camcorders

GoPro Hero2 Review

the Hero2 is a fun, reasonably-priced camcorder that should please anyone looking for a wearable adventure-cam.

$299.99 at Amazon
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Introduction

The GoPro HD Hero2 is part of a new class of camcorders that is still searching for a definitive name. Some call them “hands-free” or “mountable”, while others prefer the terms “wearable” or “adventure cam”. The Hero2 is all of those things, and it can record full HD 1080p video or capture 11-megapixel still images with the click of a button.

For just $299 you can get the Hero2 along with its waterproof housing, a variety of mounts, and a few straps that let you wear the camera on a helmet (or surfboard or bike, depending on the package you buy). In this growing market of “wearable” camcorders, GoPro has a few rivals, the main one being Contour and its Contour+ camcorder. You can read our review of the Contour+ here.

Video Review

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Design & Usability

GoPro’s provided mounts and accessories are far easier to use than the one’s offered on Contour camcorders.

Currently, GoPro only sells two camcorders—the HD Hero2 and the original HD Hero. While the Hero camcorder is only available "naked", the Hero2 comes in a variety of different packages that cater to specific shooting situations. There's the Outdoor Edition, which is the package sent to us for review, a Motorsports Edition, and a Surf Edition. Each package comes with a few different mounts and accessories, but all come with GoPro’s waterproof housing.

The Hero2 comes in a variety of different packages that cater to specific shooting situations.

The Hero2 itself is rather bland, with a few ports on both its left and right side, a battery that slips into a compartment on the back, and one button each on the top and front of the camcorder. The small lens, record lamp, and tiny screen also populate the front of the camcorder. It looks like an awkward security camera, but the design feels both light and durable. The Hero2's waterproof casing exudes confidence, and it protected the camcorder quite well in a variety of situations. Most of the mounts and straps were easy to work with, and GoPro's reusable head and helmet straps are very cool—far more functional than peel-and-stick adhesive mounts that can't be moved once you stick them.

Hands-free camcorders are always something of a challenge to get used to. At their very core they are different than traditional camcorders, and the lack of a screen or viewfinder to assist with framing your video is always frustrating. But GoPro did a reasonably good job with the Hero2, and, despite its numerous quirks, it was much easier to work with than the Contour+.

Comparable Products

Before you buy the GoPro HD Hero2, take a look at these other camcorders.

Features

In addition to its variety of accessories, the Hero2 has a surprising number of recording options and features that you can play around with.

All that button pushing made me feel like I was setting a watch or alarm clock, but at least the ability to adjust controls on the fly is an option.

Perhaps my favorite thing about the Hero2 is that, despite being an ultracompact model, the camcorder still has options for changing controls and shooting modes on the fly. You don’t need to use special software or link the camcorder to your smartphone to access the menu system—you can do it all by referencing the tiny screen on the front of the Hero2 and by pressing the camcorder’s two buttons to cycle through menu options. It’s not the simplest system, and all that button pushing made me feel like I was setting a watch or alarm clock, but at least the ability to adjust controls on the fly is an option. Important features include: multiple video resolutions and frame rates, a bundle of still image options, adjustable field-of-view, and the ability to flip the video image upside down (in case the camcorder is mounted upside down).

The Hero2's connectivity options are also noteworthy. In addition to the standard mini HDMI and USB ports, the camcorder also includes a 3.5mm mic jack, and a 2.5mm AV output that can also be used as a headphone jack. The camcorder records to SD-type memory cards and has a proprietary "GoPro" port that allows you to connect specific GoPro accessories to the Hero2 (like a WiFi adapter, extra battery pack, or LCD). Keep in mind, the tiny screen located on the front of the Hero2 cannot help you frame video images. It only acts as a menu and info display source.

Performance

Video performance wasn’t stellar, but the Hero2 did put up similar numbers to the Contour+ in most performance categories.

If all you care about is quality and performance, there are better HD camcorders out there than the GoPro Hero2. But, those camcorders don’t offer the mountable, rugged design that is integral to GoPro’s success. That’s the give and take with hands-free camcorders. They won't give you the best quality, but you can record video that wouldn’t be possible to capture with a traditional camcorder.

Other than the noise issues, the camcorder did well in our tests.

In our tests, the Hero2 showed some significant problems with noise, especially when shooting with the camcorder's narrow field of view setting. Other than the noise issues, though, the camcorder did well in our tests. Colors were deep and accurate, motion looked better than most other ultracompact camcorders we’ve reviewed, and its recorded images were reasonably sharp (although not quite as sharp as the competition). In a direct comparison with the Contour+ hands-free camcorder, we give the Hero2 a slight edge in overall performance.

Conclusion

If you’re interested in camcorders, or even gadgets in general, it’s impossible to ignore the GoPro HD Hero2.

The Hero2 is the best adventure-style camcorder we've worked with so far, and the model was easier to handle and control than its most direct competitor, the Contour+. Realistically, performance plays second fiddle for the Hero2, as the most important feature is its go-anywhere design, which is made possible by GoPro’s waterproof housing and variety of mounts and straps. I had the pleasure of reviewing the Outdoor Edition of the Hero2, meaning I got to play with a vented helmet strap (perfect for hooking to a bike helmet) and a stretchy, adjustable head strap that felt similar to wearing a headlamp. The Surf and Motorbike editions of the Hero2 come with a few different mounts, but the waterproof casing (which can handle a depth of up to 197 feet) is the same for all three editions.

Performance plays second fiddle for the Hero2, as the most important feature is its go-anywhere design.

In all, the GoPro’s mount and strap accessories worked better than what shipped with the Contour+ camcorder. The mounts were easy to use, although there was some noticeable wear on the waterproof housing after a week of intense use. The straps and mounts will also certainly wear down after repeated use, but the versatility of GoPro's mounts were impressive.

With the whole package costing just under $300, the Hero2 is a fun, reasonably-priced camcorder that should please anyone looking for a wearable adventure-cam. The inclusion of the waterproof housing as part of its package is an excellent addition, and the camcorder comes with enough mounts and straps to keep you busy for a while. GoPro has a good set of optional accessories, including an attachable LCD that lets you view and playback your video, available on GoPro's website.

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