Tuesday, July 24, 2012

GoPro Hero Camera

Against my better judgment, I've become a bit of a kook for cameras. I've taken photographs for a long time - even back in the Dark Ages of print film - but didn't get my first digital camera until 2004. Like many addictions, things took a while to ramp up and for the first several years I was content with one camera.

Then, I felt it was time for an upgrade, and that's where the trouble often starts. From whatever it was that I first had, it was on to a Panasonic FZ-30 in 2005 or 2006. Then it was the improved Panasonic FZ-50 (which I still have and regularly use - fabulous camera!). Somewhere along the line I added a small rectangular Canon Powershot, to have something that would slip in a pocket.

The lens-lust steadily increased, with the upshot that I've now also got a Nikon Coolpix P510, which is an unbelievable point & shoot with a 42x zoom that actually holds up. You'd be stunned at the quality of the distant bird shots that thing can manage. Joining it is a Nikon D7000 SLR and a smattering of accompanying lenses, and the recent acquisition of a Canon T3i Rebel SLR, which looks to be an amazing camera and I can't wait to work with that some more.

Camera technology is growing better by leaps and bounds, and even the smart phone cameras/video are capable of stunning quality. I've got a Droid X, and it'll almost always come through in a pinch for both stills or video. But one of the coolest cameras out there follows...

The palm-sized GoPro HD Hero camera, an amazing little piece of technology. Inexpensive, too, at around $200.00. There isn't much to one of these. Two buttons control everything, and while it does have the ability to take still images, nearly everyone that gets one gets it for the video function. If you've seen onboard race car video, jumped (virtually) out of an airplane with a skydiver, or any manner of X-games type of video action, chances are it was filmed with a GoPro just like the one in my hand.

GoPros also come with a thoroughly waterproof case, and can be used at depths of up to at least 100 feet. The waterproof case is on the camera, above, and can be mounted in seconds. Its ability to function superbly both above and below water made the GoPro irresistible to me.

Nature videography really wasn't the primary reason I got the GoPro. It was bikes. That's my 2009 Ducati Monster 1100S, and it's the latest in a long line of motorcycles. In a weird melding of parallel universes, I became infatuated with motorcycles when almost as young as I was when birds hooked me into nature. It started with a rigid-framed minibike with a Tecumseh 2.5 horsepower engine that my brother John and I zipped around on when I was maybe ten or so. On it went, to a Hodaka, then Honda, then Suzuki, and to more Suzukis, Kawasaki, a Yamaha V-Max, a Buell, Harley-Davidson Softail, and some other stuff, finally coming to land on this Ducati which is the coolest unit yet, to me.

Well, one awesome aspect of the GoPro camera is that it mounts firmly onto steeds such as this bike. You can see it on its tank mount, just aft of the gas cap. It could be mounted on the back fender, too, or the front fender, on your helmet - almost anywhere. This allows for some cool footage.

When mounted on the gas tank of a motorcycle, it delivers video from the rider's perspective, and it's almost as if the viewer is along for the ride. The camera has a very wide-angle field, too.

For above-water purposes such as this, there is a vented camera case that allows for better audio. Because the audio pickups are at the rear of the camera, it cuts way down on wind noise and other obtrusive ambient sounds, thus allowing the rich mellifluous baritone of the Ducati to dominate.

After getting a waterproof case for the GoPro, I couldn't wait to test out its underwater capabilities, and finally did so about a week ago. This is a section of Mac-O-Chee Creek in Logan County, and its water is mostly clear as a bell. The stream is fed in part by springs, and water-quality is high and Mac-O-Chee hosts plenty of aquatic life.

Here's a brief video of life in the stream. As you can see, clarity remains high even when the camera is in the drink. Johnny darters can be seen shuffling along the stream bottom, and a number of bluntnose minnows swim past the lens. I'm looking forward to working more with this camera in underwater situations, as it'll allow footage of some very cool stuff that could never be recorded with a conventional camera.

The above video was compressed significantly for ease of uploading to the blog; it looks even better uncompressed. And GoPro didn't give me the camera or ask for any sort of endorsement. I just think it is a very cool and versatile piece of technology that can go where most cameras can't.



Ian Adams said...


You are clearly suffering from camera craving, lens lust, and accessory angst, though you seem to have avoided megapixelitis - I'm the proud owner of the new 36 MP Nikon D800E. I look forward to comparing thoughts on dragonfly photography in Dayton this weekend - see you at the Bergamo Center!

Ian Adams

ben said...

You mentioned having the Nikon Coolpix P510. I have been comparing that to the Panasonic FZ150. I have had a Panasonic FZ18 and have loved it, but it is now pretty old. Obviously, 42X optical beats 24X and the Coolpix is a bit cheaper right now. Any other throughts on comparisons?

Lilac Haven said...

Thanks for sharing. Really neat camera.

Mary Ann said...

That's a really cool video! I had no idea that that camera would be so inexpensive, I might have to look into getting one! Because I don't have enough ways to spend all of my free time yet. ;)

Jack and Brenda said...

They are really neat cameras and I'm thinking about getting one myself. We were at the Oshkosh airshow the past few days and GoPro had a million dollar display vehicle there, staffed by 10 or more experts. My guess is that they are making a decent profit on the cameras and mounts.
I just wish there were more clear streams in Ohio for you to use this in!

indianbiodiversitytalk said...

never new that neat cams came for this price.thanks for sharing