The GoPro HERO3+ is an improved version of the HERO3. It’s a bit better with low light, has a better lens, and a new even wider view, called SuperView. It also has better audio due to a different placement of the built-in microphones. Together with the new HERO3+, GoPro released new mounting accessories, including a clip (QuickClip), a clamp with flexible mounting pole called Jaws, a new suction cup and a far better tripod mount than the one already available.
The HERO3+ has a 20% smaller enclosure. The camera itself is the same size as the HERO3. A clearcut new feature is GoPro’s SuperView, a video mode that delivers an even wider angle perspective than the Wide view mode on previous models. SuperView is great if you want to include some of yourself in a video despite not aiming the video onto yourself in the first place.
Although GoPro doesn’t say so, I think SuperView is linked with the lens that again has somewhat improved. It is sharper. My own tests with a TV test pattern revealed modest gains in that department. The company claims less artefacts as well, but that was impossible for me to test. I’m not sure GoPro can improve much with the HERO3’s lens, as that one is already very good, especially considering the price of the camera.
A new feature that I have mixed feelings about is Auto Low Light. It’s a mode you can turn on for frame sizes starting at 1440px and then only for some frame rates. For example, Auto Low Light will not work with 720p/120fps. That’s because the camera will automatically halve the frame rate when it encounters low light in order to ensure lower noise levels. I tried this with two experiments. I first walked around with the HERO3+ in rooms with very bright and very dim light. For the second experiment I just started a clip with Auto Low Light in very dim conditions and another one with very bright lighting.
The feature only kicked in when I walked around, i.e. when the camera could discern a large change in dynamic range. When I started a new clip in dim conditions, the camera kept recording at highest allowed frame rate (for 1080, it’s 48fps, for 720p it’s 60fps). I find that quite strange and it generates some unexpected results. It is obvious the camera records at halve rate when walking from light to dark by having the clip in Final Cut Pro X set to slo-mo (24fps instead of 48fps) and then actually seeing choppy results where the HERO3+ slows down. Those choppy parts aren’t visible at all when recording everything in low light conditions.
[videojs mp4=”/media/HERO3+Auto Low-Light-slo-mo-whole-clip dark.mp4″ width=”720″ height=”420″]
Above: HERO3+ clip of ink bottles with blinds halfway down (comparable to dusk). Clip reduced to half speed in Final Cut Pro X.
Battery life should be 30% better, but that’s not a surprise as the battery of the HERO3+ has higher specs. Its Wi-Fi should be four times faster when using the GoPro app. I couldn’t try that out as I lack the necessary peripheral equipment. Finally, audio is better due to a different position of microphones on the HERO3+.
Of the new mounts, I found Jaws, the QuickClip and the new tripod mount the most interesting. Jaws is simply brilliant. It’s a claw that can grab objects of a variable thickness. By default, the clamp will securely grab irregularly shaped objects of about 5cm diameter. For example, a balcony railing, a microphone stand, a tripod leg…
Inside the clamp there’s a flexible tough plastic strap that you can operate to decrease the diameter of the object. By pulling the strap all the way out, it’s actually possible to clamp onto a pencil, although you should be careful not to clamp onto anything hollow that isn’t very strong. Jaws catches onto things with quite some power. With Jaws comes a flexible pole that you can also use without the clamp. The pole’s flexibility is more or less comparable to that of a Joby tripod.
The QuickClip is meant to attach a HERO3 or HERO3+ to a backwards baseball cap, but I tried clipping it onto a 5mm bundled paper file — an attempt at stealth shooting, which would have gone in well if I hadn’t forgotten to turn off the blinking recording LEDs all over the place.
The new tripod mount is my next favourite. In the accessory bag you’ll find the older one, which is a GoPro mount on a flat base with a threaded hole. The new model is a GoPro quick release on a higher base with two ¼ inch threads, one for mounting onto a tripod plate or a tripod quick release plate, and the other to keep the GoPro mount from twisting. Works really well.
Finally, the new suction cup is an improvement over the previous version, but nothing dramatic. Instead of GoPro mounts, it now has a GoPro quick release, which speeds up mounting. It also comes with a carrying bag and an assortment of GoPro mounts — the same ones as those used on earlier models.