The GoPro Hero 3 action camera is totally rad! Here's how to control it from a smartphone
The GoPro HERO can be described as an extreme sports camera. The new HERO3 model, in particular, has a 6-lens optical system with ultra-wide field of view and it is capable of shooting high-resolution video at high framerates. When placed in its waterproof housing, the little snapper can be safely taken down to 60 meters (197 feet) underwater, while accessories allow it to be mounted and worn on one's head or chest. On top of it all, the GoPro HERO3 has built-in Wi-Fi connectivity, which allows one to control the camera's settings and the shutter remotely. Totally rad, isn't it?
We are using a GoPro HERO3 Black Edition for the purpose of this article, and there are two ways of controlling it remotely. One is to use the Wi-Fi remote control, which is included in the set with our model. The other is to download the official GoPro app, available for free on iOS, Android, and Windows Phone 8. We chose to stick with the latter method. However, setting up the GoPro HERO3 and its remote control features is a tricky, time-consuming process. The camera's software must be updated first via the company's website, so to do that you need a computer connected to the internet. Thankfully, the well-written instructions make the procedure a tad less frustrating than it is, although it is still pretty frustrating. While the new software is being flashed, we strongly recommend you to familiarize yourself with the camera's user manual, in case you haven't done so already.
Using the GoPro smartphone app
The official GoPro app provides you with a viewfinder, allowing you to see what the camera "sees". That makes composing the shot much, much easier since the camera does not have a viewfinder of its own. Of course, you can trigger the shutter to take photos or videos and adjust the camera's settings. And setting up the camera's mode, resolution and framerate from a smartphone is at least 9000 times more convenient than fiddling through the confusing menus on its microscopic built-in LCD display.
Unfortunately, there's a boatload of things that the GoPro app cannot do, even though it absolutely should. First and foremost, there is no live view while capturing videos, meaning that once video recording has begun, you can't see what's being recorded. Perhaps there's some kind of technical limitation that does not allow this, but that's just a guess. Other features, however, the GoPro guys have no excuse for leaving out – there is no way of taking a look at photos and videos that are already stored on the camera's memory card. On top of that, files cannot be transferred from the camera's storage onto the device it is being controlled from. Yes, we know that's ridiculous. But even if the app had that feature, you still wouldn't have had the chance to share these photos online instantly. That's because while your smartphone is connected to the GoPro, it is practically cut off from the internet. A way of forcing it to connect to a cellular data network is to turn the GoPro's Wi-Fi off. Last but not least, it would have been nice if we had a menu with presets so that we could switch from one setting to another in an instant.
We must also warn you that controlling the GoPro HERO3 over Wi-Fi takes a heavy toll on its battery life. Our camera's 1050mAh cell was dead after about 35 minutes of active use. According to the manufacturer, the Black Edition model of the camera should last through 1.5 hours on a low power consumption setting, such as shooting a continuous 1080p video, and about 1 hour on a high power consumption setting like capturing video at 240 frames per second.