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A look at GoPro’s new firmware updates, including time lapse capability

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Yesterday GoPro pushed out updates for their Hero4 lineup of cameras (the Hero4 Black and Hero4 Silver).  These firmware updates, while announced back in January at CES, edge GoPro further ahead of competitors in certain categories, while bringing them up to pace in others.

I just wanted to briefly run through some of them, and show you a few samples of test footage.  Of course, you’ll first need to update the unit.  It only takes about 2 minutes to do, and is pretty quick and simple.  Note that these updates are only for the Hero4 Black and Hero4 Silver cameras.  They do not apply to the base 2014 Hero edition, nor any of the older cameras.

Thankfully the firmware update doesn’t wipe any other settings you have, such as the WiFi and app connectivity – so it’s quick to get up and running again.

Time lapse Functionality:

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While GoPro has always technically had a ‘time lapse’ function within the camera, that function was a solid pain in the butt to use.  When enabled it created a massive pile of photos, old school style.  That meant if you configured it to take a photo every second, after a minute you’d have 60 photos.  And after a 5 hour time lapse you’d have a cool 18,000 photos.  From there you had to transfer them to your computer and pipe them through the GoPro Studio app (or other 3rd party app).

Now this system did have one benefit: It allowed a bit more flexibility in using that mass of photos to edit them prior to video.  For example, with the photos at a much higher resolution than video, some would crop the photos and create what appeared to be panning or other movement in the time lapse.  Good stuff, but not easy for the average person to do.

So instead, they followed what Garmin introduced on their VIRB action cameras in 2013 – the ability to have completed videos produced by the camera.  So when you hit finish on the time lapse on the camera, you immediately have a video file.  With the GoPro, that video file can be transferred to your phone via app as well.

When you look at the configuration options, they’re identical across both the Black and Silver units.  You’ll select ‘Time Lapse’ as an option under the Video settings.  Then within that you can select the interval for how often to take a photo to add to the video:

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The options for photos are: .5s, 1s, 2s, 5s, 10s, 30s, 60s.

Finally, you can choose between 4K (16:9 format) and 2.7K (in 4:3 format) video to export.  There are interestingly no lower resolution options.

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With that, you go ahead and start the camera.  For fun, I mounted two units last night outside – one on the roof and one on a window and let them run for about 6-7 hours.  I triggered one manually, and one via WiFi.  One was set at a lower frame rate, one at a slightly higher frame rate.

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Oh, in case you’re wondering, I had them plugged into the wall via USB so they’d stay powered on.

Then, I went to sleep.  When I woke up, here were the results.  First up, the roof cam:

And then, the window cam.  The view isn’t terribly different.  The window cam has the water view, the roof cam has…well…the pigeon, and my disabled smokestack.

One of these days I’ll figure out how to do something more creative on my roof, but it’s a bit tricky since I basically have to use this tiny little window above the tub/shower, and sink.  Which typically involves not falling down into the tub in the process.

In any case – there ya go – time lapse functionality.  Definitely cool stuff, and so much easier than in the past.

HD 240fps mode, Auto Rotation, and other updates:

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On top of the time lapse, GoPro also added a bunch of other updates to the unit.  First up is the ability on the Hero4 Black to go to 240 frames per second (fps) in 720p mode.  That’s basically the entry HD quality tier – but more than sufficient for most people’s uses.  You’ll find this option within the video menu, like the other video modes:

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On this particular Thursday I lacked any exciting way of demonstrating this.  I was just recently watching a Mythbusters where they chopped fruit in the air using a sword.  That sounded like a great demonstration…until I realized I lacked a sword.  So, no fruit for you.

Next, they also added in a higher photo burst mode – this is on both the Hero4 Black and Silver units, now going to 30 photos in 6 seconds (30/6):

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Then, last up both the Hero4 Silver and Black received auto image rotation.  This follows in line with what the Shimano action cam introduced this past summer, where it’ll automatically rotate the image depending on the orientation.  This is super-useful if you often mount the camera upside on a bike mount and also often forget to flip the camera.  Been there…done that.

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GoPro has simply extended the previous orientation menu to include ‘Auto’.

