GoPro Hero 4 Best Buy Review

GoPro Hero 4 Best Buy Review


Reviewed Camera: 
GoPro Hero 4 Silver

Overall rating: 

Video Quality

Water Resistance

Design of the Case

Battery Life

Connectivity

Price

PROS

  • Built-in touch screen video display
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    Built in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connections
  • Night Photo and Night Lapse settings allows nighttime photography
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    Auto Low Light mode automatically changes film speed to fit lighting
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    Captures movies and still photos at same time
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    QuikCapture starts filming with the press of one button
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    Wind noise reduction

CONS

  • Drains batteries quickly, like all action cameras
  • Monaural sound only
  • Requires high speed, high capacity memory card for adequate storage, like all action cameras
  • Uses a smaller image sensor than the 1/2.3 sensor used in most compact cameras as well as some GoPro cameras
  • Accept MicroSD memory cards up to 32GB
  • A rolling shutter paired with a CMOS image sensor can produce distorted images

Thanks to cell phone cameras, small, versatile cameras are becoming ever more available and popular. Action cameras are among the smallest and most versatile cameras, and they have features developed for photographing and filming action sports that also are useful to those who photograph less extreme situations. GoPro is the top name in the action camera category, and the GoPro Hero 4 Silver Edition is a best buy in that category. 

Key Features of the GoPro Hero 4 Silver Best Buy

The GoPro Hero 4 Silver Edition records video in full HD at a resolution of 1080p with monaural sound. To improve video and sound quality, the camera is equipped with distortion correction and wind noise reduction.

The Hero 4 Silver records still images with a resolution of 12 MP, and you can capture video and still photos at the same time.

Use time lapse photography to record a series of images. Night Photo and Night Lapse let you take still photos at night, and Auto Low Light automatically changes the frames per second settings to adjust as you move from brightly lit areas to darker areas.

QuikCapture allows you to use one button to quickly turn on the camera and start filming, and HiLight Tag lets you mark the best parts of your videos so that you can locate them easily later.

While you can continue to use the Hero 4 Silver in automatic mode, you can use Protune to take more control of the camera’s functions as you become more experienced as a photographer.

Unlike many GoPro cameras, the Hero 4 Silver incudes a built-in, fixed video display that doubles as a touchscreen.

The Hero 4 Silver also offers both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connections.

The Hero 4 best buy is both shockproof and water resistant.


Hero 4 Silver Review

In general, action cameras are cameras used outdoors to film or photograph extreme or action sports. They are smaller than standard cameras so that they can be worn or mounted on sports equipment. Because they are most often used in rugged environments, they also are more durable than standard cameras. They are shockproof and either weatherproof, weather resistant, waterproof, or water resistant.

Durability: 3.0/5.0

When you’re considering an action camera, it’s important to know how far the camera can fall, how waterproof or water resistant it is, how weatherproof or weather resistant it is, and the range of temperatures in which it can continue to operate.

While we were unable to find information about how far the Hero 4 Silver can safely fall, it is shockproof. Other cameras provide this information.

It’s also waterproof when it is inside its case with the waterproof door attached. It comes with the case and the case includes three interchangeable doors -- a touch screen door, a skeleton door which leaves the back of the camera open, and the waterproof door that protects the camera to a depth of 131.2 feet (39.99 meters).

Many action cameras list maximum and minimum operating temperatures, but we couldn’t find the officially listed maximum or minimum operating range for the GoPro Hero 4 Silver. GoPro cameras, however, are designed to automatically save your files and shut down if their internal operating temperature exceeds 120°F (C).

Recording at high frame rates, controlling the camera remotely with the GoPro app, and using BacPac accessories with the Hero 4 all increase the operating temperature. So to keep your camera from shutting down during hot weather, don’t use BacPac accessories, shoot at slower frame rates as much of the time as is possible, and use the GoPro remote to control your camera rather than the GoPro app. The remote can be purchased separately.


On the other hand, meet the barbecued GoPro in this YouTube video from fishycomics entitledGoPro Cooked Medium Well 350°.

The official word from GoPro regarding cold temperatures is that cold drains the battery, but that the operating temperature of the camera provides enough heat to keep the camera warm and operating. If you really want to know how well a GoPro withstands cold, though, meet Frosty the GoPro and his siblings in this YouTube video from TheKingofRandom.com entitledWill a Recording GoPro Survive Liquid Nitrogen?

