Nov 232017

We needed a new laptop computer here at to do photo and video editing and we’ve described the shopping experience in a previous blog post. After the usual internet research we decided to take a chance on a company we’ve never heard of. The company was Eluktronics and they sold Clevo computers. The laptop we bought was the Eluktronics N850HK1. It has a powerful Intel i7-7700HQ 2.8-3.8GHz Quad Core CPU, 16G DDR4 2400MHz RAM, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 Ti video card with 4GB GDDR5 VRAM and a 256GB M.2 PCIe NVM SSD; a powerful system for a laptop computer, more than enough for our editing needs. We’ve been using it daily a few months now and have got a pretty good idea what we like and don’t like about this computer.

We like the power and speed the system provides for everyday use and working with resource hungry programs like Adobe Premiere Pro and Adobe Photoshop. The dedicated video card and above average LCD display panel makes for great viewing and video game performance. The backlit keyboard is nice, very easy to use in dim or dark rooms while still visible in daylight. It’s a pretty clean looking computer, all black without bold graphics, very thin for all the stuff that’s inside. It’s got enough USB 3.0 and a USB 2.0 ports for peripherals like wireless mice, external drives, cameras and phones. The USB 3.0 is great for storage devices like external drives and memory sticks. The built-in SD card reader is fast enough to download digital photos and 1080 video. Wireless connectivity is good. Speakers are pretty good for a laptop, with headphones the sound is great. The Clevo drivers provided by Eluktronics work well with Windows 10 Professional and no additional boatware.

Eluktronics/Clevo N850HK1 laptop computer

Battery life is what you would expect for a laptop with power hungry components like this one. For general daily use and internet browsing, we got about 3.5-4 hours of battery life. For gaming, even with a game that uses moderate CPU and GPU power, we only got about an hour of play before we needed to start looking for an electric socket. For checking email, cruising the internet or light to moderate computing, the battery life is fine. For power hungry tasks like photo/video editing and gaming, the computer needs to be plugged in.

For the most part, we like the N850HK1 and for the first month or so, it was love at first sight. As we used the computer more and more, some things cropped up that we didn’t really like and there is one major build flaw with this computer that, if we knew of it in advance, we most definitely would have not bought it.

We are not big fans of the touchpad/button setup. The touchpad seem over sensitive, the smallest touch sends the cursor flying across the screen. To be fair, we are not huge fans of touchpads in general and usually use a wireless mouse. The 2TB hard drive that comes installed is a Seagate 2TB 128Mb cache 5400 rpm. It is very slow with noticeable lag when writing or reading to the drive. Seagates are not known for their reliability, but there are very few options over 1TB that will fit into the 7mm drive slot, virtually no hard drives running at 7200rpm. The only real replacement option is an SSD. 2TB and larger SSDs are a little out of our price range, we will probably replace the 2TB Seagate hard drive with a 1TB SSD. The computer is generally pretty solid, but the top that houses the LCD panel is very thin. I bends in the middle between the hinges and if the computer is squeezed in a bag or backpack, the keyboard presses against the LCD display panels and leaves marks on the panel. We use a thin piece of packing foam between the panel and the keyboard to prevent this from happening.

N850HK1 keyboard presses into LCD panel. Thin packing foam helps prevent this.

These things are minor issues and if this was all we didn’t like about the computer, we’d probably be happy as possible. There is one major flaw that really has an impact on the laptop’s functionality that makes this computer a disappointing purchase. A powerful CPU like the i7-7700HQ generates a lot of heat, especially under full load. Unfortunately, the cooling system is not capable of keeping the processor within reasonable temperatures when the CPU is under full load. In the HWMonitor screen grab below, you can see the CPU runs about 45°C at idle and 98°C at 100%, which is way to hot for this processor to be. This CPU will “throttle” or shut down at 100°C, so that is too hot. At 100%, this CPU should be closer to 3.8GHz, so it may have already entered the throttling stage.

Eluktronics/Clevo N850HK1 CPU running hot at 98°C

If you run a computer CPU at temperatures close to the thermal shutdown temperature, it’s going to make for a short life for the CPU. There was an issue with running a Windows 10 Performance power scheme and in Performance Mode of the Clevo Control Center at the same time, this caused the CPU to run extremely hot. You must have “Performance” selected in one program and something other than “Performance” in the other. Even with those settings, the CPU runs up to the thermal shutdown under full load. We tried undervolting the CPU. Undervolting can really help an overheating CPU as well as extend battery life with very little performance penalty, but a sensible undervolt on this CPU did nothing to help the high temperatures when under full load.

Undervolting the Eluktronics/Clevo N850HK1 to try and reduce maximum CPU temps

The problem is that the CPU copper heat sink, dual cooling tubes and fan are just not able to keep the CPU within acceptable limits when under full load. The similar GPU heatsink and fan have no problem keeping the video processor cool, even while playing graphically demanding video games.

N850HK1 CPU and GPU heat sinks and fans

This Intel has Turbo Boost that will allow the processor to run at 3.8GHz. Maybe it’s just my desktop, server and workstation building experience that tells me when I look at the N850HK1 CPU heat sink(on the right) on top of a 3.8GHz processor, it just doesn’t look like it’s going to get the job done.

N850HK1 CPU and GPU heat sinks

I repasted CPU with Arctic MX-4 to replace the poor thermal paste application from Eluktronics. Most of the thermal paste was on the motherboard, hardly any between the CPU and heat sink. Repasting the CPU lowered the idle temperature by more than 15°C, but did nothing to reduce the max temp under full load. The only way to keep the CPU from frying itself was to dial down the Maximum Processor State in the Advanced Power Settings of the Windows 10 Control Panel to 98%. That essentially disables the CPU Turbo Boost and limits the maximum processor power to about 2.8GHz. This is a real performance hit because you are losing nearly 1GHz of processing power, we are getting less than 70% of the CPU power we paid for.

