GoPro Silver Hero3+, Black 3+, Hero2, & Garmin Virb Elite

Discussion in 'Paddling Photography' started by Philip.AK, Nov 23, 2013.

  1. Philip.AK

    Philip.AK Paddler

    Joined:
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    Location:
    Kodiak, Alaska
    I have used POV cameras for many years and have produced a lot of videos. I am very familiar with GoPro Hero cameras and have used nearly all the models since the first Hero. I tested the recent Hero3 Silver and Black models and frankly thought they sucked. Bad. Buggy, freeze-prone, lame battery life, and totally unacceptable image quality: dark, no shadow detail, soft edges (especially on the Black, ironically), and a horrible red color cast especially in overcast snow scenes. My old Hero2 blew them both out of the water in basically every single category aside from size and integrated Wifi, so I dumped the Hero3 models and stayed with my trusty Hero2's.

    I just picked up a Virb Elite, and a couple of new Hero3+ models in both Black and Silver. I will give some examples of the image quality below. I will mostly focus on image sharpness and color fidelity, because that is what I care about. All cameras were in their highest res photo mode, and set to 1080p for vid mode (the Hero3+ Black was in 1080p "super" mode which squishes a 4:3 image area into a 16:9 format).

    Scene 1: A test target in my driveway in the shadow of a building with a bright sky scene in the background. Here is a full-view shot (resized- you can see the full size here… http://farm4.staticflickr.com/3829/11020558065_d6070c99ac_o.jpg):

    [​IMG]

    Video image quality

    The following are a 1:1 pixel comparison of the telephone pole in the image above as taken in a video frame from each camera. This shows the camera's ability to deal with highlight detail.

    Hero2 Video: The image detail is fair with the blue sky washed out and a red cast to the trees, and the moon barely visible to the left of the pole, but you can see the telephone lines.

    [​IMG]

    Virb Elite Video: The image detail is poor with the highlights totally blown out and the sky white. The moon and wires are completely lost. Oddly the trees show more detail and better color reproduction.

    [​IMG]

    Hero3+ Silver Video: Nice blue sky and similar image detail and sharpness to the Hero2. The moon is clearly visible though the Virb still shows the trees on the ridge slightly better.

    [​IMG]

    Hero3+ Black Video: This view seems a little wider because the Hero3+ Black does indeed have the widest FOV of all the cameras in 1080 ‘super mode’ which brings in not only a taller view but is also slightly wider. The sky is a nice blue, the electrical lines visible, tree detail is good, the moon is visible, and the colors realistic. IMO, the best in this comparison.

    [​IMG]

    Now the photo target in the center of the original image…

    Hero2 Video: The image is a little underexposed and with a pretty strong orange color cast. There are compression artifacts and the colors seem blocked up and muddled. Sharpness is only fair with some jagged edges like there was some digital sharpening.

    [​IMG]

    Virb Elite Video: Colors look realistic and bright. Image detail is pretty good with almost no compression artifacts though the whole image looks a little soft in focus. All the lines are nice and straight and not bent into jagged lines like in the GoPro cameras. The Virb seems to meter for the shadows in this scene and does a nice job not losing detail in the darker areas of the image. IMO, the best image in the comparison.

    [​IMG]

    Hero3+ Silver Video: Nearly the same as the Hero2 but without the annoying orange color cast.

    [​IMG]

    Hero3+ Black Video: A little darker in exposure than even the Silver+, but a little sharper. Again, the wider angle seems to shrink image elements in the field of view. The lines are a little straighter than the Hero2 and Silver+ with fewer compression artifacts, though the Virb does a better job on the colors and clarity overall, though the Black+ does not suffer the soft focus of the Virb.

    [​IMG]

    Photo image quality

    As above, here are the same image areas but this time we are looking at still images captured from the cameras. Below is a full-view shot (resized- you can see the full size here… http://farm3.staticflickr.com/2854/11020529874_35983b1693_o.jpg).
    The following are a 1:1 pixel comparison of the telephone pole in the image above as taken in a photo frame from each camera. This shows the camera's ability to deal with highlight detail.

    [​IMG]

    Hero2 Photo: As before, the image has a red cast to the trees, but the resolution and clarity are very good and you can see the telephone lines and moon clearly and the trees are sharp.

    [​IMG]

    Virb Elite Photo: Total crap. Horrible in every category. Utter fail.

