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Customer Review

1,470 of 1,517 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Minor Glitches, Major Fun (after you update the firmware), March 24, 2013
By 
This review is from: GoPro HERO3: Black Edition (Camera)
Gopro Hero 3 Black: Purchase date: March 7, 2013. This is a long review, but I have addressed some technical issues here that may assist you if you have bought a Gopro Hero 3, or if you plan to. I have put mine through its paces for nearly 2 weeks before posting this.

The first thing you must do is update the firmware manually. After several attempts with the automatic process, my Gopro -and many others I suspect- failed to update, and it was never at all apparent that the process failed. After several days of use, the camera began to malfunction. If you don't get your firmware updated successfully, you are guaranteed to have major problems.
Here is a quick guide on how to manually update your firmware: (If you have a Mac, or are not computer-savvy, check online for more detailed instructions. Lawrence M. Friedman posted a comprehensive how-to on Gethypoxic.)
1. Jot down your serial number (both lines) from inside the battery port. Insert a Class 10 micro SD, battery, and take a picture to ensure your card is good. Ensure WiFi is off, and charge your camera to 2 bars if necessary. (Steps 1-5 on the update instructions at GoPro.com.) At this point, do not connect your Gopro to your PC.
2. Instead, download the update files from Gopro.com onto your PC. To do this, follow the prompts for 'manual update.' Complete the registration fields.
3. Connect the camera to your PC & power up. Open your Gopro drive, then move the update files from your PC onto your Gopro. DO NOT put the files into either folder (DCIM or Misc), just place the files next to those folders (root).
4. Disconnect your GoPro from your PC, then turn it back on. This should initiate the update process.
IMPORTANT: Now pay attention to your Gopro LCD display. During the process, look for the message on your LCD that reads 'updating.' Your front LED light will flash intermittently. You will soon see a progress percentage on your LCD and the blue WiFi light will turn on. Make sure your progress climbs to 100%, then your camera will shut itself off.

If you do not observe your camera behaving as I described, the update did not work and you will have to try again. If the process fails, do not expect to receive an 'Update Failed' message as Gopro claims. The firmware issue is causing huge problems for many users; largely because they believe that they successfully installed the new firmware, but the process actually failed.

After my firmware was updated successfully, I have not experienced any of the major failures that many users have reported. My battery does not drain overnight when turned off as some people have reported. My camera never fails to read its SD card. I started & stopped recording via WiFi repeatedly, and everything worked great. Freezing is the major catastrophic problem common in the negative reviews. I shot video for 45 minutes continuously and never had any lock-up issues during use. I function-tested every option in the menu and never experienced any malfunction, but for one exception.
My camera froze a few times when powering on, requiring a battery rip. I'm not sure what causes this, and it happened only a few times over the past 2 weeks, while I have turned the camera on & off hundreds of times with no issues. Some have theorized that it is related to using the USB charger, or moving files off of the SD card, but I have been unable to determine a common condition that will cause the problem consistently. You can expect to experience this glitch too; it is a very common report on the Gopro forums, and I have friends that have had the same experiences. We are hoping that Gopro will solve this issue with another firmware update. Note: If you are forced to pull the battery, leave it out for at least 60 seconds. Update 7-3-13: After 4 months of heavy use, my Gopro Black is working flawlessly. It has not frozen during use or startup after the latest firmware update (Version 2.39). Some of my friends have experienced occasional freezing, but it's very rare; note: we use our Gopro H3B's on a daily basis.

If you're going to buy a Hero 3, update the firmware manually right out of the box. After that, if you have freezing issues, a defective battery, or buttons that do not work as they should, just take it back to the store for an exchange or refund. Best Buy gives you 15 days. I can't imagine dealing with any customer service trying to fix a lemon. I don't get why anyone even tries. That being said, my remaining criticisms are relatively petty, and are being made against a functional Hero 3 Black. The bottom line is that I love this camera so far. It earns 4 stars.

