I purchase the GoPro Hero 2 camera over a year agot. Although I used it a lot initially, putting it on my helmet to take photos and video while riding, both when using my road bike and mountain bike, I found it difficult to use because I had no way to know if it was pointed in the right direction and I had to reach up to the camera to press the shutter or turn the camera on and off. I was never quite sure if the shutter press or power button worked because I had to rely on a series of beeps and I can’t always hear those if there is a lot of background noise. When I made the purchase, GoPro was promising a WiFi back and a remote, with the ability to use an iPhone to control the camera and preview what it was taking a photo or view of.
It seemed like a good way to go but it took a long time for GoPro to fulfill their promised device. About the time they did, they released a new model, Hero 3, with WiFi built in. I didn’t want to buy a new camera. I was reading some mixed reviews of the WiFi back on the GoPro Hero 2 so I waited awhile, figuring they would work out the bugs. I finally bought the WiFi Back and Remote combo pack and was able to get it for $100 at a local bike shop, which I thought was a good deal since it was priced higher on Amazon.com.
I opened up the box and in the usual GoPro fashion they make it hard to get to the contents and seem to put more thought into making it look fancy on the shelf. They should take a lesson from how Apple packages things, but they probably think they have done that, but they have not. Inside are all the things you need. Besides the WiFi back and the remote, you get two new backs for the case, one water proof, since the current back would not fit with the WiFi back being thicker. You also get a standard USB cable plus a special one for charging the remote.
Both the WiFi back and the remote needed to be charged first. Both charge from a USB port, but as mentioned, the remote has a special USB cable that you don’t want to lose. Once charged, I then downloaded the CineForm software from GoPro and updated the Hero 2 camera, WiFi Back and Remote with the latest firmware. Initially I had a problem for CineForm to see the Hero 2 camera, but when I swapped out the 64 Gb SD card for another card, then it worked fine. Part of the update process includes the need to register the WiFi Back and selected a password that will be used later for the WiFi conection. That was a good thing because you would not want some stranger using their smart phone with your camera.
When you buy the combo pack the WiFi Back and the remote are already paired on the WiFi. For the iPhone I downloaded the GoPro app and then in settings I found the Go Pro camera, selected that, and entered the password I had created early. I have read numerous reports in the web of people having a hard time to get the devices to pair, but I had no issue at all.
Some items to note before you go this route:
- The remote is a handy device with a small LCD screen that essentially shows what mode the Hero 2 is in by having the screen be a duplicate of what you would see in the Hero 2. That means you have the same lame menu system that the Hero 2 uses so you have to go through all the button presses to change things, but at least if they camera is mounted on your helmet you can do that with the remote. It does larger buttons that are much easier to press than those on the camera itself.
- The iPhone app allows easier controls than the remote plus a live preview so you can see what the camera is pointed at and recording. Note that there is a 5 second delay in the live preview but that is much better than shooting blind and not knowing what you get until you download to a computer.
- The biggest issue I have is that you can only connect the WiFi back to either the remote or the iPhone, not both of them at the same time. I would like it if I could use the iPhone for preview and still use the remote as a shutter release, but that is not supported. I am not sure if that is a limitation of the iPhone or GoPro’s issue, but to switch between the two you have to access the camera itself, not a great design feature for a camera that might be on your helmet. You can use the iPhone to make the switch to the remote so if you want to use the iPhone to get things positioned and select the right options on the camera itself, you can then use the iPhone to switch to the remote, but to switch back to the iPhone you would need to do that on the camera itself (or using the remote to wade through the menu system).
- The WiFi back has it’s own battery, otherwise you camera battery would drain too quickly. If the WiFi Back battery get’s low, it will draw power from the camera.
- There is a distance limit to use the remote or the iPhone and they are not the same. I have no issue when either are within a few feet of the Hero 2, but for really remote applications, check it out before you go this route.
- You can use the iPhone to turn the camera off and on, but the WiFi back stays on so make sure you turn it off when you are finished.
I guess I would give GoPro only a C grade on this. First they took a long time to release a product that they promised upon which many people bought the Hero 2 expecting this ability. It would be nice to have a Hero 3 with WiFi built in, but they they charge you $79 just for the remote, so the combo pack and a Hero 2 is an okay deal. If I could use both the remote and the iPhone at the same time, I would raise my score to a B. Although I think the Hero 2 is a great camera, the form factor and the lame menu system bothers me, but right now GoPro has the video and image quality and all the accessories one could ever want.