There are a number of ways to operate the Hero3 Black Edition: from the camera itself, via the supplied remote control, or via the free GoPro app that’s available for iOS and Android smartphones and tablets.
Pairing the Hero3 Black Edition to the supplied Wi-Fi remote control gives you added flexibility over where you mount the camera – GoPro claims a working Wi-Fi range of 100 metres.
You use a combination of the Mode and shutter release buttons to navigates menus, which is easy enough once you've mastered. You'll have to download the user manual from GoPro's website, however, as it's not included - either printed or digitally - in the box.
This much is the same as the rest of the Hero3, but it's the supplied remote that sets the GoPro Hero3 apart. Once you’ve paired the remote with the camera, the two buttons on the remote act exactly the same as the Mode button and Shutter Release button on the camera, meaning you can access all of the camera’s various settings and options from the remote. Better still, the charging port on the remote also accommodates a keyring attachment that lets you securely attach the remote to your person, so that you won’t accidentally lose it.
The GoPro App for Android and iOS allows you to control the camera from your tablet/smartphone, with a time-delayed preview window showing you what the camera can see.
Unless you spend an additional £80 on the optional GoPro Touch BacPac display, there’s no way to see what the camera can see in real-time. There is a cheaper way around this, though, which is the GoPro app that’s free in the Google Play and Apple iOS app stores.
Pairing your smartphone/tablet to the camera is simple, if a little fussy, as you have to input the Hero3’s default Wi-Fi password (‘goprohero’) into your mobile, switch the camera’s internal Wi-Fi on and then use the Wireless Setup menu on the camera to put the camera into GoPro App pairing mode.
Once you’re up and running you can activate the app on your phone/tablet and press ‘Connect and Control’. This takes you to the main app screen from where you can exercise all manner of control over the camera (from basic still image/movie quality settings, to time-lapse settings and even more advanced settings) via the settings menu, which is accessed via the cogwheel icon.
The GoPro app also gives you direct control over when to start and stop recording, or when to take a still image. There’s even a small preview window that shows you what the camera is seeing in (almost) real-time.
We say ‘almost’ because there’s actually a two-second delay involved. If you’re operating the camera this way, then you’ll need to hit the ‘record’ button slightly in advance of the moment/video sequence you want to capture.
Even with this delay, it’s a neat app that lets one person control the recording from a distance (GoPro quotes an operable Wi-Fi distance of up to 100m) while the camera wearer focuses on whatever it is that they’re doing.
GoPro's own CineForm Studio software can be downloaded for free from the company's website and, although you can't stitch individual clips together, you can convert snippets ready for post-processing.
The GoPro Black Edition doesn’t come with any supplied software in the box, however you can download the company’s own CineForm Studio software from the GoPro website. It’s not the most advanced piece of film editing software we’ve seen, however it does let you to apply a range of effects to your movies, including the ProTune filter that enhances the colour and detail of captured movies.
While CineForm Studio can convert raw movie footage from the camera, and apply effects or slow movies down, it can't join individual fragments of footage together – you’ll need to use something like Final Cut Pro or Apple iMovie for this.
Still image quality isn’t too bad, but the wideangle nature of the Hero3’s lens does result in lots of barrel distortion, which makes still images look like they’ve been captured with a fisheye lens. Colour and white balance are both pretty accurate though, and can of course be tweaked at the post-processing stage. Detail is pretty good too.
Movie quality is, on the whole, very good, though. As mentioned at the start of this review, the Black Edition greatly benefits from much wider range of movie quality settings than its cheaper siblings. Of course, it’s up to you to decide which setting is optimal for your purposes and this will differ according to the situation in that the camera is being used,
For testing purposes we stuck primarily with 1080p Full HD capture at 50fps. The main reasons we opted to record at this particular setting is that going any higher would be lost on the vast majority of computer screens, but also because at 50fps we could slow down some of the action to half-speed while maintaining a relatively healthy 25fps at Full HD resolution. Check our sample kitesurfing video on the next page to see how this looks.
Post-processing options of the CineForm Studio include a number of digital filter effects – including the contrast/saturation/sharpness-boosting ProTune option – along with more standard editing controls.
One feature of the Black Edition that more advanced users will certainly benefit from is the ability to employ GoPro’s proprietary Protune technology. This is activated on the camera via the Settings menu and, once engaged, records movie footage in Camera Raw mode with less compression for enhanced editing potential, along with a more neutral colour palate. You can, of course, boost saturation and tweak sharpness using the CineForm Studio software as well.
During our time with our review sample we used the GoPro Hero3 Black Edition in a variety of conditions – on the day we captured some kitesurfing (with the camera mounted inside the kite for a top-down view of the action), the skies were especially grey and the sea a pale green. The raw footage of this did look a little flat, however the ProTune option did a good job of brightening things up a bit.
On another day we strapped the camera to the front windscreen of our car on a particularly bright and sunny day to see how well it handled fast motion and high-contrast lighting conditions. The camera performed well on both counts, but the built-in microphone didn’t do a great job of capturing our specially chosen soundtrack on the in-car stereo syste despite it being turned up to urban petrolhead levels of loudness.
Used in other situations, however, such as sitting on the open water while surfing, the microphone did do a good job of picking up conversation between the surfers.
If you’re into extreme sports and are looking for a camcorder/still image camera that you can strap to your person to capture the action with, irrespective of whether it’s in the water or on dry land, then the GoPro Hero3 Black Edition is currently best option on the market.
The remote control, along with the GoPro smartphone/tablet app for Android and iOS, only adds to the overall versatility of the Black Edition, making it a fantastic piece of kit at a very reasonable price.