If you’re wondering how cold liquid nitrogen is, it exists in its liquid state between the temperatures of -320.44°F and -346°F (-196°C and -210°C). When it’s exposed to temperatures above -320.44°F, it boils and becomes a gas, as it does in the video when the warm, operating GoPro cameras are immersed in it. At temperatures below -346°F, nitrogen freezes, like water does at 32°F (0°C), and becomes a solid.

Film Resolution: 4.5/5.0

While some vloggers (video bloggers) are beginning to record in 4K, the resolution of 1080p that is used by the Hero 4 Silver is the most common resolution for vlogs. Some people claim to be able to notice a difference in the quality of a video recorded in 4K versus one recorded in 1080p on a computer monitor or an HD television, but others say that, unless you have a 4K television, you have to be very close to the screen to see it.

Most people still sit the same distance from their television as they have for decades, so shooting videos in 1080p is fine.

If you share videos by email, though, recording in 720p or saving a video shot in 1080p in a 720p version reduces the size of the file so that it sends faster for you and opens more quickly for your recipient.

Touch Sensitive Video Display Screen: 4.0/5.0

The video display screen can be used as a viewfinder while you shoot others in action or while someone shoots you in action. You also can replay your movie immediately to be sure that you captured exactly what you wanted to capture in the way that you wanted to capture it.

If you want to show off a trick that you or a friend has mastered, the video display lets you see how well it was recorded and gives you the chance to try again if you’re not happy with the first attempt.

The video display also functions as a touchscreen that you can use to review still photos and to access and navigate the camera’s menu instead of using the camera’s select button.

When you are wearing your GoPro or when you have it mounted while you are participating in some activity, you aren’t likely to have access to the touch screen, though. The video display on any camera adds to the drain on the battery, so use the option to turn off the display when you don’t need it.

Wi-Fi and Bluetooth Connectivity: 4.5/5.0

The built-in Wi-Fi connection allows you to upload your photos and videos to social media, your internet cloud storage account, or to an email anywhere you have a Wi-Fi connection. You also can use either a Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connection and the free GoPro app to access all of your camera’s controls and operate it remotely from your smart phone or tablet. In addition, you can use these connections to share your videos and photos with other devices. You can upload your photos and videos to your computer wirelessly with a Wi-Fi connection.

Time Lapse Mode

When the Hero 4 Silver is set to Time Lapse mode, it takes a series of still images that can be set from one second to 60 seconds apart. So in effect, it captures the action in freeze frames.

Night Photo Mode

Night Photo automatically adjusts the cameras settings to absorb more light. This includes slowing the shutter speed, increasing the lens opening or aperture, increasing the ISO setting or the camera’s sensitivity to light, and adjusting the white balance so that the camera does not identify a light gray as white, causing the image to be too dark with too little differentiation within the darkest areas of the image.

If the image still appears too dark in the viewfinder, adjusting the camera’s exposure value downward by half steps (-0.5, -1, -1.5, or -2) will cause the camera to recognize more differentiations in the darker areas of the image and bring it closer to distinguishing between white and light gray.

Conversely, in cases where you are shooting in normal, daylight mode and the image is so brightly lit that too much of the image shows as white, such as when your shooting in snow or near sand or water, set the exposure value higher by half steps. The exposure value setting actually simultaneously changes the three most important settings that determine the exposure of your image – the shutter speed, aperture, and ISO settings.

Auto Low Light Mode

Auto Low Light is to filming what Night Photo is to still photography, but when you are using or wearing a GoPro, you are probably moving at the same time that your subject is moving. So for example, if you are visiting the sites while on vacation, you may leave a bright, outdoor scene to enter a museum, an historic building, or an exotic shop or restaurant. With your GoPro in Auto Low Light mode, the camera switches from a higher frame per second film speed to a lower one to allow it time to capture more light in each frame.

Protune

Protune lets you take over from the camera’s automatic settings and adjust them manually. It gives you access to the camera’s ISO, shutter seed, and aperture settings; the white balance setting; and the color settings.

The ISO settings for the Hero 4 Silver range from 100 to 6400, and they correspond to the light sensitivity of photographic film. Use lower numbers in brightly lit settings where the camera can easily capture plenty of light and might capture too much. Use the higher numbered settings for low light and nighttime settings where the camera needs to gather every bit of light available to capture the image. Also remember that, while your eyes may tell you that there s plenty of light, to your camera, any indoor setting is a low light setting.

