By Scott Umstattd
GoPro Hero2 Review: This is one camera that no travel or general photographer should do without. Small and versatile, this little baby packs a punch. And you don't have to swim with sharks or jump from space ships to amaze your friends and clients.
It is also a great camera for doing the one thing that everyone does today - take selfies.
But, as great as this camera is, there are some drawbacks to consider before making the plunge.
Before I begin my GoPro Hero2 review let me share with you how I use mine to give you a better sense of me, the reviewer.
I've used the GoPro Hero2 for about three years now. When I first got my GoPro I wondered how in the world I was going to use it. Would having a GoPro Hero mean that I would have to become some kind of superhero jumping from cliffs and riding life-threatening rapids? I was afraid that my comparatively dull lifestyle would bore my GoPro to death.
What I have learned throughout the years is that you don't have to put your life in danger to make the most of the GoPro.
I mainly use my GoPro for photography. It goes with me everywhere. It fits easily into any bag and more importantly I can slip it in my pant pocket without affecting the way I walk. Try that with a DSLR and a fisheye lens!
But there are times when 15mm simply isn't wide enough - out comes my Hero to save the day.
GoPro Hero2 Review: This shot was taken about three feet away from the bikers' heads.
The GoPro's built-in fisheye lens guarantees that practically everything within my field of view will be in frame.
By having the GoPro always within arms length I don't have to carry as much equipment with me and I don't miss any moments that cannot be repeated as I waste time changing lenses.
Now, on to my GoPro Hero2 review.
The GoPro series of cameras, for me, are great simply because of their size. I travel a lot and do a lot of documentary work. And I love the fisheye perspective.
You get a lot for a little with the GoPro Hero series of cameras. For around $250-$300 you get the camera and a lot of accessories. The GoPro is a great investment.
The GoPro cameras are well-built. I often use my GoPro naked (without any casing). I've dropped it (in water!) and on the ground. It's got the scars to prove it and it still works great after three years of me not babying it.
The GoPro Hero2 delivers pictures that average 10 megapixels depending on how much information or detail is in the picture taken. This is certainly enough data for the web and it is even enough for printing large prints.
From my experience, the GoPro Hero2 delivers pictures that are a little flat and lacking in color. Maybe I'm prejudice toward my GoPro but I feel that it accepts edits very well. With just a little added saturation in post production the GoPro images easily come to life.
Not only is it a small camera it's also a small video camera too. And that's pretty amazing considering its size.
The GoPro Hero2 also has some impressive functionality as well. It can take time lapse photography and shoot 1080P video and at 720P it can shoot at 60 frames a second which allows me to edit video in slow motion.
All of the accessories and housing units made for the GoPro give it more flexibility than any camera I've ever used. I can attach it to a surfboard or a helmet or to the outside of a car or on the inside of a car or on a remote control plane or on a train. Insane! There are countless ways to use this little camera.
Another thing I like about the GoPro is that it is pretty much an automatic camera. Simply point and shoot. I don't need to worry about camera settings. I simply take the picture or roll the video and that's it. It does have a spot meter option, but I never use it.
And that leads me to some of the drawbacks of the GoPro. And as you'll see, there are some definite drawbacks to this camera.
For one, it is a point and shoot camera. You cannot adjust your aperture, ISO or shutter speed. It's confusing, I know, to love the fact that I don't have to worry about my exposure settings and then turn around and complain that I cannot control my exposure settings. Draw whatever conclusions you may from my discombobulated brain.
Another drawback to the GoPro Hero2 is that it does not perform well in low light situations. To overcome low light, the GoPro simply implements a longer shutter speed and that has resulted in a number of lost shots due to my own unsteady hand or the movement of my subjects.
I've developed a pretty successful "if you can't beat them, join them" mentality with regard to using the GoPro in low light. I simply don't use it when the lights are dim and that prevents me from having to look at crappy pictures and video at the end of the day.
Yet another drawback of the GoPro Hero2 is the lag time between pressing the shutter and the picture being taken. I've noticed anywhere from a half-second to a full second lag time. This can be pretty irritating when trying to capture photos of fast moving action.
An odd drawback for the GoPro is that I often find my shadow appearing in many of my pictures. For many of my viewers, this may go unnoticed.
Due to its extremely wide angle, if you are not careful about your position with regard to the sun, it is quite easy to get your own shadow in the shot.
