GoPro offers three versions of the Hero3 camcorder. For $199 there's the Hero3: White Edition, which is essentially the original HD Hero camcorder in a new body. The Hero3: Silver Edition is available for $299, and—you guessed it—it's more or less the HD Hero2 in a new body. The Hero3: Black Edition, the model reviewed here, is an entirely new camcorder with all new features and specs. At $399 it is the priciest of the bunch, but if you're looking to upgrade over the Hero2, then it's worth it.


Smaller is better, right? At least that's GoPro's thinking with the Hero3, as the camcorder is 30% smaller and 25% lighter than its predecessors. Since all of the size reduction came by making the new camcorder thinner, you won't see a difference if you stare at the Hero3 head-on from the front. Looking down from the top, however, you'll see GoPro turned the Hero3 into a sleek rectangle by removing a lot of space from its back. At least part of the smaller size has to come from the Hero3's new battery design, which takes up far less space than the long, thin battery that powered the Hero2.

The Hero3's waterproof housing got a few design changes as well. The new case is smaller (so the smaller Hero3 fits snugly), has an improved locking mechanism, and it features a flat-lens enclosure. By simply switching over to a flat lens design, rather than the convex cover the Hero2's waterproof case featured, the Hero3 is able to produce sharper video and less distortion underwater. The case also has three button inputs instead of two, in order to accommodate the Hero3's extra WiFi control button.

While the new locking mechanism of the case does make for a tighter seal, it also makes the case harder to open. The new lock has a release switch that must be pushed while simultaneously pulling up on the locking clamp. This makes the likelihood of the lock accidentally slipping open less of a possibility, but, at the same time, it's a whole lot more difficult to actually open the case. If that difficulty means more security underwater, then GoPro's new design is certainly a good thing.

Front Tour Image
Back Tour Image
Left Tour Image
Top Tour Image
Bottom Tour Image
Box Photo

The GoPro Hero3: Black Edition comes with the following items:

• Hero3: Black Edition camera

• Waterproof housing (waterproof up to 197 feet)

• WiFi remote w/ key ring

• Remote charging cable

• Rechargeable lithium-ion battery

• QR buckle

• J-hook buckle

• 3-way pivot

• Curved adhesive mount

• Flat adhesive mount

• Assorted mount hardware (screws)

• USB cable

Adventure cams improved across the board this year, but GoPro's top-of-the-line Hero3 is the best one of all. The Hero3: Black Edition recorded sharp video with smooth motion and very good low light performance—all three being areas that the previous Hero2 struggled with. The camcorder also kept noise levels low and handled colors decently, although some may prefer the more accurate tones captured by the Contour+2.

Motion and sharpness were the Hero3: Black Edition's areas of excellence. Thanks to the camcorder's multiple frame rate options, the Hero3 is able to capture a variety of different aesthetics. There's a 60p mode that's great for fast-paced action shots (which is probably what most GoPros are used for), and there's even a 24p mode that gives you a more cinematic look. The camcorder's high-res 4K an d 2.7K record modes are impressive, but neither mode captured a sharper or more detailed image than the regular full HD 1080p settings. The videos in these high-res modes are physically larger, however, which does enable the user to crop out unwanted portions and still be left with a full HD image.

In bright light recording, using the camcorder's auto white balance system, the Hero3 managed a color error of 4.25 and a saturation level of 109%. These numbers are a tad better than the Hero2 produced last year, but the Contour+2 was a stronger model in this test. Still, these are good, even colors for the Hero3: Black Edition camcorder. More on how we test color.




GoPro Hero3: Black Edition Color Modes

1080p Bright


1080p Low Light


*Bright 2.7K ProTune

In order to get a better idea of the Hero3's overall color performance, we ran the camcorder's low light color tests using a variety of different shooting modes. The basic 1080/30p mode without ProTune turned on did the best: 3.99 color error with 92% color saturation. Those numbers are a bit better than the competition, so they're very good for an adventure cam.

