Monday, October 12, 2015

GoPro Replacement Test

I got the original GoPro five years ago as a gift from my lovely wife, and have been using it ever since. I'm still perfectly happy with the video quality. Well, I mean the sharpness, color, and so on; not what I'm doing when I film myself windsurfing - I am still making some of the same mistakes that I made 5 years ago...

I never felt the need to upgrade my GoPro to a newer and fancier model. But with two windsurfers who dabble in freestyle a bit in the family, it sometimes would make sense to have two cameras. Spending another $300-$500 on a second GoPro seems excessive - even more so when you consider mounting the camera to the nose of the board, where it might get smashed by the mast at any moment. So I bought a cheap GoPro lookalike camera on for $55.

It came two days later in a box that does not even have a brand label. No big surprise here - there seem to be about 100 different "brands" available on Amazon that all look the same. The one I got has 1080p recording, a 2 inch LCD screen WiFi, and all the usual attachments, which includes a waterproof housing. It came with a little manual that is minimal, but has all the necessary information.

My inner geek was eager to see how easy it would be to use the WiFi to transfer data from the camera to my Android phone that I got to use with GPSLogit. Piece of cake, as long as you RTFM ("read the fine manual"). Transferring photos and videos to the iPhone or iPad is just as easy. Cool!

But the real test was on the water. With my GoPro, I'd usually shoot in 960p mode. That may be old-fashioned, but it gives me more height, so I can see my head and feet at the same time when I use the Clew-View mount. Some of you might be tempted to say that seeing the head is optional, and surely a sign of vanity - but there are some moves where it is important where you look and where you step. My little "eXuby X1000 Action Camera", however, does not have such a mode - I only can choose between 1080p at 30 frames per second and 720p at 60 fps. So in my first windsurfing test, my head was missing from the picture (no jokes, please!).

But yesterday, I managed to put the camera into the right position, and got some decent videos. Here's one example:
Make sure to watch the movie in the highest quality (1080p). Even then, keep in mind that the quality of what you see on YouTube is significantly lower than the original quality, since YouTube down samples the movies to reduce how much data they have to stream. Nevertheless, I think it gives you at least an idea that the quality is decent. Here's another movie:
To give you a better idea of the quality, here are a couple of screen shots I took from the original movie:
You know you can click on the image to see a larger version, right?
The camera seems to have a bit of a tendency to focus on things that are close, like the water droplets, and leave things farther away a bit less sharp. But I'd say it's pretty good for a $55 camera. It's not quite as vivid as the original GoPro, and the dynamic range seems a bit lower, which is noticeable in scenes taken against a very bright background:
Sure, I am bright, but not that bright.

Overall, though, I have to say that I am impressed by the little camera. It's smaller than the original GoPro (I guess about the same size as the current models), and weight maybe half as much. The housing is a bit thinner, and the lens seems to be rather soft plastic that may scratch easily.

The camera splits the movies into 10-minute segments, which I don't see as a problem; even my GoPro would split movies, albeit into about 40-minute segments.  The one thing that is missing is a remote. None of the cheap cameras I looked at originally had one; some models that are closer to $100 in price have one, but the reviews say it does not work well, and the descriptions don't state that the remote is water proof. But disk storage is cheap - shoot a lot and pick the good scenes later works just fine.
Some of my avid readers may have noticed new colors in the videos and pictures above. Yes, I did get a new sail - a Gaastra Matrix 6.5 from 2015. My current 6.5 (a Gaastra Pilot) is falling apart and needed to be replaced. I have already had the Matrix in 5.5, 6.0, 7.0, and 7.5, so when I saw the 6.5 offered with a Fall discount, I just could not resist. I have sailed it a couple of times now, and I absolutely love the sail. My other Matrix sails are older, maybe 2010-2013, and this one has brighter colors and quite a few design changes. It looks racier, with an inset clew and a bottom batten that pokes downwards quite a bit. But it's still perfectly easy to duck jibe. It also switches quite well between old-school freestyle on my Fanatic Skate 110 and a bit of speed sailing on my RRD XFire 90, feeling perfectly at home on both boards. Nice! But the biggest surprise came in the jibes: somehow, this sail makes it really easy to plane out of jibes. I'm not sure what it is - the sail flip feels easy, and the re-acceleration is fast and smooth. But whatever it is, I like it! I even planed out of a duck jibe in marginal conditions. Another magical sail added to my collection! Let the fall winds come :-).


  1. How long do you think you could continuously record for? I'm curious as what the battery life is.

    1. I think it's comparable to the newer GoPros - maybe about 70 minutes. You could check the reviews on Amazon, I think some of them contained that information.