Be prepared for a fast-draining battery. The 45-minute video I mentioned earlier took my battery from 100% to no bars. However, after the 45-min recording, I was able to shoot an additional 28 minutes on fumes (with no bars showing on my battery gauge) before it died. This battery test was made on the 1080/60 setting, without WiFi or Protune in use.
You will likely need a backup battery plan, such as spares with a wall charger. There is a great kit on Amazon for $29 made by Wasabi, Wasabi Power Battery (2-Pack) and Charger for GoPro HD HERO3 and GoPro AHDBT-201, AHDBT-301 or the Gopro battery Bacpac (which I have never tried). Note: You can swap batteries and your settings will not return to factory defaults. I left my battery out for 5 minutes and it still retained my settings. This is a huge positive for Gopro since I routinely swap out batteries. It would be a real pain to reset my resolution & preferences every time, not to mention the date/clock. I use my Gopro for skydiving, which means my videos are short, and I am never far from an A/C outlet. The battery life on the Hero 3 could pose a challenge for those who venture into the wilderness...or the water. Something to think about. I used a Hero 2 for a year, and the difference in the battery life is noticeable. Note: It took 140 minutes to charge my battery from totally drained to 100%. From the point of no bars to 100%, it took 100 minutes to fully charge. These tests were done with the included USB cable connected to a PC.

My other minor complaints include the lack of a printed manual. I downloaded it from online, then printed the PDF, so I have a 66-page 8.5x11" book. A pocket-sized manual that I can fit in my camera case should be standard issue with a $400 package. This is not too big of a deal because once you learn the system, there are only 6 to 8 pages from the manual that are actually useful.

The panel that covers the charging port is not tethered, so I already know that this little door (14 x 21mm) will eventually get lost. Another issue is that the unit gets hot while recording; but as long as it doesn't do any damage or cause a breakdown, I guess that's just the way it is. A Gopro will not allow itself to overheat; it will shut down automatically if it gets too hot.

When you open up your DCIM folder after recording, you may notice several blank-icon files (type LRV & THM) scattered among your video/picture files. Some computer people call these "mouse droppings." The LRV files can be changed to MP4 and are functional as a mini clip. This is useful for efficient editing projects on slower computers. After setting up your edit, you then replace the LRV with your original HD file. The THM files can be changed to JPG and serve as thumbnails to your photographs. But I just delete all the droppings. I don't fully understand how to exploit them, and they only show up once in a while.

The greatest improvement over the Hero 2 is the new video options available. The 1080p/60fps is my favorite setting. This feature alone is the reason I bought the H3B. The Hero 2 would only shoot 30FPS on 1080. And to my delight, once I selected 1080/60 on my H3B, I found that I can then adjust the FOV within that setting. On the hero 2, your FOV options were very limited depending on your resolution setting. The H3B gives incredible freedom to customize the look of your recordings. Note: The recording versatility on the Black edition is better than on the White or Silver models. The premium price is not just for the remote.

The 4k cinema mode is essentially useless to me. It offers a maximum frame rate of 15 FPS, which resembles a slideshow. The 2.7k offers 30 FPS, and renders incredibly impressive resolution, but you'll be lucky if your computer can play it smoothly. After seeing the excellent results of the 1080p/60FPS videos, I doubt I will ever change that setting except to do super slow-motion, for which I would use 120FPS-- which is only available on 720p resolution. Apparently, there is a plan from GoPro for an upcoming software update that will expand the FOV options on the 720/120FPS mode. Right now it's Wide only. UPDATE 5-7-13: The new firmware update gives more FOV options.

The WiFi remote is definitely cool and handy. It makes it a snap to control your camera after it's mounted. It is simple to set up and operate. But like the camera, the remote battery drains quickly; and the charging cable is proprietary, so you will have to take it with you to charge the remote during downtime. I also installed the GoPro app on my Android smartphone. This allows you to use your phone as a remote. You can see on your phone what the camera sees, even while it's not recording; lots of fun possibilities there.

