GoPro Cameras vs. Conventional Camcorders

By John Carucci

The GoPro doesn’t resemble a conventional camcorder, as you can see; neither does it behave like one. It looks more like a small square box with a protruding lens than a sleekly designed camcorder. Although you can hold it like a traditional camera, it’s more comfortable to hold when it’s attached to something.

GoPro Hero4 in waterproof housing.

GoPro Hero4 in waterproof housing.
GoPro and Panasonic HD camcorder side by side.

GoPro and Panasonic HD camcorder side by side.

Here are some of the qualities that differentiate a GoPro from standard camcorders:

  • Size: The current GoPros are quite small compared with most camcorders and significantly smaller than their predecessors.

  • Most models don’t have a viewfinder: Though the viewfinder is one of the main parts of a camcorder, only one current GoPro includes a viewing screen. That’s okay because you wouldn’t look through a viewfinder for most situations.

    The lack of a viewfinder doesn’t mean you have to imagine where the action will take place. Simply use the GoPro App, which transforms your smartphone or tablet into a monitor.

  • Wide-angle view: You won’t find a zoom lens. Instead, the GoPro uses a fixed 170-degree lens that provides an ultra-wide view unavailable on any camcorder.

    Just a few years ago, merely having a moderate wide-angle view on a camcorder was a minor coup. Going reasonably wider often meant using one of those poor quality wide-angle adapters that screwed on the filter or clamped over the lens.

    Adapters produced exaggerated distortion, especially on the edges, creating a foggy appearance. The GoPro provides a wider perspective than those old accessory lenses, as shown here, and does it with impressive optical quality.

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  • Waterproof housing: Take your camcorder out in the rain, and pray that doesn’t die. Attach it to a surfboard, and read it its last rites. Not so with the GoPro.

    Thanks to its clear polycarbonate housing (with glass lens), you can use a GoPro in, around, and under water. The waterproof case is rated shockproof and waterproof up to 131 feet. The Dive Housing can go even deeper.

  • Wearability: Though it’s not the kind of accessory that fashionistas clamor for on the catwalk during Milan Fashion Week, the GoPro is still quite fashionable. You can not only wear it, but also capture some pretty impressive video with it. Here are a few ways to wear it:

    • Headband: The headband attaches to your head so you can get that walk-through look in your video.

    • Wristband: The wristband looks like a wristwatch, as you can see here. Capture timely footage simply by twisting your arm.

    • Bicycle helmet: Wear the camera on your head to get the unique perspective of a cyclist.

    • Body harness: The harness allows you to transform yourself into a living dolly. Instead of moving the camera through the scene and capturing choppy footage, be one with the camera and move through the scene in Zenlike splendor.

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In a way, the GoPro represents the elusive go-anywhere camera that’s everything the camcorder never was: durable, mountable, and affordable.