For those who are curious, the Hero3's color error went up to 4.24 with ProTune turned on while recording 1080/30p video. The saturation level also dropped down to 83% using that mode. Shooting 2.7K and 4K video, both with ProTune, resulted in similar numbers as the 1080/30p ProTune recording. Basically, using ProTune mutes the colors a bit, but that's all by design. The mode is meant for you to make color changes in post production, so accuracy and saturation levels aren't that important here. More on how we test low light color.



Noise results measured around 0.78% for the Hero3 in our bright light test. This number represents a massive improvement over the Hero2, but compared to other models it's not an exceptional score. The Contour+2 again outperformed the Hero3 here, while the Sony Action Cam showed a bit more noise. More on how we test noise.


We've seen plenty of impressive low light sensitivity scores from adventure cams, but the Hero3: Black Edition is one of the best. The camcorder offers a special setting called ProTune that is designed for professionals who want to harness the full power of the camcorder's capabilities. Shooting in low light, the ProTune setting makes a huge difference in sensitivity. The Hero3: Black Edition needed just two lux of light to record a usable image with ProTune engaged. Without ProTune, the camcorder still got by with ease, requiring just six lux of light to record an image with the same brightness levels. More on how we test low light sensitivity.

Using ProTune does add more noise to your image, though, and it kind of drains the color from the recording by using a neutral white balance setting. The idea is you can get rid of some of this noise and enhance the colors in post production, so ProTune is really only recommended for people who are planning to edit their footage later. Either way, we like this bit of extra control that gives the user the ability to boost low light performance if needed.

Also, keep in mind all these results were obtained using the camcorder's 1080/30p record mode. Low light sensitivity may increase slightly when using a 24p frame rate, and you may need a bit more light when shooting 60p video.

Our noise test was also conducted with ProTune settings turned on and off with the Hero3: Black Edition. With ProTune off, the camcorder registered 0.9% noise in low light—a very good score. This number shot up just a bit to 1.1% with ProTune turned on. This gives you an idea of the "extra" noise we talked about in our low light sensitivity tests with ProTune. Whatever mode you use, the Hero3: Black Edition will definitely show less noise than the Hero2 camcorder, which produced a very noisy image in low light. The Sony Action Cam and Contour+2, however, both matched (actually slightly bested) the Hero3's noise performance. More on how we test low light noise.


In order to get a better idea of the Hero3's overall color performance, we ran the camcorder's low light color tests using a variety of different shooting modes. The basic 1080/30p mode without ProTune turned on did the best: 3.99 color error with 92% color saturation. Those numbers are a bit better than the competition, so they're very good for an adventure cam.

For those who are curious, the Hero3's color error went up to 4.24 with ProTune turned on while recording 1080/30p video. The saturation level also dropped down to 83% using that mode. Shooting 2.7K and 4K video, both with ProTune, resulted in similar numbers as the 1080/30p ProTune recording. Basically, using ProTune mutes the colors a bit, but that's all by design. The mode is meant for you to make color changes in post production, so accuracy and saturation levels aren't that important here. More on how we test low light color.



Frankly, it's somewhat absurd to see so many frame rate options on the Hero3: Black Edition. GoPro managed to stuff more frame rates into this little camcorder than most flagship camcorders contain, and that's just crazy. Is the Hero3 that much farther ahead than the norm, or is the rest of the camcorder industry just that far behind? Either way, the Hero3 is able to record spectacular motion video, in part thanks to its multiple frame rate options. Want video that you can slow down later in post? Shoot using the Hero3: Black Edition's 120fps or 240fps record modes. Want a film-like aesthetic? The camcorder has multiple modes that let you shoot with a cinematic 24fps frame rate. Need smooth motion for an action sequence? You can shoot full HD video at 60fps with the Hero3.

