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.
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.
|External Battery||Battery Life|
|4K/30||On||Off||NA||Yes||142 min overheat
– card filled up
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 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.
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.
Jim and I went for a paddle. This is my first paddle since early November when I had discovered that I’d started up paddling a bit too soon after the carpal tunnel surgery. I’ve erged a bunch since then, so I felt like I was ready.
It’s my first time wearing the dry suit since spring, and it was a bit of a struggle to remember what to wear. I remember my feet being cold last year, so I wore two pairs of socks under the dry suit and neoprene socks and paddling shoes over them. It turned out that it was a tight fit and still wasn’t warm enough – possibly the lack of room negated whatever advantage the extra pair of socks gave. I think I may have to try Jim’s idea of using a chemical heater and one pair of socks.
The funny thing is that when I was paddling I was sure I could feel my feet getting wet, but when I checked my socks afterward, they were only a tiny bit damp. Most of my other under clothes were damp as well, but that was definitely from sweat.
The current was ripping. We did a pretty consistent 10 mins/km upstream, and 5 mins/km downstream. My foot strap let go when I got in the boat and with all the clothes and the excess fat, I couldn’t reach it to fix it so I had to put my GPS on my wrist, but then it was hidden under my pogie so I couldn’t see it unless I stopped. Wearing the GPS on your wrist means your speed is crazy up and down depending on whether your arm is going back or forward when it takes a reading, but also it means that it recorded a stroke rate.
Other than my hands, I was remarkably comfortable. I’m out of shape and out of practice, but it sure felt great. I’d rather paddle than erg any day.