The number “3” seems to be a pretty big deal for action camera manufacturer GoPro. Not only is the HERO3 GoPro’s third generation of high-definition HERO cameras but it also comes in 3 editions. Unlike the previous generation which simply featured different accessory bundles, the HERO3 series actually consists of various models that each have different feature sets and specifications. This is GoPro’s approach to take on the expanding niche market and it starts at the GoPro HERO3 White Edition which is the GoPro’s cheapest camera of the series with half the cost of GoPro’s flagship model.
The design of the GoPro HERO3 White Edition is a bit old-fashioned but it shouldn’t really surprise fans of the HERO2 since it is based on previous HERO models. But at least GoPro went on ahead and slimmed down the camera without sacrificing the internals. In terms of figures, the GoPro HERO3 White Edition is about 30 percent smaller and 25 percent lighter. If you picked up a small object that weighs about 2 and a half ounces, you basically picked up a HERO3 White Edition.
When it comes to size and weight reduction, every little bit helps because you will likely be mounting the device on you. The separate curved and flat adhesive mounts let you do just that. These adhesive mounts have industrial strength and are waterproof so you can attach them to other surfaces as well. A QR buckle is included too. As for other accessories that you have to purchase separately, GoPro has a pretty rich mount ecosystem offering several unique mounts such as The Frame mount which is exclusive to HERO3 models and it serves as a light way to mount the camera while keeping it low profile.
The unit itself isn’t waterproof but a waterproof housing is included in the package and it provides up to 60 meters of protection underwater. The battery is swappable as well so you can carry a spare for trips.
The GoPro HERO3 White Edition is the entry-level model but it still impresses on the video recording front. What stands out is the various recording modes you can choose from. You have the 1080p which is basically the high-quality option at 30 frames per second and a 720p option for high-speed 60 fps sequences that should take up less space as well. You also get a 960p mode if you need that tall aspect ratio and a low quality WVGA resolution which saves even more space and also supports 60 fps. Its photo taking capabilities are a bit more diverse than the competition as it can take multiple burst shots at 3 frames per second and you can use the time-lapse mode to let the HERO3 White Edition automatically take snapshots at a specified interval. Photo resolution maxes out at 5 megapixels which is clearly inferior compared to the other HERO3 editions.
Video quality is noticeably better than its predecessor thanks to the redesigned f/2.8 six-element aspherical lens that enhances the sharpness and further minimizes distortion. Combined with the flat-lens waterproof housing, images remain pretty sharp when actively recording underwater as well.
In terms of usability, there is a small learning curve to face if you haven’t used a GoPro HERO device before. Thanks to the monochromatic LCD display, it is possible to do things like change modes but you have to get used to the menu layout.
All GoPro HERO3 devices including the GoPro HERO3 White Edition come with built-in Wi-Fi which is an impressive feat considering the size reduction of the unit. This means that you no longer need the Wi-Fi BacPac accessory if you want to connect your action camera to your mobile device. Like just about every other modern device with Wi-Fi functionality, you have to download a special app to your iOS or Android device if you want to take advantage of the wireless connectivity. The freely available GoPro app lets you easily preview the camera like a remote viewfinder for simple shot-framing and it doubles as a full remote control giving you access to the camera’s functions. You can also view any stored photos and optionally share them on Facebook or Instagram. It is basically the same app as the one that supports HERO2 devices.
Because of the low price, the HERO3 White Edition doesn’t come bundled with the Wi-Fi remote so you have to shell out $79.99 if you want a more comfortable way to remotely control the GoPro HERO3. A smartphone should be enough for a lot of people but having a separate Wi-Fi remote is still better since it provides physical access to the most important functions. Additionally, it comes with a key ring for easy travel and you can mount it to an accessible spot such as the handlebar of your bike.
The GoPro HERO3 White Edition may sound like a fairly basic action camera but it is going to be the $199 price tag that is going to be turning a lot of heads. That is a very low price for a camera that is very much complete when it comes to essential recording modes and the built-in Wi-Fi seems very generous. With no serious flaws aside from minor usability issues, the HERO3 White Edition is simply one of the best action cameras for this price point. You only need to purchase a higher-tier HERO3 model if you want better image and video quality.
Update: There is a newer model > GoPro HERO6 Black