GoPro Hero3 Black Edition hands-on review

The ultra mobile HD camera upgrades to 4K and takes the fight to JVC and Sony. We go hands on

Smartphones are getting better lenses and sensors all the time and the latest GoPro camera jumps to 4K, offering ultra HD to amateurs. The GoPro Hero3 can do a lot, but can it impress us?

GoPro Hero3 hands-on review – design

The GoPro Hero3 design is a subtle fashion conscious change over the Hero2 but it’s smaller by a third, giving you room to add the LCD Touch BacPac for a live preview of your footage. Otherwise the bomb-proof and waterproof casing remains the same. Our Hero3 survived a 138mph bike race around San Fransico’s Sonoma raceway (video below) with no problems.The slim new profile means the Hero3 doesn’t feel heavy when attached to a bike or cycle helmet – in fact you won’t realise it’s there.

GoPro Hero3 hands-on review – movie quality

There’s not many people outside of Hollywood with a need for 4K footage but if you want your extreme sports videos to be good for IMAX as well as YouTube HD, then you’ll need a monster computer to edit footage. 2.7K and 1080p at 60 frames a second (up from 30 fps) looks awesome and benefits from a new lens which features massively improved exposure levels, especially visible when outdoors in extremely bright light.

MicroSD is now the format of slimmer Hero3 and budding movie producers will be happy to know that it can handle 64GB MicroSD cards for hours of footage. The built-in mic can now capture a wider range of sounds – it’s better for voices this time around too, rather than just the roar of car engines and, finally, there’s much needed MicroHDMI socket.

GoPro Hero3 hands-on review – still image quality

The new f/2.8 6-element aspherical ultra wide lens means 12 megapixel snaps look great – a real cut above smartphones – and can shoot 30 snaps per second. You’ll need the LCD Touch BacPac accessory to see a live preview of your work but burst snaps look detailed with good colour balance and capture the fastest of motion without blur effects. Get the right mount and the Hero3 is a genuinely decent camera able to get in the smallest of places and out-shoot your iPhone.

GoPro Hero3 hands-on review – user interface

The Hero3 comes with a remote as standard, though you can use the GoPro app on iPhone – with Android coming soon. The bundled Wi-Fi Remote mimics all the camera controls (start, stop, image modes) and it’s rugged and can be attached to a zip or belt. The big surprise is that it can control up to 50 Hero3 cameras which makes the technology, that those David Attenborough programs use, a reality without robbing a bank – or joining the BBC.

The basic LED display and four buttons on the camera – a new one for the Wi-Fi link – work well but the lack of a live preview without the lCDTouch BacPac is slighly disappointing. The LCD Touch BacPac accessory interface is small, slow and eats battery but GoPro plans to make smartphone apps absorb the skills in the future. As it is, the LCD Touch BacPac accessory is essential which bumps the price to beyond £400.

GoPro Hero3 hands-on review – accessories

The BacPac is joined by other optional extras including a new ‘Frame mount’ to replace the rugged, chunky, transparent one in the box. Why? If you’re watching sport in a stadium, you probably don’t need the bulk and look of the standard case which can go underwater and withstand severe punishment. The Battery BacPac is a spare battery which can be lumped on the back of the Hero3 and you might just need that too. We managed an hour of shooting in high quality modes after using the BacPac from live previews for our initial set up shots. Finally, the Anti-Fog Inserts sit inside the case and prevent fogging when the environment gets extremely hot or cold (the Hero3 still kicks out decent heat).

GoPro Hero3 hands-on review – Verdict

At £360 upward it's expensive with the essential extras but genuinely offers a professional grade setup to make your antics YouTube gold. One for the real wannabe directors – casual video makers should look at the cut price Silver and White editions. Will you be grabbing yours when it's released on October 22nd?

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