GoPro HD HERO2 Review



helmet cam

At first glance the updates on the new GoPro HD HERO2 may look subtle, but they really are revolutionary rather than evolutionary. The camera almost looks exactly the same on the outside as earlier Gopro HD Heros but there are major differences inside the case. There are numerous exciting new features including HDMI out and mic input. In fact other than the enclosure the HD Hero2 is a completely new camera.

Here are the big improvements in the HD HERO2:

 

• New English language based LCD readout, no more hard to understand codes
• Red LED recording “on” lights on all sides of the camera so you always know when camera is recording
• 11 megapixel still images
• Improved faster image sensor
• Faster f 2.4 lens to match sensor
• 10 frames per second still photo mode
• 120 to 30fps
• HDMI out
• Mini jack mic input
• Full 170º, Medium 127º, Narrow 90º FOV in 1080p and 720p Video

 

HERO2 Unboxing

What’s Included?

There are 3 packages available for the HD HERO2: Motorsports, Outdoor, and Surf editions. All of them come with the following:

•[1] 11MP HD HERO2 Camera
•[1] Waterproof Housing (197′ / 60m)
•[1] HD Skeleton Housing
•[1] Rechargeable Li-on Battery
•[1] USB Cable

Each package comes with it’s own set of mounts, all of which are fully compatible with each of the cameras (which are exactly the same).

What’s New?


New HERO2 features

On the Outside

Upon initial inspection of the camera, it might not look much different, then you start to notice subtle changes. The first thing I noticed was that there are LEDs on 4 sides of the camera, making it much easier to see if the camera is recording. No longer will you hear the oh-so-common phrase, "Is the red light flashing?"; of course this doesn’t help much when it’s helmet mounted, but that’s what friends are for! After further inspection you’ll probably notice the difference in ports; the component port is gone and in its place is a HDMI port for watching that sweet sweet creamy HD goodness directly on your 60" plasma, oh yeah! The component cables that came with the HD HERO would allow you to watch videos directly on a HDTV, but most TVs don’t accept 1080p via component, so you were stuck at 720p. Also HDMI cables carry audio through them as well, so there’s no need to plug in 5 different cables anymore. You’ll also find a handy, little 3.5mm microphone jack! GoPro fanatics have been requesting that one for a while now, good work GoPro! The possibilities are endless: Wire a microphone in to your helmet for voice notations, down by the engine of your motorcycle to cut out wind noise and increase engine noise, or even just route it somewhere protected to reduce wind noise and increase audio clarity.

The biggest change for me is the new menu interface. Gone are the days of cryptic codes and numbers! The LCD resolution has been increased and now the menu system features full length words that let you know what you’re doing. I got pretty familiar with the interface on the original HD HERO, but it took me a long time, and the learning curve was fairly steep. The new interface makes changing settings drastically easier!

helmet cam 
Close up of the new menu

Video

Moving on to the internal functions of the HERO2 reveals a ton of new features! The new sensor has a new faster f/2.4 lens to match, and boy does it make a difference! Though the resolution hasn’t technically increased, the videos are much sharper, all 1080p is definitely not equal. Colors are more natural to boot! The most noticeable change in the video quality department is the low light footage, it is absolutely astounding. Without a doubt a huge difference from the HD HERO, noise is reduced drastically, colors are more natural, and the image is just plain sharper. No comparison in that regard. Another change that is going to make users very happy is the ability to change the field of view, regardless of resolution. Whereas in the past the GoPro’s field of view was 170° at 960p and 720p, and 127° at 1080p, the HERO2 allows you to select between 170°, 127°, and 90° in 720p and 1080p! This opens up endless possibilities, it’s like having 3 lenses in one! There are also 2 new framerates available. In 960p you now have the option of recording at 48fps, and if you want super high motion resolution but don’t care as much about video quality, you can shoot 120fps in WVGA mode (848x480), a cool feature for sure.


