GoPro Travel Camera : Hero Gear Review
I am a vagabond. I am continuously traveling the world for an indefinite amount of time and I treasure my photos almost as much as the memories I make. I started my journey exactly 225 days ago and carefully chose the GoPro Hero 2 as my primary camera.
It was a grave mistake and this is my story why as well as the
review for the GoPro company and HD camera.
Hero Camera & Gear by GoPro Review
The Hero 2 takes great wide angel shots but relies on absolute perfect lighting to avoid even the smallest imperfections. My iPhone 4S and 5 take noticeably higher quality photos under the same conditions. All of which produce noticeably better photos in the dark but are notorious for lacking in this department. So if a dedicated action camera can’t compete with a year old camera phone, that’s just embarrassing. So filming or even just photos is literally useless in the slightest absence of light. But wide angel shots are nothing new or rare and can even be applied to any smartphone with a small attachment.
My Rating: 6/10
Even worse than the lighting problem with the GoPro Hero 2 is sound recording. With the waterproof case on, there is absolutely no point in attempting to use the recorded audio. Your only option is to overlay the video with other audio or spend additional money jerry-rigging the case to capture audio better. Recording with the skeleton case (non-waterproof) is a little better but still muffed and muted making it difficult for professional use.
My Rating: 3/10
As an action camera, GoPro would have thought to put in shake resistance on video (video stabilization) but it does not. It has ZERO stabilization. I’ve gone biking, ATV’ing, boating and mere walking with the Hero and the absence of shake resistance really diminishes the quality. Often unwatchable and always nauseating. Even the iPhone 5 now has stabilizers that work very well. Again, a camera phone beats out a GoPro camera.
My Rating: 2/10
The included waterproof casing feels solid and I never had any leakage problems but the hinges have already begun to show signs of wear. As if they were created to work well but designed to fall apart quickly so consumers can keep buying them. The metal insert for the hinges does not seem to be made of stainless steel or at least a quality material as it is already rusting. The rubber stoppers are cracked and also made of a cheap material. This was just after 30 days. What’s more is that this case alone is rendered useless when shooting underwater, more on that below. Lastly, all cases firmly hold the actual camera with sharp and hard plastic tips that rips and destroys the contact points. What a huge design flaw. It doesn’t affect the function of the camera but it permanently kills it aesthetically, like a ding on a shiny new car.
My Rating: 6/10
The Hero 2 was designed to be used almost exclusively while inside the GoPro only cases. With that said, pressing the buttons is a choir. It’s spring loaded and you must press hard. So hard that when taking photos, it’s difficult to get a steady shot as the pressure needed to click the button causes you to jerk the camera slightly. Navigating through the joke of a menu with the same spring loaded buttons is frustrating and takes many repeat presses and redundant moves.
My Rating: 4/10
You’ve seen the ads and the marketing photos of the great and perfect underwater shots. Lies, all lies. Sort of… As I mentioned before, the included waterproof casing works to keep water out. But just as importantly, it should shoot well when submerged in water. It shoots but not well, as if the Hero 2 suddenly got cataracts. It’s extremely blurry and renders the photos and videos completely unusable. GoPro’s fix for this is for you to buy an entirely new case costing $50 to take quality underwater shots. But no, they don’t mention anywhere on their site that the included cases are unusable underwater. I bought the Hero 2 partially because of its small size and getting another case taking up the same volume as the camera itself defeats the purpose for a minimalist travel backpacker.
My Rating: 1/10
Due to weather conditions that GoPro has no control over, the lenses tend to fog up fairly constantly. This means removing the camera from the case and wiping the inside of the case lens. Could they have designed a better case to fight fogging? Sure, but they decided they could make more money by selling these insanely expensive tabs for $15 that can only be used a few times each. What a ripoff.
My Rating: 3/10
The software to put simply is atrocious. This is a camera. And only a camera. So it shouldn’t crash constantly like a virus riddled Windows computer. Seriously, what kind of camera crashes? Especially considering this is an “action camera” as GoPro claims, it should work smoothly and on the fly to capture you know, those sudden action moments. If your already a GoPro owner, you know how long winded and difficult it is to do a software update. There are countless steps involved including manual clicks and presses on the camera which must be done in perfect timing with the software update process. I bet the Internet gets huge bumps of activity every time GoPro issues an update due to the message boards exploding on confused owners seeking advice. But this isn’t just because software updates are mission impossible, it’s because GoPro’s customer service is the worst I’ve seen in any company. More on that shortly.
My Rating: 2/10
The WiFi Remote
Excuse my language but what a piece of crap this thing is. Massively hyped and not functional out of the box. This is not an isolated case either, this was literally everyone’s unit. They sold the hardware but the software was not ready until 4 months after it went on sale. Letting you use just a third of its function. The remote is intended to let you remotely control the Hero 2 and Hero 3. After a notoriously difficult software update to the camera, some of the functions worked. Barely. More so, the remote does not work underwater which is intended to be used for an underwater camera. Wow… The R&D must be the same people working as the incompetent and horrible customer service. You can argue that Wi-Fi signals don’t work well with water but that itself is a design flaw considering its intended to be used underwater. Use a different signal or code the Wi-Fi effectively. Useless.