Finally, there were a couple of other smaller (but important for some) changes that were made.  Here’s the full listing for both cameras:

Hero4 Black:

Adds Time Lapse Video mode
Adds 720p240 video mode (Narrow FOV only)
Adds 2.7K60 video mode
Adds Auto Image Rotation
Adds 30 photos/6 seconds Burst rate
Changes Protune default video ISO to 1600
Adds Reset option for camera Wi-Fi settings
Displays Night Lapse shutter time on the camera status screen
Touch BacPac: Delivers the ability to add HiLight Tags during playback
Touch BacPac: Adds new gesture to display the last photo or video captured
Touch BacPac: Automatically locks the display after the camera goes to sleep
Night Lapse stability improvements

 

Hero4 Silver:

Adds Time Lapse Video mode
Adds Auto Image Rotation
Adds 30 photos/6 seconds Burst rate
Changes Protune default video ISO to 1600
Adds Reset option for camera Wi-Fi settings
Displays Night Lapse shutter time on the camera status screen
Touchscreen: Delivers the ability to add HiLight Tags during playback
Touchscreen: Adds new gesture to display the last photo or video captured
Touchscreen: Automatically locks the display after the camera goes to sleep
Night Lapse stability improvements

I suspect for most users, the biggest gain will be the time-lapse mode, followed by the 720p240 video mode, primarily in action sports such as ski/snowboard jumps.  If you’re filming your dog walking around a park…probably not so much of a use there.

CES Leftover: 6/12/24-hour GoPro battery packs

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I’ve got a bunch of semi-random things I took photos of or got information on at CES last month, but haven’t quite figured out what to do with.  Given the time lapse aspect of this post, I figured this might be a good place to briefly mention one product I stumbled into made by DigiPower.  Or rather, a suite of products.

This is the re-fuel, which is a backpack style attachment for the GoPro Hero3 & Hero4 lineups that adds up to 24 hours of battery life.  There are three units, the 6hr, 12hr, and 24hr versions.  Each attach directly to the unit and include a case extension to keep the whole thing waterproof.

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Now obviously if you’re doing a time lapse like I did and can just plug into the wall – then that’s perfectly functional.  But if you’re trying to capture a longer distance event, or just a time lapse out in the wilderness without a power outlet, then this is a solid option.

To re-charge the units, it’s about 8-10 hours for the 24hr pack, and about 6 hours for the 12 hour pack.  So pretty reasonable times that can be done overnight.  Here’s a quick gallery of the units:

The prices aren’t too bad, especially at the 6hr and 12hr levels.  They are: 6hrs – $49US, 12hr – $79US, and 24h – $129US.

The only catch?  I can’t actually seem to find the darn things for sale anywhere yet.  Still, pretty darn cool.

Thanks for reading!

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60 Comments

  1. Majeed

    Ray, long time reader, first time commenter. Thanks for the rundown. You are seriously essential reading for anyone into sports tech.
    I picked up the new Silver over christmas and have been using it front and back of my road bike as an incident cam and also chasing my 2yr old around the park. The auto-rotation is a god-send and the in camera timelapse is a true timesaver.
    My only complaint is that they seem to have changed the QuikCapture function in the new firmware. Regardless of the default mode I set, when pressed it will only launch regular video capture at whatever quality I specified in the settings. Prior to the FW update it would launch the default video mode that it was set to. In my case that’s Video+Photo 720p/30fp2/Medium view – 5 sec intervals. Have I missed something there?
    I didn’t notice for the first day and now I have a dozen vids of my boy and one ride that are twice as big as I prefer them to be. I’m still trying to figure out how to downsample the frame rate and keep the audio. (Any advice on that would be greatly appreciated). Since I’m capturing video anyway it’s only a small issue, but for anyone hoping to use QuikCapture with a mode that isn’t video it becomes non-functional.
    Thanks again for all your effort.

  2. mondoshawan

    Is the old timelapse mode with single photo shots in higher Resolution still available? It was nice to do some faked camera movement while using keyframes.

    • Yup, that mode is still there – no worries. Like you said, still some scenarios where one would prefer that.

      The nice thing is that even with the new mode, being 4K you can even doing some of those same camera movements within that for 720/1080p footage.

  3. Nathan

    Hi Ray, what was that music used in the window cam video. Thought it was Inspector Gadget when it first kicked in.

    Thanks

  4. Bill Y

    Ray, or anybody, do you have insight whether Go Pro will support ANT+ connectivity any time in the near future, or should I give up waiting?

    • I’d give up on waiting there, to be honest.

      I don’t know what chipset they used within the Hero4’s from a Bluetooth standpoint. Depending on the chipset used and mode, they *might* be able to at least connect to Bluetooth Smart sensors. Further depending on it, if they used one of the more recent Nordic ones, they could actually have ANT+ capabilities in there (with a software update). I just haven’t wanted to kill any Hero4’s to find out what’s inside.

