Learning the GoPro

The GoPro camera is one of the most interesting cameras around. It’s small enough to add to a selfie stick or your helmet, yet takes amazing video. Like all cameras, there is a learning curve with this camera. The limitation of this camera result in a frustrating experience, but learn how to use it, and you will take amazing footage. Personally, there are few uses where this camera is perfect:

  • action shots while riding a mountain bike (or snowboard, or anything requiring a helmet)
  • action shots while near water, with the right housing, this thing is waterproof
  • providing a birds eye view when attached to a selfie stick
  • a dead easy way to setup 4K timelapse shots (why doesn’t my x100s do this?)

Battery life

I am not clear what good battery life for a camera like this is. For the Fuji X100s you can expect around 400 images, on a DSLR you can expect 2000. For the GoProd you get somewhere between 1 – 2 hours worth.

60 min * 60 seconds * 30 fps = 108,000 images

Just doing the raw math, it looks like getting an hour footage is a lot of images, and one shouldn’t complain about getting less than 2 hours of footage per battery.

Going for a long ride? Carry extra batteries.

Taking a time lapse longer than 2 hours? Attach an external battery.

Wifi is killing battery life

I thought that the wifi is killing your batter life. Wifi lets you connect to the camera via that GoPro remote or the GoPro smart phone app.

After reading Understanding your GoPro Part 2 and doing some rough battery tests, I am changing my opinion. Wifi does decrease battery life, but having the access to the app is worth the loss of battery life.

Using the app (which requires the wifi from the GoPro to be turned on) is really sweet. It allows you to change settings, see what the camera sees from your phone and enables a neat bookmarking feature. I am thinking that you would be silly to not use wifi, unless you really need the battery power.

Timelapse battery life

While taking a timelapse, I found you get almost 2 hours of footage.

  • Timelapse in picture every 10 seconds 28 seconds (112 minutes of footage)
  • Timelapse in picture every 10 seconds with wifi on 25 seconds (100 minutes of footage)

Lesson: if you need to take a long timelapse hook the GoPro to external power. Hooking up external power is really easy.

The remote rocks, but the battery sucks

The remote for the GoPro is cool, it uses wifi to connect to your camera and provides and extra set of buttons. I have attached this to a selfie stick and my handle bars and both situations I was happy with the results. The only complaint I have is that the battery life isn’t as good as it could be. When it is convenient to pull out your smart phone, that is the better way to go. But when you can’t pull out your smartphone (near/under water, using gloves) the remote is perfect.

The battery life is only good for a couple of hours which isn’t long enough in some cases.

Know you modes and settings

The GoPro has three capture modes:

  1. Video
  2. Photo
  3. Multi-shot

Inside each mode, there are many different settings. I usually welcome this level of configuration, but when you are first learning how to use the camera, you will end up missing some shots. On April 20, 2016 I rode Cobble Hill with the chest mount on. When I got back home I noticed that the only part of the ride I recorded was four 1 minute clips of the end of the ride. Turns out I had the video setting to looping, which only keeps the last X minutes of recordings. My Cobble Hill ride was set to keep the last 5 minutes.

In the video mode, yo have the following settings:

  • video
  • time lapse video
  • video and photo
  • looping

Inside each setting, you get to choose the resolution, the frame rate and a multitude of other options. This level of configuration is great, but at the same time, somewhat intimidating, you definitely need to RTFM.

An example of a time-lapseĀ 

 

Too dark

On April 26, 2016 I rode Hammerfest with the ISO set to 400. When I looked at the footage, it was way too dark, and I am pretty sure this is because the ISO is set to 400. I changed the setting to make it higher with hopes that it will look better.

Follow up, on April 27, 2016 I rode with the ISO max much higher (3200) and the footage is much better. Don’t keep you ISO too low if you are in low light situations.

Frame rates and quality

This camera is too good for the average person. The standard setting for this camera is 1080 at 60fps, and that is too high in my opinion. 10 minutes of video at this quality is 4GB. My average ride is 2 hours long, which would be almost 50GB. Meaning that my 1TB drive could only hold 20 rides worth of footage.

More than 30 fps

Just because you can doesn’t mean you should
– Sherrilyn Kenyon

When you are strapping a GoPro camera to your helmet to take shots of a trail, you don’t need to take 60fps. 60fps allows you to slow the footage down, but if you are me, you will likely be speeding up the footage, not slowing it down.

If you are using the camera to get a sweet action shot, then it makes sense to use 60fps, like this shot:

Things that I love about the camera

There are a few cases where the camera rocks:

  • you can hook up any USB battery to the camera with a USB mini cable extending the battery life significantly
  • the camera is small and easy to bring along on almost any adventure
  • there are many options and modes, allowing you to pick the right setting, once you figure out how to use it
  • super easy to strap to a Joby Tripod which is helpful for time lapse shots and holding the camera

Most people seem to buy a GoPro camera to strap to your helmet and use for action shots, and that is what this camera was designed to do. I am not extreme to justify using that as the only usecase of this camera, I use it as a small camera to capture video, and it works great for that.

Final thoughts

This camera is awesome. Whenever I look at the quality of the footage from this camera I am impressed. I feel compelled to use this camera in novel ways, capturing life with a unique perspective. Whether it is high up on a selfie stick, down low near the water, or on your chest while you ride down a 40% grade with your mountain bike, the GoPro is there for you. This camera takes high quality shots of your extreme life, or if you are like me, your pretty mundane life. There are a ton of options and settings, learn the camera and make good (edited) videos of your adventures.

See my channel on youtube to see what I am up to with the camera. Not all videos make it onto this site.

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