The inability to use the CPU at full power is a major disappointment, both with the hardware from Clevo and the setup by Eluktronics, the reseller. Eluktronics told me that this overheating problem is only with my computer. Browsing Clevo laptop computer forums does not really back this up; overheating is a major concern with many Clevo computers. Even if this particular computer is the only Eluktronics laptop computer that has an overheating problem, that means Eluktronics assembled this computer and sent it to me without even basic testing. When I received the computer, the temperature at idle was 65°C, way to high for a computer like this. That was due to a crappy thermal paste job on the CPU. Since they offer an “Extra Cooling Solution” of Arctic Silver 5 at additional cost, they clearly know the stock cooling is inadequate. When I repasted the CPU with Arctic MX-4, which by most accounts is superior to Arctic Silver 5 and dropped the stock cooling temperature at idle buy nearly 20°C, Eluktronics voided the one year warranty on my computer because I was “tinkering” with it. They did offer to RMA the computer, but I travel frequently which makes it difficult to do. Before I purchased the computer, I told Eluktronics that I would be depending on the reliability of their computer out of the box, to which they replied “no problem”, which was 100% BS.

There is a huge question mark with Clevo resellers like Eluktronics who cut corners on final assembly and quality control. Would we buy another Clevo laptop computer? Even though we like many things about this nice looking and powerful laptop, due to the uncertainty regarding Clevo vendors like Eluktronics, we would not take another chance with a Clevo reseller hoping to get a 100% working computer who voids the customer warranty for fixing problems that should have been taken care of before the computer was sold. We are a small business and try to purchase from other small businesses whenever possible, this was a significant factor in our decision to go with Eluktronics, a small business we had never heard of. We took a chance and got burned, next time we have an opportunity to patronize another small business, we’ll keep that in mind. Bottom line, if you like to gamble, get a Clevo from Eluktronics, maybe you’ll get a good one. If you need reliability and customer service, go somewhere else.

Aug 222017

We got our new Canon PowerShot G9X and have spent a few days trying it out, here’s what we think so far.

This camera is unbelievably small, which makes it very easy to take along on just about any adventure. Despite it’s small size, it packs a lot of features and functions, including full manual control, RAW format still images and 60fps 1080p video.

Canon PowerShot G9X

It’s going to take some getting used to. For starters, it is so small, I have to be careful where I grab it and put my fingers because the controls are operated by touch screen and my fingers inadvertently hit the buttons on the screen. For an old manual camera guy used to knobs, dials and levers, this is a pretty big change. The camera takes really nice photos so I’ll adjust to the new touch screen operation. The .CR2 RAW files don’t open in Adobe Photoshop CS6, but the Adobe DNG converter will do the job because we refuse to “upgrade” to subscription based Adobe software. Anyway, we’ll have more on the Canon G9X as we get used to it. Hopefully, you’ll notice the better quality photos on the blog and website.

Aug 222017

Well, the honeymoon for the new Eluktronics N850HK1 is over pretty quickly as we have discovered that it has major overheating problems. The first video we rendered using the new Eluktronics N850HK1 laptop put the CPU temperature almost to the thermal cutoff of 100°C. Further checking showed the CPU running about 60°C at idle. These temperatures are way over what would be considered normal and to continue running the computer like this could shorten the life of the CPU or damage the computer.

Eluktronics N850HK1 overheating problem

We’ve only used the computer about a half dozen times so having Eluktronics tell us to pack it up and send it back are not what we want to hear. We bought this computer because we have work to do, not to do quality control checking for Eluktronics. Eluktronics offered to pay to have it returned, but all our stuff is on the new computer and we are traveling, which makes returning the computer for who knows how long, not feasible. We got a lemon.

We are guessing the overheating is caused by poor thermal connections between the CPU and the CPU heatsink. Eluktronics offered to “upgrade” the thermal paste for an extra $35, so it’s pretty safe to guess the quality control over this important manufacturing step done by Chinese workers is not very good. If we disassemble this new Eluktronics N850HK1 computer and do the job they should have done in the first place, it will most likely void the one year warranty. We took a chance on a small company like Eluktronics, who we had never previously heard of, and this is what we get.

Aug 042017

We’ve had the Eluktronics N850HK1 laptop computer for a couple weeks now and are starting to see what it has to offer so we are giving it an initial review after getting to know the computer.

Eluktronics pre-sales customer service was great. They answered all my questions and were offered to change a couple things to make the computer what I wanted. I kept track of my order on their website and they kept me informed about my order. The computer arrived pretty quickly for free shipping and was packaged very well. I got a Windows 10 Pro upgrade which was installed with all the necessary drivers to have the computer running right out of the box.

The computer is a Clevo N850HK1. Different vendors sell this computer with different components. The Eluktronics N850HK1 is basic black, plastic, kind of high performance looking laptop. It’s surprisingly thin for all the stuff it’s got in there. The display half of the laptop is pretty thin, I would not pick up this computer by the lid. The display panel itself is LG LP156WF6-SPB1, which is a really nice 72% NTSC IPS screen. I’ve played a few video games, and done some video and photo editing and I have no complaints.

It took me awhile to figure out how to configure the programs, games and apps to use either the integrated Intel graphics or the GeForce 1050Ti. There is a big, big difference between the two in graphics performance, that’s for sure. I played some fairly moderate computer games(Pinball FX2, Serious Sam HD) and did not notice any significant excess heat, even after a few hours of gaming. I’m sure more complex games will tax the system a bit more, but it’s encouraging to see everything in the max power department working as expected. We’ll get to run the CPU up to the red line when we do some full length video rendering, but so far with Photoshop and short video clip production, the Intel i7 processor barely seems to be getting a workout.