    [​IMG]

    Hero3+ Silver Photo: Very similar to the Hero2, but perhaps a tiny bit less detail, though with much truer colors.

    [​IMG]

    Hero3+ Black Photo: A little sharper than the Silver+ and with similar nice colors. The FOV is not as wide as in the ‘super’ video mode relative to the other cameras, but it is still wider overall. Good looking image. IMO, the best in this comparison and marginally superior to the Silver+.

    [​IMG]

    Now the photo target in the center of the original image…

    Hero2 Photo: Again, the image is a little underexposed and with a pretty strong orange color cast. There are some compression artifacts and the colors seem blocked up and muddled. Sharpness is pretty good with reasonably straight lines.

    [​IMG]

    Virb Elite Photo: Colors look realistic and bright though the sharpness is really not there at all. A very soft image, though there are very few compression artifacts. If it were not seemingly out of focus, this shot would win.

    [​IMG]

    Hero3+ Silver Photo: Similar to the Hero2 but without the annoying orange color cast. A little sharper with fewer compression artifacts, though underexposed compared to the Virb.

    [​IMG]

    Hero3+ Black Photo: Almost the same as the Silver+.

    [​IMG]

    More to follow…
     
  2. chodups

    chodups Paddler

    Joined:
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    Re: GoPro Silver Hero3+, Black 3+, Hero2, & Garmin Virb Elit

    Great information!
    Please keep it coming.
     
  3. Tsunami

    Tsunami Paddler

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    Re: GoPro Silver Hero3+, Black 3+, Hero2, & Garmin Virb Elit

    A friend was asking about a GoPro, I told him to get a waterproof camera instead because you cant see the pics or video from a GP until you hook into your laptop. He doesn't own a computer. I have only played with the first version of GP so if you can view the pics and vids on the GP2 & 3 versions forgive me.
    Seeing the difference between the GP2 and GP3 I can see their is no reason to get the GP3 when a used GP2 will be cheaper and better.
    Thanks a lot for sharing this. I am no photographer so this comparo is valuable for when the time comes to mount a camera to my bow.
    Tsunami.


    Ps. Have you tried the MHD Sport Wifi Action Camera? It looks impressive to me.

    http://www.monoprice.com/Product/Index? ... er_q4_2013
     
  4. Philip.AK

    Philip.AK Paddler

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    Kodiak, Alaska
    Re: GoPro Silver Hero3+, Black 3+, Hero2, & Garmin Virb Elit

    Yeah, if he doesn't have a computer then dealing with the GoPro would probably be a bit of a pain, though you can get an accessory 'backpac' for the camera that gives you a live color LCD view of what the camera sees (not sure if you can review the images after you take them), and you can also control and view in near-real-time (roughly a 1-second delay) what the camera sees via a wifi connection to a smartphone running the GoPro app. Still, I don't think you can review what the camera has already captured. If the camera is mounted on your bow, you can turn the camera on and off and start and stop recording from your smartphone in the cockpit, and preview what the camera sees. If your buddy paddles over and repositions your camera (because you can't reach it), you can guide him to get the view you want via the live preview.

    Seems to me that any digital camera is pretty hobbled by not having a computer to store and share images.

    I have no experience with the MHD cameras.
     
  5. Philip.AK

    Philip.AK Paddler

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    Kodiak, Alaska
    Re: GoPro Silver Hero3+, Black 3+, Hero2, & Garmin Virb Elit

    Scene 2: On top of a mountain with the sun behind me, with some snow and some bare ground and a blue sky:

    [​IMG]

    Video image quality

    The following are a 1:1 pixel comparison of the photo target and snow foreground as taken in a video frame from each camera. These are pretty much optimal conditions and nothing the cameras should struggle with.

    Hero2 Video: There is still a reddish color cast. The detail is fair though we see compression artifacts and some lines in the target are made jagged. The detail in the snow in the foreground is a bit lacking.

    [​IMG]

    Virb Elite Video: I think I forgot to shoot a video clip with the Garmin.

    Hero3+ Silver Video: The color fidelity is better than with the Hero2, though still somewhat warm. The image seems a little clearer though still with compression artifacts. The snow in the foreground is not any better rendered.

