Published July 16, 2009
Now that YouTube has made everyone a TV star, and every single moment of our lives needs to be captured on video just in case we do something clever – or stupid to the extreme - more and more cameras are being introduced to meet very specific needs.
One area that is of particular interest to FOX Car Report is driving video, and we are not referring to shaky, Blair Witch-style camerawork shot with one hand while trying to shift into fourth gear with the other.
To get the steady, on-car shots used in our video reviews we have employed any number of contraptions, some more complicated and costly than others.
In an effort to make our lives easier, we recently tried out one of the simplest and most-affordable cameras available, the GoPro Motorsports HERO Wide.
In essence, it is a small, 5.1 megapixel digital camera with a video feature, measuring about 1.8” x 2.3”. Encased in a waterproof housing, it can be clipped into a variety of mounts, including a suction cup with a two-hinge arm that you can stick to the outside of a car, or any smooth surface on the interior.
GoPro claims that it will hold on at speeds above 200 mph, but the best we could do was 135 mph in a Roush 427R Mustang we were testing at Pocono Raceway. Despite our best efforts, it never fell off.
The camera is easy to operate, with only two buttons controlling all of the functions, but a couple of ergonomic issues make it a little awkward work with.
First, owing to its small size, there is no LCD monitor, so you need to use the very small viewfinder to set up your shot, which is nearly impossible to do when the camera is mounted close to the body of the car. In practice, you end up pointing it in a general direction and hoping for the best.
Fortunately, with a 170-degree lens, it is hard to completely miss what you are aiming for, but the lack of a rotating or ball end mount that would let the camera turn side to side means artistic types will have to settle for less than perfect framing.
On its own, the video quality is solid, with a bit of a film look to it, and perfect for streaming on the internet. The problem we found is that when you edit it together with true video formats the difference is noticeable, but kind of cool in a mixed media kind of way.
Video is stored onto a 2GB SD card that can hold up to an hour of footage, and the camera also operates in a number of still modes, including a time lapse setting that takes one shot every two seconds and should come in handy at those 24 hour events.
Audio is good at low speeds, thanks to a microphone mounted on the back of the camera and not pointed directly into the wind, but at highway speeds it is ultimately overwhelmed by the rush of air coming over the housing.
Even with a few flaws, it is hard to find an on-car camera that is easier to use than the HERO, and for $199 it comes well-equipped with accessories. A large catalog of add-ons is also available.