GoPro HD Hero2 Camcorder Review
Lens & Imaging System
The small, fixed lens on the front of the GoPro Hero2 doesn't look like much, but the design of the lens allows you to capture images at extremely wide angles. The lens has a fixed aperture of f/2.8 and has no optical zoom, but you can set the "field of view" that the lens records to three different options: wide, medium, and narrow.
Here's where we get into some inconsistencies, though. According to GoPro, the Hero2 has an angle of view of 170° in wide mode, 127° in medium mode, and 90° in narrow mode. But we measured things differently in our wide angle test. The widest view measured at 124°, medium view measured at 99°, and narrow was 58°. There may be some slight differences in how we measure wide angle compared to GoPro, but either way, this is still an extremely wide angle lens that captured a wider image than the Contour+ in our testing (at the widest setting).
Technically, the GoPro Hero2 does have an LCD, but the screen is only used for menu navigation and control selection—it does not provide a visual display for framing or viewing video content. The tiny LCD on the front of the camcorder simply tells you what mode you're working in, and by pressing the buttons on the front and top of the camcorder you can cycle through various settings and make changes to your recording options.
This leaves us with a daunting question—how in the world are you supposed to frame your shots if you can't see what they look like beforehand? Well, because of the Hero2's wide angle lens you don't really have to frame your shots that carefully. The view is so wide that it's fairly likely you're gonna capture interesting footage within the frame. If you're really concerned about getting the right shots, however, you can purchase the GoPro LCD BacPac, which straps to the back of the Hero2 (via the proprietary Hero Port) and functions as a normal screen for previewing or playing back content. The BacPac costs an extra $80 and we can't attest to how well it works because we didn't get one with our review unit.
Since the camcorder also has HDMI and AV outputs, you can also connect the Hero2 to a television to preview your content. Additionally, in March of 2012, GoPro has announced it will start selling a WiFi BacPac kit that will enable you to sync the Hero2 to a smartphone, tablet, or computer running a free GoPro App (for live streaming and remote operation). This is similar to the (somewhat finicky) system Contour has put in place on its hands-fee camcorders—you can read about Contour's LCD solution here.
For a tiny camcorder, the GoPro Hero2 has quite a few connectivity options. The left side of the camcorder has three ports: an AV-out jack that can double as an audio output, a USB terminal, and a 3.5mm external mic input. On the right side of the camcorder you'll find the memory card slot (fits SD/SDHC cards) and the mini HDMI port.
It's the proprietary Hero Port on the back of the Hero2 that may be the camcorder's most interesting connectivity feature. This port allows you to attach accessories—like GoPro's LCD BacPac, extra battery BacPac, and WiFi BacPac kit—easily to the camcorder. The Hero2 does not have built-in WiFi or Bluetooth connectivity (unlike the Contour+ camcorder), but the proprietary Hero Port does expand the wireless capabilities of the camcorder.
The Hero2's rechargeable battery pack fits into the back of the camcorder, behind the removable battery cover that takes up most of the back of the model. The battery can be tricky to remove, as there's no good grip or slot where you can get leverage to pull the battery free. The best method we found was to open the battery cover and gently knock the camcorder against our palm until the battery loosened. We could then free it from the constraints of the battery compartment with ease.
Charging the battery is done by leaving it in the camcorder and connecting the GoPro Hero2 to a USB power source (via the USB terminal). The power source could be a computer with a USB terminal or a USB power adapter that lets you plug right into a wall outlet. Find out how the performed in our battery life test./r:link_to_content
The memory card slot on the side of the Hero2 fits SD or SDHC memory cards (up to 32GB in size). GoPro recommends using a card speed class four or higher, and for certain recordings (like the time-lapse function) higher-speed cards may be necessary. We like that GoPro uses SDHC cards, as they are easy to obtain and are fairly inexpensive—especially compared to the MicroSD cards used by Contour on its camcorders. Read more about the advantages and disadvantages of various media types.