Wednesday, March 18, 2015

GoPro Hero 4 Black Edition Review - First Impressions

I'm going to try something different here, with a gear review for something that is not directly IT related.  But since I can't find many posts with the details I was looking for when I was shopping, I'm going to write a series of articles about this handy piece of tech: the GoPro Hero 4 Black edition camera.

The camera itself seems quite delicate when it's not in a housing.  For starters, the hinge and locking mechanism on the battery door is flimsy.  I can shift it around on it's hinge with little to no effort; something that shouldn't be possible when compared to standard digital cameras.  In fact, the door and locking mechanism on mine is actually partly damaged already, and I've only replaced the battery about 5 times now.  The door locks onto the body using a sliding metal groove, which engages under a plastic tab.  I noticed today that the battery door wasn't closing quite right, and upon closer examination I saw the plastic tab was stressed / discolored bent down.  My guess is that since metal is stronger then plastic, at some point I must have not had the door exactly right and it pushed down on the plastic tab.

After the battery comes inserting the MicroSD card.  I was a little disappointed to see that the cover that goes over the slot (along with the USB port and HDMI port) was not attached to the body in any way.  I already see myself loosing it and having to order a replacement in the future.

Battery in and MicroSD card installed, I was ready to take this camera for a spin.  I also got a TouchBac for the camera so I can see what I'm pointing the camera at while SCUBA diving.  I set the settings on the menu to 4k / 30 fps video, enabled the GoPro "ProTune" feature to optimize the image, turned the TouchBac to never turn off, and hit record.

I immediately noticed the camera get warm (as GoPro warned may happen).  At 8 minutes in I used an IR thermometer and took some readings around the camera.  I measured a high of 122F.  Quite toasty.  Several minutes later, after recording for 24 minutes and 37 seconds the camera started beeping and turned off.  It overheated!  I measured 144 degrees on the camera itself.  I removed the battery, which read 131F.

Something else that is probably to be expected is changing settings is less then intuitive, due to the "three button interface" with the small display.  The TouchBac helps this a lot since you then then use a "real UI" to change the settings.

Alternatively you can also use the mobile app to talk to the GoPro to change the settings.  The GoPro basically acts as a WiFi access point, which your phone / tablet connects to.  This works great, but it is a battery hog.

The captured video looks nice.  I recorded at 4K, but played back on my 1080p computer monitors.  Also, I recorded just me walking around the house with the GoPro.  Really not a good test, but it at least gave me a quick "hey, it works" video.

I'm starting to do some data compilation on battery life, file sizes, and all sorts of other stuff, but I wanted to kick off the series of reviews with this quick, non-scientific, first impression write up.

Stay tuned for more!

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