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Go Pro Editions Comparison Essay

Not quite looking to spend $400 on a GoPro Hero3+ Black Edition? You'd think the $300 Hero3+ Silver Edition would be the next logical option, as you'd expect video to be somewhat close in quality. Unfortunately, the Hero3+ Silver Edition shoots surprisingly subpar footage, especially when you consider the price.

We've already reviewed the $399.99 GoPro Hero3+ Black Edition. The $299.99 Hero3+ Silver Edition is physically identical, save for the silver-colored "3" on the front (compared with the black-colored "3" on the Black Edition), so we'll focus on the differences between the two models for this review.

Performance and Accessories
GoPro's Hero3+ Silver Edition doesn't have the 4K bells and Protune whistles you find in the Hero3+ Black Edition. But that's okay, because most of us don't have TVs capable of 4K resolution (and many 1080p TVs won't play back 4K footage at all), nor do most average consumers need the Protune option for editing. And yet, the $100 you save by going with the Silver Edition may not be worth it. Footage recorded in 1080p60 has good color and white balance, but details are blurry, especially for the $300 price.

For example, an outdoor test shoot showed a building's engraved detailing was barely visible and quite noisy from about 40 feet away (across a NYC street) compared with the same test shoot on the Hero3+ Black Edition, which rendered the same building details clearly and sharply. Large, bold, white text on the side of a dark blue van parked across the street was readable, but the edges on the lettering were blurry and obviously not as sharp as the Black Edition, and you can forget about smaller writing. Click to enlarge the picture above, and check out the comparison screenshots between the Black, Silver, and White Editions in the slideshow to see what I mean.

In fact, even the GoPro Hero3 White recorded with sharper, clearer details, albeit with less vibrant colors, contrast, and questionable brightness. When it came to moving objects, such as cars and people walking by, details were greatly affected by a jagged effect caused by an interlacing issue that appears mostly on straight edges. The culprit here could be the Silver Edition's 10-megapixel sensor, which may be an entirely new component as GoPro used 11-MP sensors for the Hero2 from a couple generations back, and in the last-generation Hero3 Silver Edition. Increasing the megapixel count doesn't always lead to sharper resolution, and the new sensor may not be playing nicely with the image processors within the Silver Edition. We've reached out to GoPro for comments, and we'll post an update as soon as we hear back.

I was also unimpressed with the Silver Edition's still photos; colors, exposure, and white balance were actually quite good in my test shots, but details are an issue. Then again, action cameras aren't exactly designed to take still photos, even if it's a feature that most models possess. 

You still get some of the same accessories as the Black Edition, including a removable door that converts the waterproof housing into a standard housing, and lets you record louder, clearer audio (in exchange for the housing's waterproofing ability), plus a charging cable, mounts, buckles, and pivot arms. You don't get the Wi-Fi remote, but you can purchase that separately for $79.99.

Conclusion
The GoPro Hero3+ Silver Edition isn't the less-expensive alternative to the Hero3+ Black Edition you should get. Sony's POV Action Cam (HDR-AS100V) has a similar $300 asking price as the Silver Edition, but it records more detailed footage. And if you have some wiggle room in your budget, iON's Air Pro 3 gives the Hero3+ Black Edition a run for its money, with sharp, clear 1080p video for $350. But if you don't want to break the $300 mark, the GoPro Hero3 White Edition offers the best value we've seen, as it captures sharper footage still than the Hero3+ Silver Edition and Sony's POV Action Cam (HDR-AS100V), although it isn't quite as clear as the Air Pro 3 or Hero3+ Black Edition.

[UPDATE: For the latest comparison of the Hero 4 , Session, 3+ click here.]

[UPDATE 2: GoPro have released the 5 series of POV action cameras including the Hero 5 Black Edition and the Session 5.]

[UPDATE 3: GoPro have released the Hero6 black edition.]

My black edition Gopro Hero 3 arrived in the UK a couple of weeks ago. The form factor will be familiar to all who have seen or already own the white or silver editions.

Looking at the different cameras (I have silver and black editions) the “3” within Hero3 is coloured to match the cameras edition. That is the Black edition’s 3 is black and the Silver Editions 3 is silver etc. But what really makes the white, silver and black editions different to one another is what goes on inside.

GoPro 3 – Black

3 Black Editions: Adventure, Surf, or Motorsports – all are the same only difference is some of the supplied mounts.
4kp @ 12fps/2.7kp @ 30fps
1440p @ 48fps/1080p @ 60fps/720p @ 120fps
Glass Ultra Sharp Lens
12MP / 30fps Burst
45Mbps bit-rate
Wifi Remote included
Excellent Low Light Performance

Simultaneous Photo and Video Mode:

Photo every 5, 10, 30, 60 seconds or can be manually triggered
1 x 12 Megapixel still while recording video in 1440p @ 24fps
1 x 8 Megapixel still while recording video in 1080p @ 30fps
1 x 8 Megapixel still while recording video in 720p @ 60fps

GoPro 3 – Silver

No Wifi Remote but this can be bought seperately
Lower def shooting modes than the Black Edition
1080p @ 30fps/960p @ 48fps/720p @ 60fps
Basic Lens
11 Mega Pixels / 10 fps Burst
No photos while recording video
35Mbps bitrate

GoPro 3 – White

1080p @ 30fps/960p @ 30fps/720p @ 60fps
Basic Lens
5MP / 3 fps Burst
15Mbps bit-rate
170deg in 720p mode

I have used both the Black and Silver editions (I haven’t seen the White edition as yet) in a range of situations and found both to be an improvement over the Hero 2. Although the Silver edition on paper is the same as the Hero 2 its low light capabilities and the overall quality of the video/images produced is far better.

Compatibility

1. All of your mounts and usual GoPro accessories will work with the new GoPro Hero 3 case. E.G. Chest Mount, Handlebar mounts etc

2. You will need different memory cards for the Hero 3. The Hero 1 and Hero 2 accept SD and SDHC cards while the 3 accepts Micro SD cards. I have found that some retailers sell the same capacity Micro version for less than the standard size. You will be able to swap a Micro SD card into the Hero 2 if you have an adaptor. The black edition has the ability to take stills and video at the same time. I have therefore settled on a 32GB card for the time being as the 64GB cards are still quite pricey but are starting to come down in price. If you are wondering what card would be best and what all the figures mean check out my ramblings on SD cards.

3. The Hero 3 uses a different size battery. Therefore you will not be able to swap between the 1/2 and 3. Additional betteries are avilable from GoPro and Wasabi.

4. The back panel of the Hero 3 case is the same as the Hero 2. In my case this means I don’t have to go out and buy another Floaty back door back.

5. All bacpac accessories are backward compatible but the new touch screen LCD unit will not work as a touch screen on HD 2 units.

Which edition to get will be a tough choice that may be driven by cost, intended use or even availability. For my money I believe that the Silver edition will actually fulfil most peoples needs and offers the middle ground. Combine the silver with a few choice mounts for your particular application and either use the WiFi remote or smart phone and you have a pretty versatile setup. For some even the white edition may prove to be a good choice if video is only going to be uploaded to the likes of Vimeo or Youtube. The black has lots of cool little tweaks but in all likelihood the 4k and 2.7k videos will never really be seen until other areas of consumer technology catchup and become more affordable. If your wallet can take the hit go for the black, if it can’t and the silver edition is the one you will be going for don’t worry. You won’t miss what you didn’t have and its unlikely that you’ll be craving the features that the black has over the silver.

I have a fair bit of GoPro kit and to maximise its use I also have a range of must have accessories.

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