New GoPro Hero3+ Black – Bad and Good

Written by: Tony Korologos | Date: Thursday, November 14th, 2013
Categories: Aerial ImageryGoProPhotographyReviews


I just made my first flights with the new GoPro Hero3+ Black edition.  My first videos and photos were very disappointing.  The fisheye lens effect I was hoping to get rid of was still there, and it looked worse.

I dug into the manual for the GoPro Hero3+ Black and excitedly found that some capture settings could be customized.  There are settings for super-wide, medium and narrow width with regards to video or still images.  My excitement was squashed as soon as I looked at what I captured in those settings.  The distortion is still there, but the width is cropped so the worst distortion is simply cut out.

Focus Problems

I’ve read in several forums online (namely here and here) that the 3+ Black model may have some focus problems.  It seems that the unit is focused well on short distances of a few feet, but long distances are out of focus.  This is obviously bad for aerial photography and video.  All of the data I capture will be from far more than the 2-3 feet the Black is best focused on.

I have more research to do and heard that GoPro was replacing units within a certain serial number range which have the problem.  I have yet to check my serial number, or closely look at my images to see if they’re out of focus or not.


The video quality and colors seem better than the old GoPro.  Also, the new image capture is a 12 megapixel file, instead of a 5 megapixel.

One other GREAT thing is that there’s a setting in which the camera can simultaneously capture video AND still images.  I can set the camera to capture HD video, and take a photo ever 1, 5, 10, 30 60 seconds.

I have yet to determine if the image quality is different when capturing video at the same time versus straight image mode.

Right Side Upside Down

My current mount, which isn’t a gimbal, is setup for hanging the GoPro from the quadcopter.  I can use the waterproof case for the Hero3+ Black to hang it and it works great.  But, the camera is upside down.  I’d already figured that I would have to rotate my photos and videos 180 degrees until I found that the new GoPro has an “upside down” mode.  Problem solved!

And a great byproduct of mounting the Hero3+ Black in the waterproof case is that the wind noise is gone.  Of course the video still has the sound of the motors/props, but it is not the horridly distorted sound of wind blowing out the crappy onboard mic.

Lens Distortion – Possible Solution

In analyzing the images I found that some of the lens distortion was extreme and some not.  The extreme cases were situations where the angle of the camera was such that the horizon was being captured by the top of the lens, where there is a large amount of fisheye effect.  The fisheye effect is more severe toward the outer edges of the lens.  The images which were acceptable to my eye were those in which the horizon was in the center of the lens, which is where the least amount of distortion is.

The conclusion based on the findings above, is that I’m happy with video or images which are captured when the horizon or crucial data is hitting the center of the image frame.  Therefore, the angle the camera is at during capture is crucial.

The problems with the camera angle situation are that the quadcopter pitches when it is flying.  It does not stay level.  The higher the throttle, the more of a pitched angle the copter is in.  And the copter can be pitched at an angle when it is hovering, if there is a wind which the copter is fighting against.

The solution to all of this camera angle and copter pitch?  Installing a gimbal (device which keeps camera at a set level) and making sure it is set to the proper angle.

I now have a gimbal and will be installing/testing it soon.

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