GoPro is the beast in the action camera field, and frankly, it's hard to imagine how any company or new product is going to be able to best them, they are so far ahead in market share. But we wanted to test it out—alongside some other, high-quality action cameras to see if the GoPro truly is the best action camera on the market or if they just have a great marketing team.
Rating: 4.6 out of 5
Side note. We are underdogs. Heck, one of us is even a Cubs fan. So when we went to the SIA Snow Show in 2013, we were looking for the camera that could take on GoPro. And we talked to everyone: Ion, Contour, Epic, JVC, Sony, etc. And every last one of them said that GoPro wasn't a camera company; they were a marketing company that sold cameras. "All that footage you see of theirs, it's edited and color corrected. Ours that you see on this screen? That was shot this morning. We haven't touched it." After hearing that enough, we bought into it. By the time we got all of our demos in the mail after the show, we were expecting for GoPro to pale in camera quality. That is the perspective from which we came at the GoPro.
Price. The GoPro Hero3+ Silver retails for $299. When we got it last season, it was selling for $399, I believe. If this camera continues to sell for $299, there is going to be no stopping GoPro. For this price, it's hard to beat. They have a Black edition, that is supposed to do a little more for a little more price, but I can't imagine what.
The real scam are the mounts and the accessories. Not that they aren't worth it, but they really drive the price up twenty dollars at a time here or there. For us, we are strict helmet and handheld guys. We have a car mount that we have used a little bit, but if we didn't already have it, we wouldn't go buy it.
Best For...Pretty much anything and everything. Great camera for all outdoor and underwater settings, not just action. You can point this thing at the sun and still get images.
Video Quality. Intense. No matter what the other camera makers say, this is a good camera. Picture quality is fantastic, as you can see below. I think any standard consumer is going to love it, and by now you've probably seen tons of unedited GoPro footages. It is for real. You will not be disappointed.
Communication. Good. It will beep three times when it powers on and also when it is shutting off. Once when it starts recording, three times when it stops. There is a tiny screen that helps when you toggle through the different capabilities, which the other top cameras don't have. There are lights that come on also, when recording, but they are on the front, so if you are looking at them, you are the only thing in the picture. Because of this, tons of GoPro videos start with someone looking at the display screen and then turning to see something radical. So when it's on your helmet, you just have to trust that it's running. While other cameras have a physical switch so you know when it's on.
0 to 60. The GoPro Hero 3+struggles with its giddyup, and has a 5 second get-up time before it can start recording. In the ski world, you might miss something, you might not. All depends on what you are looking to grab, but it is the slowest of all cameras to get running from a cold start.
Photos. Full photo capability and takes great photos. The GoPro beats out everyone here because of its standard camera shape. When trying to take a photo with the Epic or iON, you can't hold your hands on either side of it to steady the camera. The photo button on all of these cameras isn't like tapping your iphone; it takes some effort to press, which moves the camera. With the GoPro Hero3, with just the way it is shaped, photos are easy.
Battery Life/Charging. This is a knock against this unit. The battery doesn't last as long as you would expect or as long as the display claims. The display, that tells you hours and minutes of remaining battery life, we believe means how long it will last while on, but not recording. It is NOT a function of video space left on the card, even though that is an easy connection to make. After about six months of intermittent use, we could get around 75 minutes of footage if we just left the camera on without stopping.
After a year, it just wouldn't hold a charge. It would tell us it was charged up, and the lights would blink like they were supposed to, but when you tried to record, nah-uh. So be aware of the battery issues. Buy a backup battery—just so you can shoot longer. But if you start having issues with it not holding a charge, try this. Worked for us.
Handling. Not great. Nothing cool has ever come from my helmet or google mount, and they are unbelievably shaky. So when I ski, I typically have a camera in my pocket to grab the stuff I truly want to shoot, and the GoPro Hero3 (when in the case) is the most difficult camera to drag from my pocket. The square shape and the mounting brackets just get caught every time. Plus, you can see how snow really likes to stick to the front of that case. Might be great for biking or underwater, but in the snow, we had a lot of trouble.
Toughness. Like a brick pooper. This little case cannot be destroyed. I'm almost certain. We have taken it skiing, biking, hiking, to the beach, and on the toughest canoe race in the world and it was just fine. Once the GoPro Hero3+ is locked in its case, nothing will happen to it. Except awesomeness.
Mounts. Tons of mounts for almost any application. Whatever you want, they have it. They are typically extra—as with any camera—so keep an eye on the costs before they slip well above $500. It is the least streamlined of any camera (we aren't going to mention the failed iphone cases), but no one seems to mind.
The Package. It comes with the waterproof case, cables, some adhesion mounts, a couple of different mounting options, and I think that's it. The other mounts and such are not expensive, unless you buy a bunch.
Software/Support. Great. I think the best part about the GoPro is that even after you delete all of the footage from the camera, the files don't start renumbering at zero. You think this is a small thing? Well, wait until you either have to rename all of your new ones or accidentally copy over your old ones. This is no small thing.
They have an app that pairs easily with an iphone, but we don't ever use it. If we weren't doing this camera review, we wouldn't have ever used it. Nice to have, if you are going to be stationary and need to make sure everything looks good, but frankly these fish-eye lenses don't miss much, so this app is only there, I think, to say they have an app.
Other Products. GoPro makes two other cameras right now, and the Silver is in the middle on cost and ability, and they have tons of accessories and such just like you would imagine.
Brass Tacks: They are the biggest name in the game for a reason.