I’ve been looking for a video camera that I can use on my bike for a while now. I wanted a camera that was waterproof and robust enough to manage the demands of the outdoors. I also wanted a video camera that provided great video quality. During mid-winter I like to go over to New Zealand and hang out with my brother and climb mountains. While I love taking my Nikon D800 (AKA my magic camera) out into the wilderness as soon as the weather is bad I have to put it back into the pack. It’s just not designed to be out in sub zero temperatures when it’s snowing or really wet. So there is a heap of lost opportunities in getting some great adventurous footage when the weather is really really wild.
I’ve tried a few options including video sun glasses, iPhone 4, Kodak Sports, Panasonic Lumix DMC-FT2, Canon Legria HFS20 and of course my Nikon D800.
While the D800 and Canon Legria HFS20 produce fantastic video they are both not something that I can strap onto my bike and ride with. The video glasses are a great idea but the video quality is just far too poor to use. The iPhone 4 also suffers from poor video quality along with the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FT2. When I’m out in the mountains I like to have video/photo camera strung around my neck and placed in my pocket so I can just pull it out when I need to when I’m on the move. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FT2 has been great for being waterproof but the image and video quality is very inferior to the D800 (even my old D80) and the video quality is not that great either unless I’m posting to YouTube.
One of the biggest issues apart from video quality is image stabilisation. Strap a video camera onto a bike and you’ll going to get a whole lot of video shake and vibration. The one thing I really like about the Canon Legria HFS20 video camera I have is the picture stabilisation. It is just silky smooth. Trying to get a video stabilised from the footage produced using the iPhone, Nikon D800, Panasonic Lumix DMC-FT2 and the Kodak Sports is just a lost cause. These devices are designed to be hand held by a person firmly standing on the ground as they video people or scenery that is not moving around a whole lot.
Enter the GoPro. They have been around for a little while now and have gained a huge following worldwide. No surprise. They do a great job of providing great video footage in the fast moving, jaw chattering world of sports. They come with an abundance of mounting options that will suit the demands of any adventurous videographer. And… they are also waterproof. So much so that divers use them to video stuff under water.
After seeing one attached to a bike on our recent Bright Boot Camp I started to do some research.
The GoPro has gone through three versions. The Hero 3 being the latest and comes in three editions; the white the silver and the black. The white is feature basic while the black is highly specked. The Silver is somewhere in between. There is a good breakdown on the differences of each here: http://gopro.com/hd-hero3-cameras.
I decided to choose the black for two reasons. It offered the best video quality and it worked well in low light. It also comes with a remote control as standard but I wasn’t much interested in that as I just want to put the GoPro Hero 3 video on my bike, turn it on and forget about it till the end of the ride.
I needed it to run for 3 hours. So I purchased the GoPro Hero 3 Black Edition video with the Battery BacPac which I'm hoping will extend the continuous run time to around 3 hours. I’ve yet to have it running that long so I’ve got my figures crossed. The GoPro Hero 3 use microSD cards which is a pain because I have to buy new cards for it. I have a heap of SD cards that I use with my other equipment but they are not compatible. Running the camera at 1080/25fps I get 3h and 22 minutes out of one of these tiny 32 gb cards. These cards are so small that I hope I don’t drop or lose them when I’m out on a mountain somewhere. If you are buying cards they need to have a class 10 speed rating to record full HD video (1080p).
The chap that was using one at our Bright Boot Camp recommended two things. The first was a k-edge mount for the bike. He reckons that they reduce the vibration more than the standard bike mount that you can get for the GoPro and that they don’t fail.
The K-Edge Go Pro mount on the bike with the Go Pro Hero 3 Black Edition Camera
The K-Edge Go Pro mount on the bike
He also showed me a cool application called Dashware that enable you to overlay your Garmin data over the tops of the video. Very cool. I’ve cut a video to demonstrate this application.
GoPro Hero 3 Black Edition video with Dashware data overlay.
Also, to get really good stabilisation I’ve started using an application by Mercalli software that is designed to help stabilise the video footage still further. Here is a video I created to demonstrate this as well. I used the default setting:
GoPro Hero 3 black edition video stabilised with Mercalli software
The audio quality from these cameras is what you would expect from any internally mounted microphone. Quite poor. For most applications that the GoPro's are used for on camera sound is not really very important. GoPro are releasing an adaptor so that you can plug in a external microphone but this can't be used with the waterproof housing. I've yet to try out this option but I'm keen to see if I can get good audio quality recorded along with the camera. I'm not planning to recording audio while on the bike but it would be great to get some audio when I'm away on my mountain trips.