  5. Adam

    I want to do a mobile (bike attached) time lapse over a 90 hour time period e.g. the entirety of the Paris-Brest-Paris randonneuring event.

    .Have you tried this device and its variations ? link to cam-do.com It looks to be a timer that turns on the GoPro, causing a picture to be taken and then power it off, rinse and repeat at a time interval of your choosing. There is also the Brinno time lapse cameras which are a fully integrated solution but i don’t know about the image quality.

    Maybe you could try these and compare. :)

  6. Any idea how long the exposure will adjust to in the new video lapse mode? I.E. Can it handle starry nights or do I still need to use Night Lapse with manual adjustments for that?

    • I’m honestly not sure. There isn’t a way to adjust the exposure time within the video variant. So in the case of those videos above – it just does it’s thing. Obviously within central Paris there’s simply no way you’re going to see stars, so hard to know for certain how long each exposure was.

  7. Francis C

    Ray, any idea when the Garmin Virb will be updated? I don’t want to buy a Hero 4 without seeing what Virb will be. Better yet, if you can divulge the specs, if you know it and are allowed to release it, that would be great. Thanks for your comprehensive reviews.

  8. Chris

    It’s fortunate that you have such an amazing view- the timelapses themselves are something that is mildly interesting, as opposed to boring one to tears!

  9. WhatAboutBob

    I was wondering if the 4 Black could roll video at 2.7 or 4k, and also snap a full size still every 5 seconds. I want to fly my drone and capture both, but I can’t control the GP from the ground. It is either start TL mode or Video mode. 4K video grabs are ok, but not for the poster size prints I sometimes make. Making two flights is a hassle.

    Using the GP remote is no good either as the 2.4ghz frequency can interfere with flight controls.

  10. Michael

    The auto image rotation doesn’t quite work the same as the Shimano camera – it will only orient the footage right way up until you start recording. Once you start recording, if you subsequently invert the camera, the footage will be upside down. When I updated my camera all the menu options such as PAL/NTSC, LCD and beeper and time/date was reset.

    • That’s by design though, otherwise if you were doing some sort of sport where you became inverted, it might flip mid-flight. With Shimano, it’s far less likely that you want a situation where the bike is inverted…

    • Michael

      Unless you’re using the Shimano camera to make a Road Bike Party video (or something like that) – then that might not work out so well.

  11. MattB

    The light on the flying buttresses of Notre Dame as the sun comes up is beautiful – that must be a view you never tire of!!

  12. Steven

    the battery packs alone might be enough to get me to switch back. The first weatherproof all day battery option. I’ve lost a lot of footage on multi day rides due to not noticing the battery died

  13. David Burgess

    I love the idea of extra battery power for a time lapse of a hike in the hills. Although I do prefer the old school 18k image time lapse for flexibility. These batteries would be a massive selling point for me, I’ve been waiting for something like this for years now.

  14. Kevin

    Hi, I am currently using Hero 4 Black and already updated the firmware to 2.0, however, after I shot the timelapse as normal, I can’t find any ways to combine multiple pictures into one single video on the camera, kindly advice the steps. Thanks!

  15. Norman P. Aquino

    Those extended batteries look incompatible with the Hero 4. Just look at the contacts.

  16. Bob

    Which go pro should I get because I don’t want to pay loads but and I am doing it on a budget so which should I get?

  17. RCT

    Can I shoot a 2,5h timelapse with 2 Sec. interval in 4K? I’m using a 16GB micro SD and I’m worried that the capacity is too low

  18. Hi there,
    It’s been a looong time since I’ve last used a GoPro, but as it happens we are gonna need to use one next week to shoot an 8 hour timelapse (probably at 10 second intervals). Ofcourse we will plug it in the wall for power, but I was wondering if you could shed some light on the required storage space. I’ve been looking for a clear answer, but what I got till now is that every ‘shot’ takes up around 2-7 MB. I was hoping to get a clearer figure :)
    How big were the filesizes for your timelapse?
    The cam we will be using is the Hero 4 Black.

    • Window Video: 464MB (4K resolution) for 1m08s of end-state video at 30fps.
      Roof Video: 492MB (4K resolution) for 1m16s of end-state video at 30fps.

      That should give you enough numbers to do the math backwards to determine how much space you need. In short, though not much!

      The numbers you’re seeing for 2-7MB, are for the older timelapse mode where it takes individual photos. Because the newer mode is just adding video frames at a much lower resolution than photo-resolution, it saves a boatload of space.

