Product Review: GoPro Surf Hero HD Camera

Product Review: GoPro Surf Hero HD Camera

Mount And Rip With GoPro's New Surf Hero HD Camera

If you're like 99% of the surfing population, ain't nobody taking photos or videoing you while you're getting your rip on. It's just not fair. Why should the pros be the only one to get footy of themselves?

Sometimes you gotta feed your narcissism. That's where a product like the GoPro Surf Hero Camera comes in. Small enough to hold in your palm and encased in a water-tight housing, the Go Pro cam makes documenting your session in high quality video easier than ever.

You've seen the pocket-sized cameras (both video and still) here before on this Web site, but what's new for the 2009 Holiday season is the HD version. Just as compact and easy to use as the original, the HD cam kicks it up a notch in quality. Another improvement is the rechargeable battery--it plugs it into your computer just like an iPod, which eliminates battery costs.

A screen shot from the new Go Pro Surf Hero HD camera.

A screen shot from the new Go Pro Surf Hero HD camera.

To test out this new HD version, I used it for a three-day stretch around Thanksgiving. One day I took it down to Blacks Beach on a two-to-three foot day with crystal clear water and pulled into a few closeouts (I couldn't buy a good wave that day!). Day two was an underwater session at Swamis, and on Thanksgiving, I had my neighbors (Chris and Bishop Slingerland) pull into closeouts at an undisclosed location.

For better or worse, the Go Pro Surf Hero catches every moment of your session...

For better or worse, the Go Pro Surf Hero catches every moment of your session...

While I'm no Jack McCoy, I sure felt like him when armed with the GoPro Surf Hero, clear water, and a bit of swell. For $269.99 the new HD camera is a bit pricier than the original but when you plug that bad boy into your 42" HD TV and press play, you'll be happy to have spent a few more bucks. Like my Grandma said at Thanksgiving while watching some of my footy, "It's surreal!" Believe me (and my Grandma) the GoPro Surf Hero HD camera is the ultimate stocking stuffer for the surfer on your gift list.

Lost in my thoughts, I almost took this kid out bellyboarding into the beach.

Lost in my thoughts, I almost took this kid out bellyboarding into the beach.

Ease Of Use
Despite my rank as an Online Editor, I'm pretty dumb when it comes to technology. Put it this way, I can't turn the TV on at TransWorld. Yet, despite me being a dipshit, I successfully inserted the battery, mounted it to my board, and filmed a few closeout barrels without pulling the old filming-the-sand-and-missing-the-wave syndrome. In fact, the new HD version is easier to use than the older version; you simply push a button and the camera is rolling.

Footage Quality
The quality of the footage is only issue was that it somehow gave me a double chin. Weird.

Different Ways To Use
There are a few different ways to film with the new GoPro HD. You can mount it to the front of your board and position it either looking forward or back at the rider. You can also mount it to a helmet for a good rider point of view, or, just swim into the pit with the smallest waterproof camera on the market. It would also be cool to use the GoPro HD camera while spear fishing or scuba diving.

Hints For Success
-Hit the record button early, there are a couple seconds lag time between hitting the button when it starts recording and you can always edit the extra footage out.

-If you mount the camera to a board, pick one and stick with it. While you can remove the stick-on mount, it's a hassle to keep removing and applying them.

-If you're holding it with your hand, make sure your finger doesn't go over the lens.

-If you see someone who could be eggy about you filming, tuck the camera into your wetsuit.


Go Pro Surf Hero HD screen shot

GoPro Surf Hero Tech Specs

Camera Optics
Lens Type: Fixed Focus (2ft/.6m - ∞), glass
Aperture: f/2.8 (high performance in low-light situations)
Angle of View: 170º ultra wide angle in WVGA, 720p, or 960p mode
Angle of View: 127º wide angle in 1080p mode

HD Video Resolution Modes: (subject to change, pending final firmware release)
1080p = 1920×1080 pixels (16:9), 30 fps, 15 Mbit/s data rate
960p = 1280×960 pixels (4:3), 30 fps, 12 Mbit/s data rate
720p = 1280×720 pixels (16:9), 60 fps, 15 Mbit/s data rate
720p = 1280×720 pixels (16:9), 30 fps, 8 Mbit/s data rate
WVGA = 848×480 pixels (16:9), 60 fps, 8 Mbit/s data rate
Sensor Type: 1/2.5″ HD CMOS, 2.2µm-sized pixels
Light Sensitivity: Super low-light sensitivity (>1.4 V/lux-sec)
Video Format: H.264 compression, saved as Windows- & Mac-compatible MPEG4 (.mp4) file
Exposure Control: Auto with user selectable center weighted average and spot metering settings
White Balance: Auto

Microphone: Built-in, mono with AGC (automatic gain control)
Audio Format: 48 kHz, AAC audio compression

Resolution: 5 megapixel
Capture Modes: Single shot, photo every 2, 5, 10, 30 or 60 secs.; 3 photo burst; self-timer

Memory: SD card, up to 32GB capacity (SDHC)
Average recording times (using 32GB SD card):
1080p (30 fps): 4h 21m
960p (30 fps): 5h 26m
720p (60 fps): 4h 21
720p (30 fps): 8h 09m
WVGA (60 fps): 8h 09m

Power & Battery
Battery Type: Rechargeable 1100 mAh lithium-ion
Battery Life: Approx. 2.5 hrs
Charging: via USB to computer or optional power adapter
Charge Time: 80% capacity after 1 hour with optional power adapter; or 2 hours with a computer's USB port

Waterproof Camera Housing
Depth Rating: Up to 180 feet / 60 meters
Construction: Polycarbonate and stainless steel
Hardware: Stainless steel

Size & Weight
Dimensions (H x W x D): 1.6" x 2.4" x 1.2" (42mm x 60mm x 30mm)
Weight: 3.3oz (94g) incl. battery, 5.9oz (167g) incl. housing

Optional Accessories
Additional Rechargeable 1100 mAh Lithium-Ion Battery (not yet available for pre-order)
Full Line of Mounting Accessories