If you're wondering what the GoPro spot meter does, here's a quick explanation.
What is the Spot Meter on a GoPro?
The spot meter on GoPros uses a very small area in the center of the frame to calculate the automatic exposure. This is different from the default behavior where the whole frame is used to calculate the exposure. The spot meter is useful when you have uneven lighting across the frame but want a specific area of the image or video to be exposed correctly.
GoPro's Spot Meter Explained
Now, the longer version.
The spot meter relates to the way in which the camera calculates the automatic exposure. In the default setting, GoPros look at the entire scene that's hitting the sensor's camera and calculates the correct exposure by averaging that entire scene. (Some earlier models uses center-weighted average instead, which is similar but puts more emphasis on the middle area of the frame.)
So it uses the whole frame, like this:
In most shooting situations, that gives good results. It works well most of the time shooting outdoors as well as indoors under fairly even lighting conditions.
But it doesn't work in every situation. If you're filming from a dark place looking out--inside a house or car, for example, looking through windows out at a brighter scene (brighter than inside the car)--you can end up with the view out the window being far too bright because it's overexposed. You can also get the reverse--underexposed--if you're shooting from a brighter area out to a darker scene. It can also be useful in conditions like sun on snow because correctly exposing for the snow can cause people's faces in shadow to become underexposed. The example photos I've used here illustrates that to some extent--by exposing correctly for most of the frame, the person is underexposed. It happens to work here, but that's not always what you want.
That's where the spot meter comes in. Instead of calculating the exposure across the whole frame, it uses a small, defined spot in the center of the frame and ignores the rest of the frame. Like this:
So you might want to put a person's face in the middle of the frame, or the scene out the window.
This is one of those settings that you really only want to turn on when you need it. In most shooting situations the default method is going to work better (ie. spot meter off). You'll get more reliable results that way. The spot meter is really for when you need very precise control--such as when an interview subject's face is in shadow, for example--and will give unexpected results in many shooting situations.
GoPro Cameras with Spot Meter
Not every GoPro has the spot meter option.
Cameras that do:
- HERO5 Session
- HERO Session
- HERO4 Black
- HERO4 Silver
- HERO4 Session
- HERO3+ Black
- HERO3+ Silver
- HERO3 Black
- HERO3 Silver
- HERO3 White
- HERO+ LCD
- HD HERO 960
- HD HERO2
- HD HERO
Cameras that don't have the Spot Meter:
- SD HERO
- HERO5 Black
- HERO6 Black
Spot Metering on the HERO5 Black & HERO6 Black
The last two on the list might come as a surprise. You'd think GoPro's top-of-the-line cameras would include a feature that's been a staple of most GoPros from the beginning. But there's a very good reason that it isn't: these models have something better.
In place of the spot meter option, the HERO6 Black and HERO5 Black have Exposure Control. It's similar in that it calculates the exposure on a small part of the frame, but it's different in that you can choose where on the frame to use--you're not limited just to an immovable area in the very center of the frame. So while it's similar, it's also more flexible.
Common GoPro Questions
Here are some common questions I get from GoPro users.
How to Maximize a GoPro's battery life
There are several factors that influence how long the GoPro's battery life lasts. Among them include what mode you're recording in (4K uses more power than 1080p30, for instance), the health of the battery, and even the environmental temperature (lithium batteries don't perform well in very cold temperatures). But there are some things you can do to maximize battery life. Not every GoPro has all of these features, but start with these:
- Minimize use of the back screen
- Turn off wireless
- Turn off voice commands
- Turn off GPS
- Turn off Protune
- Use QuickCapture mode
Is it normal for GoPro cameras to get hot?
Yes. Depending on the model and the shooting mode you're using, it's normal for GoPros to get quite warm while shooting. They can get hot enough to be uncomfortable to touch. It's especially noticeable when shooting high-resolution and high-framerate video. Some newer models have an overheating protection mechanism that will shut the camera down if it gets too hot. I have more details on GoPros getting hot, here.
How can I control a GoPro remotely?
GoPro makes a range of wireless remote controls. They don't all work with all GoPros--for example, the HERO (2018) isn't compatible with this type of remote control. Many of the newer models also work with the GoPro mobile app. Not every model can be controlled remotely, but most of the newer models have wireless compatibility that can be used for at least some methods of remote control.
Can you take pictures with a GoPro?
If you've been using a GoPro for a while, this might seem pretty obvious, but if you've never used one, it's not quite so self-evident. GoPros are best known for dramatic action videos, but they can most certainly take still photos too. In fact, they can be a very interesting alternative to a traditional camera so long as you work within its limitations. I have more more details here.
Do GoPro wireless controls work underwater?
No. You can't use the mobile app or a wireless remote control if the camera is fully submerged in water. They will normally work just fine in rain and spray--just not submerged. I have a more detailed explanation here.
Do GoPro touchscreens work underwater?
No. If they're just wet above water, they can work to some extent, although often less reliably. But the touchscreens won't work underwater.