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GoPro HD Helmet HERO: Initial thoughts, pictures and video.

Saturday, November 21, 2009 by  
Filed under Daily Blog

November
21
2009

I’ve got a busy morning ahead, but my afternoon should be more or less free. As soon as I finish posting this update I’m going to go with Lisa to the grocery store to help out. It’s going to be a big shopping day because I’m making Thanksgiving dinner for everyone this Thursday. Also this morning I’ve got my usual weekly meeting with the lead developer of JSF BodyShop™. I can’t wait to see what’s been accomplished this week!

As expected, yesterday my new GoPro HD Helmet HERO camcorder arrived. As soon as I finished up at work I got everything set up and took a short test ride. Today I’ve got some pictures, a video and some initial impressions about the camera. Lisa and I are going to be hitting the trails this weekend, so early next week I’ll probably expand on what I write today.

Here’s the unopened retail box.

GoPro HD Helmet HERO - Retail box

GoPro HD Helmet HERO - Retail box

The GoPro HD camera sitting next to its waterproof polycarbonate and stainless steel housing. The combined weight of the camera, the 1100 mAh lithium-ion battery and the housing is 5.9oz.

GoPro HD Helmet HERO - Camera and Housing

GoPro HD Helmet HERO - Camera and Housing

Here’s everything that comes in the box. It comes with a lot of mounting attachments and accessories, but there are no instructions on how to use any of them. Granted most are self-explainatory, but for someone new to these kinds of cameras (like me) a little booklet with explanations of the various mounting options would have been very nice.

GoPro HD Helmet HERO with accessories

GoPro HD Helmet HERO with accessories

My first choice was to mount the GoPro to the side of my helmet. I was able to accomplish this by using one of the curved surface adhesive mounts and the included side mount pivot arm. The adhesive is VERY strong, so no worries there. Unfortunately this mounting option simply does not work: the camera is too heavy and too far away from the helmet, and so everything felt unbalanced, lopsided and just plain uncomfortable.

GoPro HD Helmet HERO - Helmet side mount

GoPro HD Helmet HERO - Helmet side mount

Next I used the included vented helmet strap mount to put the camera right on top of the helmet. This mount is very secure, and the camera felt much better here than off to the side. Still, I definitely noticed the weight. Also, it looks pretty big and ungainly sitting up there – certainly not very aerodynamic.

GoPro HD Helmet HERO - Helmet top mount

GoPro HD Helmet HERO - Helmet top mount

I won’t rehash all the specs here, as they are well documented on GoPro’s web site.

The GoPro HD Helmet HERO has a lot of options, all of which can be set using the LCD screen and the two buttons on the camera. The options can be changed with the waterproof housing on, which is very nice. The instructions are very clear, and I had no problem changing the settings to my liking. The menus are limited to a very small display area, so they can be a bit cryptic if you don’t have the instructions handy. That said, the main settings I’d be interested in changing in the field (video mode, resolution) are easy to get to and change without the instructions.

One thing that I find absolutely inexcusable is the camera has no NVRAM to maintain your settings and the time and date. Need to swap the battery out while you’re in the field? You’ll have to navigate the maze of menus and re-enter all your settings. Very poor design choice.

I read on another site that the camera could take pictures at pre-set intervals while shooting video. This is simply not the case; it’s one mode or the other. That’s too bad, and I probably won’t use the photo mode much at all since I’ll almost always be filming.

The video quality and the audio quality is quite good. I have a test video below, but it’s been compressed by YouTube and not as high quality as the raw footage. The lack of wind noise is pretty amazing, and with the included non-waterproof skeleton back housing door (which is what I used for the video) really lets the camera capture everything but the wind. Great work there.

One thing that I found highly annoying is the clicking sounds whenever I went over a bump. You’ll definitely notice them as you watch my video. I checked the mounting rig, and I know it’s not the camera in the housing causing it (the camera is very tightly encased and simply does not move around). I’m pretty sure the clicking is coming from the plastic quick-release that is used to attach the camera assembly to the strap mount. There is a small amount of play where the two plastic parts meet, and the mic is probably picking that movement up. I’m not real happy about that, as a lot of my riding will be off-road in bumpy conditions. I am going to email GoPro and see what they have to say about the issue.

Here is the test footage that I shot at three of the five available resolutions….

Overall I like this camera. I am not very happy about the clicking noises and the ugly and fairly heavy box mounted on my head. You know, I’ve got the Contour HD 1080p sitting right next to me. I may just have to give that one a whirl this afternoon. Stay tuned…

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