Go Pro – SD 170 Digital Video Camera

This is a guest review by Paul.

Spot the camera amongst the stuff!

The GoPro Hero has been a bit of a conundrum for me. It’s taken me about a month to get around to writing a review for it because it’s as brilliant as it is flawed!

It comes with a wealth of stuff to mount it and waterproof it, and being a keen motorcyclist all this stuff looked great… however, I failed to mount it successfully to the two bikes I own in a way that could be removed, i.e. not involving araldite or acres of duct tape.

It does come with a 3M gluepad mount, which I have seen very successfully stay on both a crash helmet and the fuel tank of a BMW S1000RR,which is no mean feat. However, the BMW rider had so much spare cash available, he didn’t really care if it fell off and was lost, destroyed or nicked (by me if I found it first…). I had to return this unit so felt compelled to not risk it and I also didn’t want my helmet or bike to have a sticky pad on that I might not be able to remove.

There’s all sorts of other mounts in the box too, including a head strap which would be great for extreme sports type lunacy.
The mount shown here in the picture was an optional extra, and there’s lots of stuff like this available, including a strap-on chest mount… which is nice.

Eventually we managed to mount it to a friend’s bike using the bar clamp and several of the link pieces. It looked great until you tested it for rigidity, and then it all went a bit floppy. We cured the problem with one of my favourite cure all devices… insulation tape.

Finally found somewhere to bolt it.

That’s one of the bad bits… now some of the good.
The video quality from this little gadget is some of the best I’ve seen from a self contained unit. {NOTE: Paul tested the Standard Definition Go Pro, not the HD} The sound quality is even better!

The results can be seen in the video below.

I’ve spent far too much time over the last few years mucking about with bullet cams, MiniDV camcorders, PVRs and dodgy strung together microphones with pre amps. This little Go Pro camera makes all of that seem overly complicated and a bit rubbish in terms of final quality. This unit deals so much better with changes of light than any bullet cam I’ve played with, and also deals with vibration better than others I have used, with very little wavyness (technical term) on the video footage caused by on-bike vibes.

The Go Pro also has the advantage that you can change the batteries as it takes AAA rechargeables;  so if you want to take hours of video, you just need tocome equipped with spare cards and batteries. It takes standard SD and SDHC Cards, up to a maximum of 4GB (but this does need a firmware upgrade) which should last about 2 hours (it’s a shame it won’t except larger memory cards, however it has been superseded now by HD versions that do). A couple of AAA batteries will last between 2 and 3 hours depending on if you use lithium (better) or NiMH. It does also have a particularly useless 16MB of internal memory which would last for less than 30 seconds of video!

As should be quite obvious from the name, this camera has a 170 degree viewing angle, which is quite wide, but not obviously fish-eye. This would be great for things like rock climbing or any extreme sport for that matter where the watcher’s interest is in the action, not in the distant detail. However, for on bike footage (especially for road riding) the detail in front gets all too small all too quickly. It does mean though that it’s not hyper sensitive being mounted a little off from the perfect angle, which is good for a camera with no viewing screen.

There is one last thing that has to be mentioned about this camera… it can be easily operated without the instruction manual as long as you don’t want to change any settings on the move… and then when you do have the instructions, they are a bit “Google Translate” and don’t make the best sense. Once you get it set up to do what to you want it to do, which is take video, it’s very unlikely you’ll be wanting it to do anything else… it is a mini video camera after all.

Summary: Would I buy one… yes. These are the lower end of the GoPro video camera range now which means you can buy them for way less than £100. The replaceable batteries are a big hit for me, as lack of power usually stops play first. It’s not HD, but that’s not a big issue if you’re ‘youtubing’ your video. 3 out of 5 hammers from me, good as any entry level action video camera.

Price: £99
From: Expansys (we’ve seen them at £85 in some independent outdoor retailers recently)

NOTE: We’ve just found the HD version for £125 online here