I also came into possession of a GoPro Wide camera recently, and I agree with
all of HBC's findings in Part I of this review.
The GoPro Wide is super-easy to use right out of
the box and the wide angle lens is way better than the narrow field of view
offered by other cameras.
It also think the GoPro Wide has probably the
best selection of camera mounts provided with any motorcycle videocam we've
On top of all that, the price is right!
So, not being one to keep my opinions to myself, I thought I'd add a few more random thoughts to the
Why a Wide Angle Lens?
My feeling is that the megapixel and zoom capabilities of modern digital
cameras are too often deviously exploited by camera manufacturers to
persuade the average consumer to buy the "better" camera. More pixels,
more zoom, better, right? Wrong.
Apparently it's easier to use these raw numbers
and the "bigger is better" approach than it is to use more complex data to
convince consumers that one camera actually produces better quality photos
than the competition.
The really important camera features like image
quality, accurate color reproduction, noise at high ISO ratings, resolution,
pincushion and barrel distortion are much more esoteric topics that would
take too much work for the consumer to understand -- yet these are the
features that, in the end, will make the most difference to the
But even the point-and-shoot snapshot taker who
couldn't care less about those specifications will immediately recognize
what those specifications do for the quality of a photo when they see it in
At least the megapixel wars have slowed a bit. I
can make a very good argument that 7 MP is more than necessary for excellent
prints (and way more than necessary for 72 dpi web photos) and that
processing a 12 MP+ photo will take more memory, more computer horsepower
and, in general, result in a less satisfactory photo.
But the latest trend
seems to be monstrously huge zoom range. For example, the new Canon PowerShot
SX1 has a 28-560 mm zoom and the recently announced Sony DSC-H20 a 38-380
I'd argue that the wide end of these zoom
ranges is much more useful to the average consumer, who is more apt to take
photos of the family in poor lighting conditions indoors, where a wide angle
lens with good light gathering capabilities (i.e., a "fast" lens of f2.8
max) and low noise at high ISO is key.
Long focal lengths, even with image
stabilization, usually mean "slow" f-stops at the long end of around f5.6 or so, and most
consumers simply won't be using such extreme zoom capabilities. And
it's a double whammy, because those long zooms usually mean one or two stops
slower at the widest end also.
bigger numbers must mean a better camera, right?
A relatively wide field of view is doubly
important for taking motorcycle videos,
where the old GoPro (and the
Oregon Scientific and the
VholdR we reviewed)
seem to provide a narrower field of view, which make mounting a much more critical
and difficult task.
The wide angle lens on the new GoPro Wide is
perfect for edge-to-edge road work on a motorcycle. Just remember the
age-old tips from the pros -- keep wide angle lenses as parallel
to the ground as possible for the least amount of barrel distortion -- unless that type
of distortion is desired for stylistic reasons.
The wide angle lens on the GoPro Wide seems to
offer about the same perspective as a 14 mm lens on a 35 mm camera. I
compared photos taken with the GoPro Wide and a 35 mm Nikon D200 with a
Tamron 12-14 mm lens mounted. From the same camera location, the view
and perspective in the resulting photos was about the same.
The GoPro Wide in its waterproof housing, with two AAA batteries in the
GoPro Wide camera, side view.
The red light turns on briefly when the camera is started and it blinks when
Tour: The GoPro Wide Camera - our first HD video!
Careful With That Lens!
One problem that wide-angle lens owners have
always faced is keeping the lens clean and scratch-free. Many 35 mm
wide angle lenses -- like my Tamron 12-14 mm -- have a curved lens surface
that invites fingerprints, dirt and, heaven forbid, scratches.
So I wish there was some sort of lens protector
on the GoPro Wide -- owners should be very careful not to touch the "fish
eye" lens protruding from the front of the camera body.
it's always good practice to take special care with camera lenses, but the
lens on the GoPro Wide has an anti-reflective coating that is a magnet for
Since the camera can be adjusted while it's in
the waterproof housing, it's probably a good idea to keep it in the housing
as much as possible, although the camera does have to come out to remove the
SD card or connect to the computer via the USB port.
Other Thoughts on the GoPro Wide Opening the Housing: Care should be taken also when opening the
waterproof housing; the camera can easily slide out of the housing when the
door is open, and you don't want the camera to fall out on the ground and
potentially damage the exposed lens.
Camera Configuration: These old
eyes have a very difficult time viewing the icons on the fingernail-sized
LCD on the front of the camera. The icons are referenced on the
instruction sheet (printed in 5 languages), and it takes some study to
figure it all out. I leave mine on the default settings and use it for
video only -- I still have to refer to the instruction sheet to remember how
to take still photos.
Packaging: The large clear plastic
box that holds the camera in the packaging seems to me to be a missed
opportunity. It's certainly not "green" packaging and probably wasn't
The camera housing is stuck to the bottom of the display
case with double-sided tape, but mine came loose during shipping and I could
hear the camera banging around deep inside the box as the FedEx carrier
handed it over.
Although the clear display box might look good
in the store, I'd rather see a more environmentally sound container that
would serve double duty as a camera and accessories storage box later on.
I'm always surprised that manufacturers of
various consumer goods -- and especially electronics and cameras -- don't
design the container to also serve as the storage unit for the owner.