Jesse Ferrell

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The Ultimate Weather Video Gadget: The GoPro Hero

January 31, 2013; 1:20 PM ET

UPDATE AUGUST 2013:

I've had more of a chance to test out the still photos and time-lapse capability. The GoPro3 takes pretty nice photos, probably better than your cell phone, and even in low light, for example this shot from New York City in February:

The video below was shot in June at 1920x1080 with the GoPro3 Black unit:

This next video was put together using still 150 still photos from the GoPro3 Black (you will need video processing software like Cyberlink PowerDirector or Adobe Premiere to make the video). The advantage is that you get a much larger video (3840x2880 pixels, essentially 4K) -- note that you can switch from "HD 1080" to "Original" in the YouTube settings for playback) but the disadvantage is that the video isn't as smooth, unless you shoot every second, which makes for a lot of files.

I also tested out the slow-motion, which was super fun (again you'll need a video program to slow it down). I never caught a clear shot of lightning at this speed, which was my goal, mainly due to lack of storms this season, and rain drops on the lens blurring strikes. But I did get my dog to ear a carrot in slow motion:

ALL THAT SAID...

I have had some setbacks with the GoPro units, and to continue to give fair reviews here I need to explain what happened. I didn't use the GoPro2 very much until Spring (except I took some cool pictures in New York City with it).

I had two GoPros fail to turn on, and they had to be replaced through the mail -- the GoPro HERO2 and the GoPro3 Silver. Their technical support was predictably bad, sending my first replacement to a different person, then confusing my email under their name, all of which caused a 8-week delay in getting the item replaced (some of that time was my fault for not following up). The other return went more smoothly, but I was still without the unit for several weeks.

HOW TO AVOID THIS:

The jury is still out as to what the cause of the failures was. They just wouldn't turn on one day, and it wasn't the battery (they replaced that first). I believe that it was caused by an overzealous incompatible USB port, either on my computer, or on a generic USB->A/C charger, and either being more careful after replacement helped, or the units were defective and they were replaced with newer/better versions. My advice to avoid these problems is as follows:

1. Always turn on the GoPro first, THEN connect it to the USB port.

2. Update the firmware on the camera the first time you connect it to your computer.

3. Use ONLY their connector cable (I know, it's short, that's frustrating).

4. Do not use USB3 ports. When you find a port that works, keep using it.

5. If you use A/C power, ONLY use their A/C Adapter (eBay generic knock-offs don't count).

Will I continue to use GoPro Cameras? Yes. I haven't had any issues with the new units, and it has performed well in the rain (something few other cameras this size can claim).

ORIGINAL REVIEW JANUARY 31, 2013:

I was thrilled last Fall to receive and test a GoPro® Hero2 Video Camera, from the perspective of a meteorologist, weather photographer, and storm chaser. As soon as I got the Hero2, I read the "quick start" and strapped the camera to the top of my bike helmet, and recorded this awesome video, without a further look at the manual. Great fun.

Even the stills from the video (while moving the camera) are amazing, saying nothing of the actual time-lapse capability that it has with static images (and it wasn't even at full resolution). Check out a couple stills below and more here.

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Unfortunately my GoPro came too late in 2012 for Pennsylvania's severe weather season, but I expect it to be a staple in this year's chasing season, especially since it's waterproof!

Now enter the GoPro Hero3. This will be the last camera or video camera you'll ever need to buy to document storms.

This is the most incredible video camera known to man (and meteorologist, and storm chaser). Not only does it come with wifi, a remote, and app controller... with the (Black Edition), you can record video at:

- An insane 4096x2160 resolution. You can't even display this size natively on 99% of televisions and computers today! NASA just came out with this stuff. The only con to this resolution is that it's 15 frames per second -- roughly half of the normal television/video camera rate, so it can look a little choppy, but hey, I'll take it!

- A wonderful 2716x1524 at 30 fps, again larger than most TVs and computers can show at 100% zoom.

- The 1080p HD standard, 1920x1080 HD @ 60 frames per second (twice TV).

- An insane 848x480 at 240 fps. This means that you're essentially "slowing down" things like lightning... for example, the video below was taken by another owner of a Hero2, which only cranks out 120 fps.

This is a convenient and safe way to photograph lightning. No one has uploaded a GoPro3 240 fps lightning video to YouTube or Vimeo yet; I'd like to be the first (are ya listenin' to me, GoPro?)

This is what it looked like strapped to my head that day (yes, I got a few looks).

I haven't dipped my GoPro under water yet, but storm chaser Ron Shawley has down in Vinco, Pa.:

He also strapped it to his truck yesterday during the rain storm -- and drove home with it still there! Check this out:

DISCLAIMER: Opinions are my own. Product was supplied to me for this review.

The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of AccuWeather, Inc. or AccuWeather.com

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About This Blog

Jesse Ferrell
Jesse Ferrell's WeatherMatrix blog covers extreme weather worldwide with a concentration on weather photos and Social Media.