In my review of the GoPro HD Hero2 (see related links), I mentioned that there was no viewfinder included with the the standard package. Now while many people using this unit for extreme sports may not find that this is an issue, my usage means I want the ability to be frame my shots, whether video or stills. You know a product is a good one when you’re willing to supplement your review sample with your own money, so after finding that Amazon shipped these to Australia (and it’s about the only GoPro accessory they will), I ended up ordering the LCD BacPac. Does it complete the picture ? Read on…….
While the wide angle lens on the Hero2 means you don’t have to worry too much about precise framing, I’m sure anyone with a GoPro Hero2 HD is going to be pretty disappointed if their action packed car chase scene is taken up with 90% dashboard or that gnarly skate session has only recorded your feet. The fact that the lens is offset to the left of the camera doesn’t help either when “guessing” what you’re aiming at.
What’s in the box
Besides the LCD itself, you also get back doors for a number of applications. For your standard housing there’s a skeleton door for less extreme conditions where sound and heat are an issue and then a waterproof housing that means you can take your camera and LCD to 60m. There are also skeleton and waterproof back doors for GoPro’s wrist housing. Now if I get on green soap box, WHY ? These two doors have been manufactured and then shipped to me. They’ll most likely sit in my cupboard until I decide to turn them into landfill. Surely there’s a more economical and environmentally way of providing these doors to those who need them. Maybe ship them with the wrist housing instead, I’m sure there’s less wrist housings sold than LCD BacPacs or even ship them for free to people who request them. Surely that must be both financially and ecologically cheaper ? /rant over
The LCD BacPac “hinges’ on the right hand side of the camera and then slots into the Hero BUS slot. You can see that the BacPac does add some bulk and weight to the standard camera, so the convenience does come at a price. Obviously the new back for the housing will also be a lot bulker than the standard housing.
The LCD BacPac not only allows you to frame your shots but also adds the ability to play videos and photos for review will in situ. So no more taking footage and finding that you’ve videoed/shot the wrong thing once you get home. For video, the small speaker on the side adds sound sufficient to review your audio. You can also adjust the brightness and volume of the BacPac unit.
Obviously using an LCD panel is going to mean your battery takes a hit. The LCD panel can be either left on all the time or made to auto off after 60s. In addition, pressing the button will also turn the LCD panel on and off. GoPro makes a Battery BacPac which doubles the battery capacity of the GoPro; however, you cannot stack the Battery and LCD Bacpacs.
The LCD makes it easier to navigate the menu system, though really you’re only swapping the output to the LCD rather than the front smaller screen. Pretty much the same symbols that appear on the front LCD appear on the back LCD. It’s still a bit tedious to get to the more embedded options and a pain if you miss an option and have to go back.
One new feature the Hero2 HD has over the original Hero HD is that the front LCD panel has a much easier interface to understand. In the original, the LCD showed cryptic codes for video modes (there was a decryption legend on the back of the camera), so 1080P@30fps @ 127 FOV would show as “R5″ on the front LCD panel. On the Hero2, this would show as ”1080-25″ on the front panel. That’s a step forward, but we’re back to the cryptic codes with the LCD BacPac installed (see top left of LCD screen). So if I don’t want to use the front LCD panel, I now need to remember the codes.
Those who already own an original Hero HD might get confused, as the R4 code on the Hero is 720@50fps, whereas the R4 code on a Hero2 means 960P @ 25. Not an issue for me since I’ve never memorised the Hero HD codes but ….
In addition, another “selling point” of the Hero2 is that it has 4 “operating” LEDs on it so that no matter what angle you’re at you can see if you’re recording. The LCD BacPac covers the rear one, so if the LCD is off, you can’t actually tell if the unit is recording. Yes, the small video icon goes red when I’m recording, but that’s no good if I have the LCD panel turned off.
The GoPro LCD BacPac does exactly what it’s meant to do. It gives you the peace of mind that you’re able to properly and quickly frame your videos and stills and allows you to easily review the footage you’ve taken while on location without having to transfer the data to a tablet or notebook. Covering the rear activity LED is a bit of an issue which I’m sure I’ll get over, and the video codes are a very minor gripe (but to me worth mentioning) :).
For me, the additional bulk and weight and potential battery hit are definitely worth it just for my peace of mind.