    [​IMG]

    Hero3+ Black Video: Again, the wider FOV makes the elements in the scene appear smaller. Pretty much everything is sharper and crisper, especially the snow where I stepped and broke the surface. The colors are cooler and more realistic but the white areas on the target are pretty washed out and compression artifacts are apparent. IMO, the best in this comparison.

    [​IMG]

    Photo image quality

    As above, here are the same image areas but this time we are looking at still photos captured from the cameras. (You can see the full size here… http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7311/11033958673_a20d24da53_o.jpg).
    The following are a 1:1 pixel comparison of the tree and mountain ridge in the image above as taken in a photo frame from each camera.

    Hero2 Photo: There are some dithering artifacts in the blue sky (most sensors are less sensitive to blue wavelengths) and the reddish cast persists overall. The clouds look slightly magenta. The detail overall is fair.

    [​IMG]

    Virb Elite Photo: Unacceptably soft focus for such an easy, static, well-lit scene.

    [​IMG]

    Hero3+ Silver Photo: Slightly cooler colors with perhaps a slight greenish hue relative to the Hero2, but the blues in the sky are smoother and more natural. The scene detail is really very similar to the Hero2.

    [​IMG]

    Hero3+ Black Photo: Slightly sharper than the Silver+ with better color fidelity. Some of the needles on the spruce tree are even visible. Best performer in this image group IMO.

    [​IMG]

    Now the photo target in the center of the original image…

    Hero2 Photo: Good image detail with a slight reddish color cast and some compression artifacts. Some color dithering noticeable in the gradient color bars (especially the magenta).

    [​IMG]

    Virb Elite Photo: Very soft focus again but with very few compression artifacts. Could be a good image if they fixed the optics.

    [​IMG]

    Hero3+ Silver Photo: Detail and clarity are almost identical to the Hero2, but again with a more neutral color overall. The colors appear less dithered than in the Hero2. Some compression artifacts visible in the resolution lines when they converge.

    [​IMG]

    Hero3+ Black Photo: Very similar to the Silver+ but with more grain texture visible in the snow in front of the photo target. Some compression artifacts and some effects from digital sharpening. Still overall a pretty good image.

    [​IMG]

    So far the Hero3+ Black is winning. This partially restores my faith in GoPro.

    More to follow…
     
  6. Philip.AK

    Philip.AK Paddler

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    Re: GoPro Silver Hero3+, Black 3+, Hero2, & Garmin Virb Elit

    Scene 3: In spruce forest with bark and pinecone litter on the ground and a partially sunny tree-studded backdrop (full-size version here http://farm4.staticflickr.com/3687/11035982744_51e251a068_o.jpg):

    [​IMG]

    Video image quality

    The following are a 1:1 pixel comparison of the photo target and some of the forest floor in the foreground from frame captures from video that was recorded.

    Hero2 Video: Offers a somewhat warm color cast. No color dithering is noticeable but compression artifacts are. Overall fair image quality and detail.

    [​IMG]

    Virb Elite Video: Somehow I forgot to shoot Virb video again. I attribute this to the video being recorded via a totally different button relative to capturing still images. The GoPros use the same button to activate any capture mode, and I’m more used to that.

    Hero3+ Silver Video:

    [​IMG] Nearly identical image to the Hero2, though with a slightly cooler overall color cast.

    Hero3+ Black Video: In this scene the Black+ really seems noticeably sharper than the other GoPro cameras. The pinecones and bark on the forest floor are nicely rendered as are the sunlit branches in the background. You can also appreciate the wider FOV the Black+ offers relative to the other cameras.

    [​IMG]

    Photo image quality

    As above, here are the same image areas but this time we are looking at still photos captured from the cameras. (You can see the full size here… http://farm4.staticflickr.com/3830/11035515715_6cd76afa28_o.jpg).
    The following are a 1:1 pixel comparison of the photo target as taken in a still photo from each camera.

    Hero2 Photo: Strong color dithering in all areas. The Hero2 does not seem to have the low light capabilities of the other cameras and we see a lot of artifacts from the gain getting cranked up. Otherwise pretty sharp with relatively few compression artifacts though with its characteristically warm color cast.

    [​IMG]

    Virb Elite Photo: Relatively little color dithering so the image seems fairly smooth, but with a noticeably cool blue hue overall. The soft focus seems slightly moderated in this shot. As usual, few compression artifacts.

