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Get Acquainted with the GoPro Hero4 Black Camera

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In this article, Jason R. Rich takes a look at the GoPro Hero4 camera and compares it to other GoPro camera models, as well as point-and-shoot digital camera options for taking pictures and shooting HD video in a wide range of situations.
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Digital photography is evolving quickly. For example, more powerful cameras are now being built into the latest smartphones and tablets, while the size of stand-alone, point-and-shoot digital cameras continues to shrink. These same cameras are also becoming far more versatile and durable.

One of the pioneers when it comes to relatively low cost, but feature-packed, waterproof, and highly compact digital cameras is GoPro. The company’s most recently released, powerful, and versatile camera is the GoPro Hero4 Black Edition, which is priced at $499.99 (shown in Figure 1).

Figure 1 The GoPro Hero4 Black Edition Camera

What Sets Apart the GoPro Hero4 Black Edition

In addition to being small, lightweight, and extremely versatile, the GoPro Hero4 Black Edition camera is able to capture still images at up to 12-megapixel resolution, plus give users a wide range of options when it comes to shooting HD video at up to 2K Superview resolution.

Thanks to a plethora of optional housings available for the Hero4, it can easily become waterproof, shockproof, and able to shoot in a wide range of harsh environments, including underwater. Thus, the Hero4 has become the most sought after camera by adventure-oriented photographers who enjoy activities like scuba diving, snorkeling, skiing, skydiving, surfing, cycling, off-roading, and mountain climbing.

The Hero4 is powered using interchangeable and rechargeable batteries, and has a built-in, ultra-wide-angle lens that allows users to shoot photos and/or videos that utilize an extremely wide and immersive field of view.

Using optional mounts that securely attach to the camera’s optional housings (shown in Figure 2), a GoPro Hero4 can easily be mounted on someone’s body or their equipment, allowing them to shoot stunning first or third-person photos or videos in ways that have never before been possible using a consumer-oriented camera.

Figure 2 The GoPro Hero4 encased in a Standard housing that’s attached to one of many available optional mount.

Using the right combination of optional housings and mounts, the Hero4 can capture action from very unique angles and perspectives, whether the photographer is engaged in a land, air, or water-based activity. In addition to mounting the camera directly on the person engaged in an activity, the Hero4 can be held in the hands of a photographer and used like a traditional point-and-shoot camera, or it can be mounted onto something else, and remotely controlled from up to 600 feet away using the optional Smart Remote accessory ($79.99). This optional, handheld remote control accessory is shown in Figure 3.

Figure 3 The GoPro Smart Remote can control a GoPro camera from up to 600 feet away.

What sets the Hero4 apart from other GoPro models are its available shooting modes, for capturing high-resolution photos and HD video. This gives photographers and videographers plenty of options when shooting in different situations, including indoors, outdoors, in low light or underwater.

GoPro Viewfinder Options

Regardless of the shooting situation, or the shooting approach being taken, to achieve the highest-quality results when taking pictures or shooting video, the Hero4 must be used with the most appropriate housing, mount, and accessories.

When it comes to optional accessories, there’s the LCD Touch BacPac display ($79.99), for example (shown in Figure 4). It adds a full-color viewfinder to the back of the tiny camera body, and offers an easier way to control the camera when it’s being held in the photographer or videographer’s own hands.

Figure 4 GoPro’s optional LCD Touch BacPac display.

To control the camera from up to 600 feet away, the optional Smart Remote can be used. One feature of the Hero4 that many users appreciate, however, is its wireless capabilities that give users more options when shooting, viewing, editing, and sharing content in conjunction with a smartphone or tablet.

The Hero4 utilizes Wi-Fi and Bluetooth to establish a wireless connection with an iPhone, iPad, or Android-based smartphone or tablet via the free GoPro mobile app. Once this connection is established, the Internet-enabled mobile device can be used to remotely control the camera; serve as a full-color, real-time viewfinder when shooting; plus, be used to view, edit, and share photos or video shot using the GoPro camera.

Thus, a high-resolution digital image or HD video clip can be shot using the Hero4, quickly transferred (wirelessly) to a smartphone or tablet, and then previewed, edited, and shared online via social media, YouTube, email, or another online-based photo or video sharing service (thanks to the mobile device’s cellular or Wi-Fi internet connection).

Of courses, that same content that was shot using the Hero4 can be transferred to a PC or Mac via a supplied USB cable for viewing, editing, and sharing. While any photo software can be used to edit or enhance digital images shot using a Hero4, the free GoPro Studio software (http://shop.gopro.com/softwareandapp) makes editing HD video footage a straightforward process, using editing tools specifically designed for use with GoPro shot HD video footage.