In general, the Hero3 showed very smooth video in our motion test, especially when shooting with its 60p frame rate. Some of the higher-res record modes, like the 4K settings, don't offer the luxury of higher frame rates, so your video will look quite choppy in these modes. But if you stick to the camcorder's 1080p record mode, your motion videos should consistently look good. Artifacting was present, but not a problem in most shots, video looked smooth, and trailing was kept to a minimum. Every now and then the Hero3 did glitch out on us, producing video that looked discolored and wonky. Once, the entire video even turned blue. This was all probably due to a processor mishap when changing record modes, and a simple restart of the camcorder fixed the problem. More on how we test motion.

Hero3: Black Edition ProTune Examples

See below for a full discussion of the available resolution and frame rate options for the

There are a ton of record modes on the Hero3, possibly too many for some users. In addition to recording standard 1080p and 720p HD video, the Hero3: Black Edition has options for recording 4K Ultra HD and 2.7K video. These modes produce video at a much higher resolution than regular HD content, but they come with plenty of caveats. First of all, most people don’t have televisions or monitors capable of displaying video at a higher resolution than 1920 × 1080. This makes shooting 4K somewhat useless, as there aren’t many ways to harness the full potential of the setting.

The Hero3 also limits the frame rate for 4K recording to 15fps or 12fps, depending on the mode being used. These frame rates are too low to produce smooth motion, which means you wouldn’t want to use these settings to capture high-speed action sequences. The 2.7K settings do allow for more motion-friendly frame rates of 24fps and 30fps. In regular 1080p HD mode the Hero3 has options for 60, 48, 30, or 24fps recording, giving you far more flexibility when shooting video.

Another thing to note: the 4K and 2.7K recording options are only available on the Black Edition of the Hero3. The Silver and White Editions both top out with 1080p HD recording.
Like the Contour+2, the Hero3: Black Edition has a few high-speed record modes, but these settings don’t produce slow motion in-camera. You have to take the recorded footage and slow it down using an editing program in order to get the slow motion effect. If A GoPro rep or salesperson told you the Hero3 can do slow motion, they were lying. Kinda.

The camcorder’s highest frame rate option is a 240fps mode that shoots standard-definition video at an 848 × 480 resolution. This setting is labeled as WVGA in the camcorder’s menu, and, like we said, the videos shot in this mode won’t appear any slower unless you alter them using post-production software. Additionally, the Black Edition of the Hero3 can shoot 720p HD video at 120fps.

The Hero3: White Edition has none of these high-speed record modes, but the Silver Edition includes a single 120fps slow motion mode for standard-definition video. All versions of the Hero3 camcorders offer time-lapse photo modes that take photos at various intervals.

The Hero3: Black Edition has a completely new sensor compared to what GoPro included on the Hero2, so it's not surprising that the camcorder was able to improve the sharpness of its videos. What's truly interesting, though, is that the Hero3's high-res options—the 4K and 2.7K record modes—didn't really enhance sharpness levels. Those modes simply produced videos that are larger in size than a traditional 1920 x 1080 full HD image.

For regular 1920 x 1080 video, the Black Edition of the Hero3 managed a horizontal sharpness of 700 lw/ph and a vertical sharpness of 750 lw/ph. Both of these numbers represent a significant increase over the Hero2 (600 lw/ph horizontal, 575 lw/ph vertical). In the 2.7K record mode the sharpness levels barely budged, increasing to around 725 lw/ph horizontal and 800 lw/ph vertical. The 4K record mode showed the same sharpness levels as the 2.7K mode. So, it's not like these modes are capturing clearer images than the 1080p setting. But the 2.7K and 4K settings are recording physically larger videos than the 1080p mode. This lets you crop out portions of the 4K and 2.7K videos in order to create a 1080p video that has no loss in quality. More on how we test video sharpness.

Hero3: Black Edition Motion Tests

Hero3: Black Edition ProTune Examples


Hero3: Car Mount Sample Video

Adventure Cam Wide Angle Comparison

Hero3: Dog Sample Video

It may not look like it, but GoPro made some drastic changes to the way the Hero3 handles compared to its predecessor. The most glaring change may be connectivity options, as the Hero3 lacks the built-in mic jack that made recording audio with an external mic so easy on the Hero2. Instead, GoPro sells a USB mic adapter for the Hero3 that you must purchase separately. If you're used to doing interviews or other shoots where audio is very important, make sure you're aware of this change with the Hero3.

