GoPro Hero Camcorder Review
This low-cost Hero is an affordable action cam that won't easily break—or break the bank.
By the Numbers
GoPro is always setting the bar higher and higher in the action cam arena. However, not everyone's willing to drop three hundred dollars or more on an action camera. With the new $129.99 GoPro Hero, buyers in this part of the market can get the GoPro name without paying for the GoPro price.
But what does a price cut like that entail? A lower-quality sensor, reduced features, and an integrated battery. It's not as full-fledged as the top-tier GoPro Hero 4 Black, but the this Hero can still get the job done—which you can see in our lab results below.
Sharpness is something that GoPro has improved vastly with the new Hero4 Black edition, but the Hero is simply nowhere near that level. This isn't surprising as it is about 1/4 the price of the Black edition, but the Hero is closer to a $200 point-and-shoot than a $400 camcorder.
In our tests we recorded 475 LPPH horizontally and 500 LPPH vertically while shooting 1080p at 30 fps in bright light. This is average at best, but we must say again, the camera is only $130. While the image isn't as sharp as the Hero4 cameras it was released with, it is good for the price.
Smaller sensor cameras will always fail to handle low-light conditions when compared to large sensor cameras. It is simple physics that—all else being equal—the larger the sensor, the larger the pixel sites, the more light that is collected at a time. That doesn't mean small sensors can't perform well in low-light, though, as we saw great low-light sensitivity out of last years Hero3+ Black.
That said, the Hero just doesn't live up to its latest siblings. It took 8 lux of light for the Hero to produce a usably bright image, and even that was of very low quality. Furthermore, the Hero is at a distinct disadvantage compared to the Silver and Black Hero4 cameras because it does not have ProTune capabilities–allowing users to control ISO and quality to a higher degree in post-production.
The Hero doesn't offer a ton of options for high fps shooting like its brethren, but it does allow for 720/60p recording, which is your best bet for action shots. The 1080p mode maxes out at 30 fps, which is good for normal motion, but that won't allow you to slow down playback very much.
When we did shoot 1080/30p we saw generally smooth video with minor evidence of trailing and artifacting while shooting on our test setup. In real world applications we'd recommend using 60p for capturing precise action, however. It won't be as detailed, but you can slow that down to 24 fps on playback for a better look at whatever you shot.
Battery is always a downfall for GoPro cameras; like sensors, smaller batteries just can't cut it like bigger packs can. But the fact that the Hero is mostly featureless gives it a huge boost in battery life. We recorded 1080p at 30 fps for 3 hours straight on a single charge.
That's much longer than your typical GoPro these days. It may come at the cost of WiFi, improved processing, and a more detailed sensor, but at least the Hero doesn't give out easily.
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