GoPro fans eagerly waiting for a GoPro HERO4 model might have to wait a little bit longer. But those that planned to buy a GoPro HERO3 Black Edition but still haven’t done so have every right to celebrate. GoPro is keeping the competition in check by releasing a slightly improved version of its flagship model called the GoPro HERO3+ Black Edition. Slight improvements to an already leading device turns out to be a pretty big deal.
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Since GoPro’s newest action camera product still belongs in the HERO3 family, it is not surprising that the HERO3+ Black Edition has the same design as the first HERO3 Black Edition. The GoPro series is indeed need of a refresh though as not everyone is a fan of the boxy form factor. It features the same small LCD display that lets you adjust some settings and modes without depending on an external mobile device.
The component that did get a redesign is the included waterproof casing and it is a step in the right direction. Putting the action cam in this new housing doesn’t change the overall size this time around because the waterproof housing is that thin. Factor in that housing and all those improvement claims are accurate – the GoPro HERO3+ Black Edition is smaller and lighter. It may not sound like much on paper but it can be considered as a huge improvement especially if you use accessories. The camera with the casing is more comfortable and versatile to wear. As for the compromise, the HERO3+ Black Edition is only waterproof up to 40 meters. The old casing (now known as the “Diver Case”) is still compatible and you will have to buy it separately if you really need to go 60 meters deep and you don’t have the original HERO3 model.
The GoPro HERO3+ Black Edition features the same 12-megapixel sensor as the original HERO3 Black Edition so you still have the same set of recording options starting from WVGA all the way up to 1440p at a manageable 24 fps or 4K at 15p if you are feeling adventurous. One of the new additions featured in the HERO3+ is an advanced video capture mode called SuperView which pretty much takes the wide angle benefit that you get in a 4:3 aspect ratio and reformats it into 16:9. Previewing the results in 1080p is the best part because you really see that immersive wide angle perspective without those annoying black bars.
If you are not familiar with the GoPro HERO3 family, the Black Edition features the best sensor out of the bunch although the same f/2.8 6 element aspherical lens. But with the HERO3+ Black Edition featuring a glass lens, the overall quality is twice as sharp. Another improvement exclusive in the HERO3+ model is the auto low light mode which dramatically boosts the already impressive low light performance. This special mode works by adjusting the frame rate to achieve better visibility. If you are okay with the idea of dropping the frame rate for better exposure, this is a great new mode to try out. Even the burst mode has been improved allowing the GoPro HERO3+ Black Edition to take 30 photos per second.
If you are a fan of wireless connectivity, the HERO3+ Black Edition is still the best choice. The package includes the Wi-Fi remote so you can wirelessly control the HERO3+ without taking out your smartphone. Wi-Fi is built into the HERO3+ just like the previous model so the accessory port remains open for other addons. If you want more functionality, it is still best to install the GoPro App for your iOS or Android device so you can easily share recorded content to social networking sites or use the phone’s display as a remote viewfinder.
In addition to the Wi-Fi remote, the package also includes 2 sticky mounts, a pair of quick-release buckles, a 3-way pivot arm and a USB charging cable. Although these accessories are pretty standard, going for a GoPro model rather than a competing action cam is still a good choice because GoPro launched a bunch of other new accessories like the Jaws: Flex Clamp which features a high-tension clamp that adds plenty of potential for new perspectives.
When the GoPro HERO3 Black Edition was first introduced, it blew away the competition because of its future proof recording options and excellent video recording performance even in low light. The GoPro HERO3+ Black Edition extends that lead even further and is still priced at $399. Existing GoPro HERO3 Black Edition owners shouldn’t upgrade though unless the extra modes are really that needed. As for the new waterproof housing, you can actually buy it separately and simply put it on the HERO3 so you get same slim form factor. With Contour’s future uncertain, it looks like GoPro’s rivals really need to step up and overshadow this impressive action camera before GoPro possibly introduces a HERO4.
Update: There is a newer model > GoPro HERO5 Black