GoPro Hero2 Review: See my shadow?
And you will have shots that are not exposed properly with the GoPro. This means that you will find that a number of your shots have overexposed areas - blown out white areas where there is no retrievable data to be found in post processing. This will be a problem if you are expecting to produce fine art photography. But then again, this is not the right camera for that kind of work anyway.
And finally, the menu settings can take a little getting used to. There are only two buttons on the GoPro Hero2 and figuring out how to go from time lapse photography to video and back to normal shooting may be frustrating in the beginning.
Yes, the GoPro has drawbacks but EVERY camera and EVERY lens has drawbacks. It's just the nature of things.
I'll give a brief mention to the video quality and temperament in my GoPro Hero2 review. As I said, I mainly use my GoPro as a still camera, coming in to save the day when my DSLR set up is unable to perform or when I simply don't want to lug around all of my DSLR gear.
The video quality of the GoPro Hero2 is acceptable. Don't expect GoPro video to look like video shot with the Canon EOS C500 4K Cinema Camera. And don't expect to put a Canon C500 (with lens!) on your helmet either.
Audio from the GoPro Hero2 is terrible. Sure, it captures audio, but is has this annoying tinny sound that really grates my nerves.
Below is a video I produced that makes great use of the GoPro's video. About 90% of the shots in this short promotional video were taken with the GoPro Hero2.
In this next GoPro Hero 2 review video you get an up close and personal understanding of how the GoPro can distort a person's face if the camera is placed to close. You can also hear the tinny audio produced by the GoPro Hero2.
The wide angle of the GoPro allows you to hold the camera at arms length (and closer) and still bring in your surroundings. What good is a selfie of you and your friends and the beach (or by the pool) if you can't even see the beach in the background? For some, this reason alone is enough to carry a GoPro with them every time they venture out.
No GoPro Hero2 review is complete without pictures. Here are some more pictures taken with my GoPro over the years.
Above: This is a wall in Antigua, Guatemala. As you can see, it has been painted over and over again and again. I was less than a foot away from the wall. I added some color saturation in editing.
Above: Another picture from Antigua. This is a Lent procession. The wide angle lens on the GoPro allowed me to capture a wealth of information to help tell the story of the processioners and their march.
Above: This is actually the first published picture I took with my GoPro. Laying down under the group I was able to capture the unity and excitement of everyone.
Above: Can the GoPro help you achieve Nirvana? No, it cannot. But it can certainly take a picture of someone trying to get there. Notice that the clouds are a little blown out (overexposed).
Above: By placing the GoPro Hero2 on a table and then taking the picture I was able to compensate for the slower shutter speed the camera used in this low light situation.
Above: The GoPro makes for a great landscape camera. But be careful. The fisheye lens can distort your horizon line if you are not centered properly. Getting used to the curves created by the GoPro will take some practice.
Above: Here's a shot where the horizon line is straight (right in the middle of the frame).
Above: The GoPro is also a pretty good interior design camera. The only way I could show the full extent is this small shower was to lay down my DSLR (with the Canon 15-85mm lens) and shoot from above with my GoPro. I was pleased with the results after I uploaded and began sifting through the day's pictures.
Above: Another landscape picture. By paying attention to lines you can create some intriguing pictures with the GoPro. As is the case with all lenses and cameras practice will make perfect. Also, knowing that the sky would be overexposed I intentionally tilted the camera down to avoid the sky. By accentuating the positive aspects and avoid the negative situations you can bring home more shots worth keeping.
In conclusion, I love my GoPro Hero2. It's an extremely talented little camera with a vast amount of versatility. Personally, this camera is becoming my go-to camera for street photography because of its ease of use and small design.
This camera has changed the way I look at the world. Knowing how to maximize the fisheye lens and knowing when and where to use it has opened new doors for my photography.
The GoPro is as inconspicuous as it is versatile. And when travelling, you don't want to advertise yourself to thieves by showing your DSLR. The GoPro lets me move around undetected and feeling somewhat protected.
In tight situations, it is my camera of choice. Providing there is enough light.
I highly recommend the GoPro Hero2.
This GoPro Hero2 review may come late for some people.
The GoPro Hero3 improves upon many already excellent aspects of the Hero2. More photo resolution, better audio, better video and it's smaller. It's really amazing what you get with these little cameras, especially for the price!