I took a look at a diverse group of recently introduced HD POV cams from GoPro, Panasonic and Iconix, ranging in price from a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars. There are many POV and lipstick camera models on the market, but the three systems I chose represent a broad cross section of prices, features and applications.
GOPRO HD HERO: THE SPORTS CAMThe HD HERO (www.goprocamera.com) is one of the lowest-cost HD POV cameras on the market, but if you check out the demo clips on the GoPro website, www.goprocamera.com/video, you’ll be impressed by the bang for the buck the HD HERO offers. This tiny camera, which almost resembles a toy, is capable of producing impressive HD footage in H.264 codec recorded to SDHC cards up to 32 GB. The HD HERO stands out from the other camera systems in this article by being the only self-contained system; the other systems each features a camera head tethered to a separate recorder.
The HD HERO also scores points for offering decent sound quality, a variety of HD and still photo resolutions, and interesting mounting options. With an MSRP of less than $300, the value equation for the HD HERO is impressive. Some users will find the lack of a playback or live-viewing screen to be a limitation, but in testing I found that with the almost fisheye wide-angle view of the HD Hero’s lens (127º in 1080, 170º in 720), I didn’t really need live monitoring in most instances; I would point the HD Hero at what I wanted to capture and I was happy with the results.
Another unique feature is that the HD Hero can shoot hands-free, 5-megapixel photos automatically at 2-, 5-, 10-, 30- and 60-second intervals until the batteries die or the SD card is full (up to 2.5 hours). The stills were of good quality. The HD Hero is waterproof to 180 feet, and the housing provides shock and skid resistance when the camera is dropped.
• Outstanding value proposition; the HD Hero is a lot of camera for a little money
• GoPro sells the HD Hero by application so each package comes with everything you need for a specific use
• An excellent selection of mounts and accessories
• Can flip upside-down mounted footage right side up upon capture
• Can shoot 60 fps slow motion in 720p mode
• Limited manual controls (resolution and metering modes are about all)
• No LCD for framing or playback
• Menu system is a bit arcane, but understandable once you work with it
• No 24p modes
• No way to tell in-camera how much footage you’ve shot or card space remaining