Caught up in the spirit of surfing since age 8, Nick Woodman spent a lot of time on the waves. In an effort to capture those moments on film, he toyed with wrist straps and enclosures, putting various cameras inside. Soon he realized that he would have to make the entire kit himself and in 2004, the 35mm GoPro Hero was launched. There were no batteries involved on this model, it was entirely mechanical.
As founder and CEO of GoPro, Nick Woodman felt he needed to take to the airwaves in order to help sell the company's new camera. The device used 35mm color film and could take up to 24 shots. It retailed for around $30 in stores, but you could always find a deal on QVC.
In 2006, GoPro joined the digital revolution. The camera was called the Digital Hero and could capture VGA-quality video in 10-second bursts. It was followed by several improved iterations, including the Digital Hero 3 shown here. This model had a 3MP sensor and was the first one to incorporate sound with the footage.
The last of the Digital Hero series (5) was launched one year before the GoPro Wide Hero and was the first with a 170-degree wide-angle option. In 2009, however, the branding dropped the "digital" moniker and carried on as the Hero, boasting similar specs to its predecessor.
The HD Hero came out in November 2009 and finally offered full 1080p video quality -- if you were shooting in the 127-degree mode at 30fps. At the full 170-degrees, quality ranged from 960p down to WVGA. There were several variations offered in the series including the HD Hero Helmet, HD Hero Motorsports, HD Hero Surf and HD Hero Naked. All had specialized mounting systems for each respective sport except for the Naked, which was pitched as a lower-cost option when buying additional cameras.
Released in 2010, this was an entry-level alternative to the full HD Hero. It maxed out at 960p and lacked the expansion ports that the HD Hero had, but beyond that, you still got the full package. Oh, and it was about $100 cheaper.
In October 2011, GoPro announced the successor to the breakthrough HD Hero. The Hero2 had an 11MP camera -- twice that of the first Hero -- improved low-light capabilities and a lens that was twice as sharp as before. Also added were: a 3.5mm microphone input, WiFi video / photo preview with the GoPro app, faster image processing, live streaming capability and lots more.
The first of several models in the Hero3 series first arrived in 2012. It was smaller and lighter than all previous versions, helping it approach the ideal of the "invisible camera," a term GoPro has been known to use when describing its product.
The latest and greatest of the Hero action sports cam line, the Hero3+ Black Edition, offered the best features to date. It could capture 1080p at 60fps, had a 12MP sensor for still photos and maxed out at 4K when shooting video. It even had built-in WiFi and a remote included in the package.