[May 9, 2013] PERFORMANCE + RELIABILITY: HERO3 SOFTWARE UPDATE
The latest HERO3 camera software update fixes known bugs and enhances performance for all HERO3 editions, making your GoPro better than ever.
In addition, this software update enables new video modes for HERO3: Black Edition cameras:
Narrow FOV for 1080p60 / 1080p30 / 720p60 fps
Medium FOV for 720p60 fps
I am glad to finally get some update from GoPro which I hope will resolve the issues below.
First getting the Hero3 is like finding a beautiful girlfriend with a stunning body to boot and then, you quickly discover she comes with a host of nagging issues. That is how my relationship is with the new GoPro Hero3 Black Edition.
I love how it is built and the resulting video recording and images but it is driving me insane with the problems it has.
Watch the first video produced from the GoPro Hero3 Black Edition here.
GoPro or Go Home
These days consumers will only buy either an expensive camera or a dirt cheap camera. The duty of almost everything in between have been taken over by the smartphones.
The only other camera that sells are special purpose cameras. These are usually waterproof or wearable Point Of View (POV) cameras.
GoPro is obviously the pack leader in the wearable POV segment but since 2012 there have been many others entering the market such as the Sony Actioncam, JVC, Contour+, etc. These are also slightly cheaper priced and may pose a serious threat to GoPro especially with the host of issues the Hero 3 seem to have.
Almost Endless Mounting Options for the GoPro
This is the main reason for my choosing the GoPro over others for now. The other reason being its proven toughness.
Out of the box the GoPro’s standard mounts only allows you limited options. For fishing, be prepared to spend on other accessories. My first batch include;
- Extra rechargeable battery. One full charge only gives you around 60 minutes of recording. A 32GB micro SD card gets you about 3 hours 20 minutes on 1080p 30fps
- Head Strap for POV shots
- Tripod mount for errr… mounting on tripods
- Handlebar mount for mounting on rods and poles (can also use this on my bike)
Looks Can Be Deceiving
The GoPro camera itself is an extremely plain looking camera. Basically. Just a small squarish box with a round lens, two buttons and a tiny LED display that you’d expect to find on an electronic gadget from the 1980’s.
The impression it gives is it must be a piece of cake to use. Well, it is not. You will have to get through the initial setup and decide from the myriad of camera setting options.
Being excited like a kid out of the candy store, I tried to use the Hero 3 Black straight out from the camera shop and riding shotgun in Sek’s Ford Ranger along with Mr. T at the backseat. Mr T also bought an extra battery pack and a head mount for his Hero 3 Black.
I tried pairing it with the WiFi remote and iOS GoPro App which I downloaded while in the camera store. Nothing worked. I found out later that I have to hook up to a computer, fully charge the camera, download and install the latest updates, create a password and pair up the devices.
GoPro, No Go – Freezing up
On just the first two days and the Hero Black 3 has frozen up on me twice during charging through the computer USB. I searched the web and apparently some refer this as the “Back Red Light of Death!”.
My web search also resulted in many other critical issues. There are comments on the web that buyers should just go for the Hero 2 as it just works.
I was perplexed when I had playback problems with footage shot using 1440p and 1080p 60fps from the Hero3. The videos are choppy and lags. Whereas 1080p 60fps videos shot using other cameras runs smoothly on the same machine.
A search on the web for answers seem to suggest slow hardware is the issue but the recommended minimum specification is below my machine which has a processor of more than 3+ GHz and 12GB of RAM. Guess I’ll have to figure this one out as I have been doing quite a bit of editing and have never encountered any problems, until now. It is likely a codec that GoPro uses to make the file compression.
No wall charger in the box. You have to buy this separately. What you get in the box is a USB cable for connection to a computer. I intend to try plugging the cable to a wall socket charger from one of my other electronic gadget eg iPhone charger. It should charge properly with the right output which is 1000 mAh as stated in the manual.
Talking about user manual. You will have to download that, too.
The battery life indicator is only indicated by three bars. It is difficult to gauge exactly how much more juice is left to shoot with. It will be better if there is a percentage reading.
A red light and a running battery indicator bar tells you when the GoPro is being charged. When fully charged, the red light goes off but the bar remains running.
The first two charge using the USB-computer cable yields only 70% level according to the iOS app. I then left the camera on continuous recording mode to drain the battery so that I can recharge it again. The camera managed only about 40 minutes of recording time from the 70% charge level.
On the third charge, I used the supplied USB cable on a iPhone 5 wall plug and managed to get it to 100%. But the “Back Red Light of Death!” problem reoccurred. GoPro should really send out an update fix on this issue quick as it is extremely annoying.
Oddly, the first charge for the spare battery made it to 100% but it also suffered the “Back Red Light of Death!” attack.
As I was setting up the Hero3 the first time (Yes,before you even use the Hero3, you have to connect to the web and do an update and the GoPro site will tell you you may even have to attempt the update a few times to be successful!), I kept having to search the web for solutions to annoying problems. And I found many dissatisfied users out there. Many shared their problems and some solutions on blogs and GoPro forums. Here is one that listed down some of the issues into a chart.
There are more! Go to http://www.gethypoxic.com/reviews-tests-hacks/tests/100-gopro-hero3-issues-list.html for the full list.
I hope GoPro is working on update fixes and get them out fast as the last update was back in December 2012.
At the moment GoPro advises against using 64GB Micro SD card as it can cause the camera to freeze and erases all data in it. It would be unimaginable losing your precious recordings! The solution for now is to use 32GB cards.
1080p 30fps and 720p 60fps settings will get you about 3hr 20min of recording on a 32GB memory card. Shorten that by half if you record on 1080p 60fps or 720p 120fps. These four resolutions will be the most commonly used for me I guess. Along with the time-lapse photography. I will definitely play around with the 4K and 2.7K resolutions later, just for the heck of it even though I cannot think of any good reason why.
GoPro Hero 3 is Hot – Literally
The GoPro Hero 3 heats up very easily both during charging and recording. This poses a problem because one time (so far) it refused to operate when it got too hot. When that happens, you can either wait for it to cool down before using again or if there is urgency, remove the battery – reinsert and hope it will run.
I also did an initial recording test by placing on my car dashboard and recorded my 30 minute drive one afternoon. It worked continuously but got so hot that I cannot touch its side (next to the lens).
I am imagining now getting my brain fried while having the Hero3 mounted on my head with a head-strap.
WiFi Remote and Smartphone App
The WiFi remote will come in handy in some situations and the smartphone app is great. But you will have pair it with a password before using. You can basically control everything about the camera on you phone. The cool thing about it is you can see what the lens is viewing. I intend to dunk the camera to get some underwater shots and see if it will work properly.
The GoPro Hero 3 is a tiny camera especially out of its underwater housing. Your camera can very easily get mixed-up with another that belongs to your buddy’s. Hey, everyone has got a GoPro these days!
To prevent that from happening, I suggest writing your name on the body of the camera using a Sharpie. Another way is to write your name on an adhesive sticker of some sort if you do not want it to be permanent.
As of posting this, if you are thinking of getting a Hero3 and is not a computer savvy person, the GoPro 3 is a no go. Go for the Hero2 instead which has been around and is… well… sorted out. But if you are willing to live with the annoying problems with the Hero3 but get better quality visuals, go ahead.
The first sea-trail for the Hero3 is just a couple of days from now. I’m pretty sure I will come back with some kick-ass videos. Just hoping the Hero3 won’t fail when we need it. Fingers crossed and check back here for more updates and the video results!