All posts by Paul Tomblin

GoPro Hero 5 Black battery tests

I’m going to update this table as I do further tests. These are “bench tests” done with the camera mostly stationary in my office or in my work-out room. The idea was just to get a basic idea of whether I’m going to be able to record long kayak races with the camera as-is, or if I’m going to have to figure out how to attach an external battery to it without compromising the waterproofness.

Frame Rate
GPS Image
External Battery Battery Life
4K/30 On Off NA No 92 min
4K/30 Off Off NA No 97 min
4K/30 On Off NA Yes 142 min overheat
98 min
2.7K/60 On Off On No 85 min
2.7K/60 On Off On Yes 290 min
– card filled up
1080p/60 On Off On No 110 min
1080p/60 On Off On Yes 272 min

One additional test: I wanted to see whether being in “standby” mode using a remote consumed a lot of battery power, because if not I could perhaps cover a long race by turning it off and on as action warranted. However, in 4K mode (where I got 92 minutes video in continuous shooting), going 30 minutes on then repeating 15 minutes off and 15 minutes on, I only got a total of 111 minutes total between shooting (66 minutes) and standby (45 minutes). That’s not what I was hoping – basically 45 minutes in standby was equivalent to 26 minutes running.

Note: The “External Battery” in the table is a Novobeam NBP3000 Waterproof USB battery. I’m trying to figure out how to attach it to the camera without compromising the waterproofness of the camera, possibly by covering the USB and HDMI port hatch with Sugru or something similar.

First results with the GoPro Hero 5 Black

First thing I did was turn off gps but leave all the other stuff on (wifi, Bluetooth, voice recognition) and see how long it would record a 4K video before overheating or running out of battery. On the “bench test” i accidentally shut it down at 82 minutes because I didn’t realize that it would keep recording when it had a low battery warning on the screen. But no overheating problem. With the same setup I went paddling in mid to high 40s Fahrenheit and got 92 minutes before the battery completely died and it shut off. That bodes well. I plan to post the paddling video later after I give it the VIRB Edit treatment.

In order to see if it would work if I plumbed in an external battery, I repeated the bench test with a USB battery hooked up. It over heated and shut down after just over two hours. That’s not encouraging. The battery indicator was indicating a nearly full battery though. I let it cool down for 15 minutes or so and started it up, and it’s currently 75 minutes into that test and the battery indicator is saying 19% remaining, which makes me wonder if the first video before it shut down was just the external battery and after is just the internal. I’ve discovered from testing on other cameras that removing the internal battery entirely when you’re using an external battery can solve some overheating – that might be worth a test with a higher capacity external.

For my next test I want to reduce the resolution to 2.7K, increase the frame rate to 60fps and turn on image stabilization and turn off the other features and see how long the battery lasts both with and without external battery. If I could get a three hours or more with the external I might have exactly what I was looking for.

On the other side of the coin, I tried editing the kayaking video using that fancy video editor daVinci Resolver and it was slow as molasses so I gave up. So then I tried in iMovie and it was slow but bearable. I had to shut down just about everything else on the computer though to prevent it from stuttering and dropping frames. Maybe I do need that new MacBook Pro after all.

An actual conversation in YouTube comments

After my great disappointment with the Sony camera, I stumbled across a YouTube video of somebody reviewing some action cameras, some I’d heard of, some I hadn’t, and the Sony. I watched it, and they tested the cameras by going outside in freezing cold weather (it was filmed fairly recently somewhere in Southern Ontario, as far as I can tell). There was snow on the ground, they were dressed in winter clothing. For some odd reason they did all the comparison shooting in nearly dark conditions, which is an odd choice.

