GoPro Hero3+ Black Edition
2nd Oct 2013 | 09:11
Smaller, lighter, faster, better
The new GoPro Hero3+ Black Editon has six updates which build on the reputation of the previous model and address both requests from users and the evolution of the camera.
The actual size, weight and design of the GoPro camera itself remains identical to the previous version.
There is of course the addition of the + symbol next to the three on the front of the camera, and while the lens has changed it still looks the same as the old, although GoPro says it will produce sharper video and improved quality.
The real change however comes from the protective casing.
Slim line casing
The major cosmetic change is the housing that encases the GoPro, and this is consistent across the full line-up. This has been simplified compared with the older design, which had a safety switch that needed to be flipped before the lever could be released, giving access to the camera. Now it's just the top mounted lever, which for most activities is more than enough security.
While the case has slimmed, the mounting design at the base remains the same, so all existing accessories can still be used.
The original casing's bulk and lever design does mean that GoPro will continue to sell it, but it has been rebranded the Diver case, with a maximum depth of 60m compared with the new case's 40m.
That depth sacrifice is well worth it, as the reduction in both bulk and weight make it more versatile and comfortable to wear when using accessories such as the new Quick Clip (a clip that enables fast attachment to belts, caps and straps).
As with the previous case, accessing and changing settings is as easy as ever with just three buttons used to control all of the cameras features. The casing buttons are large and easy to use in almost any type of condition, part of the reason for its popularity among extreme sports enthusiasts.
The front mounted button enables direct access to modes and settings which once entered can be set using the top button. Once you've selected a mode and you're ready to film, take a picture or shoot an image burst, up to 10fps, the top button is pushed to start and stop as needed.
The third button on the side activates WiFi and once on works in the same way as the previous version, enabling straight connection to your computer, wireless remote or to the iOS or Android app.
Internally the big update is the improved wireless which offers up to four times faster transfer and playback speeds to your mobile device.
Setting up the wireless connection is quick and straight forward. Simply select the GoPro in the Wireless settings of your mobile and then load the GoPro app. On first starting, this prompts you to give the GoPro a name and password. After this, each time you load the app, and switch on the GoPro Wi-Fi, connection between the two is quick.
By default, the app enables you to get a streaming preview of what the camera is seeing, and while there is a short delay of about 1 - 2 seconds, it's a definite improvement over the last model, however this delay is still a little annoying.
The GoPro offers a huge range of resolutions from WVGA up to 4K 17:9, but if you want to record at resolutions from 2.7K or above the liveview preview cuts as soon as you start recording, which considering the size of the data isn't really surprising.
Other wireless features work well with preview and playback of recorded footage and images being almost instantaneous. The quality of the streaming video is smooth and through an iPhone looked great, but there was some small signs of artifacting which you'd expect, but aren't too obtrusive to the image itself.
The other handy feature is the ability to adjust settings remotely and control the recording all through the app. This interface has been well thought out with a simple select and change approach which means that you never have to delve too far into the menus to find what it is you need to change.
Flexible video mode and recording
GoPro has always offered a good selection of recording resolutions for video and this + edition adds to them with SuperView.
This captures footage at 1080p but rather than 16:9 ratio pushes it to 4:3. It does this by stretching the edges of the 4:3 format meaning that the centre footage retains sharp definition, while the edges are visually overlooked due to the wide angled perspective of the lens.
While this may seem an odd move with most TVs and devices playing back at 16:9 ratio, for creative video editing it makes sense, meaning that the extra height that you record can then be framed later back on the computer. This extra height is also handy when you don't have access to live view so helps avoid chopping off feet and heads when you're shooting blind.
To help tackle difficult lowlight conditions a new Auto Low Light mode has been added, this adjusts the frame rate giving each frame longer exposure and helping to reduce grain and improve video playback quality. We'll look into this more and the difference it makes over the standard recording modes soon.
One issue with the new Black Edition has been battery life so this model now includes a new longer life battery which GoPro claims will give an extra 30% better performance. We didn't get a chance to test this out however, so we'll bring you the results of this soon.
Of course with all this footage you need something to edit and share it with. Here GoPro have their own solution the GoPro Studio, this is a free download and enables you to quickly cut and edit your footage along with making corrections to colour and contrast. Again we'll bring you more on the softwares functionality when we get to use it.
As well as the new Hero+ series GoPro have launch three new accessories, the handy Jaws: Flex Clamp which enables you to attach the GoPro quickly to almost anything with a flexible column to easily adjust it's position, a Junior chest harness, which quite simply enable you to attach the camera to a child and finally the new headstrap and Quick Clip, with the Quick Clip part enabling you to attach the camera to you clothing, a cap or anything else that it will grip too.
These three new accessories join the countless others and again will fit both new and old versions of the GoPro.
The GoPro Hero 3+ Black Edition is by no means the leap that we saw from the GoPro 2 to the 3, and while users of the GoPro 1 and 2 will see a massive improvement in usability, there are only a few small adjustments to the actual camera from the Hero 3 black edition.
The big changes are from the casing, which is smaller and lighter, and from the improved battery both of which could easily be upgraded too. Although the lens has been improved the quality of footage from the previous black edition was already excellent so if there is a difference it really is only marginal.
As a versatile action sports camera the GoPro has some stiff competition, and although it might not have the looks of some of the others, when it comes to ease of use and functionality it's simple to use and most importantly enables you to capture some incredible footage.