Like the old Flip Video camera, the GoPro video camera has really snuck up on the consumer electronics market from left field. I'd never heard of GoPro until about a year ago because a lot of graduates from UCLA Film School were going to work there. I thought it might be a production company, so I was surprised to discover they made camera hardware.
When you see some of the videos they release (do a YouTube search for GoPro) you'll see how they might have some use for some film school grads with some editing experience. GoPro's greatest ads are edited cuts of footage shot by their cameras, of which there seem to be hundreds on YouTube. This video, advertising the next edition of their camera, the HERO3, is an exemplar of the form. My heart races every time I watch it.
The asterisk on all this, of course, is that batteries aren't included. No wait, they are included. Sorry, it's the balls of steel, world class daredevil snowboard/mountain biking/surfing ability, and helicopters that aren't included. Without them, your video probably won't be as sweet as the ones you see on YouTube.
But the crazy speedramping and timelapsing, the ability to shoot footage of yourself in action without a third party cameraperson, and the general picture quality? That's all legit. The HERO3 Black Edition can shoot up to 4K (max of 15fps) or as fast as 240fps at the low WVGA resolution. As with cameras like the Red, you can also snap photos at super high frame rates, with the Black Edition allowing you to capture 30 fps at 12MP per image. In the future, more and more of our stills will just be extracted from video.
The GoPro may not be the most beautiful looking camera, but in many ways it's light years ahead of cameras from companies like Canon or Nikon. The Black Edition comes with built-in Wi-Fi so you can connect to it from your iPhone whether to view footage or control the camera remotely. GoPro offers all sorts of mounts so you can attach the camera to your helmet or bike or ski pole or chest. The most expensive Canon and Nikon SLRs still don't have Wi-Fi built in. It's easier to share photos from your phone through Instagram and enjoy all the social rewards that brings than it is to share a photo shot on your Canon or Nikon dSLR costing thousands of dollars.
Do I love the quality of the photos from my Nikon more? Of course. As good as my iPhone camera is, its photographs won't hold up as well in our retina display/ultra HD/4K future. But the experience of snapping a pic on my iPhone, editing it in Snapseed (my new favorite iPhone editing app), and sharing it through Instagram, all within a few minutes, is so much more fun and pleasant than shooting on my Nikon, downloading photos from my Compact Flash card through a card reader to a laptop, then having to open LIghtroom and edit there, then having to export the finished file to my computer, then having to get that photo to my phone somehow, then finally sharing it to Instagram. It almost always takes hours, if not days, before I have time to get to those pics, and by then it feels like a chore.
Nikon and Canon should look at Instagram and GoPro and spend some time thinking about more than just absolute picture quality at the expense of the joy of photography. The photography user experience, if you will, is the end to end experience, from taking the photos to editing them to sharing them with other people. Art is made for an audience.