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Why I won’t be getting a GoPro Hero4 (and what I will be buying).

Tuesday, September 30, 2014 by  
Filed under Daily Blog


Unless you’ve been living under a rock, over the past few days you’ve probably heard that GoPro is set to launch their all-new Hero4 series of wearable action cameras. GoPro’s soon-to-arrive (release date is October 5th) flagship camera, the Hero4 Black, can shoot at an impressive Ultra-HD (4k) resolution at 30 FPS, and will set you back $500.

The GoPro Hero4

The GoPro Hero4

When it comes to technology I’m all for pushing the envelope, but this camera is a waste of money for 99.9% of the people reading this. How many of you have Ultra-HD televisions, or even computer monitors capable of Ultra-HD? I’m guessing very few hands just went up. The current cost of Ultra-HD displays range from “very high” to “astronomical”, and there isn’t even much 4k content available right now. And, unless you’ve got an absolutely massive display, can your eyes really see the difference between 1080p and 4k video? Geoffrey Morrison over at CNET doesn’t think so.

Putting aside that argument, let’s talk practicality. GoPro’s already anemic 1180 mAh battery (found in the Hero3 line) has been reduced to 1160 mAh for the Hero4. Pretty much everyone I know with a Hero3 complains about its short battery life, and it sounds like things are not going to be improving any time soon. I don’t have any concrete data to go on, but I think its reasonable to assume that shooting 4k (which is 4 times the resolution of 1080p) at 30 FPS is going to draw more power than the Hero3 Black’s maximum resolution of 4k @ 15 FPS. I’ll be surprised if you can shoot for much more than an hour at that resolution before the battery dies.

The Hero4 Black’s maximum storage card size is 64 GB, and so you’re probably only looking at 1.5 hours of compressed 4k footage @ 30 FPS before that card is full.

One welcome addition to the Hero4 is an all-new touch display at the rear of the camera, but for some reason GoPro only put that on the Silver version ($400) of the camera and left it off their flagship Black model. Weird.

I own the original GoPro, and I’ve never been particularly enamored with it. I don’t like the boxy shape, the menu system is extremely cumbersome, it’s easy to accidentally have it in the wrong mode, it’s hard to use with gloves on and I’ve had countless mounts snap off and break just from normal road and trail vibration (GoPro was no help here, either). Fogging has also been a major issue.

I know a few people with Hero3s, and they have all had problems with buggy software and faulty hardware. Many awesome shots have been missed due to these issues, just do a search.

The Garmin Virb

The Garmin Virb

I’m in the market for a new sports camera (and I have a birthday coming up!), but I will not be purchasing the Hero4. In fact, I’m pretty sure I’m going to get the Garmin Virb. Garmin’s Virb is available in two versions: the Virb ($187) and the Virb Elite ($270).

Both Virb models have the same shooting capabilities: 1080p@30 FPS, 960p@30/48 FPS, 720p@30/60 FPS, 848×480@120 FPS and they can capture still images at 16MP, 12MP and 8MP (while shooting video). The Virb cameras have large 2,000 mAh batteries, which should be good for 3-3.5 hours of shooting at 1080p/30 FPS.

So what does the Virb Elite add over the base Virb? ANT+ connectivity, GPS, an accelerometer and an altimeter. These are great features, but my Garmin Edge 810 already has all of them (aside from the accelerometer, which I don’t need). The cool thing is that Garmin’s free editing software will allow me to overlay my 810 data files onto the recorded video, and so I’ll have all my ANT+, GPS and altimeter data without needing to purchase the more expensive Elite.

And that brings me to what I love most about the Virb: I can overlay all of that data onto my video, which adds some great context for the viewer. So when people are watching my videos they can see in real time my speed, my heart rate, my cadence, the amount of power I’m putting out, the grade of the road or trail I’m riding and even a GPS map overlay.

The Virb also has excellent night shooting capabilities, a time lapse mode and many other features. Obviously this is not a review, but just some of the features that I find very cool.

Here’s a video review of the Virb, and it also has some shots showcasing some of the video overlay features that I’m so excited about.

Will any of you be purchasing the Hero4? If so, why?

John Stone Fitness Comments

8 Responses to “Why I won’t be getting a GoPro Hero4 (and what I will be buying).”
    • Interesting, thanks, I’d not seen that.

