GoPro cameras face simpler competition

Written by New York Times | Updated: Oct 30 2014, 14:45pm hrs
GOPROGOPRO popularised the action-ready, ultraportable little cameras that make already exciting exploits look amazing.
GOPRO popularised the action-ready, ultraportable little cameras that make already exciting exploits look amazing. But faced with new competition at lower prices, maybe GoPro has gone too pro for most consumers. The company recently announced three new camera models: an entry-level camera simply called the Hero ($130), the Hero4 Silver ($400) and the Hero4 Black ($500). Despite the nod toward the entry-level with Hero, its clear that GoPros attention is on the higher-priced cameras and their deluge of high-end features.

The GoPro cameras capture video in HD and even 4K resolution. The Hero4 Black, in particular, is capable of truly cinematic video quality. But they all take high-resolution still images and offer multiple manual controls for colour and exposure.

With the GoPros, you can also frame videos or photos at a wide angle, or choose medium or narrow instead. In short, film producers, photographers and videographers are extremely excited about the new GoPro cameras. Everyone else, though, may feel a little overwhelmed. Stiff competition is coming from more basic options, too. I spent time recently comparing the GoPro Hero4 Silver with a new video camera from Polaroid yes, that Polaroidcalled the Cube.

At first blush, this looks like an unfair competition. The Cube costs $100 and is a tiny, brightly coloured box with one button on top for operation. Its closer in spirit to the base-model Hero.

To justify the extra $300 you pay for the Hero4 Silver, you have to use a lot of advanced features. And the truth is, most people will probably stick to the basic options. In those cases, there is not a huge difference between it and the Cube.

Among the advanced features on the Hero4 Silver is a touch-sensitive LCD on the back of the device. That makes navigating the cameras many settings much easier, because scrolling through them using the cameras physical buttons is awful.

And for those who plan to edit their video later, the Hero4 cameras have a welcome feature called a HiLight Tag, which lets you mark certain spots in a recording where something particularly noteworthy happens. You can mark spots by tapping a new settings button on the right side of the camera, or by using a remote control the company also just released.

GoPro also offers a free phone app for Android or Apple devices that you can use to control the Hero4 and mark highlights. Its nice for controlling the cameras settings, but I found it often disconnected from the camera and drained the battery quickly when it was connected.

Its also not that practical to use your phone to control a camera if youre engaged in action sports like surfing or kayaking. The feature is better if the GoPro is attached to a drone or a frolicking dog and your hands are free. The remote accessory is better for tagging video, but thats still not always possible if youre the one paddling, riding or jumping. And the tags arent viewable in any editing software other than the free GoPro Studio application.