By technical editor Matt Allard:
Everybody’s favourite action cam, the GoPro Hero, has had a makeover. The Black and Silver editions of the GoPro Hero3 have been updated to the GoPro Hero3+. Think of this as a iPhone 5 to 5S upgrade: there are a few small tweaks here and there, but essentially it’s still the same camera. I think a lot of people were expecting a GoPro that could do full 4K and up to 30fps but that’s not the case. I’m sure it will come in the GoPro Hero4.
The changes aren’t going to make professional shooters run out and upgrade their GoPros, necessarily, but could be a big improvement in some areas. We would all love a professional version allowing manual aperture and shutter options, but GoPro’s business caters more to the consumer than the professional user so they have to make it easy for people to use.
There is also a new housing that enables you to take the camera underwater to a depth of 40m. This housing is even smaller than the previous one – which has helped make the whole package 20 percent smaller and also lighter.
The actual camera itself is practically the same size as the previous Hero3. This is not obvious from the GoPro website but if you look at The Frame accessory you can see that is indeed fits both old and new models.
The physical change in size of the housing is sure to frustrate owners of aftermarket GoPro cages, as the new model will no longer fit if in the waterproof case(edit – although it is unclear if the new camera will fit in the old Hero3 waterproof housing which might solve this). It seems the new camera should still fit in some cages that are designed to take the Hero3 ‘naked’ (without waterproof housing) such as the popular Genus.
Two of the other main improvements are faster in-camera wi-fi and an approved lithium ion battery that GoPro say will last 25 per cent longer than the previous one. These features will hopefully address two of the biggest concerns people had with the Hero 3. The new wi-fi is four times faster than the previous model which means you should be able to preview video in almost real time. It will also allow you to share your footage and photos using the GoPro App a lot faster.
The Hero 3 + Black Edition has some new shooting modes including SuperView Video and Auto Low Light. GoPro say SuperView Mode will give you the world’s most immersive wide angle perspective. The new Auto Low Light mode will intelligently change the frame rate based on the lighting conditions.
The new + series also promises a 33 per cent increase in image sharpness and a 2x reduction in imaging artefacts. They will also feature improved wind noise reduction.
There are no changes to the frame rates and recording options. The Hero3+ Black Edition will do:
The Hero3+ Silver Edition will do:
The Silver edition also benefits from the increased sharpness and reduction in imaging artefacts as well as the new Auto Low Light mode.
I think GoPro has addressed some of the things people didn’t like about the previous model. Is it a massive step up? Only time will tell. At the end of the day, it is the image quality and ease of use that are most important and it does seem that GoPro has made the changes to improve those two key things. If you were expecting 4K don’t judge them to harshly; to get 4K at any frame rate in a camera that costs $399 is not an easy task. Be patient and I reckon it will come.