When it comes to action cameras, there’s one brand that instantly springs to mind, and for good reason. The name GoPro is synonymous with shooting extreme sports action, no matter what the environment, and the GoPro Hero3+ Silver Edition reinforces the brand’s dominance in the market.
While the Hero3+ Silver Edition isn’t the top-of-the-range model, it’s probably the best bundle for anyone that’s serious about recording their outdoor exploits. The more expensive Black Edition’s ability to shoot at 4K is undoubtedly impressive, but most of us won’t have a 4K screen to make use of that resolution. And since 4K recording is limited to 15fps, you’d probably end up shooting at 1080p60 most of the time anyway.
Don’t get me wrong, every atom in my body wanted to request the Black Edition from GoPro, but logic dictated that the Silver Edition is unquestionably the sweet spot.
What’s in the box?
The Hero3+ comes with just about everything you need to get up and running. The camera itself is a small oblong affair that’s instantly recognisable as a GoPro. The Hero3+ might not be as small as some bullet-style cameras out there, but it’s still pretty light at 74g.
The bundled waterproof housing envelops the Hero3+ like the proverbial glove. There’s such a big difference between a case that has been designed in conjunction with the product it protects and one that is conceived as an aftermarket accessory.
You also get a three-way pivot arm, and adhesive mounts for both flat and curved surfaces. To get the Hero3+ up and running, there’s a high-capacity Li-on battery pack and a USB to mini-USB cable for charging and transferring your footage. It’s slightly surprising to see mini-USB rather than micro-USB, but a lot of devices still use the older standard, including Garmin’s latest cycle computers.
What you don’t get is a microSD card on which to record your films, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Bundling a memory card will just bump the price up, and flash media is so affordable these days that it makes sense to leave that part of the equation to the user.
The GoPro Hero3+ will accept microSD cards up to a capacity of 64GB, but you need to make sure that any card you buy is Class 10 or higher, since write speed is obviously important when you’re shooting 1080p60 video.
A quick look around the web shows that you can pickup a 32GB Class 10 microSD card for under £15, with 64GB cards costing around £30. So you won’t break the bank if you invest in a few high capacity cards. The chances are that the battery will die before you run out of space on your card, but it never hurts to have a spare memory card in your bag.
Setup and configuration
The clear plastic housing has a single clamp at its top that ensures a very tight seal – there’s no chance that any water is getting in there, no matter how rough you are with it. The external buttons are all perfectly placed, too, making control of the camera while it’s in the housing an absolute breeze.
The plastic housing does increase the weight, though, bumping it up to 136g. That’s still not heavy by any means, and is lighter than the majority of smartphones that we carry around in our pockets all day.
When you switch the GoPro Hero3+ on, you’ll need to do a bit of configuration. By using the button on the front fascia and the top “shutter” button, you can navigate various menus to configure resolution, aspect ratio, frame rate, lens view etc.
Navigating those menus isn’t particularly easy or intuitive using those two buttons, but luckily that’s not really a problem. When it comes down to it, there’s only one bit of configuration you need to do – turning on the Wi-Fi.
Because the GoPro Hero3+ can create its own Wi-Fi network, you can configure and control it remotely. GoPro sells a specific Wi-Fi remote for this purpose, but if you’ve got a smartphone (and who doesn’t these days?) you can use it to control the Hero3+.
The GoPro iPhone app is very good. It’s not overly complicated, but lets you do just about everything you’d want to. You’ll need to connect to your GoPro through the phone’s Wi-Fi settings first; use the default GoPro password for this. Once your phone is connected you can then fire up the app and configure the camera – well, nearly…
Before you can start configuring your Hero3+ you’ll be forced to create a new Wi-Fi password for the camera, and once you’ve implemented that password change, you’ll then need to exit the app and connect to the camera all over again through the phone settings. This might seem annoying at the time, but being forced to change the default password straight away is definitely a good thing.
Once the password has been changed, you can then connect to the camera and configure your settings through simple-to-use menus. When your phone’s connected to the camera you get a live preview of what the camera is seeing. You can choose to start recording video from within the app, or shoot still photos.
The beauty of using the preview mode within the app is that you can get the position of the camera absolutely perfect before you start shooting. There’s nothing worse that pulling off the best trick/jump/crash ever, only to find that the camera wasn’t quite setup right to capture it!
The key to getting great results with an action camera is being able to position it in exactly the right place, and that’s where GoPro beats the competition hands down. The sheer plethora of mounting options available is dizzying – whether you want to strap the Hero3+ to your bike helmet, stick it to your snowboard or clamp it to the roll cage in your car, GoPro has you covered.
