Playing with alternate cameras: the GoPro Hero 3

I wasn’t happy with the behaviour of the kit lens on my Canon 650d when I shot the Christmas bottle stopper videos. I therefore decided to try out a few other cameras I had lying around before just going and buying a better lens for my Canon SLR. First off, I gave a GoPro Hero 3 a try.

The problem with the kit lens on my Canon was that it kept wanting to refocus when I moved my hands in the shot, which I found really annoying while editing the videos. I was therefore interested in a fixed focus camera, and the GoPro seemed like an obvious choice.

However, it hasn’t worked out as well as I expected. First off, the battery life is terrible. I’m lucky to get 12 hours out of this thing, and that’s with the camera “off” for 11.5 of those hours. I think this is because of the wifi app control I turned on so that I could start and stop videos without disturbing the camera. However, its not really my fault if that feature is poorly thought through.

Speaking of which, the Android app control is terrible too. Perhaps the iPhone app is better, but the Android app has lots of trouble holding a reliable wifi connection to the camera, and I seem to end up spending more time fiddling with my wifi settings to get it working than I do shooting videos, which is super frustrating. Additionally, the process of pairing the camera with the phone was hilariously bad — the app kept asking for a PIN number for the camera, which the camera never displayed. What it really wanted me to do was hand edit the wifi config on the phone instead.

The bit that really confuses me here is why they used wifi at all. Its a poor choice of protocol here. Surely low power bluetooth would have been a better choice? Sure, I couldn’t stream the videos from the camera to the phone, but the bandwidth on the wifi link is so bad I am not going to do that anyways.

Next there’s the lens — its way too wide angle for what I am trying to do. Interestingly, this is how I ended up with a spare GoPro, as Back Neighbour Doug has similar complaints with his bench top clock assembly videos. He ended up with a point and click camera I believe.

On the positives, the GoPro does have excellent depth of field. However, I don’t think that’s enough to make up for this camera’s other flaws.┬áRanting aside I think the GoPro would make sense as a camera for action sports, so long as you can accept that the app is terrible and the battery life is poor. Its simply not a great camera for workshop use, which makes me sad.

Here’s the video I shot using the GoPro — its me finishing a door for a cabinet I am working on:

2 thoughts on “Playing with alternate cameras: the GoPro Hero 3”

  1. I have an update on the GoPro issues.

    I recently went on a High Ropes adventure in Victoria, where they provided me with a helmet mounter GoPro – It worked beautifully in that environment, so I decided to revisit the use of the GoPro to make my own videos for in the workshop.

    Turns out that the camera I loaned Mikal was a Hero3. I recently won a Hero3+ from instructables.com, and they are very different cameras. The biggest difference is that the 3+ has adjustable field of view settings. Wide (the old 3 normal), Medium and Narrow.

    With the 3+ set to Narrow, the videos are awesome. the sound quality was a little muffled by the enclosure, but I have purchased an external microphone and installed it into a skeleton case, and it just works ™.

    Battery life under WiFi is still bad, but it turns out that the normal use case for is without the WiFi running, not with the Android app. People simply mount the camera onto their Helmet / Kayak / Car / Ferret and press the record button. In that state, the battery just works.

    Here is a sample video that I recorded of me making a clock on YouTube:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b58Vw90lKiw

    You can see the field of view is about 60cm wide at a height if 60cm from the work surface.

  2. I’d be happy enough to give the GoPro another try. I haven’t made any videos recently though.

    That said — people seem curious about the process of making a pen, so perhaps a video of that will happen sometime.

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