Use the Most Appropriate Housing and Mount for Each Shooting Situation

The trick to capturing awesome shots or video footage is to utilize the appropriate housing and mount that best fits the shooting situation and environment. For example, especially when shooting action from a first or third-person perspective, you want to mount the camera on yourself or your equipment so that it’s held steady and at the right height and angle.

Some of the Hero4-compatible housings fully encase the camera so it’s waterproof to a depth of 197-feet. These housings should be used when engaged in water-based activities, or when using the camera in harsh environments.

When shooting in calm and dry environments, other housings such as the Frame Housing ($39.99) or Skeleton Housing ($49.99), allow the camera body to be protected but still offer accessibility to the camera’s built-in ports. These housings also allow the camera’s built-in microphone to record better quality audio, or allow for the connection of an external (optional) microphone to acquire even higher audio quality while shooting video.

Using GoPro’s proprietary Thumb Screw and Quick Release Buckle that’s built into all compatible housings and mounts, each housing can be securely attached to an appropriate housing. The opposite end of each mount can be attached to the photographer’s body or equipment, such as a surfboard, skis, a bicycle, a car’s dashboard, or a helmet. Using these mounts, the camera can be positioned at very precise angles, and held firmly in place even when engaged in high-action or turbulent activities.

To easily figure out the best equipment for a particular shooting situation, visit GoPro’s website (http://shop.gopro.com/shopbyactivity), and take advantage of the Shop By Activity feature, which lists dozens of popular activities and explains how to use a GoPro camera to best capture them.

Don’t Forget Batteries and a Memory Card

Three variations of the GoPro Hero4 Black Edition are offered, including: Standard, Surf, and Music. While the camera body itself is the same, what’s different is the housing and mounts that come bundled with the camera. To see what’s included with each bundle, visit http://shop.gopro.com/hero4/hero4-black/CHDHX-401.html.

All Hero4 cameras come with a single rechargeable battery. This battery can be charged while it remains in the camera by connecting the camera to a computer via the supplied USB cable. An optional Wall Charger ($39.99) or Auto Charger ($29.99) are available to accommodate other power sources. GoPro’s optional Duel Battery Charger ($49.99), includes one additional battery, and offers yet another battery charging option (for charging two batteries at once).

Another must-have item that does not come bundled with the GoPro cameras is a microSD memory card. GoPro recommends the SanDisk Extreme (32GB) microSDHC ($49.99), SanDisk Extreme 64GB microSDXC ($79.99), Lexar 32GB microSDHC ($49.99), or Lexar 64GB microSDXC ($79.99) memory card, because each has been tested with the GoPro in high-intensity and harsh climate shooting conditions. However, any microSD memory card with Class 10 or UHS-1 rating and a capacity up to 64GB will work with the camera, so consider shopping around for the best price.

Because the Hero4 uses considerable battery power, especially when shooting HD video at 2K resolution, consider having multiple fully-charged batteries on hand. Plus, if you’ll be shooting HD video using the Hero4, keep in mind that HD video files are massive, so it’s always a good idea to have multiple memory cards available to you when shooting longer video sequences.

Final Thoughts...

Whether you’re an active person who wants to capture stunning first or third-person photos or video, or you’re looking for the perfect camera to take on vacation that can be used just about anywhere, the GoPro Hero4 is a viable option.

However, in addition to the cost of the camera itself, consider the additional cost associated with the optional housings, mounts, and accessories (including extra batteries and memory cards) that you’ll most likely need to accommodate various shooting situations. Thus, you can easily wind up spending upwards of $800 to $1,000 dollars to acquire everything that’s ultimately needed.

A slightly lower cost option is one of the other, less powerful GoPro cameras, such as the GoPro Hero4 Silver or Hero3+, each of which offers a different selection of shooting resolution options, particularly when it comes to HD video. To see a feature-by-feature comparison of the currently available GoPro camera models, visit: http://shop.gopro.com/compare?category=cameras.

Another benefit to shooting with a GoPro is the massive and global community of GoPro camera enthusiasts who are active on social media and who share their content, as well as advice on how anyone can better utilize the camera. Available as part of the GoPro website, visit the GoPro Channel, at https://gopro.com/channel.

Meanwhile, on YouTube, for example, hundreds of free video tutorials related to the Hero4 are available to help anyone start taking picture like a pro while being able to consistently capture professional quality and visually stunning HD video.

To find these videos, within YouTube’s Search field, enter a search phrase like, “Shooting underwater video with a GoPro.” To watch free tutorial videos related to the Hero4 on Que’s YouTube channel, visit: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLzuEruZCm2xv0k6jYyvTJm-BWTJE8c3me.

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