    • Thanks a lot, this makes me go into the shoot with a boatload less worries :P
      Now I just hope the rental company has updated their firmwares, but heck…ill be fine :)

    • You can take an SD card with you with the new firmware on it… ;)

  19. What would be really nice is a new back door which has an integrated (ie: waterproof) USB cable attached, allowing powering from a standard USB plug.

    That would allow you to use any off the shelf USB battery bank to power the GoPro for basically an unlimited amount of time (as you could swap to a different battery bank once one had depleted whilst the GoPro continued to use it’s internal battery).

    • Yup, I’;d agree. Would love that. And even 30m deep waterproofed mini-USB plugs/ports are completely purchasable now. Standard IPX7 ones were available years ago and commonly used on most bike computers.

    • Quick update – I ended up buying the Battery “Bacpack” which includes two new rear cases.

      One case is 100% waterproof, giving you a little extra time underwater, the second is a skeleton case which although it’s not waterproof it does allow access to the charging socket on the back-pack. For me this is great as it allows me to do much longer timelapses and use a power bank as the power source. Whilst it’s not 100% waterproof, I suspect it’s safe enough to use in a light shower and fairly simple to water proof up using a zip-lock back. Cheaper and does what I need! :)

  20. Chelsea Bennice

    Hey Ray!
    Awesome blog! I am new to this =) well, new to the GoPro business, but have been doing triathlons for about 3 years (guess that may be considered still new). Congrats on your half-iron man! Here is a short background and my questions. Besides, run, bike, swim, I am a marine biologist at Florida Atlantic University. I am working on an octopus project for my Ph.D. dissertation work. One of my questions is “what is the activity time of each octopus species?” To examine this, I need to do 24h underwater video monitoring of the octopuses. I figured a GoPro camera with an external battery and a red LED light would be the way to go. This 24 refuel battery pack you mention is perfect! I’m sure you have found the website where they sell it now, but incase you haven’t here it is: link to digipowersolutions.com
    My questions- Is it the Hero 3 and/or Hero 3+ that keeps all the photos before making the time lapse video on your computer? Does the Hero 4 still keep each individual photo or when you hit finish do you lose these individual photos when the video file is created? Yes, I’m that crazy person that wants to look through all those photos to see when the octopus is leaving and returning from foraging events. Could the go pro hold all these photos created in a 24h time block? You state that the GoPro has always had this time lapse function? does that mean the simple GoPro Hero that cost around $130 has this function or just the higher end models? I would like to purchase a few for this project, so $$$ is an important question for me. Thanks in advance!
    Best,
    Chelsea

    • Indeed, they just recently started shipping. In fact, one is supposed to arrive today to me to test with. Regrettably, I’m thinking that’s not going to happen as it’s 6PM and no sign of it. :-/

      In any event, both the Hero3 and Hero4 series have the photo timelapse option. The Hero4 series also adds the video timelapse option, but doesn’t do away with the photo version.

      As for the photo space, it’d depend a fair bit on what settings you used and the size of the card. The good news is that it’s linear, so once you figure it out for 10 minutes of testing, you can easily do the math from there.

    • Chelsea Bennice

      Great, thanks Ray. Do you know if the largest SD card GoPros take is 64GB or can they take larger ones? Guess I can also check their site or contact them. Thought I would just ask you really quick =) Thanks
      -Chelsea

    • My understanding is 64GB, but I haven’t tried as 128GB card simply because I’ve never bothered to buy one. I ordered one earlier today to try out, just for the fun of it.

    • Chelsea Bennice

      Great! Let me know how it goes!

      Thanks
      Chelsea

    • Trevor

      I’m looking at getting some of these packs for my cameras, but I’m not certain if/how they work with the Hero4? Have you tested this or found documentation that it works?

      Thanks!

  21. Yngve Lindvåg

    Great article, but i got a little confused at the end where you list up the other minor update features.

    Night lapse? What is this. Is it a video or photo mode? Is it just a time lapse function where you do not need to select highest iso and exposure time available manually in time lapse mode?

  22. Jenna

    Hi Ray,

    I was wondering if you could help me with a problem. I am trying to do a timelapse for work using the hero 4 silver. The time lapse will be over a 3 week period and show an industrial plant being built. I have a place to mount the camera and a way to keep it powered but I’m not sure how to manage storing the file since I won’t have access to the camera once I install it. We would like to shoot in 4k if possible. Do you think I can fit the file on a 64gb micro, or even a 128? I bought a wifi enabled sd card and a micro to sd adapter initially, but I realized if I was shooting a video time-lapse this method would be ineffective since It’s all one file and can’t be transferred until we are done shooting. Which defeats the purpose of using a wi-fi sd card to push the photos to another device and automatically deleting them to save space.