      I owned an HTC phone a long time ago (the Touch Pro), and had constant problems with it. Hated the damn thing. That phone sort of soured me on the brand, I guess. I barely looked at the HTC One phone because of my experience with the Touch Pro (and also because I’ve found Samsung’s Galaxy S* phones to be insanely awesome).

      Seems like this is the time of year for new product announcements in the action camera sector, so it might be worth my while to wait and see what Garmin and others come out with–if for no other reason than the price drops on the current line of Virbs that will surely follow.

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      • I don’t think I’ve ever heard of someone who had a good experience with a Touch Pro. I missed that one due to my upgrade schedule and it’s probably good I did. I did have the old Win Mobile Touch (no keyboard) and liked it. Since then it’s been Android (Evo, Evo LTE, and now One M8). Really love the metal build quality and Sense UI skin on the M8.

        Anyway I’m curious to see what all HTC has up it’s sleeves. Rumors were they were also going to announce a Watch and/or newest Nexus tablet at this same press event next week. Those rumors have died now and it may just be their new action camera.

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        • HTC has really gotten their act together IMO. I had an EVO 3D, and it was buggy as hell. Constantly getting caught in bootloops, had to remove the battery several times, and had to do factory resets several times. I was therefore worried about the HTC One, as it did not have a removable battery — So I bought it with some trepidation. However, I could not be happier! The phone performs flawlessly. Fast, smooth, clean, and have had zero problems with it in the 8 months or so that I have owned it. Great phone, and a BIG improvement over their previous devices.

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  1. After reading your article this morning I did some light researching and was pretty surprised to find more than a modicum of negativity towards the GoPro brand. I had always thought they were the creme de le creme in this sector of technology. Clearly I’m a novice though.

    Brand loyalty, and its antithesis (brand smashing?), always amazes me in the technology world. Often times I find it more polarizing than politics. Look at what Steve Ballmer is doing with the Clippers for crying out loud…that’s a bit much.

    John, why not just wait for Apple to solve all your problems? 😀

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    • I totally agree with you, it’s to the point where I rarely even bother to read many kinds of Internet “discussions” (especially discussions centered around politics, current news and religion) because they almost always devolve into hundreds–if not thousands–of hateful, mean-spirited and close-minded posts.

      I have trouble understanding why anyone would want to spend their free time arguing with strangers on the Internet.

      P.S. Apple sucks. 🙂

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  2. Not planning to buy GoPro 4, but I do love my GoPro 3. Never had a single issue with it (aside from the battery life). I agree, battery life sucks at barely a bit over an hour. I bought two cheapo “Wasabi” brand batteries that rectify the problem somewhat (aside from having to swap them, of course). I do like the picture quality of GoPro 3 Black. It would be interesting to see side-by-side comparison with Garmin.

    You are a bit off on a couple of points. GoPro definitely supports memory cards bigger than 64GB. I have a 128GB Sandisk MicroSD in my GoPro 3, and it’s working just fine with it. It can also take simultaneous pictures and video. I have it set to take pictures every 5 seconds while recording video. Finally, I am using it mostly for scuba diving, and it’s working great for that. The case is waterproof up to 130ft, and the form factor makes it easy to wear on top of your mask (or with a head strap). It also syncs a phone app on my phone to do remote preview, remote shutter, instant video review, etc., which is very convenient. Sometimes I use it in my gymnastics classes to record me on tumble track and then do instant video review in my phone using Coach’s Eye app (totally awesome app BTW). Anyway, I find GoPro pretty awesome and feel no need to switch (or upgrade to GoPro 4 for that matter).

    It does sound like Virb is a much better fit for your needs though. I can see how mixing the data from two different Garmin devices would be cool. Looking forward to your videos/review of the camera.

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    • Thanks very much for the thoughts and the corrections. I’ll edit my article and remove the erroneous text regarding shooting stills while shooting video.

      I’m a little confused about the 128 GB card, though. GoPro’s own information (including the information they just posted about the brand new Hero4) says, and I quote: “A Class 10 MicroSD card up to 64 GB is required.”

      Here’s the page: http://gopro.com/support/articles/software-update-release

      I did a couple quick searches, and I saw nothing definitive. I see a few people are using 128GB cards with the GoPro3, but I also saw some mentions of file corruption. It seems to me that if the 128 GB cards worked correctly/reliably (and to their full capacity) in their cameras, GoPro would certainly say so on their product information page.

      Because GoPro’s own product information states that only cards up to 64 GB are supported, I feel that part of my article is accurate.

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