The Hero3 still has no onboard LCD for framing your videos, but it has the same tiny screen that can be used for making menu adjustments and changing settings. One new function the Hero3 does have is built-in WiFi—a feature that was only available as an add-on with the Hero2. This WiFi functionality lets you control the camcorder with your smartphone (using an Apple or Android app), as well as use your smartphone as a remote viewfinder. The Hero3: Black Edition also comes with a wireless remote control.

The built-in WiFi is a must-have feature for all adventure cams these days, so it's great GoPro went ahead and included it on the Hero3. But we weren't blown away by the way the system worked on our iPhone 4S. It was fairly easy to pair the camcorder to our phone, but the free application was slow to load and even crashed a few times when we worked with it. Worst of all, the remote viewfinder function suffers from a terrible delay—often two or three seconds—which means framing your shot with your smartphone can be a huge pain. The best part about the app is that it gives you quick access to all of the camcorders settings, so changing record modes can be done very easily. You don't have to tediously cycle through the menu system on the camcorder itself using the tiny screen and buttons. The wireless remote control also gives you easier access to menu navigation, but it's not nearly as good as using the app on your smartphone.


Yes, the Hero3: Black Edition camcorder can shoot 4K video. But, no, the feature isn't as impressive as it sounds. 4K video is limited to a 15fps frame rate, which results in choppy video that makes moving subjects look like garbage. The camcorder does have a smoother 2.7K setting, a mode that results in video twice as large as regular 1080p HD video, but even that setting wasn't all that impressive. Why do we say this? Well, the 4K and 2.7K recording modes didn't really show any improvement in detail, sharpness, or image quality compared to the Hero3's 1080p record mode. The video files are simply larger. Having larger videos does have benefits, though, as it gives you the ability to crop a full HD image from a larger image (something that can come in handy with the Hero3's wide-angle recording). Take our word for it: unless you want to crop your videos later, shooting with the Hero3's 1080p record mode is perfectly fine. Your videos will look just as good and your computer will thank you later (playing back 4K content can be very taxing).

Even without the 4K and 2.7K record modes, the Hero3: Black Edition is loaded with a freakish amount of frame rate options and resolution settings. You can shoot 1080p with four different frame rates (60, 48, 30, or 24fps), and you can also shoot video at 720p, 1440p, or 960p with a variety of frame rates. A 240fps high-speed frame rate is available, but only record standard definition video, and the camcorder does not slow this video down in-camera. You need to do that yourself in post production in order to get a sleek slow-mo shot.

Let's not forget all of the Hero3's photo options. The camcorder can shoot 12-megapixel still images, and you can easily set it up to shoot time-lapse videos or a burst of shots to capture action sequences. Like the previous Hero2, the Hero3 has three different field of view options (wide, medium, and narrow), but for some record modes only the widest setting is available. The new ProTune setting on the Hero3: Black Edition makes use of higher recording bitrates and a neutral white balance setting, and the mode is clearly in place for pros. Videos shot with ProTune may not look great at first, as they are meant to be worked with in post production. ProTune clips will take much better to color enhancement and other cosmetic changes than the Hero3's regular recordings will. The idea is simple: if you're a pro who will be editing your footage, you should consider using the ProTune mode. If you're just shooting video and immediately uploading it to YouTube, then leave ProTune turned off.

The Hero3: Black Edition uses the H.264 codec to encode videos, and it saves these files in the .mp4 file format. The camcorder mostly offers HD recording options, but there is one standard definition mode that is used to capture 240fps video that is ideal for turning into slow motion video in post production.