The camera is noticeably thinner and lighter than the H2. The buttons are easier to activate; they are larger and more sensitive. It also uses a Micro SD card, not the standard SD used by the Hero 2. Because the height & width are unchanged, the casing doors are interchangeable with the Hero 2, and the LCD Bacpac from my H2 is fully functional on the 3; that made my day!

The firmware situation is unfortunate, and Gopro owes a lot of customers a big apology. I myself grew quite frustrated until I was advised to use the manual process. This review was going to be a 1-star profanity-fest, until I figured out the firmware debacle. If you disregarded all reviews of the Hero 3 in which the user failed to update the firmware, I'm sure the overall feedback would be much more positive. Even after my initial troubles, I am still a fan of Gopro. I can live with the power-up freezing glitch for now. For skydiving and short trips, the Hero 3 Black is a great camera. Blue skies!
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Showing 1-10 of 84 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Mar 29, 2013 1:07:57 PM PDT
Russ says:
I followed the directions and its working great. My phone synched easily, although I bet most people think its simply a matter of pressing the pairing button and turning the app on. I agree, I think most people don't understand why its not working and aside from the update its user error.

Posted on Apr 4, 2013 12:25:36 PM PDT
Chris says:
I followed those exact directions and they helped the camera function for one trip.. the following week every bug returned.. I even repeated the process with a new sd card and still have the same issues..

bottom line, the ratio of healthy cameras to unhealthy cams is still way off..

Posted on May 9, 2013 8:33:35 AM PDT
Lousy firmware? Fast battery drainage? No printed manual? Questionable company support?
Who needs it? I won't be purchasing a GoPro anytime soon. Sounds as if one needs a B.S. in computer technology to get the camera to run properly....a new camera, at that!

Posted on May 12, 2013 2:07:59 PM PDT
JOHN MILLER says:
Thanks great review

Posted on May 13, 2013 7:58:51 AM PDT
I hope GoPro reads these comments.....I will refrain from a purchase...I have already returned on Hero 2...they need to get it right...love the promise but not what is being delivered...Jonny daHand

Posted on May 18, 2013 1:38:53 PM PDT
David Grimm says:
I just got mine yesterday. I actually love the PDF manual. I keep a copy on my phone and iPad for quick reference.

Is there a way to tell what firmware your camera is using? I wasn't paying close enough attention and missed the update message. I guess I can redo it, but was hoping there was a way to tell.

Other users recommend checking the firmware for updates weekly.

I'll agree that GoPro dropped the ball on this and has given their competitors a big chance to make inroads in the market (if the competitors can make a better product, that it).

In reply to an earlier post on May 19, 2013 2:50:13 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 19, 2013 3:00:13 PM PDT
If a company wishes to gain the respect and (especially) loyalty of existing and prospective buyers, they must prove that their product is reliable and easy-to-use. If they can't do that, they are doomed to loss of market share. Possibly GoPro got too big too fast and somewhere along the line has forgotten this goal.

I like the format of the Go Pro. Small size and a good selection of attachment apparatus, but if the buyer (me) must be concerned about having to mess around to get the camera to work....hey....I won't buy it. Plain and Simple. What say you, Go Pro?

And....I don't know if the Go Pro is made in America or not, but if I had a choice between buying a camera that was made in America that didn't work, and a choice of buying a camera made in China that did work, guess which one I would buy.

In reply to an earlier post on May 19, 2013 6:55:38 PM PDT
David Grimm says:
Well, an easy to operate camera is a plus, but at the end of the day, its all about the picture quality. And GoPro remains unsurpassed on this matter in POV water-proof helmet cams. So I'll put up with a little occasional grief to get a great picture.

Posted on May 21, 2013 5:45:22 AM PDT
Thanks for the review. I'm not going to buy one. This seems to be behaving as you would expect a $50 camera to work. Is the $400 price supposed to suggest quality? Quality that isn't there? It doesn't matter what the specs are if the camera isn't reliable.

In reply to an earlier post on May 21, 2013 6:11:52 AM PDT
I agree! GoPro 3.0 seems to promise much...as it should for 400$...but does not fulfill...has anyone seen a Consumer Products review on this item or maybe one in a camera mag?
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