Bruce's Photo Blog
Bruce Foreman | March 2013

Photo News

GoPro Hero2. With the GoPro Hero3 out on the market now some of the Hero2 models are beginning to show up used at attractive prices.   I just picked up a couple at the $150 level.   I've seen the ads, watched sample videos at “point of sale” displays and always thought that at my age I'd never be doing those ski somersaults, cliff jumping, wingsuit flying, surfing, skydiving, or even skateboarding...

...So just what would I need something like the GoPro Hero cameras for?

Then one day I saw one in Ken Grimm's bag. He said something like: “Oh, I'm never without this”.   One use for me would be in a motion picture narrative where I need to show someone driving a vehicle, this thing has a very wide view that makes it possibly work better for this than most other video cameras. I've had to use a 90 degree field of view obtained on a Canon HF100 camcorder with a 0.45X wide angle auxilliary lens in the past and all that was possible was a side view of the driver and closer perspective than I would have liked.

Quick tests I ran with a GoPro Hero 2 showed that if mounted on the inside of the windshield (with a suction cup mount) in front of the passenger seat, I got a much wider view and had a lot more flexibility. If mounted near the rear view mirror, I could actually get both driver and a passenger in the field of view. If mounted with a magnetic mount on the vehicle exterior there are many other possibilities.

Second kind of use, inclement weather.   Even with weather sealed camera and lens combinations like some of the Canons with “L” series lenses, the Olympus OMD E-M5 with certain “weather sealed lenses”, and the Panasonic GH3 with “weather sealed” lenses there is still a certain degree of risk in anything more than a light mist.  While I've seen a video of a guy rinsing his Canon 7D with “L” series lens under a kitchen sink faucet, I've also seen reports of camera or lens failure with supposed “weather sealed” gear from being out in the rain with it.   I have a new GH3 body and an Olympus 12-50mm “weather sealed” lens that should make a “weather sealed” combination but am I going to really risk it?

Well, now I don't have to. With a GoPro Hero2 in a waterproof housing good down to almost 200 feet, I don't see how even a downpour could affect it other than to have to keep wiping the lens port off (how ridiculous this must seem to even be concerned with considering we're still in pretty bad drought condition here!). Just the same if the rains ever return, I'm ready...

(With apologies to Bruce, I'm going to add some of my own observations to his blog about the GoPro camera. Hope you don't mind! It is advised to use "Rain X" on the waterproof housing in wet conditions. In the rain, you can't keep drops off compeltely, but with the Rain X treatment, they run righ toff and aren't distracting from the film. -Ken)

Exposure is completely full auto, there is no “creative” aperture control here, and even if there were the lens focal length is so short widest lens opening would still seem to have “deep” zone of focus. In 1920x1080 resolution you do have 3 field of view options. “Wide” definitely shows some “fisheye” characteristics with unmistakeable curved verticals and horizontals once you get away from the center of the image, and there is characteristic “foreshortening” close up, but the field of view will really help in confined spaces. “Medium” narrows the field of view some with less pronounced curving of vertical and horizontal lines. “Narrow” gets quite a bit away from “fisheye” characteristics and curving of lines, not all the way but enough to where those things won't call immediate attention to themselves and this may be the setting I use most.

There is no viewfinder on this thing, most users go “blind”. In widest setting you mostly just have to “kind of point it” in the general direction and for much of the sports footage you see that's what has been done. But there is an LCD “bacpak” that plugs into the back of the camera that at least allows you to accurately frame what you want and also lets you review what you've shot.

(From Ken - There is a WiFi backpack you can get for the Hero II series - it is built-in on the new Black edition - once you go through a fairly straightforward setup you can now control the camera with a free app from you iPhone or iPad. You can preview the photos, completely control all aspects of the camera settings and it's good for up to 600 feet.

One of the settings is to take photos at regular intervals, allowing for some cool time-lapse photography. The free GoPro Cineform software allows you to make these stills into a video. The Cineform software also allows a wide range of editing and post-processing of stills and video.)