The color settings allow you to use color creatively to add emotional impact. For example, you could emphasize the quiet solitude of the mountains or the ocean by shifting the colors to the cool or blue side of the spectrum while filming a lone skier, surfer, snowboarder, or rock climber or a small group of mountain climbers against the wall of the mountain. You could even film in gray scale to create the look of an old black and white movie or news reel. However, if you want to emphasize the fun and comradery of extreme sports, push the colors to the warm, red side of the spectrum.

QuikCapture

If some exciting action breaks out and catches you with your Hero 4 turned off, just hit the QuikCapture button. It immediately turns the camera on and starts filming the scene.

HiLight Tag

Not everything that you capture with your Hero 4 Silver is going to be something that you want everyone online to see. You don’t want to bore viewers with rides on a ski slope lift or waits in line to enter a concert or sporting event. When you’re editing, you don’t want to see all of that stuff again either. The HiLight Tag is the remedy to all that. Just tag the most interesting bits of your video, and then you can skip directly to those sections when you’re ready to upload, share, replay, or edit your video.

Batteries: 3.0/5.0

The Hero 4 Silver comes with a dual battery charger, but you may not be using your GoPro where you have a USB port for charging. You can purchase a portable charger to take on camping trips that will allow you to charge your camera and other devices several times, but eventually, the charger will need to be recharged. You may also have USB ports in your car, SUV, truck, or camper, but you might not be near it when your battery starts running down, and you also might not want to stop to recharge. So, bring at least three extra batteries with you, more depending on how you are filming.

The video display is not the only feature that consumes battery power. Using the Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connections use more energy. Also, shooting at higher resolutions and higher film speeds consumes more energy than filming at lower resolutions and film speeds. Since you most likely will be filming at 1080p and faster daylight film speeds most of the time, you might want to bring more than three batteries, especially if you plan on using your video display or Wi-Fi connection to control your camera.

Memory Cards: 3.5/5.0

The Hero 4 Silver accepts Micro SD, Micro SDHC, Micro SDHC UHS-1, Micro SDXC, and Micro SDXC UHS-1 memory cards with up to 64 GB of storage. When you are going to be using high film speeds to capture fast moving water or snow skiers, snowboarders, or racing cars, dune buggies, or boats at 1080p, you should purchase the highest speed memory card with the largest amount of storage you can afford, and as with batteries, you might want to purchase extra cards.

Look for cards with reading and writing speeds of at least 90 MB per second. Cards that are too slow can cause the camera to shut down or stop filming or cause TimeLapse mode to fail.

The Problem With Pairing a Rolling Shutter With a CMOS Image Sensor

In short, the problem with pairing a rolling shutter with a CMOS image sensor is that both capture images in ways that are so similar that pairing them accentuates a distorting effect in both still photography and video, especially when you’re attempting to capture fast moving objects or short-lived phenomenon like lightning.

The Two Types of Image Sensors and How They Work

There are two types of image sensors – CMOS and CCD. CMOS sensors are less expensive to produce, so they are commonly found in cameras intended for mass marketing to the general public. While some mass marketed cameras have CCD sensors, these image sensors are more expensive to produce, so they are more often found in advanced cameras that are marketed to professional photographers.

The difference between the two lies in how they are wired to the camera’s image processor, and that effects how they capture an image.

The surface of each image sensor is covered by a certain number of photoreceptors, and each photoreceptor equals one pixel.

On a CCD image sensor, all of the photoreceptors are most commonly wired together and connected as a group to the image processor at one corner of the image sensor. So, all of the photoreceptors on a CCD image sensor capture the entire image in a photograph or a frame of a video at the same moment, and then the entire image is transferred as a whole to the image processor.

On a CMOS image sensor, each photoreceptor is connected to a separate image processor, so each pixel of the image is captured independently. They aren’t quite processed independently, though, because the camera’s image processing and correction software does make comparisons between the images received by adjacent photoreceptors to sharpen the image, eliminate overlap, and fill in any gaps between the parts of the image captured by each photoreceptor. Photoshop uses this same procedure when you enlarge an image that was taken at a low resolution.

The Two Types of Shutters and How They Work

There are two types of shutters, global shutters and rolling shutters.

Like CCD image sensors, global shutters open and then close. They capture the entire image at the same moment.

Rolling shutters, however, whether they are mechanical or digital, quickly roll horizontally or vertically across the image sensor in the same way that the sensor in an office scanner glides across below the object it is scanning. Then the image captured by the photoreceptors is reconstructed from the segments and displayed as a whole in the same way that a scanner reconstructs a scanned document, image, or object and displays it as whole.

