Category Archives: Geekery

Paddling the GoPro

With the GoPro mounted on my lovely Jim Smith bow mount, I took it out on the Genessee River to see how it looks. And I have to say, I think it looks awesome (ok, as I write this it’s only a few minutes after I uploaded it to YouTube and YouTube is only showing it in 360p, but trust me when I say it looks great in 4K). The GoPro doesn’t have image stabilization in 4K, but on a flat water trip like this, it doesn’t need it. And I love the position – the Jim Smith mount puts it just at about the right height, and it feels firm.

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.

Resolution/
Frame Rate
Wifi/
Bluetooth/
Voice
GPS Image
Stabilization
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.