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GoPro Digital HERO 3 Sports Wrist Camera review: GoPro Digital HERO 3 Sports Wrist Camera

Die Hard

The tiny, 3-megapixel Digital Hero 3 fits inside a waterproof enclosure mounted on a wristband. It's purportedly a wrist-mounted camera for extreme sports such as snowboarding.

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5.0

GoPro Digital HERO 3 Sports Wrist Camera

The Good

Handy underwater enclosure; low distortion; good white balance.

The Bad

Sluggish; takes very soft images.

The Bottom Line

The GoPro Digital Hero 3 is a cool idea that could be fun if you're swimming, but it's not useful for much else.
Coolness is a funny thing, because it sometimes doesn't have anything to do with whether or not something is actually good. Base jumping is cool, but it's not necessarily a good idea. The movies were cool, but they didn't win any Academy Awards. The GoPro Digital Hero 3 is a cool camera, but it's not a good one.

Barely larger than a pair of AA batteries, the camera body consists of a tiny, gray box. It has just two buttons and a monochrome status display, making it one of the simplest cameras we've seen in years. The only way to frame a shot is through the tiny viewfinder, which becomes completely obscured when you put the camera inside its waterproof enclosure. The clear plastic case is quite well made and hooks onto a foam-rubber-and-velcro wristband. Tight seals make sure the box stays waterproof so the camera inside doesn't drown, while two buttons connect to cameras' buttons.

Because of its simple design, there are very few settings to deal with on the camera. The power button toggles through Single-shot, Timed-shot, Burst-shot, and Movie modes. Other than those settings, you can't really tweak your images. Because the camera doesn't have a display, you can't view them either. Also, since the camera has a fixed-focus lens, your shooting options are limited.

This simplicity wouldn't be a problem if the Digital Hero 3 performed well and took decent images, but that's simply not the case. The camera takes several seconds to start up, then at least a second between each shot. Our test images tended to be soft and underexposed, especially indoors. Also, 3-megapixel images simply don't feel like enough anymore. We would've liked to see 5-megapixel resolution instead.

Images from the Digital Hero 3 aren't completely terrible and surprised us in two areas of image quality. The fixed-focus lens produced surprisingly little distortion, and the camera's automatic white balance worked quite well, reproducing accurate whites under both fluorescent and incandescent lighting. These two features are great boons if you decide to take the Digital Hero 3 underwater, where accurate color and low distortion become quite valuable. GoPro rates the camera for underwater operation down to 30 feet, but since we live in New York City and we're reluctant to dive 30 feet down in the Hudson River, we settled for dunking it in our fish tank. It survived.

The GoPro Digital Hero 3 is a cool idea for a camera, but in action, it simply isn't very good. It's a sluggish performer and shoots soft, small images. That said, the wrist-mounted, underwater housing is a great boon, and it might prove a fun, inexpensive alternative to swimmers and other water-dwellers who want a camera they can submerge.