Countdown to Iceland: The GoPro Edition…

Steve and I decided on an arrangement two years ago when we were planning our first vacation together. One of us would choose our destination, and the next year the other would choose and we’d continue to flip flop every year after. Being the gentleman he is, I got first pick last year. As you may have seen posted here, I chose the all-american vacation to the Grand Canyon. It was amazing; we started a bucket list of places we wanted to go on the plane ride home :)

Not long after, Steve announced his choice for this year: Iceland. It was a locale we had added to the list, probably because we’d seen the well-placed subway ads for Iceland Air. I was excited right away. Considering the runner-up was Ireland, either trip was destined for greatness!

What does all of this have to do with the GoPro post I promised? Nothing really except to give some background :)


I’d had my eye on the GoPro for awhile. After our last hiking trip, where we swam in this gorgeous lake and I would have loved to have brought my camera into the water with me to take a shot looking back at the shore, I was more convinced. Then Steve came home and mentioned a coworker had just visited Iceland, toting around the GoPro, raving about it. Decision made. It came in the mail a few days later :)

While pretty simple in its settings, it is still a camera I’d like to be completely familiar with before putting it on the spot to perform. Here’s what I’ve learned…

1. Wait for the second beep and the flash of orange on the back panel when taking a still photo. Otherwise, you’ll get a beauty of a shot looking up your nose. Very. First. Photo. Sigh.


2. You have four choices for photo settings. Four. I’m kind of happy about this. I’ll still have my Fujifilm X-Pro1 to tote around and change aperture, shutter speed and ISO. But it’ll be nice to go back to the point-and-shoot days with this guy! Of course, I did have to test out these four settings. What better place than the North Woods of Central Park? It also just happens to be my favorite section of the park, perhaps because it was designed to resemble the Catskills region of upstate New York…and my backyard growing up :)

The four options include 12MP Wide, 7MP Wide, 7MP Narrow and 5MP Wide. My first inclination is always to go with the most MP, better clarity, tonal range, etc. But I definitely didn’t want to discount the option of having a narrower field of view. Below is a series of three shots, taken in the same spot to show the differences between these three settings (sorry 5MP, you just don’t cut it!)


12MP Wide test shot


7MP Wide test shot


7MP Narrow test shot

There isn’t much difference between the 12 and 7MP Wide options. I do think the 12MP is less noisy, as it should be. The 7MP Narrow just seems to have the sides cropped off from the Wide version. Which might not be bad in some cases (there is some barrel distortion on the edges because of the steep curvature of the lens), but for landscapes, I’d rather have it all and crop later. The difference in image files size between the 12MP and 7MP settings is not great (8mb compared to about 5.1mb), so we’ll definitely keep with the 12MP Wide setting!


3. Due to it’s size, (the front is almost all lens), it’s pretty easy to catch a fingertip or two in the frame, like this one above. Best to hold it from the top and bottom to avoid this ;)


4. I’m impressed with the vivid colors and tonal range in the grass, despite the mix of light and shadows. The sky is a little too blown out here, considering it was a beautiful blue-sky kind of afternoon!


Even in it’s protective waterproof housing, the Hero3 is still slightly smaller than a stick of travel-size deodorant. Carrying it around the park, I could discretely carry it in the palm of my hand without anyone being the wiser. Although I do not recommend this camera for super-stalker paparazzi-type images. This is an action cam all the way with a nice wide lens for capturing landscapes.


The wireless remote (also waterproof up to 10 feet), makes it uber-easy to shoot when your camera is mounted to a place you can’t quite access. The LCD screen mirrors the one on the front of the Hero3, so you can quickly change settings, start and stop video, take a photo, etc.


One of the big draws to this camera are the multiple places it can be mounted for use, be it bike handlebars, the ends of your trekking poles, onto a backpack strap (with the help of Peak Design’s Capture clip, more here), helmet, even a surfboard. And any fan of Chase Jarvis knows, “The best camera is the one that’s with you.”

Did I try out a camera mount? Of course I did! I tested it on my bike handle and though a little tricky to work the remote while riding, it’s much less dangerous than trying to hold a camera and shoot while riding! 


Yes this is a Schwinn cruising bicycle with a wooden box attached to the back. No, it is not vintage, despite the massive amount of rust on the fenders. But for a bike under $200, I have zero complaints :)


You’ll notice from this view of the back that there is no LCD screen. While it is an add-on option for purchase, and comes with an adaptor for the waterproof housing, we decided to be daring and go without the feature. There is a GoPro App you can download for iPhone and iPad to control the camera wirelessly (much like the remote), as well as view images/video taken. At least we won’t have to wait until we are back in the States to see what we’ve shot (or not shot!)


I played around with video some, though I still have to do some more research to see which setting is the best for what we want, including some time lapse stuff. But for now, here’s what I was able to stitch together…


For a much more comprehensive review of specs for the GoPro, be sure to check out Gizmodo’s here! Can’t wait to share our Iceland adventures in a few weeks! 


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