GoPro HD Hero 2 review
We put the GoPro HD Hero 2 through its paces to find out if this is the best wearable action video camera around.
The GoPro is the action camera that other wearable cameras are compared to, and the latest HD Hero 2 is a welcome upgrade from the original Hero. The Hero 2 can shoot video in 1080p with a wide 170-degree view, capture 11Mp still images, shoot a burst of ten frames in a second, record at 120fps for slow motion and has various time-lapse intervals.
The crucial improvement here is that ultra-wide angle of view in 1080p mode: the Hero 2's predecessor could only manage 960p with a non-widescreen aspect ratio. With the Hero 2, the image fills your entire TV screen, and plays at a smooth 30fps. See also: Group test: what's the best compact camera?
HD Hero 2: Audio and video quality
Better still, there's a noticeable improvement in resolution, colour accuracy and saturation. When the camera is stationary, you'll get the most detail, but when moving - as an action camera will spend most of its time doing - there's an inevitable loss of fidelity. In our tests, we found that the HD Hero 2 only struggled when there were deep shadows and bright sunshine, such as when riding through woods. Here, skies tended to be washed out, but in most other situations, it managed to expose images well.
Audio has been improved too, but video soundtracks won't rival even an iPhone for quality. The reason is partially that the Hero 2 is encased in a protective housing, but also because of all the processing to remove wind noise. Speech is relatively clear, but everything sounds a little muffled.
HD Hero 2: Ports and mounts
We were pleased to see a minijack input for an external microphone, but frustratingly, this is inaccessible when the Hero 2 is in its housing. It isn't really possible to ditch the housing because of its mounting bracket and the fact that the camera would be easily damaged without it.
Two backs are included, one which makes the housing waterproof to 60m and a second, open back which improves sound quality when speeds are below 100mph. You also get mounts for a vented helmet mount, flat surfaces and curved surfaces.
No SD card is bundled, and you'll need at least a Class 10 if you want to use the shortest half-second interval in time-lapse mode. The battery lasts around 2.5 hours, and there's a clever integrated heater which keeps it warm for winter sports, to extend its life.
HD Hero 2: Usability and optional extras
The HD Hero 2 itself has a more detailed screen than the original Hero, and it's far easier to switch between shooting modes without learning codes. There are also recording LEDs on the top, back, bottom and front, making it easier to tell when you're recording. The loud beeps are easily heard over wind noise and let you know when recording has started and stopped when you can't see the Hero 2.
Plenty of accessories are available, including the WiFi BacPac and Remote Combo kit (around £100). This lets you control your camera remotely from up to 600ft away. The WiFi BacPac is also available separately for around £70 and will allow a live preview (the Hero 2 has no viewfinder screen) on a compatible smartphone. The app should launch soon. There's also an LCD BacPac which provides a rear viewfinder for £65. Extra batteries cost £20, but you can also buy a Battery BacPac which lets you install a second battery for a total of five hours' non-stop recording for £50.
Waterproof and almost indestructable, the GoPro HD Hero 2 is a great action camera for anyone that wants to record their sporting endeavours. Image quality is the best we've seen from a wearable camcorder, although audio quality could still be better. It isn't as streamlined as some competitors such as the Contour Plus HD, but it's cheaper and there are more optional mounts available. Overall, the HD Hero 2 is a great buy.