I must confess to being not only a keen amateur photographer, but also a complete photography geek, interested as much in the technology as the final printed image.

When I head off on a family holiday to Portugal this weekend I'll take both my digital SLR and a rucksack full of alternative lenses, flashguns, filters and cables.

While I love the geek factor of high-end camera tech, I do sometimes miss the simplicity – and portability – of more compact cameras.

Last weekend I had the opportunity to test the GoPro Hero3 Black Edition, a matchbox-sized digital camera that promises to deliver high quality still photos and broadcast quality high-def video, despite its diminutive size.

Used by professional broadcasters such as the BBC, the GoPro has pedigree, but I was keen to test if it was suitable for amateur photographers too.

The venue for my test was the Fort William Mountain Bike World Cup, an annual event that sees the world's top mountain bikers race down the Nevis mountain range in under five minutes.

Fortunately, the organisers didn't subject me to the full World Cup course – a track that had already claimed a number of casualties on the day I attended – but instead directed me to a parallel, and simpler, demonstration course.

In addition to a range-topping full suspension mountain bike, I was kitted out for the test with two GoPro Hero3 cameras, one mounted on the handlebars while the other was fitted to the visor of my helmet. Both were remarkably lightweight, despite their waterproof protective housings.

The ride itself was terrifying. More importantly, the footage recorded by the Hero3 cameras was incredible. Despite being rattled around over rocks and logs the cameras delivered rock steady, high definition footage.

One criticism of the GoPro range has always been the lack of an LCD screen or viewfinder to help aim shots. The Hero3 now offers an LCD screen as an accessory at £79.99, but this is unnecessary – the ultra-wide angle lens of the Hero3 picks up such a wide field of view that it's impossible to miss the shot.

More useful is the free GoPro app for iPhone and Android handsets which beams a live viewfinder image to your smartphone and allows control of all the main GoPro menu options. In testing I found controlling the camera from the app faster and more intuitive than via the built-in – and somewhat cryptic – menu screen.

GoPro aims the Hero3 range at the needs of action sports enthusiasts and professional TV shows like Top Gear, but there are dozens of uses for this go-anywhere camera. Strap it to bikes, kids or even pets and it'll capture a viewpoint you'd never otherwise be able to see.

See Grant's video at http://bit.ly/hs-gopro

Positives Outstanding image quality and great portability.

Negatives There's no viewfinder and battery life is fairly short.


Twitter: @grant_gibson