Editing kayak fishing photos on the Eluktronics N850HK1 laptop computer

The 256GB Eluktro Pro-X m.2 SSD is fast and has been working well. 16G RAM does the job. The 2TB 5400 rpm HD that came with the computer is an older model Seagate Barracuda 128MB cache with a two year warranty. We are not the biggest Seagate fans but laptop hard drive choices 2TB and over are limited, so we’ll see how it goes. Everything is backed up on a USB 3.0 WD 4TB Passport external drive. The card reader and USB ports all work the way you’d expect. Don’t have any USB-C peripherals, so we’ll have to wait for that.

What don’t I like so far? Not much really. The keyboard has a little bit of flex, but it’s not noticeable unless you are looking at the keys while you type. The touchpad seems really sensitive, but I’m not much of a touchpad fan and try to only use them when necessary, so it’s probably the way it’s supposed to be. I don’t like some of the things about Windows 10, but that’s no reflection on the computer itself.

So now the Eluktronics N850HK1 is in everyday use for the field unit. The blog posts, photos and videos are now coming from the Eluktronics N850HK1. It’s going to get a workout so we’ll keep the reviews updated.

Jul 182017

We are going to spending some time on the road, so we here at are in the market for a laptop computer that can handle the video and photo editing tasks as well as do a little bit of video gaming on the side. As always, price is a factor. If we had unlimited funds, the decision would be a lot easier, but we need to get the most bang for our bucks. As always, we pay for all of our gear just like you do, so our reviews and articles are not biased in any way. We build all of our own workstations, servers and desktop computers, but laptops are generally pretty limited when it comes to upgrades and customization, so you pretty much have to get the main components you want, like the CPU(processor) and GPU(graphics processor), out of the box. Some components can be upgraded, we’ll cover that as we go along.

We have a pretty good idea of what we would like to spend and the components we can get at that price point. Like most computer purchases, you’ll find computers with mostly the same specifications from different manufacturers. That’s where things like warranty, customer service and company reputation come into the picture. For this computer, we want to stay in the $1200USD range, give or take a few dollars. For sure we want an 7th Generation Intel Core i7-7700HQ Quad Core CPU. This powerful 2.8Ghz(3.8Ghz Turbo) processor will be able to handle all of our editing and gaming needs. It also has onboard graphics, but for our graphics, and especially gaming requirements, we want a dedicated graphics; a graphics processor separate from the main CPU. This will give us much better graphic quality. The best price/performance GPU for our needs is the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050Ti GPU with 4GB GDDR5 Video Memory. To go with the dedicated GPU, especially for our editing jobs, we want an IPS LCD display. There are cheaper LCD panels, but this is one place we don’t want to skimp. Things we would need are 16G of RAM minimum, a PCIe SSD for our operating system and at least one SSD or hard drive for storage. These components are usually upgradeable, but if we can get what we want from the manufacturer, that will save us money down the road. We’ll get into more details as we go along.

A basic decision is should we go with a traditional mobile workstation or a recent newer line of consumer gaming computers? Mobile workstations are nice; powerful, durable and built for heavy duty work. They also come with a heavy duty price tag, probably close to double what we would like to spend. We are looking at a relatively new genre of laptop “gaming” computers. This type of computer has plenty of power necessary to run demanding computer games which means they have all the power needed for the 1920×1080 video editing and photo work we have. The downside of gaming computers is that they are not as durable as mobile workstations and the cooling may not be as good. Since we will be spending a lot of time traveling, we won’t be able to easily ship the computer back and forth for repairs, so reliability is one of the most important purchasing decisions. As with most computer purchases, it’s a price/performance/reliability trade off that usually causes a potential computer buyer to spend hours doing research trying to figure out which computer or component to purchase.

We’ve been looking around for awhile and have a couple laptops leading the pack for our hard earned money. The Dell Inspirion 15 7000 Gaming(7567) and the Sager NP6852 are the computers that seem to have everything we are looking for. Dell is one of the most well known computer brands while Sager is a laptop specialist popular with enthusiasts.

Dell Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming laptop computer(7567)

The Dell Inspirion 7567 is a solid computer. Positives would be Dell’s generally good record for quality products and solid warranties. The battery life is very good, perhaps the best, in this computer class, that’s a big plus. Negatives would be Dell’s proprietary software and partitioning scheme that can make upgrades and software configuration difficult, if not impossible. We have a good deal of experience with Dell computers and while Dell Business Customer Service is very good, for everyone else, it is hit and miss. Since we will be in there with “everyone else”, we have to count Dell customer service as mostly negative. For the price and what you get, the Dell Inspirion 15 7000 is still a leading contender, as long as nothing goes wrong.

Sager NP6852-Clevo N850HK1 Sager NP6852-Clevo N850HK1

The Sager NP6852 is actually a Clevo N850HK1. Clevo is a Taiwanese OEM/ODM laptop computer manufacturer, Sager is one of a number of resellers for their laptop computers. The upside of the Sager NP6852 is that is is more user upgradeable/serviceable and for a few bucks more comes a 250G Samsung 960 EVO M.2 PCIe NVMe SSD, where the Dell Inspirion comes with a 128GB SSD and 1TB 5400RPM hard drive. The absence of bloatware and proprietary software is a plus. The downside of the Sager NP6852 is the question of reliabilty and customer service. Although reviews on the internet seem mostly positive, we have personally never had any experience with Sager. This is a big negative for us. Sager may be the best company on the face of the earth, we just don’t know anything about them.

We’ve sent emails to both Dell and Sager asking a few questions about their computer’s components and configurations. We’ll see what they have to say and continue with our research. We will also be checking out laptops with basically the same specifications like the Lenovo Legion Y520 and laptops from Asus and MSI. We’ll be updating this blog as we get closer to making a final decision.

7-20-17 Update We’ve been looking at a lot of laptop computers and finally the time spent researching has paid off. We liked the Dell Inspiron 7567 but could not get any information about the computer’s components. Buying a $1200 computer without knowing the brand and model of the PCIe SSD, hard drive and especially, the display panel is ridiculous. I could not get a straight answer from anybody at Dell despite repeated attempts. Emails to Dell sales department went unanswered. Throw in Dell bloatware and proprietary software to compliment the poor customer service and that’s all she wrote.

