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"GoPro"

Posted: 28 September, 2021

Hero 9

I bought a GoPro before we moved up to Cumbria. I figure, of all the places I’m ever going to live, this is probably the one worth capturing on video. I was right, but the GoPro has been a real mixed bag.

Hardware

The recent release of the Hero 10 explains why I was able to get my bundle for such a cheap price. Every mod – GoPro’s parlance for plugins/adaptors/doodahs – was discounted, and I walked away with extra batteries, a tripod, media adaptor and wide-angle lens.

The camera is as good as I hoped. Super crisp, high framerate video, up to 5k and at crazy wide angles. Stabilisation is impressive and it’s handled low-light situations better than I'd expect a lens of that size.

Ever adaptor (mod) I’ve tried has been excellently designed. They feel robust. Really robust. It’s obvious from the tactile feel and day-to-day use that a great deal of care and attention has gone into them, and once in place – screwed in, clipped on, angled and pointed – there’ve been reassuringly secure.

In my opinion, GoPro’s hardware is fantastic. By far the best small form-factor video camera that I’ve ever seen or used, with a really well designed collection of bolt-ons.

Software

The software platform covers three parts, the device itself, the phone, and the desktop.

The device itself is easy to control. The touchscreen is responsive, even when wet. On-screen controls have been simplified, but you can pretty much dig-in and get at everything you need while on the road, quickly, and reasonably intuitively. It’s crashed a couple of times, which is less than ideal, but for the most part it’s been fine.

The mobile phone acts like a tether and gives you a few more options to play with. In theory, you can preview, wirelessly, from the camera to the phone, download recorded media and edit it, make custom profiles for resolution, lens and framerate, and quickly jump between them. In practice most of these features are a bit of a lottery. In fact, it’s from this point on that the software crumbles.

My phone fails to find and connect to the camera approx one in four times. Regularly enough that it’s muscle memory to hit the back arrow to try again.

Downloading media takes an age. It’s generally faster for me to upload, from the camera, to GoPro’s cloud and then download it to where I want it. This has completely put me off editing a video on the road. It’s also far too easy to delete recordings. The GoPro actually saves long videos as lots of shorter sections, behind the scenes. Depending on where you’re looking at these, you might see one long video, or lots of five-minute bits. And, occasionally, depending where you are, deleting a “short clip” may actually delete the entire “long video”. One of the plus points of GoPro’s cloud is that there’s no limit to the amount of video you can store, so, I’m never going to delete anything, which solves the problem...

The phone software’s a “pass” at best.

On the desktop there’s a driver to use the GoPro as a webcam, and it’s complete garbage. Stands up for minutes, if you're lucky, silently crashes, or just ends up with half the frame updating, the other locked to a static picture. I’ve had to plug my GoPro into a USB HDMI capture card, as that’s been the only reliable way to get 30fps video out of the thing. Apparently, this is quite a common solution, despite the "media mod" being expressly designed for this sort of use case?

Fusion, for desktop, appears to be an electron version of the older iOS software and was riddled with Javascript errors and crashed constantly. GoPro gave up on it entirely over the summer, meaning there’s now no sanctioned way that I’m aware of to download and edit video on the Windows desktop. I’ve not hunted about for the Mac, but I’m guessing it’s the same there.

This isn’t the end of the world, I’m probably happier to downloading my clips from GoPro’s cloud and editing them in Resolve, but for those people stuck in Quik, man I feel your pain.

It’s unfortunate, but at every point, from the device to the computer, GoPro’s software is bug-ridden and crash-prone. I honestly can’t think of another device I’ve owned, whose software-stack has so dramatically tarnished what would otherwise have been an exceptional experience. It is utter fucking garbage from top to bottom.

It’s a real shame, cos I love the hardware. If everything else was the same quality then I’d understand why GoPro is held in such high regard. As it is, I can’t understand why they’re not being dragged over broken glass. Have people just stopped expecting things to work?