GoPro Hero3: Black Edition Camcorder Review$399.99
Low Light Performance
Low Light Sensitivity
We've seen plenty of impressive low light sensitivity scores from adventure cams, but the Hero3: Black Edition is one of the best. The camcorder offers a special setting called ProTune that is designed for professionals who want to harness the full power of the camcorder's capabilities. Shooting in low light, the ProTune setting makes a huge difference in sensitivity. The Hero3: Black Edition needed just two lux of light to record a usable image with ProTune engaged. Without ProTune, the camcorder still got by with ease, requiring just six lux of light to record an image with the same brightness levels. More on how we test low light sensitivity.
Using ProTune does add more noise to your image, though, and it kind of drains the color from the recording by using a neutral white balance setting. The idea is you can get rid of some of this noise and enhance the colors in post production, so ProTune is really only recommended for people who are planning to edit their footage later. Either way, we like this bit of extra control that gives the user the ability to boost low light performance if needed.
Also, keep in mind all these results were obtained using the camcorder's 1080/30p record mode. Low light sensitivity may increase slightly when using a 24p frame rate, and you may need a bit more light when shooting 60p video.
Low Light Noise
Our noise test was also conducted with ProTune settings turned on and off with the Hero3: Black Edition. With ProTune off, the camcorder registered 0.9% noise in low light—a very good score. This number shot up just a bit to 1.1% with ProTune turned on. This gives you an idea of the "extra" noise we talked about in our low light sensitivity tests with ProTune. Whatever mode you use, the Hero3: Black Edition will definitely show less noise than the Hero2 camcorder, which produced a very noisy image in low light. The Sony Action Cam and Contour+2, however, both matched (actually slightly bested) the Hero3's noise performance. More on how we test low light noise.
Low Light Color
In order to get a better idea of the Hero3's overall color performance, we ran the camcorder's low light color tests using a variety of different shooting modes. The basic 1080/30p mode without ProTune turned on did the best: 3.99 color error with 92% color saturation. Those numbers are a bit better than the competition, so they're very good for an adventure cam.
For those who are curious, the Hero3's color error went up to 4.24 with ProTune turned on while recording 1080/30p video. The saturation level also dropped down to 83% using that mode. Shooting 2.7K and 4K video, both with ProTune, resulted in similar numbers as the 1080/30p ProTune recording. Basically, using ProTune mutes the colors a bit, but that's all by design. The mode is meant for you to make color changes in post production, so accuracy and saturation levels aren't that important here. More on how we test low light color.