I bought this at this (2012) year's BVE after seeing lots of footage and talking with one of the developers and a couple of cameramen who use it. The idea was that it would help me in two main activities: tracking skiers, camera mostly mounted on a helmet or sometimes a ski; and analysing swimming technique, hand held camera in the pool. A possible third activity (but not yet) is filming in or on a friend's rally car - hence my choice of the `Motorsports kit'.
It works very well in the bright sunshine on the piste, and I set the "zoom" angle at its narrowest, 90°, where the barrel distortion is at its minimum (also available are 121° and default 170°), giving sharp and accurately coloured images even at the full 1920x1080 25fps HD. However, when the light levels fall to those of a normally lit interior (a living room for example), then the images are blurry and noisy, and often not really useable.
In a swimming pool where there was slightly more light than a domestic interior, while stills were noisy, the moving images were generally acceptable, and served their purpose for stroke analysis. If you are going to try this, please make sure that nobody objects to filming in the pool; there are all sorts of rules and regulations against filming there, and getting written permission from all concerned is vital.
This `Motorsports kit' includes a very powerful sucker mount as well as a selection of self-adhesive mounts and a variety of different brackets to help with the mounting angles. The self-adhesive mounts use very strong glue, do not expect to be able to remove it! The taller slide-in bracket is held together by three small screws, so allowing a bolt-on option.
I would recommend also using a secondary fixing such as a lanyard, just in case! I noticed on one occasion recently that the camera had begun to work loose from the clip stuck on my helmet, after inadvertently hitting the camera (undamaged, phew) on the metal-work of a ski-lift.
I miss the ability to have a ball-head adjustment to allow more varied angles relative to the mounts. If I cannot find a commercial one I'll probably resort to making one, but that will not happen at all quickly.
The life of the 1.1Ampere-hour battery supplied with the camera is not all that good, giving only about two hours of working time regardless of whether filming or not. So I have tended to switch the camera off completely if I know I'm not going to shoot another sequence immediately.
A 32Gig class 10 SDHC card
gives me about four and a half hours of H.264 video at the highest resolution. Alas, when the camera is mounted on a ski helmet with skis rattling down a bumpy piste we might be lucky to get even five minutes of watch-able video in the end - I need a head steady in the absence of any form of optical or digital image stabiliser in the camera.
The waterproof housing is very good, and quite soundproof too, as we found out on the piste, when all we could hear in the audio was the wind noise and my goggles rattling against the helmet; speech and other wanted sounds were very quiet. Alas, in both my main applications I cannot even think about risking the use of the ventilated back, so the sound is definitely an also ran.
The battery works reasonably well down to about -10°C, but below that it was not so happy, and the bar indicator on the display showed no almost charge when it should have showed full. So here the trick is to leave the camera outside with the housing open for a while to allow it to acquire the low humidity of the coldest temperature and then seal it (to prevent condensation on the lens later); and then keep it warm inside ones clothing, only exposing it to the cold again when filming.
Playback using the HDMI is very good, and we were able to review the day's work on the big TV in the ski chalet in the evening. There was no problem powering it via the USB while in playback, but it only seemed to want to charge the battery when switched off. I'm using a cheap USB plug-top PSU
that can supply 1Amp.
The menu system is very basic, but sufficient, once you are familiar with it. It does not help that the manual supplied with the camera is written in tiny print, and even worse, some of the most helpful features are black print on dark grey - in the poor light of the chalet interior I needed to borrow some strong reading glasses.
It is another useful tool in the photographer's box. Neither the image quality nor the H.264 coding even begin to compare with the HD AVI video from my Pentax K5
; but then there is no way I would even dare to think about skiing with the big and heavy K5 stuck on my helmet!
The GoPro HD Hero2 system scores heavily on convenience, lightness, simplicity, durability, and most of all the ease and flexibility of use. I am glad I bought it, and even bearing in mind its extreme limitations I think it well deserves four stars - it only loses a star because of the inadequate low-light performance.
Addendum 27th March 2012
We've been using an earlier version (ie not on Az) of Avid
to edit the H.264 footage, and it all works nicely. But H.264 really requires a quadcore computer and a decent graphics card to have reasonable response speeds. The Sony software I tried to begin with (came with my CX115) is a non-starter - way, way too slow.
Addendum 20th February 2013
I've updated the firmware in the camera. This was done using the Cineform software supplied by GoPro free on their website. My camera had version 8-12-58, and now after the update it is 8-12-222. I had some problems with persuading the camera to complete the update, but GoPro Support were very helpful and gave me a manual work-around.
The main difference immediately apparent is the addition of the Protune option which allows 35Mb/s recording compared with the standard 15Mb/s and turns off some of the sharpening and edge enhancement features, but allows more of the fine detail and subtle shading to be recorded, which is ideal if you intend to be doing some Post-production manipulation of the video. There are some good Youtube videos illustrating this; search for 'GoPro Protune'. Note that recording time on the SD card is reduced accordingly, and also 35Mb/s probably needs a Class 10 SDHC card, but you can still squeeze almost two hours of 1080p25 onto a 32GB.
Be Warned: updating will wipe anything that was previously on the SDHC card fitted in the camera, also all your preferred settings in the camera will be lost.
Addendum. 18th March 2013
I've been using it in both modes on a recent ski trip (-19C in Arc2000 to -30C up on Aguille Rouge) and noticed that sometimes the cold caused it to drop out of record after a second. But it kept going after the next ask each time. I was also giving a warmth boost inside my ski-suit every now and then when we stopped.
Also, don't mix Protune and non-Protune recordings on the same SD card because we found later on playback the camera confused the numbers and it would lock solid, needing the battery to be removed for a reset. All the files are there however. The Protune image quality is much better, especially because the AK is toned down to a much more sensible level. Note that the Protune option does not allow the 90 degree (narrowest) field of view.