My initial introduction to the world of action cameras was through the lens of a GoPro Motorsports Hero. However, GoPro's camera system, while rugged in construction and versatile, hasn't been what you'd call "easy to use." So consider my interest piqued when GoPro called to inform me that it is pulling the wraps off of the GoPro HD Hero2: the sequel to the HD Hero boasting a simpler interface and increased performance.
GoPro would like us to believe that this sequel is twice as good as the previous-generation HD Hero, and it's got the specs to back it up. Light enters the HD Hero2 through a new glass lens that should be twice as sharp, is captured by an image sensor with more than twice the resolution (11 megapixels versus the previous model's 5 megapixels), and is processed by an image processor that is twice as fast as the one in the original HD Hero. Additionally, GoPro states that it has improved low-light performance, which is typically the Achilles' heel of action cameras.
The new model gives users a choice of full 170-degree and medium 127-degree fields of view (FOV) for captured photos and videos, as well as a video-only narrow 90-degree FOV. Video is captured at 30 frames per second at the maximum 1080p HD, 48fps at 960p tall HD, and 60fps for 720p HD. Slow-motion junkies will like the 60fps setting, but will love the staggering 120fps in WVGA (480p).
On the still-photo side of things, the Timelapse mode is back with shot intervals as low as 0.5 second. There's also a new burst-photo mode that captures 10 images at 11 megapixels in 1 second.
As nice as the spec improvements are, I'm most interested in the interface improvements that GoPro has bestowed upon this new model. While the design hasn't changed much since the last generation, the HD Hero2's monochromatic display has been rejiggered with a simpler, language-based interface. Now the Hero will simply display, for example, 1080-30, rather than the obscure "R5" code that the old unit did for the 1080p, 30fps mode. The unit will also display the estimated record time/storage space for the current resolution. While, I've never had trouble telling whether the Hero is recording or not, the Hero2 has been improved in this respect, too, with the addition of top and rear LED recording lights for easy viewing for any angle.
The GoPro HD Hero2 ship in three different configurations (Motorsports, Surf, and Outdoor) all of which will include the waterproof, shockproof camera housing that is as much GoPro claim to fame as its cameras, as well as a variety of mounting options unique to each bundle. For example, the Motorsports bundle features a suction-cup mount for windshield-mounting or attachment to a car's body without marring the paint.
Users who want to upgrade their Hero2 can do so by connecting an external microphone to the camera's mic-input, outputting video through the new HDMI connection. The AV and Mini-USB connection points from the previous generation are still where you left them, as is the connection point for GoPro's BacPac series of add-on modules. The newest of which will be the Wi-Fi BacPac that allows users to connect up to 50 GoPro HD Hero2 cameras wirelessly with a Wi-Fi Remote, a computer, or smartphone app for remote viewing, recording, switching, and control, as well as live streaming to the Web.
The GoPro HD Hero2 Motorsports, Surf, and Outdoor bundles are available now for at an MSRP of $299 each. The Wi-Fi BacPac and Wi-Fi Remote are slated for a winter 2011 release. We've got the HD Hero2 in now, so stay tuned for a full review.