The GoPro Motorsports Hero Wide is a vehicle-mounted camera system that allows users to quickly record video and take still photographs of a vehicle in motion. The system consists of a camera, a waterproof and shockproof housing, and an assortment of mounting hardware, including a large suction cup.
The Wide, at a price of around £180, immediately won us over with its simplicity. However, once the shine had worn off, we had to acknowledge its thirst for batteries.
The core of the system is the simple and tiny digital camera. The front of the unit features a thumbnail-sized display, a power/mode-select button, a wideangle lens and a red recording light. On top is a shutter button. The back is home to an optical viewfinder and battery door.
With only an hour of recording time using two AAA lithium batteries, you'd better stock up on batteries, or pick up a set of rechargables. The instructions advised against using alkaline batteries because of the harsh temperatures and vibrations to which the unit may be exposed. On one side of the device is the proprietary port for downloading photos, and, on the other side, the SD card slot for your flash media.
What sets the Wide apart from other basic digital-camera systems is the water-resistant, shockproof housing and extensive mounting system that the camera ships with. The housing is made of clear plastic, with a hinged back panel for removal of the camera and a removable lens cover for in-vehicle usage. The housing also features two external, sealed buttons for controlling the device while enclosed. The system has a large suction-cup mount and a variety of articulating arms, joints and adhesive mounting points for more permanent attachment.
With the addition of other accessories from GoPro, the Wide can also be helmet-mounted, strapped to the wrist or attached to just about anything.
The Wide is turned on by holding the power/mode-select button. Next, a shooting mode is chosen by repeatedly pressing the mode-select button. In video mode, the Wide is able to record up to an hour of video with sound at 512x384 pixels on a 2GB SD card. The card is not included.
The camera also features still-photography modes. Interval mode captures about 1,940 5-megapixel still photos at intervals of two or five seconds on a 2GB SD card. There are also single-shot and timer-shot modes.
Finally, in the Wide's settings menu, users can adjust video-playback mode (PAL or NTSC), auto-shut-off timers, and even set the Wide to rotate all captured images 180°, for those times when the unit is mounted upside-down.
The unit ships with an output cable that includes a proprietary connection on one end and a full-sized USB port and RCA AV connection on the other. The device can be connected to a computer for transferring files or to a television for viewing pictures and videos. Finding the right video involves scrolling through all of the media on the card using the two controlling buttons to skip forwards and back.
We selected the video mode and took the Wide for a spirited drive attached to the bumper of the . Try as we might, we were unable to shake the Wide loose as we enthusiastically tossed the Civic around corners.
The Wide's diminutive size and, consequently, weight means that it can be securely mounted in a wide variety of places. However, the tiny chassis also means there's no place for a large screen, so the Hero makes do with a miniscule, monochromatic display. This simple display features tiny -- often cryptic -- icons that can be unreadable in low light, and difficult to understand without consulting the instruction manual. After a few days of use, the simple interface becomes almost second nature, but our first outing was riddled with mistakes. For example, after a day of shooting test videos for this review, we selected an icon that we assumed meant multiple still photos but, in fact, was the delete-all-images icon. At the touch of a button, we'd accidentally deleted a whole day's work.
After reshooting, we found that video shot on a clear and bright day was smooth and clean, although low-resolution. In low light, video quality suffered, so you're not going to want use the Wide for night drives.
Additionally, the Wide has only a single microphone built in, so there's no stereo sound. From inside its sealed case, the Wide only picks up the loudest of noises, and then only barely. If you want engine sound, you'll need to mount the device close to the engine bay or exhaust. For picking up sound when mounted in the cabin, the plastic dome covering the lens can be removed to let in more audio.
Photo quality is very good when there's plenty of light. Photos tended to have a slight graininess to them, but the overall quality is reasonable for a set-up at this price. The extreme wideangle gives a fish-eye effect to all photos, which can make for some interesting shots.
Despite our early mistakes with the tiny screen, the GoPro Motorsports Hero Wide is remarkably easy to use. Both video and photo quality are good but not great.
For the price of the Wide with a few extras, you could easily find a more versatile digital camera that takes better pictures, but, when you add in the cost of a shockproof/waterproof housing and vehicle mount, the GoPro system is an absolute steal. Additional mounts and accessories can also be purchased to expand the unit's usefulness. You'll definitely want to pick up a 2GB SD card and a set or two of rechargeable AAA batteries, while you're at it.
Edited by Charles Kloet