Despite the fact I had never heard of Sager until we started looking for this laptop, they seemed like they were willing to provide the customer service we would expect. We really liked the Sager NP6852/Clevo N850HK1, but Sager informed me the computer used an LG LP156WF6-SPK3 display panel, which is not a very good IPS panel. We were hoping we could find the Clevo N850HK1 computer from another vendor with a better IPS display panel and we came across Eluktronics.

Eluktronics H850HK1

Eluktronics sells Clevo laptops, but while the chassis, motherboard and other core components are the same, different vendors have different components like display panels, memory, solid state drives hard drives and other components. Eluktronics sells the Clevo N850HK1 as the Eluktro Pro N850 Series N850HK1. It has all the stuff we want; Intel i7-7700HQ Quad Core CPU, GeForce GTX 1050 Ti, 16G DDR4 2400MHz RAM and a 256G M.2 PCIe NVMe Flash SSD. What sold us on this version of the Clevo N850HK1 is that Eluktronics specs their version with Crucial memory, their “house brand” 256GB Eluktro Pro-X Performance M.2 PCIe NVMe Flash SSD, which is a Samsung PM961 Polaris M.2-2280 PCI-e 3.0 x 4 NVMe Single-Sided Solid State Drive and a huge plus is an LG LP156WF6-SPB1 display panel, which is significantly better than the LG LP156WF6-SPK3. Like Sager, I had never heard of Eluktronics until a few days ago. When I contacted them for information, they responded quickly with all the information I asked for. I asked them to swap a hard drive that we really didn’t need for an upgrade from Windows 10 Home to Windows 10 Pro, they said it would be no problem. Free shipping is also another big plus. Along with a slew of great reviews about Eluktronics, I feel pretty good about purchasing a laptop from them.

The reviews and observations of the Eluktronics N850HK1 continue HERE

Mar 262017

Today we have to report on more Panasonic Lumix camera problems. I have two Panasonic Lumix cameras; a DMC-LX5 and a DMC-LX7.

Panasonic Lumix camera failures. LX5 has faulty control wheel, LX7 has OIS system failure

The cameras are well taken care of, never dropped, handled roughly or been exposed to rain or snow. Both have now failed with less than two years of use. Keep in mind, these are not cheap cameras. They cost about $350 USD each when purchased. The LX5 lasted a couple years before the rear control wheel that changes shutter speed and aperture stopped working. The camera is now limited to operation in “Intelligent Auto” mode, something any cell phone or $100 camera can do.

Panasonic Lumix LX5 failed control wheel

Since repair quotes from Panasonic cost 2/3 the price of the camera, and thinking I was just unlucky and Leica has always meant “quality” to me, I bought a Lumix LX7 to replace it. After about two years, about the same as with the LX5, the LX7 started showing “System Error OIS” messages and the camera can no longer be used.

Panasonic Lumix System Error OIS

Both the LX5 and LX7 Lumix cameras failed at about the same age; two years. Both problems, the LX5 control wheel and the LX7 OIS System Error(the OIS is image stabilization) are hardware issues; either low quality parts or poor craftsmanship. Panasonic Customer Service is not known for it’s excellent customer support and it certainly is not cheap, especially since they are replacing poor quality original parts with other poor quality parts, this time with no warranty, looks like these two Panasonic Lumix cameras will be headed to the landfill because of $10 worth of mass produced electronic parts.

Information about Panasonic factory repair. The repair estimate for each camera is $232. The cameras cost $350 new. The Panasonic Support online chat does not work, there is no email address and each telephone call regarding repairs is $9. That is piss poor customer support.

What about all the five star reviews for Panasonic cameras on the internet? If Panasonic gave me a free camera and wrote a review after using it for a few weeks, I’d give it five stars, too. How about a review of a Panasonic camera that cost $350 of your own money and only lasted two years? That would be about one star. Maybe a half a star. Needless to say, this will be the end of the Panasonic products for me.

Like all the product reviews here at, we pay for all this stuff with our own hard-earned money. I burned $700 on poor quality, big name cameras. Think about that if are planning to purchase a Panasonic camera.

Nov 032013

We use a couple GoProHD Hero cameras for some of our POV video footage. You can read a full review of these cameras HERE although this model is older, the current GoPro cameras are the Hero3 models.
Anyway, after using the cameras for about three years without any problems, when I plugged one of the cameras into the USB port of my computer to charge the battery, instead of the red light on the front of the camera coming on indicating the camera was charging, the light began flashing weakly. I disconnected the camera from the computer and pushed the power/mode button on the front of the camera and nothing happened. I took the battery out and replaced it with a battery from another camera and powered it up, the camera turned on normally. I turned the camera off, waited a few minutes and tried it again and the camera did not power up. I took the battery that would not charge and put it in another GoPro, plugged it into the computer with the USB cord and got the weak flashing red light. I immediately unhooked it from the computer and pulled the battery out.
Clearly there was a problem, either with the camera or the battery. Since I got the flashing red light on two cameras with the same battery, I suspect the battery is defective, maybe a short circuit, and may have done some damage to the camera.
If the camera was still covered by the GoPro warranty, it could have been sent back to the factory and have them check it out. In this case, I would have sent the camera and the battery. Since this camera is beyond the warranty period, we would have to take care of the problem ourselves. We decided to try a “hard reset” of the camera and hope that would bring the camera back to life. If you have a problem like this with your GoPro, here’s how to do a hard reset:

GoPro Hero and Hero II

  • 1. Take the battery and SD card out of the camera. Let the camera sit this way for at least a few hours, overnight is better.
  • 2. Press the shutter button on the top of the camera and keep holding it down.
  • 3. With the shutter button still depressed, insert the battery.
  • 4. With the shutter button still depressed and battery in the camera, press the start/mode button the the front of the camera. Hopefully, the camera will power up and you’ll see a display on the LCD screen.
  • 5. Power off the camera and insert the SD card. Power the camera up and check the settings before using the camera.

