Go Pro HD Hero2 pictures and hands-on

It feels like only yesterday that we reviewed the original GoPro HD Hero - in fact, it was three days ago - and we loved it. But not so very long ago, the company announced that it was upgrading the camera, with lots of flashy new features that would lure even more people in to the GoPro family.

We've been sent one, which we'll give the full review treatment to shortly, but in the meantime, here are our initial thoughts after spending a little bit of time with this tiny, but perfectly-formed video camera.

Design

Physically, the new HD Hero is the same as the old one in all the ways that matter. The main point is, the new camera will fit in all your old housings, if you're an existing owner, and it will take all of the original device's accessories too, like the LCD back and the extended batter pack. There will also be new accessories, but we'll get to that later.

There have been some substantial changes too, and they're all good. For example, the small LCD screen on the front of the camera now has lots more detail about what's going on. It tells you which mode you're in, there's an indication if the camera is in wide, normal or narrow mode. There's also context-sensitive information. So, for videos you can see the frame size and frame rate, along with the number of videos you're already recorded and how long you can record for before the memory is full. There's also a battery meter, which is now much easier to see.

The record light at the front is also much larger now, and the company has added LEDs on the top, back and bottom of the camera so you can see when it's recording, from almost any angle.

There are also some adjustments to inputs and outputs. The dedicated component and composite video outputs have been replaced by a composite output, and an HDMI socket. There is also a microphone input now, which is very handy for bypassing the lacklustre in-built microphone.

Stills are much improved

While the original GoPro did a good job with still photos, the Hero 2 is even more impressive. For a start, this camera has an 11-megapixel sensor, which means you get a lot more detail in your shots. Plus, it can shoot 10 frames in one second, which is really very handy if you're trying to catch a moment of action.

Then, of course, there's the new, more impressive low-light performance. Shooting indoors was always a problem for the original HD Hero. Images often contained noise and the colour was very washed-out and looked quite dull compared to the brilliant vibrance of outdoor images.

While we wouldn't say the Hero 2 is perfect in low-light conditions, it is certainly much improved on the original. Images are still a little lacking in colour, although the white balance seems much better. Grain, however, is much less of a problem, and that's the most important factor when judging indoor video.

The fact remains though, this is very much a camera for outdoor use, and you'll get the best out of it in those conditions.

GoPro also claims that the new lens is 2x sharper than the original. This will play a major part in making sure the image of both stills, and video, is as good as possible. It might hopefully also address some of the complaints people had with the sharpness of the original Hero for underwater video.

Slow motion video modes

One of the most exciting new additions to the GoPro is a 100fps (in the US, or if you select NTSC this is 120fps) WVGA mode. This enables you to capture fast motion and slow it down to 25% of its speed in post-production, without it looking juddery and unpleasant. The resolution is a reasonably modest, it's not HD and looks a lot rougher for it. But cameras that do 120fps are usually either very expensive, or even lower resolution.

If you can't bear the idea of dropping down to standard definition, then there is still the excellent 720p 50fps mode - you get 60fps if you set the camera to 'NTSC', and there's no reason you can't do this, unless you're planning on broadcasting it on TV. What this gives you, is the ability to slow action down by 50%, while retaining a crisp, 720p HD image.

Accessories

If you have the original Hero, then you'll be able to use the LED back and extra battery pack with your new Hero 2. Both work out of the box - the original Hero needs a firmware upgrade to make these accessories work - and fit as they would on to the original camera.

There is also a 3D system that binds two GoPros together, to create a 3D effect. This will continue to work, although for best results you probably shouldn't mix a Hero with a Hero 2. If you aren't shooting 3D, this housing can still be useful for shooting time-lapse photos and video at the same time, with two cameras.

Coming soon though, is the most exciting accessory of all. It's two parts, and uses Wi-Fi to trigger recording on up to 50 GoPro cameras at once remotely. This is excellent if you record on more than one camera at the same time, and very handy if you've mounted a camera somewhere tricky to get to.

Better yet though, the Wi-Fi pack will allow you to stream video and photos to online services live. That means people could watch you do a bungee jump in New Zealand from the comfort of their armchair in Brixton. A very swanky system.

Let us know if you already have the original HD Hero, will you be upgrading, or are you happy with what you've got? 



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