The original GoPro Hero action sports camera was a boon to professional film makers and weekend warriors alike when it launched. From bike movies, to ski movies to television series', the GoPro Hero has been a mainstay in the POV camera domain since it launched. Recently, GoPro launched the HD Hero 2; dubbed as the "world's most versatile HD camera
". At first glance, the HD Hero 2 looks much the same as the original Hero. Same boxy form factor, same waterproof case, same mounting system. That is where the similarities end. Let's address the actual changes, some of which are apparent upon further inspection, and some of which aren't. The HD Hero 2 ships in three different kits, depending on your needs. The Surf Edition, the Outdoor Edition, and the Motorsports Edition. All three are priced at $299 USD, with other accessories available for purchase.
|The HD Hero 2 mounted on the Motorsports' kit suction cup mount. You can see the new LCD menu, which is now actually decipherable and includes words.|
GoPro HD Hero 2 Outdoor Edition details:
- 11MP sensor
- Full 170 deg, medium 127 deg, narrow 90 deg FOV in 1080p
- 120 fps WVGA, 60 fps 720p, 48 fps 960p, 30 fps 1080p video
- Full 170 deg and Medium 127 deg FOV Photos
- 1 11MP photo every 0.5 Sec timelapse mode
- 3.5mm external stereo microphone input
- Waterproof Housing (197' / 60m)
- HD Skeleton Backdoor
- Rechargeable Li-ion battery
- Includes helmet strap, head strap, two curved surface mounts, two flat surface mounts, three-way pivot arm, other assorted mounts
- MSRP $299.99 USD
The first thing you will notice when you turn on the new HD Hero 2, is a fully revamped menu system and LCD. It actually makes sense now and isn't a load of cryptic jargon with numbers and random letters. The menu is much more descriptive and user friendly. Great job by GoPro of getting a ton of information onto a tiny little screen. The new camera packs a lot of power into a small plastic box, especially when it comes to still images (the main reason I wanted the HD Hero 2
). You now get 11mp images when in photo mode, meaning they are now potentially useable as commercial print images. This is a huge. Megapixel count isn't everything, but you do need a bare minimum of them to at least fill the page at 300 DPI, which the HD Hero 2 now delivers. The new image processor is twice as fast as the original Hero, meaning images write to the card much faster, allowing faster burst still shots, and higher resolution slow-mo video. You can now fire off 11MP still images every half of a second until your card is full.
|The GoPro Chesty mount is a MTB favorite.|
The glass lens is billed as "twice as sharp
" as the older model. Of course, not being a physicist this is impossible to quantify, but the still images as well as video that the HD Hero 2 produces are indeed much sharper, although this could be in large part due to the new image sensor as well. If you're a video shooter, you'll be happy to know that there is now a 3.5mm microphone input jack. This is a great addition which will lead to much better audio. Low light performance is still lacking, however, although noticeably better than the original Hero. Finally, a small but important change, is the addition of three more status lights. No matter where your camera is mounted, you can now check to see if you are rolling or not without repositioning your shot.
|Each GoPro HD Hero 2 ships with a wide variety of sticky mounts.|
The Outdoor Edition features the helmet and head strap, the Motorsports Edition (what PB was sent
) features my personal favorite suction cup mount, and the Surf Edition features a floaty and surfboard specific mounts. In addition, each kit includes a variety of curved and flat sticky mounts, and angle adapters. One option not included in any kit is the Chesty, probably the most used mount in mountain biking at the moment, as it allows you to see the bars and get a bit of perspective.Performance
So now that the laundry list of changes has been taken care of, how well does this $300 wonder perform? Well in a word, fantastic. The video is better than the original Hero in both contrast and color, due to a combination of the new lens and new processor. It offers frame rates up to 120fps in WVGA, 60fps in 720p and 30 fps in full HD 1080p. The iris seems to adjust much faster in changing light conditions, and video looks great, even in extremely low light. The HD Hero 2 is broadcast quality POV video for $299, not a bad deal at all. Just ask the crew at Mythbusters who use them extensively on their Discovery Channel program. The high frame-rate footage definitely looks better on the HD Hero 2, with less noise and the dreaded "Jello" look you sometimes get.Cedric Gracia testing out Pinkbike's new HD Hero 2 high above Valparaiso, Chile
Where the HD Hero 2 really outshines the original Hero, however, is in its versatility for shooting still images. If you wanted sweet, useable POV images before, you needed to somehow mount an expensive DSLR in some sort of a chest harness and hope your rider didn't crash on it. No longer. As mentioned, you now have an 11mp image to work with, which opens up a lot of doors. Couple that with the fact that the HD Hero 2 can shoot either a 10 frame burst (in under a second
) or fire an image every half of a second and you are golden. The only downside to an image every half second is a lot of files to sort through when you get back to the bottom. The Wifi Bacpac system will ship soon, so complete wireless control of the system will be available. This means you can wait until that perfect moment to get on the shutter button.
