Monday, February 14, 2011

GoPro LCD Is In My Hands ! UPDATED REVIEW

Hey its here ! Review tonite, with some video showing it in action. 
 
GoPro LCD Screen1GoPro LCD packaging
 
 
GoPro took at least one year to produce their promised LCD screen for the HD series camera. They have been close to fabling RED for vaporware on this one. Now that I got my hands on one of the first ones, was it worth it ?
 
YES ! It just snaps onto the back of the camera body. The image quality for a screen that's barely 2 inches is fine. Since the GoPro cameras don't offer any exposure control except metering pattern, worrying about any sort of critical exposure evaluation would pretty much be pointless. That said, the image on the screen does seem rather good. Color also seems pretty decent and you can have some basic idea of what the camera is recording. The main purpose is of course to simply be able to see what you are actually shooting, and in this job it works very well. If the image seems too small, you can always grab the loupe from your dslr to enlarge it for a quick peak. I'm sure by next week some one will have a bracket to adapt and existing loupe to the camera, and block out stray light.
 
One of the best surprises about the new screen is the ON SCREEN MENU for camera operation. You now get menus in real english, full real words to set the various camera settings that had been odd abbreviations on the front display of the camera. This alone is worth buying at least one screen for, just to use in setting up multiple cameras.
 
One thing I'm surprised at though is there isn't a booster battery available. Yes the LCD does suck the power down faster then without it. There is a menu item to power the display off after 60 sec automatically, even if the camera is in record. This of course should greatly prolong battery life. If you need the screen back on, just hit the button on the side of the viewfinder.
 
Besides the screen itself, the packaging also includes FOUR new case backs - water proof / not water proof versions X standard case and wrist strap case. I had no idea the wrist strap case was  different, but I guess it is. Changing the case backs is simply a matter of snapping the existing one off, and snapping the new one on. When I bought the screen, I also added on a skeleton case - the one with open sides to use the video and USB connections while the camera is mounted. I had no problem swapping the backs around.
 
The LCD screen also supports sound - it has a speaker in it. It works fine during playback. In typical ( and not so great ) GoPro fashion, the LCD button also multifunctions as pause / play while in play back mode, as well as a way to toggle that mode on. No wonder you need a cheat sheet with this cameras to figure them out. Most of that though has been eliminated due to the on screen real words menu system.
In order to get the LCD screen to function, you have to update the camera's firmware. This process is pretty painless in terms of copying one file onto the SD card, and then a series of button holds / presses on the camera. The video explaining how to do it takes longer then the normal process.
 
One thing I will note - after the firmware update, I was shooting a stage show rehearsal. This would be tungsten light. Normally the camera white balances very well, but in this case, with pretty even unfiltered light on the main stage area, the camera went plain old green. It was bad to say the least. thankfully this was a quick B roll shot that wasn't critical to the project, and I'm sure I can correct it to be more neutral. In the end though it should of been more on. I'm not sure if I just hit something odd in that lighting, or if the firmware changed how the camera white balances, but I've never had a white balance problem with the camera in general once it locked onto the color temp. I guess I'll need to do a few more tests to find out.
 
Overall, the new screen is great. It delivers what its supposed to and makes these cameras so much easier to use now.