The Melancholy Death of my GoPro Hero 3 (Black Edition)

With its tiny body and HD quality video, the GoPro seemed like the perfect solution for my underwater adventures. My goal was to record footage of tropical fish, and if I was lucky, a Sea Turtle. I picked one up right before leaving for the Caribbean, and it did not disappoint. One of my favorite experiences of the journey was swimming with a Hawksbill Turtle for nine minutes while letting the camera roll. Using Adobe Premier I was able to pull a good looking still images right out of the video. Amazing! 

Once back on land in the U.S. I used it to film my dogs romping around the lake, and on our boating adventures. It was a great way to capture the action without worrying about ruining my DSLR with sand or saltwater. I was even able to look past the warped horizon lines caused by the ultra wide lens. The convenience of having a seemingly indestructible little camera was worth the tradeoff. 

Battery life was never great with only about 1 hour of shooting time per charge. I invested in about 5 extra batteries and a wall charger. Since it doesn't take SD cards I picked up two 32GB micro SD cards. The final accessory was the floating waterproof handle to make handholding a bit smoother. With these add-ons and the price of the camera, I had invested nearly $600 in the system. This was supposed to be a serious part of my overall kit. I had plans to use it to document various shoots, and of course more snorkeling adventures. 

It died suddenly with no prior signs of malfunction. I discovered it a few weeks before a trip as I went through my routine gear check. I tried a fresh battery, still nothing. I went online and found others were having the same problem. Turns out, it's so common that GoPro actually published a page of troubleshooting instructions. See below:

If your camera is not powering on, there could be a fault with the camera, battery, SD card, or there could be a loose connection somewhere.  We have some tips for you to try that should clear up the issue for you.

  1. Remove any BacPac accessories, the battery, and SD card from the camera.  Reinsert the battery only.  Press the power button.  If the camera powers on, your camera was frozen and you should be good to go now.
  2. Format the SD card on your computer, instructions on how to do this can be found here.  Note: this will remove all recorded content on the SD card.  If you want the files on the card, make sure that you first save them to your computer.  Once the SD card has been formatted, reinsert it into the camera and try to Power it ON.
  3. If your camera doesn't power on, remove/reinsert the battery and charge the camera via a USB charger or your computer.  Don't attempt to power on the camera while it's charging.  You should see the red LED light on the front of the camera.  If it is not charging properly, try a different USB cable or USB source to try and get the front LED lit on the camera.  Once the charge light goes off, disconnect the camera from USB and power it on.  If it powers on, your battery was dead and just needed be charged.
  4. If your camera doesn't power on after charging and it's a HERO3 camera, take a look at the back red LED.  If it's dimly lit, remove/reinsert the battery and try to power on the camera.  You may need to do this up to 10 times before the camera powers on.
  5. If you're still unable to get your camera to power on, you can contact GoPro Customer Support.

I followed the instructions, and tried various techniques I found on forums. Unfortunately, there was no reviving the unit. My next move is to contact their customer support. Considering the camera is less than one year old, they should do the right thing and fix it at no cost. Still, I'm not confident the will. After submitting the service report I got an automated response that said "We are currently experiencing a high contact volume and may not be able to meet our goal of 1-2 day response time right now." This tells me I'm certainly not alone in my disappointment. I'll share the results of that process in a follow up post.