I’ve been a GoPro fan since they introduced their fish-eye lens—and particularly since the Hero2 intro—when I thought the quality was good enough to actually buy one. The wide-angle, distorted view of the GoPro perfectly captures the essence of the POV (point-of-view) video action cam. The Hero3 Black Edition—in many ways 2x better than the Hero2 as GoPro claims—adds more video and still modes to the point where it’s tough to know which to use, at least until you’ve put in the time using the camera.
I did a little digging while writing a review of the Hero3 for Sea Kayaker magazine (2013/12). Aside from documentation on the GoPro website, I looked at the metadata from shot images, and compared shots from various modes using a fixed position on a kayak deck. Of third-party sources, Abe Kislevitz was particularly helpful. I concluded an illustration or two using an actual image could expedite understanding. Sea Kayaker also posted a YouTube video that I created that compares the many video modes under repeated paddling conditions.
The Hero3 Black-Edition sensor is new, a 1/2.7” CMOS with slightly more and bigger pixels compared to the Hero2. Sensor pixel dimensions are 4,000×3,000, and only a few modes take advantage of this full angle-of-view. Check the Kislevitz website for best use of the modes (the Hero3 manual, available on their website, includes suggested uses as on page 23).
Below I’ve illustrated Hero3 video and still choices according to their crop of the full sensor (angle-of-view). Here’s the link to the YouTube clips: Video modes compared.
1440p and 960p use the full sensor for maximum angle-of-view. The others shown here maintain a 16:9 ratio. Video modes 4k, 2.7k, 1080p W, 720p W, WVGA are thus cropped top and bottom, plus a small amount on the sides for a still-very-wide angle-of-view. 1080p M and 720p M are medium crop. 1080p N and 720p N are a significant crop, about like 33mm using 35mm film.
12MP, 7MP W are full sensor area angle-of-view, but only 12MP use all 4000×3000 pixels. 7MP W and 7MP M both have 3000×2250 pixels at different angles-of-view. 5MP M has the same angle-of-view as 7M but at 2560×1920 pixels.