GoPro Hero3 Black Edition Review - Bring The Quality Of Action Cameras To A Next Level (Part 1)

3/8/2013 10:33:12 AM

GoPro's mount-anywhere camera line has been making extreme sports enthusiasts surprised for years. The original HD Hero first provided the capability to shoot and record wide-angle HD video in 2009, and those capabilities improved with a higher-resolution sensor, faster burst mode and a wider field of view in the Hero2. Now, GoPro has released Hero3, which packs greater performance (4K video!) in a cube that's almost 1 centimeter thinner than its predecessors.

What kind of powerful imaging device did the company researchers cram in that tiny package? How do professionals film videos from the new GoPro? To find out, we took a Hero3 up in a airplane, stuck it to the roof of a car and recorded a jump out of a hot air balloon (of course from the safety of the basket). Let’s join us to carry out the results and find out how we filmed with the Hero3.

GoPro's mount-anywhere camera line has been making extreme sports enthusiasts surprised for years.

GoPro's mount-anywhere camera line has been making extreme sports enthusiasts surprised for years.


We receive a Black Edition Hero3 (black version) for this review, which is GoPro's top ranking camera packing an f/2.8 wide-angle lens in front of a 12MP sensor and built-in Wi-Fi. The combine of that lens and sensor lets you shoot 4K video at 12 fps, 2.7K at 30 fps, 1440p at 48 fps, 1080p at 60 fps, 960p at 100 fps, 720p at 120 fps and WVGA resolution at 240 fps. Therefore, no matter how you like to shoot your video through super high resolution or super slow footage - the Hero3 Black Edition can give you.

GoPro hasn't changed its camera’s look much since the introduction of the original HD Hero. Previous Heroes are silver boxes with stubby fisheye lenses jutting out beside a 2-centimeter monochrome LCD display on the front. Hero3 has the size of 58x40x21mm (2.28x1.57x0.82 inches), while the Hero2 size is 60x42x30mm (2.36x1.65x1.18 inches). Aside from being thinner than its predecessors, Hero3 no longer has the all-silver finish. Instead, it's covered in smooth black plastic on the back and a rough version on 2 sides. Not only does this make the camera easier to hold, but it also provides a nice contrast - not to mention, it's a finish more suited for chaotic and strong lifestyle, of which most Hero3's will lead to.

GoPro hasn't changed its camera’s look much since the introduction of the original HD Hero.

GoPro hasn't changed its camera’s look much since the introduction of the original HD Hero.

Besides, the power / mode switch on the front and record button on top have increased almost twice the size of these buttons found on old GoPros, an encouraging change, especially for those with “chubby” fingers. 2 LED indicators - one red to act as a power / shooting indicator and one blue to tell you that the Wi-Fi is on and Hero3 brand take up the rest of the space on the camera's front. Smaller secondary LEDs holding concurrently a role as power / record and Wi-Fi indicators are on the top, bottom and back, so you can keep track of the camera's acts from any viewing angle.

Located on the right side are micro-HDMI and mini-USB ports along with a microSD slot. On the left side are a small Wi-Fi key, a microphone-hole and 3 pinholes that serve as an outlet for audio alerts. The beeps emitting from there tell you when Hero3 is open and inform you when you've started devouring space on your memory card with photos or video recordings. There's also a depression to latch an external battery or LCD touchscreen BacPac.

The rear is where you'll find the battery port, which if you manage to pry it open with your fingernails or a business card, a 1.050mAh rechargeable cell will be revealed. Next to the port is the company's proprietary 30-pin Hero port for connecting the camera to the aforementioned BacPacs.

In general, Hero3's build quality is exemplary. All of its components are well-installed, with no ugly seams or shortcomings. Moreover, the Wi-Fi, power and record buttons all have a nice, deep move and fit with a satisfying snick. Such stable construction burst with a sense of confidence that it can take the abuse it'll definitely receive when in the field. Our only complaints with the design are the size of the Wi-Fi key (clumsy or gloved users may find it difficult to press) and the lack of some sort of bolt or spring to help open the battery door. The last issue is particularly worth worrying because the camera's poor battery life had us change batteries during lengthy shoots, a shortcoming would be discussed in more detail below.


All Hero3 also come with GoPro's respectable waterproof cover. It's like the old model, except for the fact that the lens window is flat and square (to reduce image distortion) instead of domed and round one, while the latch that keeps it closed is a dual-hinge swivel design that's more secure than the prior model. Naturally, the case is also thinner to adjust to the slim actual state of the Hero3, although it has the same interchangeable rear-shield design as its predecessors. Swapping rear shield isn't too difficult once you get used to it, but the amount of torque needed to pry them open can somewhat cause confusion - it's foreseeable that one could snap off a plastic mounting clip in that process.

GoPro Hero3 Black Edition’s accessories

GoPro Hero3 Black Edition’s accessories

2 adhesive pads, mixed mounting hardware and a three-way pivot arm - all of which can be compatible with old GoPro hardware are included with the Black Edition, as well as a Wi-Fi remote capable of controlling 50 GoPros concurrently. GoPro says the remote works 600 feet away in "optimal conditions" but in non-optimal areas, range is limited to about 120 feet. If the 400-USD price of the premier Hero3 model seems too much, silver (300 USD) and white (200 USD) versions are also available. These low-priced models don't come with the Wi-Fi remote, which costs 80 USD, and also have downgraded lenses and sensors. Both record 1080p videos at 30fps, with lesser frame rate at lower resolutions than the Black. Images are also limited to a maximum of 11 megapixels in Silver Edition and 5 megapixels in White Edition.

Beside the standard Black Edition kit, we also use GoPro's 40-USD wall charger, 40-USD Frame mount and 80-USD LCD touchscreen BacPac. While the 5V Wall Charger is something luxurious for international tourists with the selection of international plug and 2 USB outputs, it's not necessary regarding the majority of us have already owned 1 or 2 USD charger. The Frame mount is also unnecessary, as it makes the Hero3 vulnerable to the destructive powers of the great outdoors activities in exchange for a thinner and lighter actuality than the bombproof case the camera has. The LCD BacPac is quite the useful accessory, as it lets you change camera settings more easily than using the camera's buttons. Besides, it allows users to immediately review images, video and even audio by using its tiny built-in speaker or 3.5mm headphone jack.

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