The Good With the Bad
The GoPro Hero 4 has a lot going for it, I know I’m not the first to admit it. 4k, 240 fps @ 720p, Time lapse, WiFi remote, a touch screen on the silver. It’s a lot to fit into a device that can nearly fit inside the mouth of the CEO of the company it spawned from. Then you have to go stick a battery inside it, which as far as I can see, takes up nearly half of its guts. When loaded the camera is nearly half battery.
A GoPro’s natural food source: Li-Ion
The problems start the moment you start to use the feisty beast. I’m talking about when you’ve been filming using your iPhone app as a remote, the camera set to a steaming 1080p @ 120 frames per second…(because GoPro) and using the Touch BacPac on the rear, and you get less than an hour of happy time with the included battery. The price you pay for having a processor twice as beefy as its predecessor is it drinks the juice like some lithium robbing bandit.
The Good News
Is there’s ways of satisfying this parasitic little bugger’s appetite for small black bricks. These solutions will allow your fun to last longer than the typical 1 hour or thereabouts that seems pretty typical with a fully stressed GoPro Hero. When shopping for batteries they are measured in mAH which stands for milliamp hours, the bigger the mAH number the longer the battery lasts.
1. GoPro Battery BacPac
GoPro’s in house solution is the Battery BacPac. In the same way ‘Apple works with Apple’ this is going to be your best bet as far as a manufacturers product matching the promise of what’s on the box, although there are still some limitations to deal with. Firstly for Hero 4 Silver user’s you’re not going to be able to see or use your touch screen while this is fitted, for Hero 4 Black users you’re not going to be able to attach the LCD Touch BacPac at all.
How much more battery life do you get? The standard battery is 1160 mAH. The BacPac comes with 1260 mAH giving you 108% more power than the standard Hero 4 battery. Once drained it can be recharged by the mini USB port on the side, it doesn’t charge using the GoPro’s charge port so you will have to charge the 2 units separately, it helps to have a charger with dual USB for this. The GoPro Hero 4 Battery BacPac comes with back door options so you can still make the unit water tight for more nautical expeditions.
2. Brunton ALLDAY Extended Battery Back for GoPro HERO3+
As the name suggests this option only suits the HERO3+. The ‘All Day’ is a 4000mAH tank that gives you a total of 5x the battery life of the standard GoPro battery. The Brunton ALLDAY replaces the rear door of the skeleton housing and is locked in place by the housings top latch with the connector slotting into the BacPac connector of the GoPro.
The Brunton ALLDAY for GOPRO HERO3+ can also act as a USB charger. So after you’ve finished your shooting session, use it to top up your cell phone, nice!
It’s important to note the housing is NOT WATERPROOF when the ALLDAY is attached so probably no good for water sports. Good for a nice long time lapse on a sunny day, or mounted in a race car out of the elements.
3. GoPro The Frame + Limefuel Rugged L150XR Battery Pack
With this setup we are using the GoPro Hero 4 Frame as a mounting platform that still gives us access to the USB port on the side of the camera to power it by. This won’t be suitable everywhere but where it shines is for taking long continuous footage longer than 1-2 hours (the life of an internal GoPro battery). This is typical when shooting a long Time Lapse or especially an 8hr Night Lapse.
Be aware the GoPro Frame offers no protection from the elements. If you require more protection I can recommend a skeleton case with side access, or check out the Switronix DVGP4USBC GoPro 4 Battery Eliminator below.
You can use any USB power supply for this setup, even plug into main power if you have the facility. Usually this is not the case when you’re shooting outdoors so I can recommend the Limefuel Rugged L150XR USB Battery Pack. Its water dust and shock resistant so perfect for taking nearly anywhere you would take your GoPro (except underwater). The 15000 mAH capacity means it has a whopping 1293% increase over a standard GoPro Hero 4 battery. It has 2 USB ports and will give out 2 amps from each port, capable of charging 2 iPads, at full speed, at once! Although a touch on the expensive side it’s (at time of writing) the only out there with the combination of battery life, water and dust resistance, dual 2 amp USB ports and 2 amp re-charging.
4. Switronix DVGP4USBC GoPro 4 Battery Eliminator
Switronix make an epic array of aftermarket camera accessories, mostly related to power management. The DVGP4USBC GoPro 4 Battery Eliminator is, in its simplest form, a clever adapter cable that goes from the rear port of the GoPro, through Switronix’s own back door and terminates to a USB connector.
Power supply is similar to the suggestion above and still relies on an external power supply via USB like the Limefuel USB Power Supply (mentioned above) or any other USB power supply. Unfortunately for Hero 4 Black users the Touch BacPac cannot be used at the same time as they share the same connection port on the rear of the camera. The Battery Eliminator does however give better protection from the elements than The Frame mentioned in the previous section but is not totally waterproof.
There are still a few ways you can extend the existing batteries run time. Although each one removes some functionality you can usually do without some of these functions, some of the time. A detailed chart of predicted battery run times can be found on the GoPro Website
5. Turning Off WiFi – Just having the WiFi turned on the camera runs the battery down even when the camera is turned off! If you are streaming the image using your phone expect even more drain
6. Turning off Touch Screen – Just like phones running the touch screen takes juice. Turn it off when you don’t need it and just use the buttons Hero 2 style!
7. Record at a lower Res & FPS – The more pixels you are making, the faster the juice goes. High frame rate and high res makes light work of a battery.
8. Carry lots of batteries – If you are in a position to be able to swap the batteries out every hour then go for it. A good accessory if this is your chosen method is this:The GoPro Hero Battery Charger. It charges 2 batteries at a time via a mini USB port. This means you can be out shooting while charging 2 batteries from your portable USB battery pack.
If you have found another method I’ve left out it would be great if you could add it to the comments section below. It may help others with GoPro battery life issues. Thanks