|Doing some serious product testing at a hair over 10,500 feet behind Chris Van Dine and Mikey Haderer. Decent overcast light, and the images are already stellar.|
|CVD blew through 16gb of memory cards while shooting an hour plus descent. He didn't run out of battery though, thanks to the Battery Bacpac. Even heavily backlit, the HD Hero 2 was pumping out great stills.|
Introduced with the Original Hero, the new BacPac is GoPro's own accessory system. Want an LCD to review shots of check angles? Now you can have one. Our LCD screen works very well, and allows for an even easier menu system. It has a built in speaker tool, so you can even hear how things went. The BacPac system also currently includes a second battery pack model for extended recording and a soon-to-ship wireless remote control system. The wifi BacPac also allows for wireless streaming directly to the web, and control from a smartphone, which could come in handy for some projects. Hopefully GoPro will keep coming up with innovative features using this system.
Specification difference GoPro Hero HD and GoPro HD Hero 2
|Low light seems to be the Achilles heel of the HD Hero 2 system.|
HD Hero : 1/2.5″ CMOS
HD Hero 2: 1/2.3” CMOS
HD Hero : Light Sensitivity 1.4 V/lux-sec
HD Hero 2: Light Sensitivity 0.84 V/lux-sec
HD Hero : 5MP photos
HD Hero 2: 11MP photo
HD Hero: 127º wide angle in 1080p mode
HD Hero 2: 170º Wide FOV in 1080p mode
HD Hero: 960p = 1280×960, 30 FPS
HD Hero 2: 960p = 1280×960, 48FPS
HD Hero: 960p = 848×480, 60 FPS
HD Hero 2: WVGA: 848×480, 120FPSIssues
Unfortunately, the low light sensitivity of the system still isn't quite there yet for stills. You're best to stick to good light, as the shutter speed drops too low in the dark woods, and you just end up with a blurry mess with a lot of digital noise. In fair to good light however, the HD Hero 2 is exceptional.
There are various anecdotal reports of the LCDs failing prematurely and having to be warrantied, however. Pinkbike's own Justin Schroth had a week old one die while on a recent shoot, but has since managed to get it back up and running with some phone support from GoPro. It seems that removing the LCD, turning on the camera and then installing the LCD while holding down the playback button on it brings it back to life. This sounds like a firmware issue as GoPro had him download a newer firmware from the website before he completed the reboot. Official word from GoPro is if it is within the warranty period, they will replace it no questions asked, but that the firmware update and the reboot procedure should fix this problem.Pinkbike's take:
|The GoPro HD Hero 2 is a huge evolution in GoPro's product line. For the same price, you get a camera that really is just about twice as good, particularly if you are a still shooter. The large, clean photos are a massive leap forward, as is the much less confusing menu system. Would we suggest an upgrade? If you are a video shooter, it's hard to say. The mic input is nice, and the quicker metering could be good for fast patchy light shots, but the video quality itself is not far off of the original Hero. If you are a still shooter however, it's a no brainer. For $299 USD, you get an incredible new tool to add to your arsenal. The armored, waterproof GoPro case will allow you to stick it in places you would never have considered with a DSLR to get that new angle without a very large insurance policy. Burst mode alone means I've been using it while snowboarding to grab a quick shot or two of buddies while shredding pow, knowing I won't have to worry about the shutter lag of a more expensive, non waterproof, pocket sized point and shoot.- Fraser Britton|