GoPro HD Hero2 Camcorder Review
If you're interested in camcorders, or even gadgets in general, it's almost impossible to ignore the GoPro HD Hero2. In our experience, the Hero2 is the best adventure-style camcorder we've worked with, and the model was easier to handle and control than its most direct competitor: the Contour+ camcorder.
The GoPro Hero2 wasn't a stellar performer in our video tests, but its Full HD video looked just as good as what we see from your average ultracompact camcorder. The Hero2 produced deep colors in both bright and low light, and the camcorder's automatic control over exposure was adequate for most recording situations. Like the Contour+, the Hero2 had some issues with noise, but the camcorder was better than its rival in low light performance overall. Also like the Contour+, the Hero2's lens records with an extremely wide angle of view, which means capturing all the action in front of you shouldn't be a problem.
Realistically, performance plays second fiddle for the Hero2, as the most important feature on the camcorder is its go-anywhere design that is made possible by GoPro's waterproof housing and variety of mounts and straps that ship with the camcorder. We specifically reviewed the Outdoor Edition of the Hero2, which means we got to play with a vented helmet strap (perfect for hooking to a bike helmet) and a stretchy, adjustable head strap that felt similar to wearing a headlamp. The Surf and Motorbike editions of the Hero2 come with a few different mounts, but the waterproof casing (which can handle a depth of up to 197 feet) is the same for all three editions.
In all, we liked GoPro's mount and strap accessories better than what shipped with the Contour+ camcorder. The mounts were easy to work with, although we did notice some wear on the waterproof housing after a week of intense use. The straps and mounts will certainly wear down after repeated use, but the versatility of GoPro's mounts impressed us—and you get more in the whole package than you do with the Contour+. This is particularly true with the waterproof housing, as GoPro ships the case free with all editions of the Hero2. Contour has a nearly identical waterproof case (that can also go down to 197 feet), but charges an additional $40 bucks for its inclusion.
From a usability perspective, our favorite thing about the GoPro Hero2 is its ability to adjust controls and settings on the fly right on the camcorder itself. The two buttons on the Hero2, in conjunction with the camcorder's tiny LCD, allow you to cycle through menu options and control settings without connecting the camcorder to a computer. This means you can switch from video recording to still image mode with the click of a button. The system isn't perfect, as using two buttons and a small screen to sift through various controls can be an arduous task. But we're still happy the camcorder includes this function, and it represents a huge advantage for the Hero2 over the Contour+ camcorder.
With its whole package costing just under $300, the Hero2 is a fun, reasonably-priced camcorder that should please anyone looking for a wearable adventure-cam. The inclusion of the waterproof housing as part of its package is an excellent addition, and the camcorder comes with enough mounts and straps to keep you busy for a while. GoPro has a good set of optional accessories, including an attachable LCD that lets you view and playback your video, available for the Hero2 on its website as well.