  • GoPro Hero 3 and 3+

  • 1. Hold down the Shutter (S) button.
  • 2. Press the Power (P) button while holding the Shutter button.

  • GoPro Hero 4

  • 1. Press the Mode (front) button until you see the Setup Gear icon.
  • 2. Press the Shutter (top) button to select it.
  • 3. Press the Mode (front) button until Rest Cam is highlighted.
  • 4. Press the Shutter (top) button to select it.
  • 5. Press the Mode (front) button to highlight Reset.
  • 6. Press the Shutter (top) button to select it.

  • The “hard reset” may not work in every situation, but with a dead camera that’s out of warranty, there are not a lot of options. The battery that gave the weak blinking light when charging is going in the trash.

    We have become aware of a last ditch attempt to salvage GoPro cameras that appear dead. We have not tried this ourselves and recommend that you do not do any of this unless you have a GoPro camera that appears completely dead, you’ve tried everything else and the camera is out of warranty. You will also need to have some knowledge of Linux and be able to follow instructions. You can check it out here if you want to give it a try.

    Oct 192011

    If you’ve been to a ski resort or on a bike trail in the past year or two, no doubt you’ve seen many GoPro cameras attached to every part of a person’s body. While there have been a number of personal POV(Point Of View) cameras available at a relatively inexpensive price, including Contour and the more expensive and sophisticated V.I.O, the GoPro is the most popular with action sports enthusiasts. Here at WatermanAtWork, we have many years of experience with POV movie, video and still cameras and we’ve been using GoPros for some time now, so we are in a pretty good position to provide a review of the GoPro product line.

    GoPro HD Hero Naked

    User Profile and Cost
    Who would want a GoPro camera and how much do they cost? If you are an action sports/video/photography enthusiast, especially if your photos and videos are going to be used on the internet, the GoPro is a decent way to get into making basic POV videos. Keep in mind that you are not going to be making any full length video productions with the GoPro, they are basically there to record your own personal adventures. As with any ultra wide angle/fisheye camera setup, anything more than a few feet away is going to be very small and things close to the camera are going to be very large. Wide angle and fisheye lenses also flatten the perspective, so that giant wave or huge mountain bike cliff jump is not going to look as dramatic as it does in real life. That being said, at this price, the GoPro is as good as you can expect to get.
    GoPro cameras come in a number of basic packages. The HD Hero Naked is a GoPro HD Hero camera, waterproof housing and a few basic camera mounts, it retails for about $260USD. The HD Motorsports Hero comes with the GoPro HD Hero camera, waterproof housing, flat and curved adhesive mounts, suction cup mount and a pivot arm. As the name implies, this kit is targeted for automobile, truck and motorcycle enthusiasts who want to mount the camera on their vehicle or helmet. It retails for about $300USD. The HD Surf Hero is for surfers and other water based boardsport enthusiasts. It comes with the GoPro HD Hero camera, waterproof housing, board mount, FCS plug mount and leash. It retails for about $300USD. The HD Helmet Hero package comes with the GoPro camera, waterproof housing, head strap, vented helmet strap, curved and flat adhesive mounts and a three way pivot arm. It retails for about $300USD and it targeted for use by bicycle riders. It is also a pretty good all around package for other kinds of activities. GoPro also has the HD Hero 960. It comes with a GoPro Hero 960 camera, waterproof housing, headlamp-style head strap, helmet front mount, curved and flat adhesive mounts and a quick release buckle. The HD Hero 960 does not shoot in 720p @ 60fps or 1080p @ 30fps video modes and cannot be fitted with the GoPro BacPac LCD monitor or battery extension. It is cheaper than the standard HD Hero pacakages at about $180USD. All the camera packages come with a mini USB cable, component(HDTV) cable, composite video/audio cable, 1100 mAh lithium ion rechargeable battery and one year warranty. GoPro also sells a wide range of mounting hardware and accessories that will allow you to mount your camera just about anywhere your imagination will take you. GoPro also has a 3D Hero System to record 3D videos and photos, it costs about $100USD.

    HD Hero Front View

    The HD Hero Camera
    The GoPro camera has a fixed focus, f2.8 glass lens, a 1/2.5″ CMOS sensor and saves video with H264 compression in an MPEG 4(.mp4) format and mono audio in a 48kHz, AAC compression format. Automatic exposure control(center weighted or spot metering) and white balance.

    HD Hero Side View

    The GoPro HD Hero shoots in three HD video resolutions:
    1080p: 1920×1080 at 30fps NTSC(25fps PAL), 127° field of view, 16:9 aspect ratio, HD
    720p: 1280×720 at 30 and 60fps(25 and 50fps PAL), 170° field of view, 16:9 aspect ratio, HD
    480p(WVGA): 848×480 at 60fps(50fps PAL) 170° field of view, 16:9 aspect ratio, HD
    And one standard definition resolution:
    960p: 1280×960 at 30fps(25fps PAL), 170° field of view, 4:3 “Tall” aspect ratio

    HD Hero Side View

    The GoPro camera also has a 5 megapixel still camera that shoots photographs in Single Shot, at 2, 5, 10, 30 and 60 second intervals, self timer and 3 photo burst modes.
    The rechargeable 1100mAh Lithium-Ion battery will power the camera for just over a couple hours and takes about the same time to recharge via a USB computer connection or charger. There are also standalone battery chargers available.
    The GoPro HD Hero uses SDHC memory cards up to 32GB. There have been some compatibility issues with some SDHC cards, GoPro suggests Kingston or Patriot Class 4 SDHC cards, we use Kingston 16GB Class 4 SDHC cards; the 16GB cards are much cheaper than a 32GB card and we’d rather have two 16GB cards instead of one 32GB card for security reasons, and the Class 4 seems to be fast enough to capture even the highest resolution HD video, so no need to buy a more expensive, higher class card(higher class cards are faster).
    The camera is 1.6″(42mm)x 2.4″(60mm)x 1.2″(30mm)(H x W x D) and weighs 5.3oz.(150g) including the battery and 6.3oz.(179g) with the waterproof housing.
    The GoPro HD Hero has an expansion port to accommodate the LCD BacPac and Battery BacPac, but not both at the same time.