Rolling shutters capture the image from the photoreceptors row by row or column by column, and that allows the photoreceptors more time to capture more light from the image. This increases the amount of detail that the image sensor is able to absorb, but the process also creates a very tiny time lapse between when the first, middle, and final sections of the image are captured. This time lapse, however, is long enough that it can create distortions in images of objects moving at high speeds or events of very short duration, and it can be aggravated by the way CMOS image sensors operate.

The Rolling Shutter Effect

Some of the effects created by a rolling shutter include:

Skewing -- Skewing shifts the image to the right or the left as the camera pans or as the subject moves from one side of the image to the other because different parts of the image were exposed or captured at different times.

The Jello Effect -- The image in the video appears to be wobbling like jello due to camera movement. This can occur when you shoot video from inside of a moving vehicle of objects that are outside the vehicle.

This wobbling look can also occur when you focus tightly on a distant object while holding the camera in your hands. Because telephotography uses a narrow lens angle and limits the foreground and background to a narrow depth of field these images are particularly susceptible to the effects of movement by the photographer or the camera. It’s best to use a tripod or to stabilize the camera in some other way for this type of photography.

Aliasing – The term aliasing, in effect, makes a verb of the word “alias.” It comes from the idea of someone substituting a different name for their real name. Both images and sounds can suffer from aliasing. It occurs when the recording device incorrectly records the image or sound and substitutes the incorrectly recorded version for the accurate version that should have been recorded. Images can suffer from spatial aliasing and temporal aliasing.

Spatial aliasing occurs when an object that is being filmed moves horizontally at or close to the same speed as a rolling shutter that is moving vertically. When the object moves from right to left or left to right, it is skewed in the direction in which it is traveling.

Objects that rotate counterclockwise, such as the blades of a fan, are not only skewed, but they also will appear to be thicker on the left side of the image, and they may appear to float in the image as if they were never attached to the hub. On the other hand, the blades on the right side of the image will appear to be much thinner than they actually are.

The appearance of objects rotating clockwise will have this effect reversed.

Temporal aliasing occurs when quick, short-lived bursts of light or extremely fast movements occur within the time it takes a rolling shutter to pass over all the photoreceptors on a CMOS image sensor. The light or the movement will be captured by the photoreceptors being scanned by the rolling shutters when the burst of light or the movement occurs, but it will not be recorded by the photoreceptors scanned before or after the flash or movement occurred.

When temporal aliasing occurs, you may capture part of an object in motion, but not the entire object, or part of the image may be effected by a flash of light, but not the entire image. Partial exposures result when the rolling shutter moves too slowly to capture an entire image taken under low light or at night at the same time as your flash illuminates it. In this case, one section of the image will be illuminated by the flash from your camera, but other portions of the image will be dark.

The Solution to the Rolling Shutter Effect

Some cameras with rolling shutters have automatic corrections for the effect included in the image processing software built into the camera, but be certain that the camera does make that correction. While the Hero 4 Silver does have built-in distortion correction, some still find that their videos suffer from the jello effect.

To correct the rolling shutter effect when shooting with the Hero 4 Silver, stabilize the camera and protect it from vibrations when shooting with Sorbothane, a pad which is sold in music stores because it’s used by drummers; shoot at a higher frame rate or shutter speed, which means using Protune to take manual control of the camera’s settings; and/or use an ND (neutral density) filter. In addition, look for image and video editing software that allows you to correct for the rolling shutter effect on your computer. Shooting at a higher frame rate forces the camera to use a higher shutter speed, and a faster shutter speed means that the rolling shutter is capturing the image in a shorter period of time. That brings the camera closer to capturing the entire image at once as global shutters and CCD image sensors do.

The Fisheye Lens Effect

You can set the Hero 4 Silver to wide for wide angle shots, close-up portraits, group portraits, and selfies; to medium when you want to capture a portrait or an object while also showing part of the background; or narrow when you want to capture a more distant subject or object.

While the Hero 4 offers only spot metering, which causes it to read or meter the lighting directly around your subject, having these settings roughly corresponds to the matrix, center-weighted, and spot metering settings offered by standard cameras.

Matrix metering is used for wide-angle shots in which you want the camera to choose the best settings for capturing the entire image.

Center-weighted metering is used for portraits and photographs of objects when you want the camera to choose the best settings for your subject, but you also want the background to be well lighted, sharp, and clearly visible.

Spot metering in standard cameras is used for telephoto images that focus in tightly on a distant or fast moving person or object so that the camera chooses the best settings for the subject without being influenced by either the foreground or background.

