When athletes test sports cameras for various magazines, newspapers and websites, they wind up recommending the GoPro HD Hero Camera more than any other action cam. This tiny, lightweight camcorder (it's less than 3 inches long and weighs about 6 ounces) comes with a tough case that's waterproof to 60 meters, perfect for scuba diving, sailing and surfing. You choose your mount: GoPro offers the GoPro HD Helmet Hero, GoPro HD Motorsports Hero, GoPro HD Surf Hero or GoPro HD Hero Naked, plus a wide array of additional mounts (tripod mount, chest mount, roll bar mount, etc.).
Video quality looks slightly sharper and steadier than rival cameras from Contour in tests, but reviews do recommend the ContourRoam Camera as a cheaper way to get full HD video. Both brands offer still-photo modes (you can snap a single photo or set the camera to take still photos at regular intervals), and both use wide-angle lenses to capture the most possible action. Contour cameras are shaped like little dark cylinders, though, which Engadget.com tester Tim Stevens finds sleeker for helmet mounting; he says the GoPro camera looks "like a little toaster sitting on your helmet."
Neither brand includes an LCD screen, although GoPro does offer one as an accessory (*Est. $80) so you can play back your photos and videos and control your camera more easily. Without the LCD screen, you have to repeatedly push a single button to scroll through the GoPro's various settings, and testers say it's a pain. Sound quality isn't addressed in many expert reviews, but a number of Amazon.com users say that it's anything from muffled to terrible.
Athletes who review cameras for TomsGuide.com, Men's Health, the Los Angeles Times, Gizmag.com and Engadget.com take the GoPro HD Hero dirt biking, surfing, sailing, kart racing, scuba diving and more, comparing it with various other sports cams. Amazon.com posts owner feedback, both positive and negative.
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This test takes the GoPro HD Hero -- along with tough cameras from Contour and Kodak -- "surfing, sailing and driving fast cars," as well as cycling. Bruce Gain also buries the cameras in sand and lets waves wash over them in this thorough 20-part test. He judges the GoPro best for water sports.
Review: Outdoor Test: Going Wild with 3 Sports Cameras, Bruce Gain, July 17, 2011
2. Men's Health
Motocross champ Brian Deegan tests three sports cameras for Men's Health magazine, summing up his conclusions in a video review complete with test footage. Deegan personally uses the GoPro HD Hero: He likes its "outstanding" video quality, wide array of mounts, ease of use and tough waterproof case. However, the controls -- basically one button that you have to push several times to change modes -- are tedious.
Review: Wearable Video Cameras: You, Action Star, Editors of Men's Health, April 8, 2011
3. Los Angeles Times
Cyclist and author Roy Wallack reviews four sports cameras for the Los Angeles Times, including the GoPro HD Helmet Hero. He finds a lot to like -- including the "very good" video quality and tough waterproof case -- but he does criticize the "dated" controls and the fact that there's no built-in LCD screen.
Review: Gear: Hands-Free Video Cameras Record Your Adventure, Roy Wallack, June 6, 2011
Ben Coxworth tests two action cams head to head, with mountain biking and scuba diving footage to show how each one performs. He likes both the Drift Innovation HD-170 and GoPro HD Hero -- it just depends what features you want and how much you want to spend.
Review: Gizmag Video Review -- Drift Innovation HD-170 Actioncam vs. GoPro Hero HD, Ben Coxworth, Aug. 26, 2010
After taking the GoPro HD Hero sports cam for a car ride, followed by a go-karting session, Tim Stevens compares it to other action and helmet cams. He runs into some issues with the camera mount during tests even after getting replacements from the company, and recommends having a screwdriver on hand.
Review: GoPro HD Hero Review and Helmet Cam Face-off, Tim Stevens, Nov. 16, 2009
All GoPro HD Hero models (they vary only by which mounts are included) share the same rating here -- 4 out of 5 stars, with more than 200 owner reviews posted. Although most of the owners overwhelmingly love their GoPros, several complain that theirs were dead on arrival.
Review: GoPro HD Helmet Hero Camera, Contributors to Amazon.com