    HD Hero Case Front View

    Waterproof Camera Housing
    The HD Hero camera comes with a polycarbonate and stainless steel waterproof camera housing as well as a “skeleton” back that will allow better sound recording, but obviously will not be waterproof. The skeleton back is only to be used on dry land.

    HD Hero Case Side View

    The housing not only protects the camera from the elements, but it is what all the mounting attachments use to attach the camera to the various GoPro camera mounts. GoPro claims the waterproof housing has a depth rating of 180 feet(60 meters), personally, I would not go anywhere near that deep with it. Might want to take the housing down first without the camera in it to check it out.

    HD Hero Case Side View

    The housing camera control and case seals are very small; a grain of sand between the control shaft and rubber ‘O’ ring seal might cause the housing to leak and ruin the camera. The housing has a replaceable lens should it become scratched.

    GoPro Camera Accessories
    GoPro sells all kinds of mounting hardware to attach the GoPro camera to just about anything. Adhesive mounts, helmet mounts, wrist, chest and head strap mounts, suction cup mounts, roll bar and handlebar mounts; just about everything you can think of. Part of the challenge of using a POV camera is to design the mounts to get the perspective you want.
    GoPro also sells what they call “Premium Accessories”. They are the 3D Hero System; the stuff you need to shoot, edit and view 3D movies and photos, the LCD BacPac; an LCD viewer that allows you to see what you are shooting and playback footage and photos you have taken and the Battery BacPac that allows you to use two Lithium-Ion batteries simultaneously for extended recording time.

    LCD BacPac

    The LCD BacPac comes with the LCD viewfinder/monitor and comes with waterproof and skeleton camera housing backs(the LCD BacPac will not fit in a standard GoPro Hero HD housing). It has a control button and built in speaker. The LCD BacPac is pretty cool and can be helpful in situations where you need to see what you are shooting or to set up a shot.

    HD Hero LCD BacPac Side View

    There are a few things to consider with the LCD BacPac. It adds a little weight to the camera; this may not seem like a big deal, but in situations like on a helmet or surfboard, every gram makes a difference. When used in the waterproof housing, the extra heat of the LCD screen and faster discharging battery may cause condensation inside the housing.

    HD Hero LCD BacPac Side View

    Battery life is the major concern with the LCD BacPac; when using it, battery life is cut in half. If you leave the LCD on, the battery will only last about an hour or so. The LCD BacPac comes with waterproof and skeleton camera housing backs for the HD Hero and HD Wrist housings and costs about $80USD.
    If battery life is an issue, perhaps if you are using the GoPro for time lapse photography or shooting a lot of footage/photos between battery recharges, there is the Battery BacPac. It attaches to the back of the GoPro HD Hero camera and holds an additional 1100 mAh battery for extended shooting times. The Battery BacPac can also be used as a standalone battery charger. The Battery BacPac comes with an 1100 mAh battery, waterproof and skeleton backs for the camera housing, and a USB cable for about $50USD.

    Video Quality
    So what kind of HD video does this little camera produce? Overall, it’s not too bad, but there are a few things you will want to look out for to get the best video quality you can. As with all video and photography work, the lighting is the most important thing.
    The GoPro automatic exposure has a very slow response to changing light conditions, like if you are riding a bike through sunny, then shaded areas. This is really annoying and lets anyone who knows anything about video that you are using a consumer camera(professional videographers and photographers generally hate AUTO anything). Not much you can do about it in the editing process either. The GoPro does not do well in really bright, sunny conditions (overexposed, “washed out”) or low light (pixellated, video “noise”) conditions either. You have to have good lighting conditions to get the best footage. The ideal lighting for the GoPro would be sunny, with high, thin clouds so it would be fairly bright but without harsh bright or shadow conditions; “even” lighting would be a good way to describe it. The GoPro does allow you to choose between center weighted and spot exposure metering, sometimes that helps.
    The GoPro uses a CMOS sensor with a rolling shutter, also known as line scan. When the camera is moving, like with a typical POV situation, the rolling shutter will sometimes be distorted. This is called the jello effect. No real way to get around this, pretty much all cameras that use CMOS sensors are susceptible to the rolling shutter effect.
    There is also a blurring of the edges of the video when it is in the camera housing. That’s because the manufacturing process for the housing’s lens port plastic distorts the material at the edges and causes the blurring of the video. Not a deal breaker, but it is noticeable.
    The camera has a microphone to record audio, but it is pretty poor. Mono sound that is poor quality. Add in wind noise if you are using the camera while you are moving and you will quickly see why most GoPro videos have some kind of musical soundtrack.
    What can be done to get the best quality video? Being in tune with the lighting conditions as described earlier is the biggest thing. Shooting at 60fps will cut down on the jitters and jerkiness if the camera is moving around a lot. Try the center weighted and spot exposure metering, see if that helps.