For the benefit of others who watched this video, I posted about my overheating problems with the Sony in the waterproof case while shooting 4K. And had to endure the following conversation in the comment section, roughly paraphrased:

  • Commenter 1: What sort of idiot uses a waterproof case in an office? Is your office under water?
  • Me: I’m trying to determine if it will work in the summer on my kayak. I have two choices: try it at room temperature in my office, or fly a few thousand miles south where it’s as warm.
  • Commenter 2: But the conditions outdoors are completely different than indoors – you’re not taking into account heat dissipation due to wind.
  • Me: I’m not taking into effect the effect of bright sunshine or the fact that summer is often much warmer than 20C either. It’s a fair test.
  • Video maker: We didn’t have overheating issues, but we didn’t use the waterproof case. Plus you didn’t take into account splashing.
  • Me: Well no, you wouldn’t have overheating issues without the case – I didn’t either. Neither did I have overheating issues shooting at lower res. But that’s not why I bought the camera. Counting on “splashes” keeping it cool is a $500 gamble I’m not willing to take.

One thing I didn’t mention is that I have another camera that I’ve done a similar bench test in my office and gotten 3+ hours recording (at 1080p), but I tried it several times on my kayak this summer and it has overheated and died after less than an hour. So not only is the bench test a reasonable test for overheating, it actually under-stresses the hardware.

Sony FDR-X3000 going back

So I contacted Sony’s tech support, and they told me both that shutting down in 30 minutes at room temperature is perfectly normal, and that if I sent it back to an authorized repair center, that they might be able to fix it. Wait, is it normal or does it need fixing? The tech support person seemed to think it was both.

That’s the last straw for me. I’m sending it back. According to DC Rainmaker neither the GoPro Hero 5 Black nor the Garmin VIRB Ultra 30 have this problem. I think I’d rather have less than perfect image stabilization but be able to use the whole battery life than have great image stabilization but be unable to film more than 40 minutes of a race.

Sony FDR-X3000, first impressions

So I decided to stop cheaping out on video cameras and buy a top of the line Sony 4K action cam with real image stabilization. In the 24 hours or so I’ve had it, I’ve tried a couple of tests.

First, I put it in the waterproof case (aka “dive housing” because it’s supposedly good to 60 meters). Unlike the new GoPros, the Sony has no water resistance without the case. I had it set up for 4K/30fps, with all the bells and whistles (wifi, Bluetooth, GPS) turned on. It overheated and died after only 30 minutes (a suspiciously round number?). I took it out the case and let it cool a bit, and it continued another 16 minutes. Ok, that’s not great.

Then I put it into airplane mode and tried again, and this time it lasted 40 minutes (another suspiciously round number). I forgot to see if it had some battery left after it cooled down.

Then, leaving it in airplane mode, 4k/30fps, etc, I took it for a walk around the block.

I’m really pretty pleased about the image stabilization here. I looked left to right a bit too much and it didn’t deal well with that, but as I walked along the flat I could feel the camera bouncing a tiny bit in the head strap, and none of that shows in the video. I think it’s going to look pretty good mounted on my boat.

It was 23° F at the time, and I guess we walked for about 20 minutes. I kept the camera running as we came back inside and it continued to run until it had run for exactly 1 hour. (Another suspiciously round number!) After it cooled down, it ran for another 8 minutes before the battery ran out. So I think that proves that it has a definite overheating problem in the waterproof case at room temperature, which does not bode well for kayak races in warm weather.

Yes, unlike canoe racers who prefer it when they have to chisel the ice off their boats, we surf ski paddlers often race in the warm summer sun. That’s why I became a surf ski paddler.

I’ve done another test which is more hopeful. I tried switching it to 1080p/60fps. That’s a very good resolution for recording kayak races because let’s face it, not very many of us have 4k monitors and the extra frame rate makes everything look smoother. This time, in the waterproof case and in Airplane Mode, I got 90 minutes almost exactly. That’s long enough to capture the important part of most races. I’d prefer two hours or more, but I’ve got what I’ve got.

Next, I’ve got to try it at 1080p/60fps with all the bells and whistles turned on. The camera came with a remote control – I could strap the remote to my leg and turn the camera on at the start, turn it off when there’s nobody around, and turn it back on for interesting parts like the finish sprint. That will make synchronizing with my Garmin a bit of a nightmare, but I’ll do what I have to do. Maybe I’ll hit the lap button on my Garmin at the same time or keep a camera that has a longer battery life running at the same time. I don’t know.