    [​IMG]

    Hero3+ Silver Photo: The new GoPros seem to have decent low-light capabilities with almost no color dithering visible. There are a few compression artifacts, but overall a pretty sharp and well rendered image.

    [​IMG]

    Hero3+ Black Photo: Almost the exact same image quality as the Silver+, but with a barely perceptibly less blue hue. The best image of the group IMO.

    [​IMG]

    Now some branches near the top of the original image…

    Hero2 Photo: Pretty decent image quality for such a challenging scene. You can make out some of the mossy strands hanging down from the large branch in the upper left.

    [​IMG]

    Virb Elite Photo: The Virb again suffers from poor optical performance. Yet another fuzzy pic.

    [​IMG]

    Hero3+ Silver Photo: The details in the shadows are a little less pixelated and dithered than with the Hero2, but the image is so high in contrast overall that the effect is hard to appreciate. A slightly cooler overall tone relative to the Virb and Hero2.

    [​IMG]

    Hero3+ Black Photo: Nearly identical to the image from the Silver+.

    [​IMG]


    So, at this point I would declare the GoPro Hero3+ Black the winner for all but shadow detail in high-contrast situations. That shadow detail may actually be there in the image file, but I did not do any sort of 'corrections' in these images to tease that info out.
     
  7. Philip.AK

    Philip.AK Paddler

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    Location:
    Kodiak, Alaska
    Re: GoPro Silver Hero3+, Black 3+, Hero2, & Garmin Virb Elit

    Some final thoughts.

    The Virb is noticeably larger and heavier than the new Hero3+ cameras. If you wear it on a helmet or on the end of a lever like a ski pole, this is noticeable. The Virb Elite has a large battery and a pretty good quality daylight-visible screen to preview and review. That may tempt some folks, but I find the recorded image quality to really be pretty poor, presumably due to the optics. I purposely did not use the Virb's "ultra zoom" which is the only mode in which the Virb employs image stabilization and lens correction (presumably removes barrel distortion) because it results in such a narrow field of view I knew I would never use it to record video. That may produce better video, not sure. Maybe I'll test that too.

    The Virb's mounts are very very solid. Nice hard pastic that seems quite rigid. There is a decent selection of mounts out, and an adapter to let you use most GoPro mounts with your Virb. But the cradle the camera sits in is pretty big, and the sausage shape of the Virb itself makes it somewhat awkward now that I am used to the form factor of GoPros. The micro SD card is also buried underneath the battery on the Virb, which I find pretty annoying.

    Garmin will supposedly come out with a smartphone app (none yet) and a WiFi remote (Feb '14 claimed?), but for now those items are conspicuously lacking. GoPro took FOREVER to get their accessories and software out after the release of the various cameras, so they are also not totally innocent in that department. But right now the GoPro Wifi remote works very well with the new cameras, as does the phone app. Garmin has some catching up to do.

    There are endless other areas to compare and contrast, but I think I'll leave it there for now. Cheers.
     
  8. Philip.AK

    Philip.AK Paddler

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    Kodiak, Alaska
    LCD bacpac

    It turns out that you can review what the camera has already recorded via the snap-on LCD bacpac.

    "Now you can play your videos back instantly with this removable LCD touchscreen. You can also use it to better frame shots and videos before you shoot them. Playback modes include normal speed, slow motion, fast forward, fast reverse and photo review. Includes integrated speaker with volume control and a 3.5 mm headphone jack. Comes with touch, standard and skeleton backdoors."
     
  9. Outsider

    Outsider Paddler

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    Location:
    Vancouver, B.C.
    Re: GoPro Silver Hero3+, Black 3+, Hero2, & Garmin Virb Elit

    Geez Bud,
    I have been torturing myself over what to buy for both my snowboarding outings and my kayaking trips. This information spells it out for me. Thanks for going to all the trouble.
    You da man!
     
  10. Comoxpaddler

    Comoxpaddler Paddler

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    Comox, BC
    Re: GoPro Silver Hero3+, Black 3+, Hero2, & Garmin Virb Elit

    Just bought a Sony AS15 at London Drugs for $170 (on sale down from $250 until Dec 5). Good reviews on the B&H website especially the IS. Been pondering a GoPro but just not willing to pay so much. I've got 14 days (from Boxing Day) to trial it (though perhaps not on the water). We'll see.