    Video Viewing and Editing
    As with all HD video, you are going to need a fairly powerful computer to view the GoPro video and an even more powerful computer to do any meaningful editing. To view 1080p HD video, you will need a 2.4 GHz dual core processor, 2G RAM and at least a 256 MB Video RAM, 600 MHz video card. A 7200rpm hard drive or SSD is a big plus. You can view GoPro videos with recent versions of Windows Media Player and Quicktime, but we prefer the VLC Player (VideoLan).
    To edit and render the H264 .MP4 video files produced by the GoPro cameras, you will need a quad core processor; an Intel i5 might get you by, an i7 is better. 8G of RAM would be the minimum; we have 8G of DDR3 in our i7 video editing workstation, we are bumping it up to 16G of DDR3 1600 RAM for smoother operations with Adobe Premiere Pro CS4 and Sony Vegas 9. Of course, to use that much memory, you have to run Windows 7 64bit operating system, which we do. A video card with a minimum of 512MB 256bit DDR3 video RAM should do the job, if you can swing it, 1G would be better. A dual video card setup like Crossfire or SLI is not necessary unless you plan to do a bit of gaming with the computer as well as video editing. Definitely at least two hard drives; one 7200rpm drive for your programs and another “work/capture” drive. We’ve been running a 120G SSD as the program/boot drive and a 1G 7200 rpm work drive, it’s a sweet setup.
    All the top shelf video editing software like Adobe Premiere Pro, Sony Vegas and Final Cut Pro will handle GoPro video files. Results may vary with cheaper or free software, you might have to do some transcoding to get the files to work. We’ve found that MPEG Streamclip is very handy for lossless conversion of the GoPro .MP4 files if they don’t work natively.

    Sample Videos
    You can take a look at some video taken with the GoPro HD Hero; here are some road bike POV videos and here are some mountain bike videos. These videos were edited with Adobe Premiere Pro CS4 and rendered with the Adobe Media Encoder CS4. More videos are on the way.

    Final Thoughts
    Despite a few shortcomings, the GoPro is a pretty decent POV video camera. You really aren’t going to get much more at this price point. It’s fun to play around with and everyone likes to see themselves on video, but be prepared; the “big airs” are a lot bigger in your mind than on the video screen. One more thing; most of the gear you buy from GoPro has a one year warranty, which is a good thing. We have two GoPro cameras and an LCD BacPac; all three of them had to be returned under warranty because of manufacturing problems. GoPro is pretty good about replacing defective cameras, but the cost shipping the gear back to Half Moon Bay kind of jacks the overall price up and you are without your camera, so keep that in mind.

    As with all product reviews on, we do not get anything free, we pay for them just like you do, our reviews are made by people who need to get their money’s worth out of the things they buy. As we continue to use the GoPro cameras, this review will be updated accordingly.

    Aug 142011

    After leaving my digital camera on the roof of my truck and driving away from a mountain bike trailhead, I found myself looking for another camera. I have a nice Canon DSLR, but it is too big and heavy to carry around when I’m riding bikes or traveling light, so I needed a camera that was small and light that has excellent image quality and professional features like manual controls for exposure and focus and RAW format imaging.
    There aren’t many compact cameras with manual controls and RAW format images and I quickly narrowed my choices down to the Canon Powershot S95 and the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5. Both are excellent cameras with superb image quality so deciding between the two was going to come down to features and handling. Both cameras have a long list of features, deciding between the two of them was tough, especially since I am a long time Canon camera owner. Canon is well known for top quality cameras and lenses, but the Leica lens on the Lumix has a reputation for quality as well, so I decided go with the Panasonic this time around.
    When I got the camera, I was amazed at how small it was. Not a true “shirt pocket” camera, but very small and easy to carry around. The Lumix has a removable lens cap, which is kind of unusual for a compact camera. I’m used to dealing with lens caps from using an SLR, but if you are coming from a “point and shoot” digital camera, dealing with the lens cap may be a bit of a hassle. The lens cap must be removed before the camera is turned on(even if the camera is plugged into a computer to download photos and/or video from the camera) or the camera will show a “Remove lens cap and press any button” message on the LCD viewfinder. JJC makes an Auto Lens Cap for the LX5 that automatically opens and closes when the camera is turned on and off if the stock lens cap turns out to be too much of a hassle.

    Panasonic Lumix LX5

    When the camera is turned on(and the lens cap removed), the Leica lens extends from the camera. Even though the camera is small, it is well balanced and feels very solid. It has a rubber grip on the right side of the camera that helps the photographer to keep a firm grip on the camera.

    Lumix LX5

    Lumix LX5 Features
    Leica Lens – The Lumix LX5 has a fast, sharp Leica lens. The f2.0-3.3 24-90mm(35mm equivalent) is about is good as you’re going to get on a compact camera. The f2.0 speed is helpful in low light situations, especially since the on board flash has limited range and some photographers just prefer natural light as long as it’s available. The 24mm(35mm equivalent) wide angle lens is perfect on a small camera to get in close to your subject. If you are a photographer that prefers to stand back and use a telephoto, the LX5 may be a little shorter than other cameras in it’s class on max telephoto, but if you like to get into the action with a fast wide angle lens, the Lumix is a great choice. The auto focus in standard and macro modes is very fast and accurate, if it’s not good enough, there is manual focus as well. The lens is optically stabilized with Panasonic’s Power O.I.S(Optical Image Stabilizer).

    10MP MultiAspect CCD Sensor – It seems like camera manufacturers are backing away from more megapixels and focusing more on image quality. The Lumix 1/1.63″ CCD sensor has increased sensitivity to expand the dynamic range. The bright Leica lens and improved sensor produce sharp, beautiful images, especially in the RAW format. There is a manual control on the lens barrel that allows the user to change the image aspect ratio. The 4:3 ratio is standard, 16:9 is great for wide shots like landscapes, 1:1 is a square pixel format common with computer displays.

    Manual Controls – Serious photographers want control over their images, manual control is mandatory. The Lumix LX5 has a full range of manual controls; exposure, white balance, focus and more. There are many creative imaging modes, but to be honest, I’ve pretty much used the camera in Manual mode most of the time, shot in RAW format and do my image manipulation with Photoshop CS4. There are options to create custom menus to change commonly used camera settings. There is a knob on top of the camera, similar to a DSLR, for shooting modes and a control wheel on the back of the camera to change aperture and shutter speed as well as for manual focus.

