VIDEO: How Tough is a GoPro?

GoPro action cameras have a reputation for high quality video, as well as being well built and being able to withstand a lot of punishment.  You also pay a lot more for a GoPro, with a lot of cheaper action cameras available on the market which can also shoot at 4K.  So, are you paying for the name and reputation when you buy a GoPro or is the extra money worth paying?  Well I think it is and I will tell you a story of why I trust GoPro when working out in the field.

I have been using GoPro cameras in the videos I produce since 2017 when I invested in a GoPro Hero 5 Black and a GoPro Hero 5 Session.  During last year’s FIA European Historic Sporting Rally Championship, I would place the GoPros in places I couldn’t stand to get some dramatic shots to add to the review videos I had been commissioned to produce from each event.

In May 2018 I inadvertently put GoPro’s reputation to the test during a car photoshoot.  I made two ‘rookie’ mistakes during a tracking shot, which resulted in the GoPro Hero 5 Black taking a tumble down the road at 40mph.  I will explain.

I was shooting some taking shots of a Zenos E10S sportscar and I had fitted a Fujifilm X-H1 to the rear screen of the tracking car using a heavy duty Manfrotto suction mount.  I had put a safety strap on the camera after making sure the suction mount was secured to the window.  

I would be shooting both video and stills with the X-H1 using the Fujifilm App to control the camera from inside the car.  If this shoot was on a race track I would be strapped into the back of the tracking car holding my camera close to the action, but as we were on a public road I used this remote control method to get the tracking shot legally.

I decided to attach the GoPro Hero 5 Black to the rear windscreen of the tracking car using an official GoPro sucker mount, but in my haste I forgot two things.  One, I didn’t check that the mount was secure on the window and, two, I didn’t attach a safety strap to the mount.  Both are rookie mistakes but we were ‘on the clock’ to get the shoot finished and the car back to Edinburgh.

The road we had chosen to do the tracking shot on was a very bumpy, but quiet, country road, with very little traffic.  We were travelling at around 40mph and I had already got the still images in the bag and was shooting video with the X-H1.  We went over a bump in the road and the GoPro mount detached from the rear window.  The mount and the camera bounced on the road in front of the Zenos and, luckily, went under the car and not onto the bonnet or through the windscreen.  

Here is a video of the camera coming off the tracking car (oops!) -

This incident highlights the need to have professional insurance when conducting photoshoots with expensive cars.  I was lucky and there was no damage to the car and we pulled up to retrieve the GoPro.  I was convinced that it must have been smashed to pieces, but the camera was actually still recording when it was picked up.

The GoPro frame around the camera was scratched and one of the two feet had snapped.  The front lens of the camera had a scratch across the front element, despite having a lens protector fitted.  But the front elements on the Hero 5 Black are easily replaced for £25.

After the lens was replaced, the camera was returned to service and it has never missed a beat.  Since this incident I have the utmost faith in the ability of the GoPro cameras to get the shot.  This is certainly a testament to the build quality of these small cameras.

In February this year I bought the new GoPro Hero 8 Black, to run alongside my two Hero 5s, and they were going to be used for the first time on the Rally Costa Brava in Spain.  However, the rally didn’t take place due to the Covid19 outbreak and I had to head back to the UK from Girona before the country went into lockdown.  I will be doing a blog on the Hero 8 Black in the coming weeks.  

CLICK HERE to see the images and final video from the Zenos E10S photoshoot.

Here is a short video with a quick montage of shots I have managed to get using the GoPro Hero 5 Black and Session since 2017.

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