Just because I am primarily a Fujifilm shooter doesn’t mean that I don’t love to experiment with other products. GoPro for example has consistently been offering cameras that have been interesting to me. They serve a niche, but within that spectrum they clearly seem to excel. Given that I love (and shoot) action sports, their products have been on my radar for years. I just needed an opportunity to branch out into the GoPro world. This Christmas, Christy gave me that opportunity by gifting me a GoPro Hero 4 Black.
Honestly, at first I was very excited, but a bit noncommittal about the camera. Not that it wasn’t awesome or that there was any lack of excitement on my part, but going from shooting my Fujifilm cameras in manual 99.9% of the time, the prospect of the GoPro camera operating in basically full auto all of the time wasn’t something that I had trust in. I like control. I like being able to learn the inner workings of a system and manage it to the fullest. Upon initial inspection, the “simplistic” system that GoPro provides did not make me feel that I had enough control. This past week, however, I had the opportunity to put the camera through it’s paces. Short story, I was partially right…but that doesn’t mean that it wasn’t incredibly fun.
Let’s get this out of the way - a GoPro might seem simple on the surface, but taking the time to learn the inner workings can be complex and well worth the effort. In my case, I was partially interested in the video opportunities that it presented, but I was really excited to have a wide angle, burst mode, waterproof camera. I spent some time brushing up on what I could do with it. Heading to Florida for break provided the perfect opportunity to work within that space and on day one I put the GoPro through the paces.
My primary test - water. Water is interesting to me, but tricky to photograph. Not that it is hard to photograph, but it is hard to come up with a compelling composition that is worth photographing. Thankfully, I have very active kids that can create scenarios that otherwise may not present themselves.
Here are the results of some burst mode photos.
GOPRO HERO 4 BLACK
As you can see, I didn’t limit myself to water. I am a firm believer that when an interesting perspective presents itself, the best camera in the world is the one you have in your hand. In this case, I was presented with a few other opportunities to try out the GoPro as a new option. Can you blame me?
You might ask, “what did you learn?” from these shots with the GoPro.
Short answer, I learned a lot. Not the least of which is that I won’t be switching to GoPro as a daily shooter, but as stated earlier this is a camera for a niche - and within that niche, it is awesome. One thing that was immediately obvious to me was that as a still camera, the GoPro changed my paradigm. For example, I generally set up for a shot and think a lot about how I want to compose it. I then think about the camera and set it up to support my vision, before shooting anything. With the GoPro, there was very little of that. If I could formulate the idea in my mind, get in position and I would just start shooting until the opportunity presented itself. For 20 usable images, I shot approximately 200 photos. That is a huge difference to how I generally shoot.
To that end, not being able to see what I was composing was a bit disconcerting at first. Clearly, the design of the GoPro in general is meant to serve size over compositional convenience, but once I got the hang of where the field of view was, it actually became relatively liberating. Before long, I was just pointing it at a scene and firing away with abandon (see previous “…shot approximately 200 photos…” statement). It was pretty carefree.
Definitively, within its niche, the GoPro is fantastic.
For action shots, I learned that it is hard to beat. With little to no effort on my part, it largely out performed my Canon 5D MKII or my X-T1 - again, for action shots. You could argue that it doesn’t shoot RAW or that you can’t change aperture, speed, etc., etc., etc. and you would be right. That isn't the set that it is trying to compete with though. This is truly a waterproof point and shoot camera and one that requires very little from the shooter. It is severely limited to it’s niche. I would be hard pressed to use it for much outside of the action genre, but I do feel a bit compelled to take it out next time I shoot a skateboarder, runner or cyclist to see if it can do better than my X-T1… you know, for fun! And ultimately, that is what I found the GoPro to be - dead simple fun.