GoPro believes there are 3 kinds of people that are into action cameras. First there are those that simply like the idea of recording videos in first person and wish to try it without spending a fortune. Then there are those that care a little bit more about image and video quality so they can proudly share those detailed videos with others. Finally, there are people that simply want the very best wearable camera and money is no object. GoPro is addressing these audiences with separate editions of their HERO3 camera with the GoPro HERO3 Silver Edition falling right in the middle hitting the $299 sweet spot.
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The HERO3 Silver Edition looks an awful lot like the GoPro HERO2 released back in 2011. It might not be considered a good thing considering all the attracting and compact wearable cameras that are trickling out but the GoPro HERO3 Silver Edition does have some significant improvements that GoPro fans will surely appreciate. The HERO3 Silver Edition gets a cool 25% weight reduction compared to the HERO2 and is 30% smaller. Best of all, the GoPro HERO3 Silver Edition has some internal hardware improvements that make this camera considerably better than the HERO2 despite the size reduction.
Unlike other competing products in the same category, the HERO3 has a monochrome LCD display which provides the control interface. The interface looks pretty primitive in an age where color touchscreen displays reign supreme but it is certainly better than other compact action cameras that don’t have screens at all and have to rely on external devices like smartphones for controls to be set. The HERO3 might take a bit of time to get used to but once you familiarize yourself with the interface, you will really enjoy the ease of changing modes right from the camera as long as the display is not under direct sunlight.
The GoPro HERO3 Silver Edition comes with a few more accessories than the white edition. Amongst these added accessories are the 3-way Pivot Arm which allows more mounting possibilities in different angles and a J-Hook Buckle Mount which is useful for vertical wall surfaces like the back of a helmet or car bumper. The usual adhesive mounts are included too for more general mounting purposes. For underwater adventures, you can place the HERO3 Silver Edition in the waterproof housing so you can take the camera with you underwater up to 60 meters deep. Finally, a rechargeable battery and USB charging cable are included. The new f/2.8 lens is a six-element aspherical lens that offers twice as much image sharpness while cutting the barrel distortion.
The specifications of the GoPro HERO3 Silver Edition pretty much match the HERO2 on paper but there are some improvements to the lens that result to better video recording performance. The available video modes are the same for the most part with 1080p serving as the high-quality option which should look good on large displays. There is also a 720p mode which is the highest quality mode available for 60 frames per second giving you a much smoother action sequence. 960p is a cool mode to use for recording first-person action while standing upright and it saves disk space compared to the 1080p option. The low quality WVGA mode is fleshed out compared to the White Edition offering a neat slow motion mode at 240 fps. Thanks enhanced sensor, the HERO3 Silver Edition can also take 11-megapixel images with 10 fps burst.
Perhaps the biggest improvement that the GoPro HERO3 Silver Edition has over the HERO2 is the built-in wireless LAN which pretty much provides the same functionality as the Wi-Fi BacPac accessory. Having Wi-Fi connectivity onboard is nice if you are fine with using your smartphone or tablet as a remote control. As long as your device runs iOS or Android, you can get the free GoPro app right now and connect to the camera so the mobile device serves as your viewfinder. As expected with any action camera companion app, you can also change the modes and settings on the fly. You can also let the camera use your device’s mobile connection if available to upload videos and images to Facebook and Instagram. The HERO3 Silver Edition remains compatible with other BacPac add-on modules and you can finally use them without giving up Wi-Fi functionality. The camera has its own physical Wi-Fi button and there is a blue light indicator that tells you if the Wi-Fi is currently active.
Unlike the HERO3 Black Edition, the Wi-Fi remote isn’t included in the package so you really have to rely on your smartphone to issue commands remotely. But if you want convenient access to these controls and don’t want to mount your expensive mobile device to your bike’s handle bars, for instance, you can get the $80 remote as a separate accessory.
The HERO3 Silver Edition first launched at $299 which is a pretty competitive price for its features. Some online stores may sell it for $250 which is an even better deal for a camera that doesn’t have serious flaws. It is a better pick than the White Edition if you will frequently use this camera and don’t really need the Wi-Fi remote. The added accessories provide plenty of mounting possibilities and the video quality is a great improvement over its predecessor while being lighter and slimmer at the same time.
Update: There is a newer model > GoPro HERO4 Silver