GO PRO SILVER
Action cameras have changed the way we chronicle our activities. Whether that's high-octane, adrenaline-fuelled skydiving, musical performances or just more mundane tasks; action cameras can simply go where traditional camcorders (and smartphones) can't with their ruggedised builds and waterproof cases. With their often ultra wide angle view of the world you also get to see things differently.
Undoubtedly leading the pack where it comes to action cameras is GoPro. Often the choice of professional athletes and videographers, they've been used to capture some truly impressive feats as well as being used in film and television (see: The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies). GoPro was one of the early pioneers where it came to action cameras and has built up a reputation for cameras that can go the distance. Its current flagship range, the Hero4, is now in its 4th iteration but there are now plenty of other options to fill different target markets meaning it can be difficult to know where to start. We've gone through them to help you pick the right GoPro for your needs.
GoPro Hero – the entry-level range
At the bottom end of GoPro's action camera range is the Hero range, which consists of three models: the Hero (around £94); Hero+ (around £170) and Hero+ LCD (around £199). It's worth noting that all of the Hero cameras do not have swappable batteries, so there's no option to carry a spare (which is possible with the Hero4 Black and Hero4 Silver – more on these later). All three models are also fixed inside their waterproof cases, which can go to depths of 40m.
The Hero+ and Hero+ LCD are similar, so I'll cover the Hero first.
The Hero is the basic model in the GoPro range as its price would lead you to believe. In terms of its video recording resolution, it tops out at 1080p, 30fps. The higher the frame rate, the smoother your video will look. If you drop down to 720p resolution you can get 60fps, however. As its maximum framerate is 60fps, regardless of resolution, the GoPro Hero won't be a good choice if you want to shoot slow-motion video as this requires much higher frame rates in order to slow the video down, while retaining a smooth look. In terms of field of view, you only have one option, which is Ultra Wide. If you want more options for FOV you'll need to look at the Hero4 range. The Hero shoots the lowest bitrate of all of GoPro's cameras at 15Mb/s. Simply put, a higher bitrate will capture more detail, especially in hectic scenes.
For still images, you can capture 5-megapixel photos, which is the lowest of all of GoPro's current cameras. For shooting time lapse photos, you're limited to only 0.5 second intervals. The big omission from the Hero is there's no wireless connections. This means you can't pair it with the smartphone app to control and access your video and images for easy sharing. You'll have to use a computer to access your footage. There's also no LCD display.
GoPro Hero+ / GoPro Hero+ LCD
First thing's first, the most obvious difference between these two models (aside from price) is that the Hero+ LCD includes a touchscreen LCD screen. Aside from this, both models are identical. At time of writing, the Hero+ LCD model is widely available for similar prices as the Hero+ so there's little reason not to go for the LCD model.
The touchscreen not only helps with framing your shots but changing settings is more intuitive than using the buttons on the camera. You also have some basic video editing abilities to trim your video for easy sharing on social media. There are 15s and 30s trim settings, which are perfect for quickly getting something up on Instagram or Facebook. Sharing and accessing your footage on the move is possible through the built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth to pair with your smartphone.
The Hero+ has superior video quality to the Hero as well, thanks to being able to shoot 1080p, 60fps as its top resolution and framerate. There still aren't any options for high framerate video, however. Like the Hero, you can only shoot in an Ultra Wide field of view. The Hero+ and Hero+ LCD capture video at up to 25Mb/s bitrate, higher than the Hero. The Hero+/Hero+ LCD is able to shoot 8-megapixel stills, another upgrade over the Hero. It also has far more options for shooting in time lapse model, ranging from 0.5s to 60s intervals.
Hero4 Session – a great secondary camera
GoPro Hero4 Session front
The Hero4 Session seems to be the slightly strange uncle in the GoPro family. It was a radical departure from previous designs. It originally launched at £330, putting it at the same price as the better-equipped Hero4 Silver but that soon dropped officially to £250. Now, it's available for a bargain RRP of £160, which makes things slightly more confusing as it's positioned as a 'Performance' camera rather than 'Entry-level' as the Hero range is, yet it now costs less than all but the cheapest Hero model.
It's undoubtedly unique with its cubed shape and cyclops-like lens, It's the smallest and lightest camera GoPro has made but it's better suited as a supplementary camera rather than your primary shooter. The Hero4 Session also doesn't require a separate waterproof case, keeping its weight and size down considerably. It can only go to depths of 10m, however. So if you're looking to go scuba diving, you might need to look at a different GoPro. Like the Hero/Hero+, the Hero4 Session has a non-swappable battery. The Hero4 Session comes with some useful mounts that don't come with other cameras, too. These include a low-profile mount and a ball-head mount for easily adjusting its angle.
