As action sports such as wakeboarding, mountain biking and even skydiving take a grip in Thailand, gadgets that enhance the experience are starting to become available too. Why not digitally record that near-death experience for the ultimate bragging rights?
A new toy that enables this is the GoPro HD Helmet Hero that straps onto your head and records what you see. The concept is simple enough, but does it justify it's price? And isn't there an iPhone app for that? Let's take a closer look to see if it's worth the outlay.
The camera itself is a smallish, grey box (94g, 42mmx60mmx30mm), housed in a plastic waterproof shell (167g), that is said to be good to 60m depth in water. The model we looked at attaches to a helmet, but others are available with different mounting equipment depending on your extreme sport of choice _ surfing, motorbiking, etc. To allow mounting to vertical surfaces, there's a 90-degree adaptor for use with any of the mounts, and in the box are also other mounts, and straps, adding further versatility.
The camera contains a wide-angle f2.8 lens with fixed focus. It can shoot at 1,920x1,080, at 30fps, and also has a 60fps 720p mode. While the dimensions are on the small side, the HD results are genuinely impressive. The default 1,280x960 resolution setting gives great perspective with its wider angle, at the cost of heavy barrel distortion of images, but it's the only solution to see all the action, even though it changes the aspect ratio to 4:3 from the standard 16:9. Sound quality is good enough to enhance the action in your living room, but it won't rival Dolby Digital in the surround sound stakes. It does, however, minimise the annoying sound of wind on the microphone.
Just as important as the camera is the mounting gear to keep the camera firmly in place, otherwise viewers would need air-sickness bags. Positioning the camera requires a little practice, since there is no viewfinder. But it's intuitive enough to point and shoot with no hands.
A button on top of the camera triggers three shooting modes _ video, time-lapse or still (five megapixels). On the front of the camera there's a tiny LCD display, which means you can adjust settings without connecting it to a computer. It shows the current mode, video resolution, number of files recorded, battery level and more. Images are captured to an SD card, which has almost become the standard format with most notebooks now carrying an SD port as standard. A 16GB memory card will record about two hours of action.
Battery life is reasonable for short-format sports. But for a longer bike ride, for example, a separate battery pack might be required (as well as some editing afterwards). The battery charges in a couple of hours.
Internationally, the biggest competitor is the Contour GPS, but the GoPro range has drawn more praise. And with the manufacturer's strong local support in Thailand, the decision is easy for choosing sporting video equipment. It's a good addition to the kit bag for any serious sport enthusiast. And the results would trump most of the offerings that circulate around social media. Users will like the ease of use and the high quality video and audio results, and might only be put off by the price. But worth the splurge, we say.
The GoPro HD Helmet Hero is available for 12,999 baht. Visit goprothailand.mentagram.com for dealers and info. Email firstname.lastname@example.org with any thoughts, gadget-related or otherwise.
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