GoPro, the Silicon Valley hardware company famous for its action cam, has been going from strength-to-strength following its public listing on the Nasdaq stock exchange in New York last year.
The miniature camera, which is nigh on indestructable thanks to a well-built plastic case, is primarily aimed at extreme sports enthusiasts looking to capture their adrenaline-fuelled fun, but an increasing number of slightly more sedate people, from enthusiastic fathers to tractor-driving farmers, are now finding a use for the device.
I was sceptical of the fast-growing brand at first. How can a camera so small capture anything worthwhile and is that plastic housing really going to keep the electronics inside safe when plunged into oceans and taken up mountains?
Then there’s the price. With an RRP in excess of £400 for the flagship model (GoPro Hero4 Black) it’s a big investment to make, particularly when you look at the digital SLRs and high-end bridge cameras that can be bought for a similar price.
But having now used a GoPro Hero4 Silver (£329.99), over a bromantic Valentine's weekend in Madrid with my (also-single) friend Andrew, I can now see why millions of people have taken the leap and forked out for one of the HD cameras.
I took the versatile camera for a spin around the plazas of the trendy Spanish capital, submerged it underneath a pond in Buen Retiro Park and whisked it down the slopes of a ski resort an hour's drive outside Madrid.
I shot videos, took stills and also tried the occasional “burst photo” feature, all with results that I was very happy with.
For those who are interested in the tech specs, I can tell you the Hero4 Silver records video at up to 4K at 15fps (frames per second), 2.7K resolution at 30fps, 1080p at 60fps and 720p at 120fps.
It's also capable of shooting 12MP photos at up to 30 fps and going down to depths of 40m. Further, it comes with built-in wifi and Bluetooth, allowing you to control it with an iOS or Android smartphone app.
The built-in touch screen on the GoPro Hero4, not available on other GoPro models, was also well received as it allowed me to show the footage to those around me immediately, without having to upload it to a computer first.
The wide-angled lens means the camera is capable of capturing videos and images that incorporate more of what’s around you than your average camera would. What’s more, the end footage is instantly identifiable as something that’s been shot on a GoPro and that in itself makes it “cool”.
But don't expect to use the GoPro for days on end without charging it. One day is about all it's good for and even then you'll probably run out of juice if you have it on constantly.
My skiing companions were more than happy to jump in for a group selfie ©Techworld/Sam Shead
In order to get the most out of the GoPro you really need to mount it onto something. Most people opt for something like the top of their bike helmet or the base of their surfboard, but seeing as I was on more of a city break (with limited thrill-seeking time) I decided to invest in a rather cringeworthy selfie stick.
I felt like an idiot when I was using it but I quite like some of the selfies we produced, so a small part of me hopes it won't be too long before the metal poles become more socially acceptable.
Personally, I felt quite self conscious using the contraption in places such as the touristy Plaza Mayor, but slightly less so on the ski slopes.
As a result, I think I’ll be investing in a GoPro just as soon as my bank balance can afford it and the selfie stick isn’t loathed quite so much.
Taking a selfie on the GoPro while wearing ski gloves isn't the easiest thing in the world ©Techworld/Sam Shead
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