Another key feature is the Hero3's new Protune mode, which allows the camcorder to use higher bitrates when recording video in order to get better quality images. According to GoPro, the Protune mode not only uses higher recording bitrates, but it also captures video using a neutral color profile that gives the user more color-correcting power in post production. The Protune mode can be turned on and off in the Hero3's menu system, but the camcorder's two 4K modes require Protune to be engaged. Read more about the advantages and disadvantages of various high definition compression types.

GoPro made the switch that we all assumed was coming: the Hero3 records video to MicroSD memory cards instead of regular SD cards. This change was probably a necessity in order to cut down the size of the Hero3, but it's something we don't appreciate. MicroSD cards are so small that they're easy to lose, easy to break, and aren't as easy to find in stores. They also tend to be more expensive than regular SD cards, although this may be changing now that MicroSD becomes a more popular form of media. Besides the difference in size, there really isn't much of a difference between MicroSD and SD, so the workflow involved with using the cards is basically identical. Read more about the advantages and disadvantages of various media types.

Media Photo

There are a ton of record modes on the Hero3, possibly too many for some users. In addition to recording standard 1080p and 720p HD video, the Hero3: Black Edition has options for recording 4K Ultra HD and 2.7K video. These modes produce video at a much higher resolution than regular HD content, but they come with plenty of caveats. First of all, most people don't have televisions or monitors capable of displaying video at a higher resolution than 1920 x 1080. This makes shooting 4K somewhat useless, as there aren't many ways to harness the full potential of the setting.

The Hero3 also limits the frame rate for 4K recording to 15fps or 12fps, depending on the mode being used. These frame rates are too low to produce smooth motion, which means you wouldn't want to use these settings to capture high-speed action sequences. The 2.7K settings do allow for more motion-friendly frame rates of 24fps and 30fps. In regular 1080p HD mode the Hero3 has options for 60, 48, 30, or 24fps recording, giving you far more flexibility when shooting video.

Another thing to note: the 4K and 2.7K recording options are only available on the Black Edition of the Hero3. The Silver and White Editions both top out with 1080p HD recording.

Like the Contour+2, the Hero3: Black Edition has a few high-speed record modes, but these settings don't produce slow motion in-camera. You have to take the recorded footage and slow it down using an editing program in order to get the slow motion effect. If A GoPro rep or salesperson told you the Hero3 can do slow motion, they were lying. Kinda.

The camcorder's highest frame rate option is a 240fps mode that shoots standard-definition video at an 848 x 480 resolution. This setting is labeled as WVGA in the camcorder's menu, and, like we said, the videos shot in this mode won't appear any slower unless you alter them using post-production software. Additionally, the Black Edition of the Hero3 can shoot 720p HD video at 120fps.

The Hero3: White Edition has none of these high-speed record modes, but the Silver Edition includes a single 120fps slow motion mode for standard-definition video. All versions of the Hero3 camcorders offer time-lapse photo modes that take photos at various intervals.

The Hero3: Black Edition is loaded with a good number of useful photography options. The camcorder can take photos in three resolutions—12, 7, or 5 megapixels—with two additional options for switching between wide (16:9) or medium (4:3) aspect ratios. Photos can be captured during video, albeit with some limitations (e.g. photos are limited to 8 megapixels during 1080/30p recording). You can burst shoot up to 30 photos per second, the camcorder has three continuous photo modes (2, 5, or 10 photos per second), and there's a time-lapse mode that can shoot at 1/2, 1, 2 , 510, 30, or 60 second intervals.

The Silver and White Edition of the Hero3 camcorders have far more limited photo features, with neither camcorder offering the ability to take still photos during recording. The Silver Edition tops out with an 11-megapixel still image resolution, while the White Edition takes a maximum of 5-megapixel photos.

In case this wasn't already clear, the Hero3 isn't a waterproof or durable product by itself. It's a tiny little box that, if dropped from a significant height, would probably suffer some significant damage. To solve this issue of durability, GoPro ships a hearty waterproof case with the little camcorder that can protect it from falls and will allow the Hero3 to be used underwater—up to 197 feet.

