If you’re considering buying the GoPro Hero 2 Helmet Camera to capture those thrilling and magical moments on your dirt bike, this review may help you make up your mind. As the proud owner of the GoPro Hero 2 myself, and having captured endless hours of riding on motocross tracks, sand dunes and bush trails, I can share with you some of the pros and cons that I’ve experienced with it.
I will cover things like the setup and mounting, recording options and flaws, filming environments, ease of use, downloading, video production, certain difficulties I’ve come across and more so that you can use this review to help you figure out if the GoPro 2 will suit your taste buds.
Most dirt bike riders have heard of heard of GoPro by now (and if you haven’t.. where have you been hiding?) as almost every extreme sport has it’s finest athletes recording their epic experiences with one. And the motocross / dirt bike scene has taken to these things like a kid to candy for no other reason than they’re awesome. But they’re not perfect.. so read on.
The GoPro Hero 2 comes complete with various mounting brackets and fittings (but not all of them), a tough camera housing and two housing back plates – the standard back plate which allows a clearer sound quality, and a waterproof back plate which doesn’t allow as much sound to come through. You will also receive cables for charging your GoPro (it charges simply by connecting it to your P.C or laptop) and transferring photos / videos to your computers hard drive.
To make this review easier to digest I’m going to break it down into pros and cons followed by a conclusion.
Here is a vid I put together using 100% footage taken from my GoPro Hero 2. I used Windows Movie Maker to piece it together which is free, but if you want to produce higher quality vids you can purchase an editing software package. Remember the quality of the footage isn’t as good once it’s uploaded to Youtube. It is noticeably better when viewed directly from your computer or TV.
GOPRO HERO 2 PROS:
- Size: It’s small lightweight and strong. I barely notice it on my helmet but be wary on bush rides as I’ve collected low hanging branches more than once! Which leads me on to..
- Durability: It’s tough. I haven’t wanted to test its limits but hitting branches at 40km p/hour didn’t even scratch it. The housing is designed to withstand big knocks!
- Simplicity: It’s easy to operate. You will need to study the user manual first to learn how to use it as there are only 2 operating buttons but they perform many different functions.
- Picture Quality: Basically it’s amazing! This is high definition after all. You won’t be disappointed by the clarity of the still pictures or video footage, however keep in mind the lens curves like a fish-eye lens to enable it to capture images up to 170 degrees wide on some settings, which distorts the left and right sides of the images. But, it allows you to see more of what the actual rider sees.
- Battery Time & Data Capacity: Now, I haven’t measured exactly how long the rechargeable battery lasts but it’s always more than enough for a MX session. GoPro say it lasts between 4 and 6 hours depending on what setting you use.You can slot a 32GB memory card into the sucker which is a massive amount of recording time!
- Weather Conditions: It’s weather proof. Yep, you can use it in the rain, snow, mud and even dunk it completely under water if you dismount in a creek crossing (see cons for wet weather filming). This feature makes the GoPro Hero 2 one heck of a versatile toy!
- Sound Quality: The sound quality is brilliant. By positioning the microphone on the back of the camera it completely prevents that horrible windy noise you get from normal cameras when facing strong winds. You can hear the sound of the bike nicely, and people talking (if you’re not riding). If you use the waterproof housing however, the sound is noticeably reduced as the microphone is encased.
- Motion Stabilizing: This prevents most jittery footage while riding but it’s not perfect. Over rough terrain I still end up with some shaky footage sometimes, but it’s leading the way compared to other cameras at the moment. There is room for improvement here but it has come a long way!
- Lighting and Contrast: The lens adapts instantly to sudden changes in light and contrast (which happens a lot while riding especially when reaching hill tops and jumping). This used to be a major problem with the earlier helmet cams that were in production, but the GoPro Hero 2 has no problems in this department.
- Downloading: It’s very easy to download videos and pictures to your computer or hard drive. It comes with a USB cable that you connect directly with your computer with. I prefer to remove the memory card and slot it into my P.C, then simply copy and paste. Easy peasy!
- Video and Picture Modes: The GoPro Hero 2 has a healthy range of picture and video modes depending on what you’re trying to capture. It has various video resolution sizes for different occasions, and sequence, rapid shot and timer modes for photos.
- Replaceable Parts and Accessories: If you manage to damage the housing or attachments you can purchase them individually without paying for the whole thing again. Plus there are loads of different accessories you can buy for almost any situation you can think of. These guys have it covered!
GOPRO HERO 2 CONS:
- Mounting Angles: There is no easy way to know what the view is like once mounted as it doesn’t have a view screen like normal digital cameras. For example, sometimes when mounting it on my helmet I would film a ride only to find it was showing too much of the peak of my helmet. I’ve got it pretty much sorted now though as I know from experience what angle it needs to be on.
Tip: For each new mounting position you will need to film a test snippet then immediately view it on your laptop to make sure the angle is where you want it.
- On/Off Button: Sometimes when I’m about to ride off and I press the button to turn it on, it not only turns the camera on but changes the mode from filming to photos as the mode button is also the on/off button. At this stage (if I realize it’s changed modes) I usually curse the folks at GoPro and remove my helmet to sort it out. The worst is when you don’t realize it has changed modes and you miss out on capturing your ride.
- No Zoom: Because it has no zoom it’s difficult to get a good clear shot outside of a 30m range – you really need to be closer. Now, I understand you don’t need a zoom for the purpose of a helmet cam as they’re designed to take footage directly in front of your path. But, it would be awesome to have a zoom on it for when you use it like a normal camera, like taking footage of other riders.
- Wet Weather Riding: Water drops collect on the lens casing and blur the footage. I’m sure this is a problem with all cameras however it’s still a downside to this otherwise amazing device.Also, I’ve used the waterproof back plate while riding in the forest on a wet day. There must have been a tiny amount of water inside the casing as it fogged up the lens making 1 & 1/2 hours worth of footage pretty much useless. Be wary of this! Humid weather will also cause problems. Try squeezing part of a gel pack (that you find in vitamin containers) into the side of the casing to absorb any moisture.
GOPRO HERO 2 CONCLUSION:
All in all I love the GoPro HERO2 and it’s been well worth the $300 or so that it cost. It’s easy to use, quick to set up, versatile, durable and produces amazing high definition footage that you will keep for the rest of your life.
I’ve used it to analyze my riding from the comfort of my couch and therefore improve how I ride. But you can use if for so many other activities than just dirt biking too so don’t limit it to just your riding. If you haven’t got one of these things already.. what are you waiting for?! Go halves with a mate if you don’t have enough coin. It’s easily within your reach.
You can use these things in so many different ways to get that unique shot or perspective. Get a little creative and have fun with it! You can mount it in many different places such as the handlebars looking back at you or forward, the swingarm, over your chest protector and of course on the top or side of your helmet to name a few.
They’re tough little buggers so don’t be shy to put ’em on the ground near berms and jumps.. hit the film button and tear past it as fast as you can. I held it in the palm of my hand at the N.Z Nationals and aimed it at the pros going sick over a huge table-top. Check it out here…
For more videos I’ve made using footage from my Hero 2 make sure you check out my videos page.