For the Uninitiated: A Review of the GoPro Hero4 Silver Edition
Released back in 2014, the GoPro Hero4 Silver Edition is still one of the top action camera brands out in the market. Two years on and with the GoPro Drone coming out later this year, is it still worth getting this model? The answer is yes, especially if you’re just a budding videographer or if you’re looking to purchase your first GoPro.
As the first GoPro model to sport an LCD touchscreen at the back, it has definitely made operating the device easier. This means that unlike previous models, you don’t need to rely on the small screen up front to change modes or fiddle with settings. There’s definitely less of the button-pressing this time around.
And don’t worry about pressing the screen by mistake. Like a smartphone, the screen goes dark after a few seconds and locks. To unlock it, simply tap the screen, then swipe down the circle and hold it.
Just like its predecessors, the GoPro Hero4 comes with a protective casing and a mount that you can assemble yourself. While the mount is designed to be attached to a surface, you can also just assemble the pieces to form a handle of sorts or as an impromptu stand.
However, simply relying on the pre-included mount can get cumbersome at times. Getting additional accessories like the Gooseneck mount or the Floating Hand Grip will be a necessity later on. This is especially important when shooting footage underwater, as it’s harder to keep the camera steady while floating around.
Now that you’ve familiarized yourself with mastering the basics of operating a GoPro, let’s look at its results!
Let’s admit it—most Filipinos want the GoPro not because they need a camera for their extreme sports, but because of its photo capabilities. With its wide-angle lens, it has a larger field of vision, capturing more than the average digital camera. This means that it’s good for taking those landscape photos or yes, those group shots.
Unfortunately, photographs may not be as sharp as those taken using DSLRs; you will notice some blurring when zoomed in. In that regard, the photos produced by this GoPro are just on par as some smartphone cameras that already have 12-megapixel rear cameras.
Taken with the default 12-megapixel wide-angle setting:
Taken with the 7-megapixel regular setting:
However, it is in night photography that the GoPro Hero4 Silver delivers a great performance. It can definitely capture good shots in low light, even with just the stock settings. That’s one thing that most smartphone cameras cannot accomplish.
And by adjusting some settings, you unlock the full functionality of this action camera. One such example is by adjusting the shutter speed for long exposure shots. Here's the Manila Cathedral, taken from the same spot, but with a 2 second delay for the shutter:
Shooting video is still the strongest suit of the GoPro, and it definitely delivers. You can shoot up to 4K or 1080p60 video with this camera, and it comes out great, even with just the standard settings.
However, recording footage in direct sunlight can be a bit tricky, as the first few seconds of this video shows. (And yes, you can watch these on HD, just make sure your connection is fast enough.)
That said, its ProTune feature allows you to tweak a range of settings, from ISO settings to color balance.
Its time-lapse feature is also great to play around with—though of course, this doesn’t come with sound.
And its video performance is the same high quality, even if you’re shooting underwater.
However, if you want to shoot underwater footage at night, you'll need a bit of light. To shoot the footage below in the dark pool, we used a Knog Qudos Action Video Light. Otherwise, it would be all dark.
Battery life and charging
When the camera came out, most reviews focused on the GoPro’s battery life—that it doesn’t hold out for long, which can be a hassle on trips. While subsequent firmware updates have made energy management better, it still pays to bring a spare battery along if you’re recording all day.
And unlike its competitors from the Sony Action Cam series, the GoPro Hero4 still uses a mini-USB (also called the 5-pin USB) port for charging, instead of the more common micro-USB that smartphones use. So yes, you will need to bring its charging cable along, unless you have an external HDD that uses the same cable. It also pays to buy the wall charger accessory, as the GoPro only comes with a cable.
It’s also important to turn off wireless connectivity and the LCD touchscreen before switching off the GoPro, as leaving them both on can drain battery power.
Even with the LCD touchscreen, having the GoPro app on your phone is still a plus. For starters, it allows you to click the shutter remotely, even without the remote. The app also enables you to share shots from your GoPro right to your social media sites, such as Facebook and Instagram.
The app is also quite secure. Once a GoPro has been paired to a smartphone, you’ll be asked to set a password. You’ll then need to enter that password to connect the action camera to another smartphone. Unfortunately, if you forgot it, you’ll need to reset your GoPro’s wireless settings to change that password.
Overall, the GoPro Hero4 Silver is the best action camera option for beginners who are raring to learn more about the craft behind creating photos and videos. It works brilliantly out of the box, but allows you enough leeway to play around with the settings once you’ve mastered them.