If you haven't noticed, I like to take pictures. It's a bit of a passion of mine, and is in fact part of my profession. Apart from the work I do here on TriRig, you may have seen some of my shots in the pages of Inside Triathlon, Triathlete magazine, 3/GO, and others. But I don't often photograph my own adventures in triathlon, for one simple reason - I never have a camera on board. The DSLR equipment I use is big, bulky, and afraid of water. It's not like I can just stuff my gear into a jersey pocket and head out the door.
That's exactly what an adventure camera is for. It's an entire product category that was basically non-existent just a few years ago. But now, it's big business. And no brand has been more visible than GoPro with their ubiquitous HD Hero. So what exactly is this thing?
Basically, the HD Hero is a rough-and-tumble, ultra-portable HD video and still camera. It's built to make recording your adventures as brainless as possible. It comes with a waterproof housing, so you can take it along for the swim, bike, and run. Its lens is an ultra-wide angle, so you don't have to worry about composing the shot wrong. And its f/2.8 lens will soak up plenty of light whether the day is sunny, overcast, or you're underwater. And because its fixed-focus lens will keep everything sharp from 6 inches and further, your shots will always be crisp. Again, it's really a no-brainer once you start recording.
The model I reviewed here is the original HD Hero, which has been supplanted by a version 2. All the good parts of this review still apply to the upgraded version. But it does alleviate some of my gripes with the menu system, has much improved optics (although I had no problems with the optics on my unit), and has some extra features and accessories. Otherwise, it's very much the same animal. Both versions utilize the same accessories and mounting systems, both have the same field of view for the lens, and use a fixed-focus f/2.8 spec (though, as mentioned, v2 has a better lens).
For the most part, the camera is a dream to work - once you're ready to record (or snap a still photo), you basically just hit the shutter button and the camera does everything for you. The bit that requires a bit of thought from the user is in preparing to push that button. And basically, there are two hurdles to overcome. First is navigating the rather opaque menu system, which can be difficult. The second (and way more fun) part is actually mounting the camera - to your bike, helmet, car, or whatever. Hit the jump to read the nitty gritty.