GoPro Hero3 Black Edition review: It's legacy lives on
sensor, 800x480 (240fps), 720p (60fps, 120fps), 1080p (24fps, 30fps, 48fps, 60fps), 4K Cinema (12fps), 0.0x zoom, 76g
Since release, the GoPro Hero3 Black Edition has been replaced by a newer model with fancy 4K video functionality, the GoPro Hero4. If you aren't in the market for 4K video footage, though, last year's model has held up pretty well, even if you might struggle to find one. Sadly, unless you manage to stumble across some old stock, the Hero 3 Black Edition is no longer available to purchase, so if you're planning on buying a GoPro, you're pretty much stuck with the newest model, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. The silver edition is still doing the rounds too, yet the price has been bumped up somewhat, so I'd say you're better off sticking with the Hero 4.
At face value, there doesn't seem to be all that much different between GoPro versions, which is definitely a good thing. What this means is that you won't run into compatibility problems with mounts, accessories and the like. It's also incredibly popular, so there's a whole manner of extras you can find for it.
The camera's not weatherproof, so you'll need to use the case
With three different models of the Hero3 available, the first, and probably most significant, thing to take notice of is the difference in sensor sizes between the three Hero3 cameras. The Black Edition has the largest sensor, at 1/2.3in, so GoPro claims it will perform better in low light. The Black Edition is also capable of taking 12-megapixel photos. The Silver Edition has a smaller 1/2.7in sensor and can take 11-megapixel still images, while the cheapest White Edition can only take 5-megapixel snaps but, strangely, has a larger 1/2.5in sensor than the Silver Edition.
There are also some significant differences in the video formats each model supports. All models can record 30fps at 1080p resolution video, which is perfect for YouTube, as well as smoother 60fps 720p footage. However, the more expensive Black Edition can also record 1080p video at 60fps, and 720p video at 100fps in case you want to slow your footage down in your video editor. It also supports 4K Cinema video at 12fps, but we're not convinced how useful this is; in our tests there's not a huge amount of quality difference between 4K and 1080p footage even on a 4K 84in screen.
There's also a difference between what the cameras can do with still photos. The top model can shoot burst photos at up to 30fps, while the Silver and White editions make do with 3fps and 10fps respectively. The cameras can all capture time-lapse photos at various intervals.
All this adds up to a seriously versatile set of action cams. We'd be tempted to go for the cheaper White Edition, as 1080p 30fps is enough for most needs, but as we only tested the Black Edition we can't vouch for the video quality of the cheaper models.
There are recording lights on three of the camera's sides, so you always know when you're capturing footage
The Hero3 is well designed and easy to use. The button on the front turns the camera on and scrolls through the various menus on the small LCD screen, while the button on the top selects options in the menus and starts recording. While the camcorder is recording, red LEDs flash on the front, bottom and top, so you always know when you're capturing footage. The only thing we didn't like was the plastic flap covering the Mini USB, Micro HDMI and microSD card slots, as this is small and easy to lose.
The ports are covered by an easy-to-lose rubber flap
Unlike already-toughened models such as the Contour Roam2, the bare GoPro Hero3 isn't tough or waterproof and has no mount point, so you always use it in the provided waterproof (to 60m) and toughened cover. This has a power button on the front and record button on the top, though, so it's easy to use without taking it out of the case.
All three camera models come with seriously sticky curved and flat mounts. The Black Edition also comes with a 3-way pivot arm, which lets you mount the camera facing pretty much any way you please. There are also plenty of accessories available at GoPro's website, from the £15 Head Strap to the £30 Suction Cup, to a £50 Wrist Housing and £30 Bar Mount.