Years ago, we joined the masses and got ourselves a GoPro. It was a Hero4 edition although if we had of waited a month, we could of got the next model up which had the touchscreen. We had a lot of fun with it, it's made up a lot of our YouTube videos on our channel and did us proud on our honeymoon, a clip of us chasing a black tip reef shark in the Maldives was a personal highlight! But the little camera did have it's flaws. It was a pain to sync up with the app and used up a lot of memory space. Editing wasn't always friendly and because there was no back screen, I never knew what I was filming until I uploaded it later on. So as the Hero4 has been gathering dust, GoPro has made positive strides in the market with their drone capability and our favourite accessory their personal version of a gimble, the Karma Grip. AO.com got in touch and offered to give us a chance to see how much difference there now is between the 4 and the 7. Lights, camera, ride...
If you never come across a GoPro before, they are tiny box cameras now capable of capturing action footage and shots in 4K. The story goes the founder created them for their surfing and it took off from there. Type in GoPro on YouTube and you'll end up finding videos varying from people skydiving to a life of a dog with a camera strapped to it's back! Well we are not a fan of heights and do not own a dog (can't see our turtles appreciating be a GoPro specimen!) so it'll be cycling for us.
As you can see from the comparison photos, not a lot has changed in size but damn, it looks sleek. The Hero4 looks a bit tacky excusing the wear and tear but it the Hero7 feels like it's a decent bit of kit. AO had kindly also sent out a GoPro mount kit along with the camera which including a chest harness and a handlebar mount. Now, we did invest in one of those big accessory kits (not official GoPro) and only the float really survived any useage. The amount of handlebar mounts we have gone through is probably more than the amount of punctures we've had in the same duration! Also, we attempted to use the chest harness once on a 100mile sportive but because we couldn't see what we were filming (well you could if you fired up the GoPro app on the phone but we had sync issues which meant that was not possible) we ended up with 6hours of footage looking at the tarmac and our legs pumping round!
After a bit of fiddling about with turning it on (you need to hold the power button for quite a while), the touchscreen announces itself but it's got a sensitive nature. Swiping like we're on a dating app (we're married!), your options screen are in different places. Swiping across allows you to select video/photo/timelapse. Swipe up, you'll be given any recorded footage/shots from your memory card (oh, that's important to invest in one as it doesn't come with the camera). Swipe down, you're given your settings etc. including a voice activation option which we haven't gotten around to checking out yet, don't want to be seen as the mad cyclist who's shouting at his camera on his rides! Although a simple addition, there's a zoom button to the side of the screen which is handy but these cameras are not known for their portrait close ups.
It has been hard to fit rides in this Summer due to our new arrival in the NITP household but managed to pop out one evening for a quick spin through Bushy Park to it's neighbour Richmond Park. Our level of fitness was quite poor at this point as we hadn't touched the bike for a couple of weeks due to lil NITP (no blame, it's a lifestyle which you need to adapt to and priorities change). We decide to take the chest harness out as we were still scarred by our past mistake but as the Hero7 has a backscreen, we could see what the camera was seeing. We did have to turn the camera upside down on the mount (someone out there might give us a better way of doing it?!). The harness is a one piece fits all size kind of thing so with all due respect, if you're a bit bigger in the chest area, it might feel a little tight, it was ok on us but I could see it being uncomfortable for a longer rides.
As you can see from the snapshot video, the chest mount is very stable. Obviously because it's on the chest, it's not susceptible to the bumps and holes of our roads and the quality of the footage is a major upgrade from the Hero4. The mount did start to become a little uncomfortable when we had to work a little harder, the tightening around the chest so to speak so you do have to keep that in mind but for a first ride out, very impressed.
We went over to Northern Ireland with the family to see our in-laws who just happen to live right by the Mourne Mountains, an absolute gorgeous area for cycling, hiking, walking and climbing. You're spoilt for choice if you want to check out the MTB trails but we opted for the Life Adventure Centre situated in Castlewellan Forest Park. It had a selection of trails which would suit our off road ability level plus it was a perfect place for more GoPro testing.
Out game the chest harness again, we didn't want to risk the handlebar mount flying off as we rolled around the forest. It was a misty day with odd spits of rain but plenty of puddles so good place to put the camera to the test when it comes to muck and water. The camera itself is waterproof up to 10m I believe but I was here to test out the many puddles I would come across on my solo adventure. In hindsight, I should of allowed myself to check out the trails first and then choose the best action sections but I let the camera just roll to see how far the battery would take me. In regards to the battery, it's integrated which is more a of a hinderance than a help for obvious reasons. I really can't tell you what the answer is if the battery runs out of charging cycles, do you have to send it back? Possibly. Happy to report thought that I got a good 1hr 30mins roughly of footage from my trail runs. The chest mount was the perfect accessory for this riding discipline and when I looked back through the footage, the sound was smooth, no interference, just the sounds of me swearing each time I had to bail out (hence music over the teaser trail video!). Not sure about the visual quality on this upload, could be different on a smaller device?
How's the handlebar?
This was probably the only part of the review we were dubious about. With our old GoPro, we went through so many handlebar mounts and it was always because the plastic snapped or there was a loose bolt, we just didn't find one that was durable enough for road riding until we came across a K-Edge dual mount which was solid which we are still in possession of, shame though because it fits a Garmin Edge not a Wahoo Bolt. This was GoPro's very own version of a handlebar mount and it was fully plastic, wasn't veing very hopeful here. It does however come with a rubber inner lining which I assume dampens any rattle although we couldn't take advantage of this because the mount with the lining inserted did not fit onto to my handlebar.
One thing though that this mount did give me was direct access to the back screen. It's sensitive though as on a trial segment, we must of flicked it across to the timelapse option, we found this after in upload. The beeping from the start/stop recording is loud enough for you to hear even in traffic so I'm confident when the voice control is set up, it would hear you loud and clear. We made our way to Hillingdon to record a few laps. The surface is a smooth as you can get around here so the effects of rattling from the odd pothole wasn't an issue. The lack of the inner lining though did mean a bit of rumble here and there. But what did become an issue and again we only noticed when played back on the laptop was the pick up of air/wind interference. It seemed the position of the camera on the bars really effected sound quality (video will show you more). Maybe another outer casing is needed to counteract this but it seems this GoPro is designed to be multi-purpose without the need for so many accessories. Water proof without a casing is a big pull so you'd expect better sound quality in a shooting position such as on a bike's handlebars.
Coming from the Hero 4, it's a major step up. Much more sleeker design, 4k quality footage, touch screen, waterproof without external casing (this may increase the depth?). You are buying the brand though with GoPro, the name carries weight in the action sports industry and you can see why. If you get the right set up with the right camera position, you can expect to capture some great stuff. What lets the camera down though is the after care. GoPro have stopped updating their GoPro Studio and even though it wasn't as great as other video editing software, it was easy to use. You're stuck with their Quick studio and because of the 4k footage, it can be slow to edit videos due to the sheer size of the files to process. Maybe it's my laptop that's the problem but you're certainly limited to minute teasers in the Quik app.
When it comes to accessories, the chest harness is quality, it really gives you stable footage (just don't make our past mistake and make sure the camera is looking the right way!). The handlebar mount we have doubts about, it does pay to research around for a decent mount, we would suggest one to attach to your stem so you get a great shot of straight down the front wheel.
Like we've mentioned already, set the Hero7 up correctly, you're going to have a lot of fun. There's still a lot more for us to learn with the camera but for now we will focus our attention on the commands, we've already learnt 'GoPro, make a me a cuppa' doesn't compute...!