MaticKos Photography

GoPro field of view (fov) and image quality compared

So I have a GoPro Hero2 for a long time now. It's mostly used for backstage or as a "scene" camera since the footage is perfect adequate for my needs and the wide angle is just what I need. The one thing that always left me wondering was it's Field Of View (FOV) settings while using a fixed lens and the image quality associated with it..
In 1080 mode Hero2 has three options: wide (180 degrees), medium (127 degrees) and narrow (90 degrees). There are no interchangeable lens, no moving glass, no optical zoom, so the change in FOV has to be done by software, right? The software just crops into the original 1080 wide shot and enlarges the crop to 1920x1080. So it doesn't make any difference if you record in wide mode, then crop&enlarge if needed later in post. At least that's what most users on forums say, but is it true? Well, I had a few hours to kill while my video was rendering, so I did a quick test.

Three 1080 clips on a tripod: wide, medium and narrow. Done indoor, in poor light to maximize defects and to see the noise reduction done by the GoPro.
All screenshots are unaltered, at 100% view, cropped to center 700x700px for easy(er) handling on blog.

Then I took the wide shot and enlarged it for about 128%, to fit the original medium shot from the cam.
If you use your keyboard left and right arrows, you can quickly switch between the two images and compare them.

There is a slight brightness and color temperature difference, but the sharpness and noise difference is quite obvious. The original medium shot is a lot sharper and clearer then the enlarged wide shot. So I guess GoPro doesn't only crop and enlarge, it does a few other modifications as well.


Here's the same comparison between wide and narrow shot. Wide shot enlarged to fit the original narrow shot.
Don't really have to comment, do I?



This noise was bothering me too much, so I went out and did some some more outdoor samples.

Taken on clear sunny day in sunlit area, original medium shot and wide shot enlarged in Photoshop. There's some contrast difference, but that's easily fixed in post, but the sharpness difference is obvious.


Here the original narrow shot with enlarged wide shot. As before.. no comparison.

Here's another original narrow shot and enlarged wide shot; sunny day, shade:


and original narrow shot with enlarged wide shot:


Last sample set, original medium shot and enlarged wide shot; sunny day, open shade:


and original narrow show with enlarged wide shot:



My conclusion..  It is NOT the same filming in wide mode (then cropping & enlarging in post) or changing fov modes in camera itself. If sharpness is your main priority, it is far better to pick your fov and setting it in the camera before filming. Color and contrast can easily be fixed in post, same as blur, while sharpness can't be. Judging by the samples, GoPro does a really good job with it's "zooming", so use it.


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