I received my GoPro black yesterday. Here's a quick review!
Firstly I bought it from John Lewis. It's tempting to go Grey Import and get it from someone like digitalrev.com, but John Lewis provide a two year guarantee. That's worth the extra money in my book.
Right, in the event of any internet knicker-twisting occurring, remember that this is all IMO...
Design and Build Quality:
The camera itself has the look of a late 90s trade show give-away, but one that's been handed to Apple to design. It's really rather lovely. Cute even. In the hand, it feels very high quality. Everything fits together beautifully, and high quality materials have clearly been used. This high quality extends through the entire contents of the box.
Out of the Box:
Once you've inserted the battery and placed the camera in it's case, it's surprising how hefty it is. I was slightly taken aback by this as I'd always found my Contour HD to be an annoying presence when worn on the head, and it's quite a bit lighter than the fully encased Gopro. I was even more taken aback by what appeared to be an mechano starter kit lurking in the box. Could the mounting system really be this over-engineered and heavy? Regardless of this, the components were very well made.
I've read all of the horror stories associated with the release of the GP 3, but I guessed that there were probably some fixes in place by now. I loaded a Contour formatted SD card and it started recording right away. Any concerns about the menu system's complexity evaporated too. It's easy to read on the small screen and very user friendly. You have to be a good designer to create a UI this effective and simple, so it was another sign of the depth of quality going on here.
I've got a Troy Lee A1. Like a Giro Feature or Bell Super, it's quite GoPro adhesive mount friendly. The major issue with with the A1 is the fin/ridge running down the centre. The curved helmet mount easily conformed to this though and allowed excellent positioning of the camera. Once on the head, all concerns about the extra weight were laid to rest. It's quite heavy, but very secure and not a burden. It was around this point that I became distracted by the mechano. I spent an hour just building arms and booms to extend the camera in ever more ridiculous ways over my helmet. Great fun! And a very ingenious and flexible system.
I've got an iPad, HTC One and a Windows Phone, so I was able to test the GoPro app in all three. The Windows and Apple version worked the smoothest, with instant connection via the Gp's internal WiFi broadcast. The Android seemed to take a bit longer, and is more fiddly to get going, but once up and running provides a good solid interface. Of the three, the Windows Phone is the prettiest, with the Apple being the easiest to use. All three offer a stunning amount of content, depth and usability. Contour may have had it's laser site, but being able to view a live feed (with quite a bit of lag), and change every setting on the camera makes the GP Black an extremely powerful tool when used with it's app.
Alongside the Black, I bought the extended battery pack and the handebar/seatpost mount. I haven't used the battery pack yet but I can highly recommend the bar clamp. I attached it to my seat post, looking out towards the handlebars, and got some spectacular footage. I also bought a SanDisc Ultra 32gb micro SD card, Class 10.
I took the GP on an initial 35 minute lap of some fairly easy drove road and forest track, interspersed with short amounts of tarmac. Mounted on the seatpost, it never once interfered with my pedalling action. To all intents and purposes, it wasn't there. Before the ride the battery told me I had 2.5 hours of recording time. This ticked down steadily and indicated 1hour 55 minutes at the end of the ride. I was recording at 1080p @ 60fps with the WiFi off. I'm entirely happy with that. Adding the battery pack should double this, giving me a recording time of roughly 5 hours. That's more than I'll ever need for a ride.
I was worried about image stabilisation to the extent that I was only looking at cameras that had this feature. The GP doesn't claim to have any, so I expected the worst. In reality the image was rock solid. If I thought it actually had image stabilisation, I'd say it was a particularly good example of the technology. Played alongside each other, the Contour footage of the same run is a jittery, choppy mess.
I set the camera to run with the Protune turned off and received some stunning footage. The picture was sharp, bright and punchy. White balance was well handled on what was a sunny ride, and colours were rich and warm. The quality of image is reflective of the camera's price. You definitely get what you pay for here.
The remote seems pointless. With such a superb app to control the camera, it seems like an expensive extra.
The whole GoPro experience is daunting for the first hour. There's a lot to take in and it pays to remain calm and objective! This isn't a plug-and-play experience. At least not straight away.
My ride movie was split into 2 halves. This was either a glitch or a setting issue: I stopped briefly during the ride the camera stopped recording as I braked and began recording again straight away. I didn't touch the camera's controls during the ride.
I love it. Despite the painful price tag and it's already awesome reputation amongst reviewers, the Black has exceeded my expectations. Everything is extremely well designed, well made and cleverly thought through. There are a lot of excellent cameras out there, but given the depth of options this offers, the quality of the movies it takes, the very rich GoPro ecosystem, and the depth of it's massive user base's support, it's hard to argue against getting the GP Black if you can afford it.
On the very day my GoPro Black arrived, I came across the leaked specs for the GoPro 4, released that same day! It'll be a few months before that hits the shelves I suspect, but it looks spectacular on paper. Should you wait? Personally, I'm not phased at all. The Black is so good that come the GP 5, this'll fetch a good price second hand.