Not only is there no end of mounting options, you’ve also got the flexibility of GoPro’s modular system whereby you can connect various bits together to ensure that you get that perfect angle from that perfect mounting point.
And here’s one I shot earlier… Yes, my single track skills are very poor…
GoPro sent me the Roll Bar Mount with the Hero3+, which will clamp nicely to the cage in the back of a 911 GT3 RS (or any other track prepped car), but worked equally as well on my Santa Cruz Blur mountain bike.
Using the Roll Bar Mount I managed to clamp the Hero3+ to my handlebars for a front facing view of the action, and also clamp it to the seatpost to get a shot of the rear wheel spinning through the mud while hammering down the hills. And thanks to the preview mode on my iPhone, I could ensure that the shot was perfectly composed before jumping back on the saddle.
Pressing the shutter button will start recording, while pressing it again will stop the recording, and that’s pretty much all the control you need when you’re out in the field.
The iPhone app isn’t just for setting up and controlling the Hero3+ either, you can also review your footage whenever you like, rather than waiting until you get home to find out if you got the shot you really wanted.
Unfortunately, no matter how simple to use and feature-rich the Hero3+ may be, it couldn’t improve my woeful singletrack skills! I’ve clearly been spending a bit too much time on the road bike and need to get back to the trails more often.
Once you’re back home (and after you’ve washed your bike) you can crack open the protective housing, grab the Hero3+ and pull out the microSD card. When you slap the memory card into your computer’s card reader you’ll find all the movies your shot listed as MP4 files.
You can simply copy the files to your computer and watch them as you shot them, but with a little bit of editing, you can create a montage of your exploits and share it with your friends.
If you’re using a Mac, it’s incredibly simple to just drag your clips into iMovie and collate and chop them to your heart’s content. It’s easy to add transitions between clips and you can you can export directly to your YouTube account if you want the world to see just how hardcore a rider/surfer/snowboarder/driver you are.
You can also download the GoPro Studio Edit software to edit your movies – it’s available for both Windows and OS X. GoPro Studio Edit comes packed with features designed to get the most from your GoPro footage, like adding slow motion effects or grabbing frames from your videos and saving them as stills.
Obviously the quality of the video produced comes down to the resolution and frame rate you choose, and if you know that you’re producing videos for mobile devices, or that you can easily send to friends, you might sacrifice quality for file size. But when you shoot at 1080p60 the quality is exceptionally good.
The GoPro Hero3+ has improved battery life over the older Hero3, but the actual battery life is dependant on a number of factors. The resolution and frame rate will affect overall battery life, but even shooting at 1080p60 you’ll still get two hours and 15 minutes of shoot time.
Unsurprisingly the Wi-Fi has a significant effect on battery life, and if you have the Hero3+ connected to your phone via Wi-Fi, that battery life drops down to one hour 30 minutes. That’s still a decent amount of footage, but if you’re setting out on an all-day hack through the mountains, you might want to carry a spare battery or two.
A spare, original GoPro battery will set you back £20, although there are third party alternatives available for a fraction of that cost. It is, however, worth remembering that having a hard limit on how much footage you can shoot isn’t always a bad thing, since wading through hours and hours of footage at the editing stage can be quite laborious.
There’s a huge amount of options when it comes to action cameras these days, but once you start using a GoPro you’ll instantly understand why the brand is still the camera of choice for so many.
The GoPro Hero3+ Silver Edition has an MSRP of £279, but you can find it online from reputable retailers for around £220, which makes it something of a bargain for what you’re getting.
Of course that price starts to creep up when you add on any specific mounts you might need and accessories like extra memory cards and batteries. But a GoPro is an investment that’s worth making if you live an active lifestyle and want to keep a record of what you’re doing.
If you’re thinking about buying an action camera and want something with all the features you’re ever likely to need, wrapped up in a robust and lightweight package, then the Hero3+ Silver Edition should be high on your list. Factor in all the accessories and mounts available, and you’ve got a camera that will grow with you no matter what pursuits you decide to turn your hand to.
- Beautifully made
- Protective housing fits like a glove
- Totally waterproof inside housing
- Superb optics
- Super wide angle mode
- 1080p60 high definition video
- Built-in Wi-Fi
- iPhone app is excellent
- Dizzying array of mount options
- Bundled mounts offer a good starting point
- Excellent video quality, especially at 1080p60
- Preview mode in app makes setup a breeze
- The price starts to climb if you need specific mounts