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10/25/2011: GoPro HERO 960 Review

Category: General
Posted by: Mike
I've had my GoPro HERO 960 camera for a while now and posted many in car and helmet cam videos here recorded from it that you can view in previous posts.

The 960 package comes with several mounts, including a flat adhesive mount, curved adhesive mount and a helmet strap mount. It also comes with a waterproof housing, a non-waterproof housing door for certain applications, USB cable and component and composite video cables. It records in several modes - 960p and 720p at 30 fps, and 480p at 60fps. There is also a 5MP still camera mode. The 960 version does not have the expansion port which allows several advanced accessories such as an LCD screen to be plugged in. There are additional mount and accessories that are available; I use a suction cup mount for my helmet.

In terms of size and weight, It's probably not the smallest or the lightest camera, especially considering the durable case and the suction cup mount I use. When I have it on my helmet, I can definitely feel it a bit. For karting, the extra weight on the helmet means more force on the neck, mainly in cornering. I don't have a problem with neck fatigue using the camera in short sprint races in rental karts, but I think it could become an issue for long stints in an enduro or when running racing karts with gripper tires. I've avoided using the camera for long stints due to this, and would probably try to mount it somewhere on the kart body for a racing kart.

I like the wideangle lens on the camera and think it works well for racing applications. It allows the cockpit to be visible in an incar shot, and also makes it easier to aim the camera at the right angle, since there is obviously no viewfinder or LCD to view the shot that is recording.

The video quality is overall good. The quality is sufficient to see inputs from the feet and hands in the kart or car, and see the line and important reference points on the track. The HERO 960 is also able to deal well with light contrast such as when it is mounted in the interior of a car, which is much dimmer then view out of the windshield. The video shows the interior clearly, so I can see my work on the wheel and pedals, but the view of the track is not washed out either. The camera is also decent in low light conditions. In short the versatility is awesome, I've used it at night, in the rain, on my helmet and in the car, and it's always recorded quality video.

I have used some older versions of the GoPro cameras that had mediocre sound quality, but the current cameras including the 960 are much improved in this regard. With the enclosed case, wind noise is not an issue even with the camera exposed at high speeds. There is case door with exposed windows in it for higher sound pickup in lower speed and non water applications but I haven't used this.

The interface on the camera is limited which means it can be a little confusing to use until you are used to it. For example, when I first started using it I was confused about when it was recording and if it was in the right mode, especially if you are trying to turn it on after it is already mounted on your helmet. However I feel once you get used to it the process is pretty simple and usually not an issue.

Battery life is solid. I typically only record up to around an hour of video a day, but the camera can record 2.5 hours from the lithium ion battery pack. The pack can be recharged through USB on the camera.

I'm very impressed with the durability of the camera. All the GoPro HERO cameras have a clear acrylic housing which is waterproof and shock resistant. I've used it on very bumpy tracks with no problem. I have actually had the camera fall off my helmet (due to poorly mounted suction) and hit asphalt at 30MPH. I thought the thing might be done, but the camera was perfectly fine, and the main case only had minor scratches.

However, shortly after I noticed a small crack forming on the case buckle where it was most heavily scuffed from the impact. Worried about the clamp failing and the camera falling from it, I attempted to buy a replacement clamp, but found only the whole casing assembly for sale from GoPro. Somewhat disappointed, I emailed GoPro about buying a replacement buckle. After emailing a photo of the damaged one, they mailed a new buckle to my door within days for free! I'm very, very impressed with this level of customer service!

Finally the ease of mounting the camera is really a strength of the GoPro. There is one knob to detach the camera from the various mounts. I can quickly change from using the flat adhesive mount in my car to the suction cup mount from my helmet when karting.

Overall, I would highly recommend this camera. Its affordable, durable, easy to use, versatile and the customer service I received really set it over the top.
Category: Indoor Karting
Posted by: Mike
I previously compiled some tips on indoor karting here and here, which proved to be pretty popular. Since I've been recording a lot of my recent races on my awesome GoPro Hero 960 (review coming soon), I thought I'd try and put together a tutorial of a breakdown of a lap. This is at Allsports Grand Prix on the standard track configuration in the regular, 6.5 HP Sodi Karts.



Note that track grip can vary significantly which may effect the line, braking and turn in points somewhat. Kart differences can also have some effect. Driver weight can have an effect too.

If you want more tips or coaching, let me know!
Category: General
Posted by: Mike
As a big fan of Indycar racing, no doubt the crash last Sunday that claimed the life of Dan Wheldon has made an impact on me. I was watching live on TV, as I was when I saw the fatal crashes of Jeff Krosnoff as a pretty young kid, and Dale Earnhardt several years later. I think this one may have had the biggest impact on me though, as it's the first time since I've been racing myself that a driver in a series I follow closely has died in a crash.

That said I can't say it changes my desire to race one bit. If I somehow got the opportunity to race something like an IndyCar, you better beleive I would be there in a heartbeat. I'm sure there are many out there that feel the same as me. I already realized and accepted the risks before I even started racing.

Still, that doesn't mean we should ignore driver safety. I never quite understand why oftentimes it takes a tragedy to improve safety. To me it's pretty obvious that racing in a huge pack of 34 open wheel cars at 225 MPH is a pretty risky proposition. Then again, it was one that all 34 drivers were willing to take.

I usually follow all the forums and blogs closely to keep up with the latest news, but I've learned from the past and avoided them for a while, because I don't always want to read everyone's opinions after something like this. People seem quick to make judgments like if this driver had done this and that driver had done that, then this and that would or wouldn't have happened, etc. etc. People also seem quick to pass judgment on the officials and the series, claiming that one or two simple rule changes will "fix" everything, like create some perfectly safe, exciting, sustainable and financially successful racing.

I watched the replays several times and personally I beleive the actions taken by all drivers were relatively reasonable, and everything that happened was mostly just the function of the situation the drivers were put in. I do beleive the Indycar series does a pretty good job overall, and if fixing everything was so easy, it would have already been done.

What I do think we saw is one guy run out of luck. Three drivers went flying in similar fashion in that crash, just like I've seen maybe half or more of the veteran drivers do at some point in their IndyCar careers. Sometimes (as was the case with two of the three drivers on Sunday) drivers walk away, sometimes they don't.

By all accounts, Dan Wheldon was a good man and a great racer, and I wish his family the best.