    Lumix LX5 - TopView

    HD Video – Most DSLR cameras can shoot HD video, that technology has trickled down to compact cameras. Panasonic has a strong legacy in HD video and they have put that technology in the Lumix LX5. The Lumix can shoot 1280 x 720(720p) HD video as high as 17Mbps in AVCHD Lite format as well as Motion JPEG(MJPEG) in 1280 x 720, 640 x 480, 320 x 240 and 848 x 480, all at 30fps. It has pretty decent Dolby sound with a wind cut feature. The Lumix has a separate movie button on top of the camera to start recording. With the camera set in “Auto” movie mode, it’s super easy to go from shooting photos to movies with the push of a button. The Lumix also has full manual exposure controls for video and continuous autofocus while zooming. There are also plenty of creative settings in the video mode, haven’t got to many of them yet. The LX5 produces great HD video for such a small camera. The only negative here would be that the Lumix has a sensor bloom issue with some specular highlights. Not a major issue, but in certain situations it can be a problem.

    Lumix LX5 - Rear View

    More Features – The LX5 has a large, bright 3″, 460K pixel TFT LCD display that shows nearly 100% Field Of View. It has a hot shoe for external flash, something you don’t find too often on compact cameras. There is also an electronic and optical viewfinder available that mount to the hot shoe for situations where it might be hard to see the camera’s LCD display screen. Like most compact cameras, the on board flash is not going to be very effective at any distance, but up to about 23 feet(7m), the flash works pretty well. By manually adjusting the aperture and/or shutter speed, you can get pretty good looking fill flash shots.

    Lumix LX5 - Flash

    The LX5 uses an SD/SDHC/SDXC flash storage card. To be sure that there wouldn’t be any problems, especially with HD video, I use a Class 10 16GB SDHC card. You can probably use a Class 4 or Class 6 as well. A 32GB SDHC card would have been nice, but the 16GB card is more reasonably priced and it holds plenty of photos and videos. For security reasons, I would almost rather have two 16GB cards instead of one 32GB card. SDXC cards have higher capacity, but they are pretty expensive, have to wait a bit on those for the price to drop.
    The Lumix comes with a micro USB cable to hook up to your computer, it also has an HDMI port. My Windows 7 had no problems recognizing the camera, transferring files is copy and paste(or drag and drop). The Panasonic RW2 format files are not recognized by Windows or Adobe Photoshop CS4, from what I understand, they will work with Photoshop CS5. If you have an older version of Photoshop and can’t afford a new version every year, you can convert the Panasonic RW2 files to DNG with the Adobe DNG Converter without any loss in quality and you can open them in Adobe Bridge, Lightroom and Photoshop. There are DNG converters for Windows and Apple computers. Shooting HD video in AVCHD produces .mts files. You can view them on your computer with the VLC Media Player, Windows Media Player plays them as well. As with any HD video, to work with it, you are going to need a fairly powerful computer, the old Pentium 3 with 512MB RAM is not going to cut it. Adobe Premiere CS4 and Sony Vegas 9 are capable of editing native AVCHD files, there are a number of ways to transcode the video files to get them to work with other editing software as well. The Lumix comes packaged with PHOTOfunSTUDIO 5.0 and Silkypix Developer Studio 3.1, so if you don’t have any photo or video editing software, they should be enough to get you going.

    Although the LX5 is a small camera, it doesn’t have a small price tag, so you are going to want to take care of it. First thing I got for my camera was a protective case. The case I got is the CaseLogic TBC303. It fits the camera perfectly, has a separate zippered compartment for a spare battery and memory card, strong belt loop and twenty five year warranty. Only cost about $12. Case closed.

    Case Logic TBC303

    Since these compact cameras are so small, it is impossible to use AA batteries, so they all have proprietary lithium ion batteries. The Lumix LX5 comes with a DMW-BCJ13E Li-ion battery and charger. For a small battery, it holds a charge pretty well. Panasonic says 400 images, your mileage may vary, especially if you shoot photos and HD video. I’ve found that a fully charged battery will last nearly an entire day of shooting photos and AVCHD video. The battery did run out before I filled up a 16GB SDHC card. The stock Panasonic batteries are expensive, the cheapest I’ve found is about $35. You can get cheapo Chinese replacement batteries for less than $10 each, but they won’t have Panasonic’s proprietary microchip in them so there will be no battery power level readout. They also may not work at all. Both the eBay specials in the photo below gave a “This battery cannot be used with this camera” message when first installed, but after the original message, the battery on the right worked fine(without a power level readout) while the battery on the left did not work at all. Both batteries were purchased at the same time from eBay seller “atcsupplyusa“. They claim to be in Chicago, but it must be the Chinese part of Chicago because their emails are from China. There are several feedback cases that batteries from this company destroyed laptop computers or battery chargers melted, there’s a chance a battery from a company like this will ruin your camera. atcsupplyusa are textbook eBay scammers; cheap Chinese batteries with no quality control or testing, bogus positive feedback and worthless 60 day refund claims. Best to bite the bullet and cough up the money for a genuine Panasonic battery.

    Aftermarket Batteries

    So, who would be interested in the Lumix LX5? If you are a professional or serious amateur photographer looking for a top quality camera to take along when it’s not possible to carry your expensive and bulky DSLR, it would be a good choice. I shoot a lot out in the field; bicycle riding, camping, snowboarding and skiing, etc.; the LX5 produces images that are nearly as good as my DSLR as well as HD video in a very compact package. If you are getting into photography and can’t afford a DSLR and lenses, the LX5 would be a good starter camera that could become your backup when you do get a full sized camera. If you want an auto-everything point and shoot camera, the LX5 would be overkill, you’d be better off with a $100 P&S camera that will be easier for you to use.

    There you have it. As with all product reviews on, we do not get anything free, we pay for them just like you do, our reviews are made by people who need to get their money’s worth out of the things they buy. As we continue to use the Lumix LX5, this review will be updated accordingly.