The case is slimmer than last year's design for the Hero2, and that makes sense considering the Hero3 is slimmer as well. It also has three fancy push buttons that give you access to buttons and controls on the camcorder even when the Hero3 is inside of the case. This means you don't have to take it out of the case in order to turn it on or get the WiFi working. The case is entirely enclosed (it's waterproof, duh), so you can't access ports or remove the battery pack when the Hero3 is inside the case. GoPro does sell a bare-bones "frame" case that lets you mount the Hero3 while still allowing the user to access ports and the such (the frame is not waterproof, though).

Unlike the Hero2, which came bundled with a variety of mounts and accessories, the Hero3 only comes with a few mounts and attachments. In addition to the waterproof case, you get a couple of adhesive mounts and a pivoting arm mount, but you don't get a helmet mount or a suction cup mount like you could get with the Hero2 package. These mounts are still available—and if you had them for the Hero2 they will certainly work with the Hero3—but you do have to purchase them separately. The Black Edition is available with a surfboard mount on GoPro's site (called the Black Edition—Surf).

If you're looking to upgrade from your HD Hero2, the Hero3: Black Edition should give you plenty to be excited about. The enhanced video performance means your videos will be sharper, have more detail in low light, and moving subjects will look smoother than anything you shot with the Hero2. In addition to being both smaller and lighter than its predecessor, the Hero3's built-in WiFi functions make it an easier camcorder to us, especially if you have a smartphone.

Unfortunately, the smaller size of the Hero3 also means GoPro had to get rid of a few connectivity options. There's no mic jack on the Hero3, which is something we loved having on the Hero2, and the Hero3 also makes use of MicroSD cards rather than regular SD memory cards. But the superior performance on the Hero3: Black Edition should be enough to keep peoples frustrations about the lack of a mic jack at bay. Besides, you can always get a USB-microphone conversion cable from GoPro that works with the camcorder.

Even with its otherworldly specs (4K recording, multiple frame rates, 12-megapixel photos), the Hero3: Black Edition does have some stiff competition coming from Contour. The Contour+2 has the same $399 price tag as the Black Edition of the Hero3, and it makes for a worthy opponent thanks to a few cool features that are unique to the adventure-cam market. With its hard shell and water-resistant body, the Contour+2 is a more durable camcorder than the Hero3, and the tripod mount on the base of the camcorder itself makes it much more versatile when it comes to mounting. Contour's awesome rotatable lens design and built-in laser sight also help make mounting the camcorder a far easier process.

The Contour+2 also has more manual controls than the Hero3, with options for adjusting exposure, contrast, and sharpness via the camcorder's mobile app. The Contour+2 is certainly a bulkier camcorder than the Hero3, and it has far less video and photo functions (you can't shoot 4K on any of Contour's products), but the camcorder still put up good numbers in our video tests.

The Hero3: Black Edition had an unquestionable edge when it came to video quality, particularly in low light, and it's excellent performance alone makes it the best adventure cam we've reviewed so far. But the Contour+2 has just enough flair and unique capabilities for it to be an attractive alternative.

Meet the testers

Jeremy Stamas

Jeremy Stamas

Managing Editor, Video

@nematode9

Jeremy is the video expert of our imaging team and Reviewed.com's head of video production. Originally from Pennsylvania and upstate NY, he graduated from Bard college with a degree in film and electronic media. He has been living and working in New England since 2005.

See all of Jeremy Stamas's reviews
Jeremy Stamas

Jeremy Stamas

Managing Editor, Video

@nematode9

Jeremy is the video expert of our imaging team and Reviewed.com's head of video production. Originally from Pennsylvania and upstate NY, he graduated from Bard college with a degree in film and electronic media. He has been living and working in New England since 2005.

See all of Jeremy Stamas's reviews

Checking our work.

We use standardized and scientific testing methods to scrutinize every product and provide you with objectively accurate results. If you’ve found different results in your own research, email us and we’ll compare notes. If it looks substantial, we’ll gladly re-test a product to try and reproduce these results. After all, peer reviews are a critical part of any scientific process.

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