Action filmmakers are rejoicing this week with the release of an upgraded GoPro camera model, the HD HERO2, which has a sharper lens, faster frame rates, a new interface for operation, higher photo resolution, and more. GearJunkie got a pre-release HERO2 a few weeks ago, and since then I have had the opportunity to put it to the test on trips and outdoor activities from Minnesota to Germany’s Bavarian Alps. Called the HD HERO2, the new GoPro is advertised as “twice as powerful” as its predecessor, and indeed many of the upgrades will double the performance over the standard HERO HD camera, including a touted “2x faster processor, 2x sharper lens, and 2x resolution” in still photo mode.
Video is the same 1920 × 1080, an HD standard, but faster frame rates now allow for slow-motion capture — something you can’t do well with the former GoPro flagship. The addition of a mini-HDMI port gives a faster connection. Functionally, the camera has been significantly upgraded, including the addition of control lights on the top, bottom and back of the camera. These are great upgrades — no more staring into the front of the lens to see if it is recording! A new user interface makes this camera easier to operate. Menu changes in the field are now a cinch.
All the upgrades and still the GoPro remains a relative action-capturing bargain at $299. For this, you get the camera and waterproof housing plus mounts for helmets and other points of contact.
In my testing so far, the HERO2 has demonstrated itself as a significantly improved camera. Clarity is great with the new lens. Its color and contrast are noticeably better. Low-light shooting is still not a strong suit, but it is certainly improved. Both the HERO HD and this new HD2 share the same accessories and mounts to make upgrading from one camera to the next pain free.
For the past three months, we’ve been using GoPro cameras to film a video series, our “Fast & Light” episodes, from Utah to Minnesota to New York. We shoot many of the “beauty shots” and the slow-motion footage in these shorts with a pro-level Canon DSLR. But with its upgrades, I will employ the GoPro HD HERO2 more now in the woods and mountains across a range of scenes, from point-of-view to scenic vista shots and slow-mo.
If you’ve been waiting to jump onto the “helmet cam” bandwagon now would be a good time to leap. For $299, this GoPro will net you a camera capable of capturing almost any footage outdoors. Just see the video above if you need proof.
Another thing, also announced this week from GoPro, but not available until this winter, is the company’s Wi-Fi Bacpac product. This add-on lets you wirelessly control a camera from either a GoPro remote control, a smartphone, or a tablet computer running a free GoPro app.
—T.C. Worley is an editor with GearJunke.com and a professional photojournalist. See his recent video work in our “Fast & Light” series, which covers climbing and fast-hiking adventures around the United States.