My Rating: 3/10
The Wrist Mount Strap
GoPro finally made a passable product. Actually its quite good but not without flaws. The wrist mount strap made it a joy to use the Hero camera (when it worked that is). It was on my left wrist almost 24 hours a day, ready to shoot or record. Made of neoprene, it fitted on my wrist firmly and comfortably. Although I’m giving it an 7/10, there are a few severe problems that should make it a 5/10. Out of the box, its not very useful as it wasn’t designed correctly as if a few parts were missing. There are several DIY videos and blog posts on the web that others have have MacGyvered using rubber bands and duct tape. So any product that requires such fixes out of the box, is a very bad sign. But I figured out my own fix to make it work and it worked quite well, so its a 7.
My Rating: 7/10
Hero Camera Problems and Issues
Minor, easily fixable problems but ultimately annoying issues started happening just 2 months after purchasing the Hero 2. It reminded me of the early days when I used Windows on cheap laptops – constant crashing, resetting, turning on and off and repeat. It was always fixable until that one day when it became completely broken. This is what happened to the Hero 2. But I repeat, this happened in just 60 days.
I was with 3 of my friends in Vang Vieng, Laos, tubing the Mekong River excited to do some filming. Then the Hero 2 crashed for the hundredth time. Annoying but no big deal since I thought I could just turn it off and on like every other time. But not this time. At worse, I had to remove the battery and try again. But no go for the GoPro. It would turn on but be stuck on the menu screen and now it could only be turned off by removing the battery. So I laid there on my rubber tube floating down the river frustrated, trying every possible way to jump start this shit box. No success. But all wasn’t lost as I whipped out my iPhone in a waterproof case and took some great shots. In fact, one of the shots was published in a travel magazine.
So once I got back to my bungalow I frantically searched online (I skipped the official GoPro website, as I mentioned before their devilish customer support) on how to fix this. I found nothing that matched my specific problem. So I reluctantly emailed GoPro, fingers crossed.
Needless to say, the Hero 2 was never fixed and is sitting with my winter clothes at a friend’s house in Prague while I couldn’t be happier taking photos with my trusty iPhone 5 in Bali.
GoPro’s Customer Service
Before purchasing the Hero 2 camera and accessories, I did much research on not just the product but on the customer service. It was pretty terrible. The most prevalent problem people wrote about on the Internet was their exceedingly slow response time and of course the constant crashing. This is despite the claim that their response time is “24 – 48 hours”, according to their website.
In my experience with them, the response time averaged 5 days and some cases being 7, 14, 30 and finally a few days shy of 2 whole months! Totally what seems like 30 messages. It took 120 days to “resolve” my problem. That’s right, 4 months. And by “resolve” I mean they asked me to buy a GoPro Hero 3 camera with a discount.
There initial response time was about 3 days, still 1/3 later than what they promise on their website. I told them about my problem and they copy and pasted a commonly used message that did not help at all. This would not have happened if they actually read my message. So more messages followed. Eventually someone took the time to read my message thoroughly and emailed me a potential fix customized for my specific Hero 2 problem. Still didn’t work. So I emailed again and this time they sent me the first copy and paste message telling me how to fix it. What? Their rather incompetent, using a bot or just plain stupid. Probably the former and latter.
Many, many more messages continued with response times varying from weeks to months. Several times the customer service reps would even claim that my emails were sent blank and that’s why they didn’t respond. Not true and I have the GMail records to prove it. But even if I for some reason did send an email with no message, shouldn’t they have at least responded to see what was going on? Especially since this was an open and unresolved issue they they have yet to respond to.
I understand that electronic gadgets can have hardware and software problems but that’s what customer service is for. My conclusion is that GoPro’s so called customer service would be better off without it. That’s how bad it is. Shame on you GoPro.
Ar first glance, the $300 price tag for the Hero 2 camera kit seems fair and even inexpensive. But it was very clever for GoPro to price it this seemingly low. Because it isn’t. At least if you want to get not just the most out of it but to use it as intended and as advertised.
You need to purchase:
- Several spare batteries as their charge is weak and known to fail abruptly ($20 each)
- The battery backpack to use the spare batteries with ($50)
- The battery charger if want to charge more than one battery at a time ($30)
- A separate underwater shooting case as the included case is not meant for submerged use ($50)
- An LCD screen as the kit has no way for you to view the media without a laptop ($80)
- A fog pack to fight off the inevitable lens fogging ($15 per several use)
- A spare lens as the case lenses are very prone to scratches ($20)
- A spare case if your traveling as they are designed to wear fast ($25)
- At least one 10 rated memory card since its not included ($30)
- A non-GoPro replacement camera for when the Hero 2 inevitably has a catastrophic failure ($300)
- Psychological treatment due to the developing madness of using a GoPro camera and the experience of their “customer service” ($1,200)
That is the true cost of owning a GoPro camera.
The Replacement Camera
Luckily, I still had my iPhone 4S for travel photography so this is what I used until I purchased the wonderful iPhone 5 while in Bangkok. And it’s a disgrace to GoPro that this mobile phone which happens to have a camera in it, takes far higher quality photos and video.
The concept of the GoPro camera is great and has many uses for active photography but fails in delivering. Even if the cameras “just worked” like Apple products, the GoPro customer service is quite possibly the worst I have ever dealt with. Going well below AT&T or even the American DMV.
The GoPro company is greedy, selfish and simply made up of terrible and incompetent people. I’m sure there are some kind and wonderful employees who work there (which I feel sorry for) but not the ones I’ve had to deal with.
GoPro, you nearly ruined the vibe of my journey traveling around the world and I have lost a bit of faith in humanity because of you people. Please file for chapter 11 or become a respectable company.