GoPro HD Hero Naked Camera Review

Updated January 31, 2014
cs-product-header
GoPro HD Hero Naked Camera
Bottom Line

Until the GoPro HD Hero2 (*Est. $300) came along, the original GoPro HD Hero Naked (*Est. $200) was the best rugged sports camera you could buy, according to experts. And dollar for dollar, it still is: Although it's not as advanced as the Hero2, the original Hero still outshines all other brands.

Ease of use: Less intuitive to use than the Hero2

Although critics have long praised the original GoPro Hero, it did have its drawbacks -- including its controls.

There's no viewfinder or view screen, so there's no way to know what you're shooting or to preview footage -- unless you spring for the add-on LCD BacPac. The Hero's little on-board LCD screen shows camera commands, but only in indecipherable code, testers say. The new Hero2 shows plain-English commands, but you still have to pay extra for the LCD BacPac.

The Hero2 also gets four Record lights all over its body; the original Hero has one on the front. The Hero2 also gains two ports the Hero lacks: a mini HDMI port and a 3.5 mm jack for an external microphone.

Otherwise, the two are identical to use. They're both tiny and lightweight (3.3 ounces, or 5.9 ounces with the included waterproof housing), and they're both compatible with the same accessories and mounts. The Hero Naked comes with a couple of adhesive mounts, but you can buy a dozen other mounts from GoPro, like chest straps and roll bar mounts. GoPro's mounts use pivot screws that testers find hard to handle with icy or gloved fingers; other brands like Contour and Ion use easier slide-in mounts.

Performance: Sharper, steadier video than other brands

The original Hero Naked's full HD video quality looks slightly sharper and steadier in tests than rival cameras from Contour, including the similarly priced ContourRoam Camera (*Est. $185). But the new Hero2 is clearer and sharper yet, with more natural color and better performance in low light or changing light, critics agree.

"When comparing the video from the HD Hero 2 against its predecessor you'd be forgiven for thinking they were taken on different days -- the difference is that big," writes Scott Kennedy at CameraLabs.com. Thank the Hero2's bigger image sensor and sharper lens.

Both Hero cameras can shoot a wide-angle 170 degrees to capture as much action as possible -- but the original Hero can do it only in 960p or 720p. To get full 1080p HD, you have to step down to a 127-degree field of view (the Hero2 can shoot the full 170 degrees in full 1080p HD). Neither Hero camera has a zoom.

Both Hero cameras can shoot still photos – 5 megapixels and up to three photos per second with the Hero, or 11 megapixels and up to 10 photos per second with the Hero2. Both have on-board microphones that sound pretty muffled, reviews say. The Hero2 gets an external mic jack, but since you can't get to it without taking off the camera's protective case, experts say it's of little use.

Battery life for both is 2.5 hours, according to GoPro -- but reviews say that's optimistic. GoPro sells spare batteries for $20, or you can recharge in an hour with your own wall-socket USB charger or two hours with the included USB cable.

ProsOnly the pricier Hero2 shoots better video, Waterproof to 197 feet (60 meters), Wide array of mounts available, 5-megapixel still photos, Wide-angle lens (127 to 170 degrees)ConsLower video/photo quality than Hero2, Fewer features than Hero2, LCD screen costs extra, Tedious controls, Boxy shape isn't sleek, Audio quality

Durability: Waterproof and abuse-proof

The original Hero camera is just as hard to break as the Hero2 camera. It survives mountain biking, sailing, skiing, skateboarding, go-kart racing and more in test after test. In fact, Bruce Gain lost his original Hero at sea while surf-testing it for TomsGuide.com -- only to find it two hours later, washed up on the beach and "dry as a bone. The camera had also continued to film when under the water and took some amazing footage from about 6 to 8 feet below the surface." The secret is the included clear case, which is not only shockproof but also waterproof to 197 feet.

Contour charges $40 to $50 for a similar case -- and you have to take a Contour camera out of that case to turn it on or off, Gain points out. That's the last thing you want to do "when you are pounded by waves or are repeatedly drenched in ocean spray," he says.

Appearance: Tiny and lightweight, but not discreet

The Hero and Hero2 look identical -- and that's not necessarily a good thing, critics say.

Their boxy little shape is "polarizing to say the least," says Kennedy at CameraLabs.com. "If you've not seen one before you'd be forgiven for thinking it was a toy intended for pre-school photographers." That's not such a big deal if you're bolting it to your surfboard -- but strap the little toaster-shaped camera to your helmet and it looks awkward, testers say.

Contour cameras are slim, cylindrical and more discreet: "You hardly notice the thing's there," Men's Health tester Brian Deegan says after strapping a Contour camera to his helmet. Still, the Heros' footage looks so much better that reviewers say they prefer them, despite their clumsy shape.

The bottom line

Before GoPro launched its new HD Hero2, the original Hero camera had established itself in tests as the best tough sports camera on the market. Although the Hero2 surpasses the original Hero in the latest tests at CameraLabs.com and Engadget.com, the original GoPro HD Hero Naked -- for $100 less -- still outclasses all other brands and easily takes the title of Best Budget Sports Cam.

image
GoPro Camera CHDOH-002 HD HERO2 Outdoor Edition
Buy from Amazon.com
from Amazon.com
New: $299.99 $294.00   
In Stock.
Average Customer Review:  
image
ContourROAM Hands-free HD Camcorder
Buy from Amazon.com
from Amazon.com
New: $199.99 $98.00   
In Stock.
Average Customer Review:  

Buy from Amazon

Our Sources

1. Camera Labs.com

GoPro HD Hero2 Review, Scott Kennedy, Nov. 2011

Side-by-side footage shows that the GoPro HD Hero2 "is a far superior camera" to the original GoPro HD Hero Naked, Scott Kennedy says. He also finds the Hero2 easier to use.

2. Engadget.com

GoPro HD Hero2 Review, James Trew, Dec. 24, 2011

Another head-to-head test finds the GoPro HD Hero2 "a marked improvement" over the original Hero -- but GoPro hasn't solved all of James Trew's gripes with the original version's weight and mounts.

3. TomsGuide.com

Outdoor Test: Going Wild with 3 Sports Cameras, Bruce Gain, July 17, 2011

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.

4. Men's Health

Wearable Video Cameras: You, Action Star, Editors of Men's Health, April 8, 2011

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.

5. Los Angeles Times

Gear: Hands-Free Video Cameras Record Your Adventure, Roy Wallack, June 6, 2011

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.

6. GizMag.com

Gizmag Video Review -- Drift Innovation HD-170 Actioncam vs. GoPro Hero HD, Ben Coxworth, Aug. 26, 2010

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, he says.

7. Engadget.com

GoPro HD Hero Review and Helmet Cam Face-off, Tim Stevens, Nov. 16, 2009

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 he recommends having a screwdriver on hand.

8. Amazon.com

GoPro HD Hero Camera, Contributors to Amazon.com

About 350 owners review the GoPro HD Hero Naked here, giving it an overall average of 4 out of 5 stars. Although most of the owners praise their GoPros, several complain that theirs were dead on arrival.