So after a few years of seeing other people using them, I finally invested in a GoPro.
We are a skiing family when finances permit (the fourth generation are just getting started). Sports cameras are prolific on the slopes these days and most of the helmets I saw on our trip this year had fixings with a camera attached or ready for one.
I’d not been tempted before now, mainly because we don’t do enough sport to warrant one. Why have a sports camera and not a family video camera? We’ve had several video cameras in the past but I have not used one in many years, not since our children became adults.
Now a grandparent; I’ve been using my mobile phone. It is always with me. I can take a short video in the moment without having to carry extra equipment around and the quality is fantastic. I’ve put together several films using these snippets of footage from my iPhone using my iMac. For convenience it is hard to beat. Using your mobile does have downsides though. Battery life for instance. Filming drains a phone battery pretty quickly. They are not great at a distance (dog walking or the kids playing in a field) that kind of thing and it is hard to hold the phone and keep it steady when walking. Also they are difficult to use hands free, so you wouldn’t get much footage on a ski slope or any active holiday, although you’d be fine by a pool or wandering around a town, so long as you are not interrupted by a phone call or using maps on your phone to find your way around.
My dilemma in a nutshell; why buy a sports camera when I also wanted to film my grandchildren as babies, or in school plays, or just out on a day trip? Capturing moments I can do anyway but the bigger stuff is so varied I’d need a sports camera and a general family video camera. In which case it is all too expensive, requires too many decisions about what to carry where and when, so I’ve done without. Until the GoPro 5 Black.
The newest GoPro has multiple view options. The sports modes are still wide angle so you capture the scenery as well as the moving subject, but now they do a linear and a narrow view. So when filming at home or at the park, you no longer have to worry about the fish eye lens edges or losing your subject in a busy scene when they are the only part you care about watching.
If you watch a promotional video, it will tell you all the fantastic things the GoPro can do. Wireless uploading to social media, taking it up mountains, in the sea, attached to your bike or your hand glider; but for me the fact that I can film a school play, follow my kids on skis whilst filming or in the pool with the grandchildren learning to swim, makes all the difference. It isn’t just a sports camera, it’s a small, compact family video camera you can use anywhere and everywhere.
I bought mine this year just before we went skiing. They are not cheap and you have to buy spare batteries because each one only lasts a couple of hours. It comes boxed with two fixings (one is for a helmet) which means you have to buy extra accessories if you are not going to wear it on a helmet. A mono pod for instance or a floating pod so if you drop it in water it won’t sink. The kit cost me just under £500 (one extra battery, battery charger, accessories kit from Amazon and the GoPro itself). Definitely an investment.
Our footage was taken on a helmet fixing and on chest straps. Both worked very well, the sound and quality were fantastic. We used voice activation a few times which needed a little getting used to but in cold weather is particularly handy. As I’ve never used a sports camera before it took me longer to get good footage than it did for my son. Getting it wrong when you are in the mountains all day is costly as far as battery life is concerned. I wish I’d bought two extra batteries as a safe guard (I only bought one). However over the seven days we filmed more than enough to make a video we will all enjoy for many years to come.
GoPro have their own editing suite, but I am used to iMovie, so I used that. My son-in-law used the GoPro editing suite and found it very easy to learn. He loved it.
We have since used it for family outings, a summer holiday by the pool, the school play, at parks and playgrounds. It has been great and I am looking forward to our next big trip to New Zealand and all the footage we will take there. Meanwhile though, my smartphone is still the one I use the most because it is always there, ready and waiting, to catch those incredible moments which become our favourite memories.