    Thoughts?

    • I believe all of the WiFi cards are SD, not micro-SD.

      What I’d do is honestly let the timelapse run during the day, but then transfer at night when it’s dark. The reason being there’s no useful timelapse footage once it gets dark out (it’ll look bad in your video). So you can pause the camera for a few minutes and transfer to your phone via WiFi. Then start timelapse again after. You can do that every few days.

      Fwiw, I just wrapped up a month-long timelapse using the video mode – with the GoPro mounted outside without any protection. No problems Still gotta edit it though.

  23. Thor

    I presume your file extraction works for individual photos? Then could you shoot individual JPGs then put the video together in a video editor?

  24. Jennifer

    Wondering why my go pro hero 4 black edition doesnt have time lapse video.. Video sub mode has Video, video+photo, looping… Is there someone who can help me figure this out ?

    • I suspect that the unit you bought may simply have been sitting on a shelf for a few months. No worries, just update the firmware on the unit. The time-lapse option came out in February.

  25. Hann

    Hi Ray, just got my silver edition and did the night lapse. I was shooting a city view and I set the ISO to 200 and then I changed angle and shoot again. After I done the second time I found out that the setting automatic change to ISO 800 and all the photos were in white :(

    Here comes my question:

    1) Can those photos being lower down ISO via Go pro studio or any other way to save them?

    2) What can I do to prevent the setting from changing itself?

    Thank you very much!

  26. Chris Brown

    Can anyone explain why exactly GoPro doesn’t feel the need to allow us to do a Time Lapse capture in 1080p? I have nothing that is 4k compatible so anytime I transfer these videos to my phone or laptop I have import it at a lower res that appears to be a lot less than 180p.

  27. Jake camphuis

    hi im doing time lapse for work tomorrow and i know on the old setting i could do a time lapse for 2 sec just shy of 10hrs and then the sd card would be full, with the new firmware update can i go longer as its straight to video?

    cheers

  28. Jonathan Staddon

    Hey, love your sight and helpful tips. I just purchased the GoPro 4 silver for my video business. Been wanting to do some time lapse of the stars on the side, but could only find the Time Lapse Video option that only gives me like 30 min on 16GB. Is there supose to be aTime Lapse picture? It would be so cool to do a long one over night, like yours. Just can’t get it to work. Please help. Thanks

  29. Mike

    Just wondering if perhaps somebody out there has an answer to my question. We are documenting a construction project it is going to last several months. Will the hero2 transmit data through the usb port or is that strictly for power purposes only? We are able to mount the camera on the exterior of the building and run a usb cable back into the building and I would like to be able to run it into a laptop and capture the images onto it as well.
    Is this possible and if not does anybody have any other suggestions for a long term documentation.
    Thanks.

  30. Thor

    Would this be of any use

    GoPro Multifunctional cable
    This cable is designed for GoPro HD HERO, HERO 2 and HERO 3* cameras. It plugs in to
    GoPro 30pin bus connector on back of camera and splits in to three cables with servo style
    connectors at other end.
    Each cable is for dedicated function:
    Yellow Video out from camera
    Red Charge camera
    Black Turn On/Off camera
    8/11/14
    GoPro Multifunctional Cable by SmartFPV (Kristaps) [GOPROMULTI-KRISTAPS] – $19.99 : Ready Made RC LLC, The Leader in All Things FPV, RC, and Beyond
    link to readymaderc.com
    2/5
    Model: GOPROMULTI-KRISTAPS
    Shipping Weight: 0.05
    13 Units in Stock
    0
    You can use video out from camera, charge camera from RC receiver and record HD video
    at the same time. You can turn On/Off camera by connecting together both pins (Yellow and
    Red wires) of black marked cable. Connect for 0.5s to turn ON, 4s to turn OFF. You can also
    use RCCC multifunctional device to turn On/Off camera by connecting black marked cable
    to RCCC’s shutter connector

  31. Randy

    Question about the old timelapse photos with the 3.00 firmware update. I can’t seem to find it! Using Hero 4 silver here.

    I do have timelapse under Video now which will automatically save a video file.

    Selecting photos will only give me these options: Single, Continuous, and Night.

    Can you help me find the old timelapse photos options? Thanks.