When you use the wide setting with your Hero 4 Silver, however, you may notice a slight fisheye lens effect. While the Hero 4 Silver captures a more panoramic view of the scene to the right and left thanks to this effect, if you want to eliminate it for certain videos or still photos, set the camera to medium. The medium setting crops the amount of the scene that you will capture in the foreground, background, and to each side, but it does eliminate the fisheye distortion.

How Does the GoPro Hero 4 Silver Best Buy Compare to Other Action Cameras?

The GoPro Hero 4 best buy stands up well against competitors in the action camera ring.

Keeping It in the GoPro Family

In addition to the JPEG format, GoPro added the RAW photo format to the Hero 5 Black and the Hero 6 Black. The Hero 4 offers only JPEG, but that is not much of an issuee when you have to save JPEG files before editing them anyway.

JPEG formatting compresses files every time they are edited and saved to conserve storage space while RAW captures and retains all of the details within the image, creating a larger file. Because of this, it’s best to wait to edit JPEG files until you have uploaded them to your computer and saved them as either PNG or TIFF files. Neither PNG or TIFF formatting will continue to further compress your files, eliminating more details with each compression.

On the other hand, while you should b able to edit RAW files with your photo editing software, you will have to save your files as PNG files before uploading them to the social media or other sites. While most sites accept either JPEG or PNG files, RAW files are too large and can take too long to upload, so most sites will not accept them.

The Hero 5 Black shoots video at resolutions of 1080p, 1440p, and 4K30 while the Hero 6 offers resolutions of 1080p, 2.7K120, and 4K60. Some say that videos shot at higher resolutions do look sharper, even on televisions, monitors, and displays with lower resolutions. However, 1080p remains the standard resolution for vlogging. It creates smaller files when you’re out shooting so that you have more room on your storage media to capture more of the action, and those smaller files upload more quickly.

GoPro has improved image stabilization on the Hero 6 Black. However, even though the rolling shutter effect is a potential problem for these cameras, GoPro’s cameras wouldn’t have become known for their spectacular videos if that effect consistently contributed to poor videos.

Both the Hero 5 Black and Hero 6 Black respond to simple voice commands, so that you can, for example, tell the camera to start filming just as you’re about to start your run down a slope or navigate some rapids while kayaking. This hands free feature is a useful one in such situations, but even though simply leaving the camera on and filming everything consumes more storage space and battery energy, if you’re on a budget and want an action camera, the Hero 4 Silver is more affordable. You can, after all, use the HiLight Tag to mark the most interesting sections of your videos.

The Hero 4 Best Buy and the Polaroid Cube+

The Polaroid Cube+ is Polaroid’s update to their Cube. Those who find the GoPro Hero 4 Silver and its functions intimidating may prefer the simplicity of the Cube+. The Cube+ chooses all of the camera’s settings automatically.

Although the Cube+ doesn’t have the range of mounting attachments that are available for GoPro cameras, it does have one advantage that’s not available with other action cameras. It has a strong magnet in its base that allows you to mount it on any metal surface. No other attachment device is needed, but it does come with clip mounts.

The Cube+ comes with an 8MP CMOS image sensor. It captures video at resolutions of 1080p and 1440p. It supports Micro SD cards up to 132GB, giving t more storage space than the other cameras, and with the app installed, you can control the camera from your phone or tablet and use it as a viewfinder. The camera itself does not have a viewfinder.

While the Cube+ comes with digital image stabilization, the jello effect can be visible along the right and left edges of videos, and some feel that the colors are over-saturated and too vivid.

It could be a good beginner’s camera.

Two Other Popular Comparisons With the GoPro Hero 4 Best Buy

The Akaso EK7000 and the YI Lite Action Camera may be lesser known than the GoPro models, but they are popular nevertheless.

The EK7000 comes with a 12MP image sensor, and it captures video at resolutions of 1080p, 2.7K, and 4K. It can use GoPro mounts. You can control the camera from your cell phone or tablet, but it comes with a number of accessories that GoPro sells separately, including two batteries, a remote control and a helmet mount, a bike mount, and a variety of other mounts and tethers. The EK7000 supports Micro SD cards up to 64 MB.

The YI Lite Action Camera features a 16 MP Sony Exmor image sensor and captures video in resolutions of 1080p30 frames per second, 1080p60 frames per second, 4K. It can be controlled remotely from your cell phone or tablet, and it comes with a waterproof case.

While these two cameras offer a variety of shooting modes, they lack many of the functions offered by the GoPro Hero 4 Silver Edition. The Hero 4 retains its status as the best buy.