Image quality

The GoPro Hero 3+ Black Edition receives an ultra-sharp F2.8, 6-element lens with aspherical glass, which the company says is sharper than all previous models. I definitely saw an increase in sharpness compared to the Hero 2, but did not test it against the Hero 3. The big excitement was the 4K resolution from the Hero 3+, which debuted on the Hero 3. It's amazing that GoPro was able to squeeze out four times the resolution of 1080p from a little 1/2.3-inch sensor.

I found that 4K resolution is insanely better than 1080p and it really spoiled the whole "high-definition" concept for me. The downside to 4K on the Hero 3+ is that the max framerate is 15fps, which is really only suited for stationary shots like interviews or landscape b-roll. The files are also four times the size of a normal 1080p file, and are very difficult to work with, even on a souped up MacBook Pro. The Hero 3+ can achieve 1080p at 60fps, which looks awesome for fast action, as well as 48fps, 30fps, and 24fps. The Hero 3+ can also record 2.7K videos, which is a nice medium between 1080p and 4K.

Recent Videos

Below is a comparison of 4K and 1080p. Take note that I was dealing with different frame rates, so the 60p footage does not look like 60p footage. All videos in this review have been converted in GoPro Studio (GoPro highly recommends this process) and then edited and exported in Premiere Pro.

Now let's talk about SuperView. The Hero 3+ offers the widest viewing angle to date, with less distortion. Unfortunately, SuperView is only available in 1080p and 720p resolutions with limited frame rates, so it can't take advantage of 2.7K or 4K. I didn't find that to be a big deal though, as 1080p is still very high quality. GoPro says that shooting in this mode takes a 4:3 aspect ratio and dynamically stretches it to a 16:9 aspect ratio, commonly called anamorphic mode. The height of the camera's sensor is therefore used, so more of the sky and ground are visible, assuming you are pointed at the horizon. This way, only the edges outside of the 4:3 frame are stretched to fill the rest of the 16:9 frame.

I tested SuperView against the Hero 2's widest available angle, with both cameras recording at 1080p 30fps. The difference was quite impressive. SuperView provided a vast view of the entire ice rink with minimal distortion, while the Hero 2 was a bit more cropped and far more distorted. SuperView instantly became my new favorite FOV.

Here's a look at still extractions for comparison:

The GoPro HD Hero2 in its widest angle.
The GoPro Hero 3+ Black Edition in SuperView mode.

GoPro added an Auto Low Light mode to the Hero 3+, which cuts the frame rate to half when the camera detects a low light atmosphere. In addition, Protune mode provides a more neutral color space, which aids low light as well, and recording in 4K is supposed to add a bit of a boost in lux sensitivity as well. I found that the sensitivity while recording in 4K was greater than 1080p, and Protune did in fact add a boost in exposure. However, it was met with noise in many low light environments. In addition, Auto Low Light mode never really kicked in until the environment was so dark that even I had trouble seeing. I think Auto Low Light is not really necessary or beneficial anyway, because why would anyone want a reduced frame rate? The low light quality on the Hero 3+ is better than previous models I've seen, but that little sensor can only do so much without extra noise when the light is very dim. As a result, I have to question GoPro's "professional low light" claim.

Lastly, the GoPro Hero 3+ is capable of some very exciting photo capture modes. Burst Photo can reach 30fps, Continuous Photo recording can hit 10 frames every second, there's Simultaneous Video and Photo capture (available in 1440p, 1080p, and 720p), and Time Lapse. Resolutions include 12, 7, and 5MP. I really loved the Simultaneous Video and Photo mode, as well as Burst mode. The image quality is quite impressive, but the Hero 3+, like any entry-level point-and-shoot, struggles in low light when it comes to still capture. Here are some samples:

Simultaneous Video and Photo still image capture.
An extraction from a series of images taken at 30fps Burst rate.
Self portrait in standard Still Photo capture mode.


The GoPro Hero 3+ Black Edition is a definite improvement from the Hero 3, but it's not a wildly different model. Many would refer to the upgrades as incremental, which is understandable, given the fact that most of the Hero 3+ remains similar to the Hero 3. In that case, if you already own a Hero 3, or are looking to pick up a highly discounted one, it will still suit you well. However, if you have the change to spend, or are looking for one of the best, if not the best action cameras on the market, then you're going to want the GoPro Hero 3+ without a doubt.

After my time spent with the Hero 3+, I came to several conclusions. It has better battery life, quicker Wi-Fi speeds with longer range, is more compact with the new case, has a significantly improved microphone, and the best image quality I've seen from a GoPro to date. I love the addition of SuperView, and the improved wind noise reduction is a substantial fix. Low Light is still up in the air for me, even though the Hero 3+ does exhibit better sensitivity than previous models I've used. The still image capture options are almost endless, and very effective.

Still, there's always room for improvement. How about at least 24fps in 4K resolution? Maybe a switch back to regular size SD cards instead of the nano-particle-sized MicroSD card? Bring the microphone jack back? Regardless, the GoPro Hero 3+ Black Edition is a winner.

What we like

  • Improved battery life
  • Better Wi-Fi
  • More compact
  • Improved microphone
  • Best image quality to date
  • Widest FOV yet

What we don't like

  • Limited FPS in 4K resolution
  • MicroSD cards are microscopic
  • No mic jack