HD HERO and HD HERO2 video comparison

Still Images

The upgraded image sensor on the HERO2 now produces 11MP photos, as opposed to 5MP on the original HD HERO. The difference isn’t obvious when first viewing an picture, but as soon as you zoom in on a photo it’s pretty clear. A picture can be cropped much more tightly and still retain sharpness.

Using the HD HERO2

If you were familiar with the original HD HERO, then you won’t find using the HERO2 much different. You still power it on and cycle through menu options using the front button, the top button selects menu options and of course starts and stops recording, as is tradition. As mentioned above, navigating the menu is now much easier, due to the English language menu.The camera still uses the same incredibly durable housing as the last generation, so all parts are compatible there.

Mounting

The HERO2 uses the exact same mount system as the HD HERO so all your old mounts will still work just fine with the HERO2. No other point-of-view camera system has as many mounts available, there are very few limitations as to where you can mount this puppy!

Battery Life

The HERO2 uses the same battery as the previous generation, and battery life is the same as well. You can generally record 2.5 hours of footage on one battery charge, though it can vary depending on the temperature. Very cold temperatures can negatively affect battery life. Of course you can always use the Battery BacPac to double your battery life!

Viewing

You can view your recorded footage directly on a HDTV via an HDMI cable, or on a SDTV via the included composite cables. Of course you can always pop the memory card in your computer, or plug it in via the USB cable. And of course there is the ever popular LCD BacPac, which allows to review footage in the field, at the expense of battery life. A new addition to the line of BacPacs is the upcoming WiFi BacPac (more on that below) which will allow you to view videos on a wifi equipped smartphone, tablet, or computer.

helmet cam 
The Battery and LCD BacPacs

WiFi BacPac?

The WiFi BacPac is an upcoming (April 2012) attachment for the HERO2, with limited compatibility with the original HD HERO. This is going to be a truly revolutionary item in the field of wearable video. There are two main functions, the first is the wifi function, this will allow you to wirelessly broadcast video at a claimed 250ft, you’ll be able to pick up the video on a wifi equipped smartphone, tablet, or PC. This means remote monitoring, the holy grail of point-of-view video. The potential uses are endless! You’ll be able to broadcast live video for others to watch, or set up your smartphone as wireless viewfinder, I’m sure the GoPro community will come up with some awesome uses for this feature. The second function is the remote control, it will allow you to control a bevy of functions on the camera, from a great distance. The remote has a small LCD that will let you see the recording mode, and allow you to see what setting you’re changing. What’s more? You’ll be able to use the remote to control up to 50 WiFi BacPac equipped HERO2s with a single remote, for some awesome Matrix bullet time-esque footage! We’ll have more coverage of the WiFi BacPac after its release.

helmet cam
The upcoming WiFi BacPac and remote control. 

Conclusion

The GoPro HD HERO2 is, without a doubt, a worthy successor to the original HD HERO. The many upgrades result in an incredibly powerful camera; and at it’s low price point will make it a tool accessible by professionals and hobbyists alike. The video quality is incredible, and in my opinion the low-light footage is worth the upgrade alone! Having a selectable field of view is also one of the HERO2’s strongest points. Throw in the increase in framerate, 11MP sensor, HDMI and microphone ports, easily readable menu, and GoPro’s stellar reliability and durability record, and you have one very well rounded helmet camera. There are few negatives however: The buttons are still the same size and in the same position, so it can be difficult to tell if you’ve pressed the record button when wearing gloves. In addition, the recording confirmation beep is still pretty inaudible if you’re in a loud environment. The fact that the same housing and size was kept can be construed as a negative, it is still pretty boxy; however some might argue the other way as it retains cross compatibility with many parts of the original HD HERO. The biggest complaint from me is that GoPro still has no first-party solution to the underwater focus issue (though rumor has it that one is in the works); and some existing aftermarket flat lenses have an isssue with contacting and applying pressure to the camera’s new internal lens at depth. These are really minor complaints, as far as I’m concerned.

Bottom Line: The GoPro HD HERO2 is a fantastic successor to the HD HERO and I have zero qualms with recommending it to anybody that is looking for a point-of-view camera for pretty much any activity, even existing GoPro HD HERO owners.

 

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