You have a choice of either Ultra Wide or Medium FOVs, allowing a slightly narrower view than the Hero range. You also have more video resolution options with 1080p, 60fps or 1080p Superview, 48fps. The Superview mode gives you more vertical perspective in your video. Similarly, you're also able to shoot at 1,440p, 30fps, which isn't available on Hero models. You also get 100fps video at 720p if you want to shoot slow-motion. As it's got a cubed shape, the Hero4 Session is perfect to mount sideways and upside down. Therefore, its auto image rotation is a handy feature. Like the Hero+, the Hero4 Session captures video at up to 25Mb/s bitrate. The Hero4 Session captures 8-megapixel still images and has the full array of timelapse intervals. The Hero4 Session has dual-microphones, which is useful in windy environments as it will dynamically switch between microphones for the best audio quality.
Hero4 Silver – GoPro Hero4 Silver
The GoPro Hero4 Silver (around £250) sits one below the top of the range Hero4 Black. It's characterised by including the GoPro LCD Touch BacPac as standard (this is an optional add-on for the Hero4 Black). Like the Hero+ LCD, this adds a display for framing shots and controlling settings. You get three different FOVs with Ultra Wide, Medium and Narrow options, which is one more than the lower-tier models. You also get improved optics and what GoPro calls professional grade low-light performance. You also get 4K, 15fps as the top resolution option, which isn't quite as high as the Hero4 Black. If you want smoother framerates, there's also 2.7K, 30fps and 1080p, 60fps. If you want to shoot slow motion, there's 720p, 100fps and 240fps if you drop to WVGA resolution (848×480). This leaves you with considerably more options for dramatic slow-motion footage. Still images also get an increased resolution at 12-megapixels.
The Hero4 Silver gets some advanced features, too, including night photo and night timelapse modes. It's in low-light that the lower-tier cameras struggle. You can also use simultaneous video and photo modes where the camera can capture a still image at set intervals while shooting video. Video is captured at 45Mb/s bitrate, which is another increase. The Hero4 Silver will also let you connect an external microphone through an optional Mini USB adaptor for improved audio capture over the built-in microphones. The battery is also user-replaceable, meaning you can carry a spare with you.
For those looking for the absolute top of the range, there's the Hero4 Black (around £300 now). While it lacks the included LCD Touch BacPac of the Silver model, it makes up for it with the best image quality with 60Mb/s bitrate. Other headline features are its 4K, 30fps video. While the Silver tops out at 15fps at this resolution, 30fps is far smoother and arguably 15fps isn't ideal due to its jerkiness. You can still get a cinema-like 24fps in 4K Superview mode. Even dropping down to 2.7K you get a staggering 60fps. With its range of video modes, the Hero4 Black is the camera of choice for professionals and might be overkill for many. Keep in mind that you'll need a reasonably powerful PC to edit 4K footage and a 4K television or monitor to view it in all its glory. The other advantage it has over the Silver is support for studio quality external microphones for another professional touch.
Hero4 Black and Silver shared features
Both the Silver and Black support Timelapse Video, which creates as the name suggests creates a timelapse video in camera. Other GoPro models will capture timelapse still images, but you'll need to edit them together into a video yourself on a computer. Both cameras also have removable waterproof cases so you can slim them down and remove some of the weight if you're not taking part in aquatic activities. With the case on, they're both waterproof to 40m.
So which GoPro is for me?
Unfortunately, that's going to be a tricky one to answer. It all really depends what features you need. The Hero is arguably a little under-specified for most, so I would say it's worth stretching to the Hero+ LCD as the entry-level option. On the other end, unless you're looking for professional features (perhaps you run a YouTube channel or partake in extreme sports) the Hero4 Black might be overkill, especially keeping in mind not everyone will need 4K. The Silver model, which has fallen in price, will be able to serve the requirements of most people. The outlying Hero4 Session might not be ideal as your only camera, but for anyone looking for a second camera to supplement a Silver or Black will be well served. Especially as it's dropped in price so significantly since its initial release.
Hopefully this has helped in choosing a suitable GoPro. Happy adventuring and let us know which is your GoPro of choice in the comments below.