonably light.  During a 90+ minute ride, it never seemed to weigh down my head.  If your helmet is reasonably snug, it stays in place well.  If you’re used to night riding with a helmet light, the experience isn’t much different.

PERFORMANCE:

The Wide HERO squeezes 170º of viewing into standard 4:3 (normal TV) dimensions.  It does this by keeping the center of the frame normal while compressing the sides, giving the edges of the image a fish-eye effect.  When watching moving footage of a ride, it’s really not noticeable…it actually makes it look like you’re going a little faster.  It’s certainly not a distraction like we originally thought it might be, and the extended visual range made the video seem a little more expansive then it really was.  It would be nice to have the video shot in Widescreen (16:9), though.

The video at the start of this review shows the quality of the footage.  Hi-Def it ain’t, but for filming your escapades to show friends a new trail or trick, it’s perfectly adequate.  I tested it on the road to see if it could capture license plates, which would make it useful for filing complaints against drivers that harass or buzz you, but the video wasn’t clear enough for that.

However, the Wide HERO camera also takes 5MP still photos, which do come out pretty sharp.  You can set it to automatically take photos every 2- or 5 seconds, or just whenever you hit the shutter.  Here are a few pics we took with the camera to test the quality (click to enlarge):

gopro-hero-wide-photo1 gopro-hero-wide-photo2gopro-hero-wide-photo3

These were taken at the Five Boroughs Ride in NYC earlier this year.  On some of the other photos from this bunch taken while riding past stopped and moving cars, license plates are clear enough to make out most or all of the characters.  So, if you’re just looking for a little justice, set it to photo mode and let it auto snap for the duration of the ride.

The camera runs on two AAA batteries, which last for a decently long time if you remember to take them out when not in use.

BIKERUMOR RATING:

Overall, the GoPro Wide HERO camera was easy to use, worked well and captured good video and pics.  Despite minor complaints about the mounting brackets for the handlebar and subpar audio, there’s really nothing not to like about it.  We’d recommend it highly, and it’s a bargain compared to some other sports/helmet cams on the market.  There are other options with more features and higher quality video, but the prices jump more than tw0-fold.  For general cycling antics, the Wide HERO is a great camera, and the wide-angle lens helps add to the visual experience without distracting from the central image.  A couple of our friends use this same model for motocross and love it, and we think you’ll love it, too.  We give it 4.5 Thumbs Up!

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Comments

Ronnie Conklin - 08/18/09 - 12:33pm

Gopro looks very practical, don’t know about the case though. I’d rather it be waterproof without it. Tachyon xc has a very similar model but takes up to 32GB and completely waterproof.

Jimmy campbell - 08/20/09 - 2:13pm

Yea, the Tachyon XC is a much better product. I’ve used both cameras and haven’t had any issues with the Tachyon

Greg Bednarczuk - 09/09/09 - 1:30pm

The Techyon only has a 90 degree field of vision compared to the GoPro Hero Wide of 170 degrees! HUGE difference.

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Pol - 11/02/10 - 12:05pm

Does anyone know of any other camcorder with similar size, waterproof, HD, but with a normal (not wide-angle) lens?

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