Not Just for Extreme Sports: 5 Reasons to Own a GoPro

If you are the kind of person who does any sort of sports or outdoor activity, you’ve probably seen a GoPro by now. Heck, if you are the kind of person who never leaves the TV, you’ve still probably seen one, or at least footage taken with one. These small, light, and super wide-angle cameras have become almost ubiquitous. Used primarily to give the viewer a point of view (POV) look at activities or to place a camera in a location where a cameraman could never film, they have opened up a world of imagery that previously was only available to Hollywood directors (if at all).

What is a GoPro?

In case by some chance you haven’t come across one yet, a GoPro is a digital video camera. Small and light enough to mount just about anywhere, it was designed to show unique perspectives that cannot be captured with more traditional video gear. The real strength of the GoPro lies in its truly impressive number of housing and mount options. Housings range from minimal to completely waterproof and mounts are available for everything from bike handlebars to vehicle hoods to surfboards. You can wear the GoPro just about anywhere—on your head, your chest, your wrist, and so on.

The latest and most advanced version of the GoPro is the Hero4 Black edition (named somewhat oddly as the camera unit is still silver on the front). Priced at $500, it can be found at most any electronics retailer, as well as at some outdoor retailers. The Hero4 Silver loses the Black’s 30 fps 4K video but gains an LCD touch screen, which is a very handy feature. For those on a budget, the $130 Hero has less impressive specs, but it still offers that famous GoPro POV, mounting options, and protective cases at a price below that of most point-and-shoot cameras. The free smartphone app for the Hero4 and Hero3 models is particularly nice as it gives you control over all menus and settings and allows you to frame accurately with its live-preview functionality. GoPro also offers free Studio software that gives basic editing ability to those without Adobe or Apple software.

Who is GoPro for?

The outdoor adventure crowd was quickly attracted to the GoPro. The high quality to size ratio, reasonable price, wide angle of view, sturdy construction, waterproof housing, and ability to be strapped to whatever gear you have on hand made it a darling of the heart-pounding-in-chest set. But really, the GoPro has the ability to be so much more than an “extreme” sports camera. In fact, some of the most interesting and fun GoPro footage is coming from people who wouldn’t know a wakeskate from a roller skate. Here are five reasons why the GoPro should be interesting to anyone who enjoys creating imagery.

5 Reasons to Own a GoPro

1. Simplicity

Despite the GoPro’s fame of capturing backflips off cliffs and 50-foot waves, my “extreme” days are mostly over. With two little ones taking up my free time, I’m more likely to charge down a Slip ‘n Slide than a mountainside. Even so, I can’t imagine not having a GoPro around. The sheer simplicity, light weight, and compact size of the GoPro means that I use it for everyday events that I might not have bothered to film at all. I toss it in the camera bag or my wife’s purse or the hiking backpack. For the most part, it literally is as easy as just pressing a button and pointing the lens in the general direction of whatever is going on. The “QuikCapture” functionality allows you to go from “power-off” to “recording” in less time than it will take you to find the video app on your smartphone. The GoPro is much easier to hold than a smartphone and a lot sturdier too (at least in its case).

2. High Quality Images & Footage

The GoPro Hero4 Black can film 4K video at 30 fps, 1080p video at 120 fps, and even take 12 MP still images at up to 30 fps. GoPro footage appears constantly in professional video productions from commercials to live broadcast events to weekly TV shows and even Hollywood film productions. Is that a claim that you hear about footage from an iPhone or a point-and-shoot camera? Of course not. Now, even at 12 MP, you shouldn’t expect stills from the GoPro to match your DSLR output, but even so, they are as good as most prosumer point-and-shoot cameras using sensors of a similar size. And I promise you that the GoPro will go places that those cameras will never see.

3. Mounts

All the marketing blurbs and technical specs aside, the real hero of the GoPro world is the massive number of mounts that are available: handlebar mounts for bikes or motorcycles, suction cup mounts for smooth surfaces like car hoods or glass windshields, and clamp mounts for everything else. On your body alone you can use helmet, head, chest, wrist, backpack, and shoulder mounts. There are mounts for everything from surfboards to assault rifles to the family dog. It’s not a stretch to say that if you can dream of a camera mount location, then you can probably attach a GoPro to it.

4. Fun & Unique

While the mounts are cool, the really neat stuff starts when you see creative people brainstorming new ways to use them. When was the last time you saw a falcon’s flight from the perspective of the falcon itself? What does a wedding ceremony look like from the bride’s bouquet? Want to check your golf swing? What does your dog see when he goes swimming?

One of the most fascinating yet underrated features of the GoPro is its time lapse functionality. Time lapse can let you do some pretty cool things: Cut a 3-day cross-country drive down to a 3-minute video. Show a garden growing in rain or shine. Record a new house being built or an old one being torn down. Did I mention that captures full resolution 12 MP images at 30 fps? If I haven’t made it clear already, this isn’t just a camera for adrenaline junkies. Creative photographers and filmmakers are using the GoPro to create things that would have been virtually (if not literally) impossible a decade ago. How often can an average person with a good idea spend between $130-$500 and be on the forefront of imagery?

5. Waterproof & Tough

How often do you hand your DSLR to your clumsy Uncle Fred? How often does your kid film with your iPhone? The GoPro is easier to hold, simpler to use, and most importantly, much tougher than just about any camera out there. I wouldn’t let my kids touch my Olympus OM-D E-M1 but safe in its housing, I can let the kids use the GoPro and not stress. Footage from the pool, playground, or zoo with the GoPro in their hands has been as precious as anything I’ve filmed myself.

And yes, there’s no denying that the extreme crowd is correct. There isn’t any better way to place your viewer “in” the moment with you than with the POV footage that the GoPro can create. If you do any sort of outdoor activity and want to film it, you should consider joining the ranks of millions of others and invest in one. The footage of these activities that you will be able to get with the GoPro will be unlike any video or still images you have ever had in the past. Sure, you can get a waterproof “tough” point-and-shoot camera that will also do video, but few of them are easy to use with ski gloves on, have a remote control, or offer a wide enough lens for a POV perspective. If you want to record yourself doing anything extreme from diving off a cliff to landing that monster steelhead while fly-fishing, a GoPro is the camera to take along. Just don’t forget to take it to your grandma’s birthday party as well.

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