GoPro have earned themselves a name — if not the name — in action cameras with their range of compact, powerful cameras that you can slap on just about anything. You’ll note I’ve not described them as easy-to-use, because historically at least there has been a bit of a learning curve in getting to use a GoPro camera properly.
Last year, GoPro changed that with its Hero 4 line which, for the first time, included a built in LCD touch-screen on the back of the Hero 4 Silver (though, notably, the top of the line Hero 4 Black didn’t have it). For the first time, you didn’t have to control your camera with two or three single buttons; you could do everything on the touch screen on the back. Of course, you could still use the buttons if you wanted … and for some things, this remained quicker … but the touchscreen was definitely a welcome addition, even if it did have a small impact on battery life.
In the Hero 5, the touchscreen is back, and it’s back in the top of the line model as well. Not only is the touchscreen back, but there’s another new feature — the Hero 5 is waterproof without the need of any additional cases. Sure, previous Hero cameras were waterproof if you put them in a waterproof housing, but the Hero 5 doesn’t even need that. Just make sure the doors are sealed, and throw it in the sea. It’ll be fine.
We don’t use Hero cameras a lot; most of what we do on Ausdroid simply doesn’t call for them. However, when reviewing cars, drones, or other things that go, an action camera is an absolute must. I used the Hero 5 to film segments of my Ford Focus review earlier this month, and it will be making an appearance in upcoming reviews as well.
Today, though, we’re looking at the hero behind the scenes.
What’s in the box?
In a word or two, not much.
The GoPro Hero 5 retails for just under $600, and for that, you receive the following items:
- GoPro Hero 5 Camera
- Mounting Frame (so you can use standard GoPro accessories)
- USB-C cable
- A couple of mounting plates
You don’t get an awful lot in the box, but that’s kind of the point. Everyone will use a GoPro camera differently, and there’s little reason to inflate the cost with accessories you might not want. As we should all know, GoPro cameras can be mounted on just about anything, from cars, to your head, to your dog, children, surfboard, your wrist, or even the roll-bar in a dune buggy. You can literally buy an attachment to put them on just about anything, and yes it can be kind of addictive buying all the ones you think you’ll use.
However, everything you need at least to get started .. it’s in the box.
What can it do?
The stand-out features of the GoPro Hero 5 include voice control, which allows you to say something like “GoPro take a photo” and it will, allowing you to take hands-free photos where you need both hands for other things. Throwing your child in the air and wanting to capture that? You can, without risking dropping your son because you’ve hit the shutter button.
We’ve already talked about the 2-inch touch display, which is a great addition. You can use it to frame your shots (something you couldn’t readily do on earlier models), change settings, review photos you’ve taken, and make sure that what you’re filming isn’t rubbish … there was nothing worse than plugging your camera in only to realise too late that you had a spec of dirt on the lens, or that it wasn’t aimed where you thought it was.
Waterproofing is a new feature as standard, and being able to take the Hero 5 up to 10m deep without needing a casing is a welcome addition. Jump off your boat and down to the sea-life below, and capture that at 4K 30fps? The Hero 5 has got you covered.
Video stabilisation is built in, too, and while it’s not as rock solid as a gimbal-mounted camera, it can come close. This video demo from GoPro shows it off:
Of course, there’s all the other things you’d want in an action camera, including 4K wide-screen video at 30fps, 12MP still photos in still, burst and time-lapse modes, RAW photos, manual exposure control, stereo audio capture without the need for an external microphone, and even GPS tagging for your videos and photos so you remember exactly where you were.
What’s it good for?
GoPro makes cameras that are designed to go absolutely everywhere, so you can use them to capture — and they’re good at capturing — just about anything. Want to see the world from your dog’s perspective? Strap the Hero 5 on his back, and cut him loose. It’s fascinating. Even a kids-eye view is great fun, and the kids love running around with a camera on.
The Hero 5 made shooting the video footage for the Ford Focus review an absolute breeze; I didn’t have to carry around a bulkier video camera, I could mount it (and other cameras) inside the car to film all the required video, and better yet, I could mount it on a tripod so Rachel could film some drive-by sequences as well.
The video stabilisation is good, but it isn’t great. As you can see in our review video, it still suffered quite a bit of jumpiness even with stabilisation turned on. It helps, but it doesn’t solve the problem. If you’re looking for extra smooth video, you’ll either need to shell out for an expensive gimbal setup, or you’ll need to do it in software when editing your videos (easy enough, but slow).
Remote control is really awesome; you can drive and change all the settings of your Hero 5 from a paired smartphone, allowing you to frame shots that you’re in while looking at your phone, then hide it behind your back to take the shot. Simple. You can also use this to preview video while your camera is mounted somewhere you can’t reach — e.g. outside your car, or on your helmet — to make sure you’re capturing what you want to capture.
Our advice? Grab the little WiFi remote. It’s available for about $119 or so, and gives you waterproof remote control of your Hero cameras. It’s also compatible with most prior models as well. There’s also the Remo, for $125, which gives you all that plus remote voice control.
What’s it not so good for?
While action cameras are fun, they’re small by design, and so you get correspondingly small batteries. In fact, the Hero 5 battery at 1,220 mAh is a bit smaller than the previous Hero 4 batteries, but depending on the video quality you’re capturing, you can get up to two hours or so of video capture at a reasonable quality.
At 4K 30fps, you’re looking at a maximum of about an hour and a half (give or take), though you may find your MicroSD card runs out of space well before that. If you’re using video online, and not in a more quality-demanding application (e.g. broadcast video), then dialing your Hero 5 back to about 1080p will extend that video capture out to about two hours, or two and a half hours if you turn off stabilisation and GPS tagging.
Of course, with spare batteries available for just over $30, it’s not a major issue, but still, don’t expect to capture your whole weekend on a camera without taking a charger or spare batteries.
The touchscreen, like most others designed to survive time in the water, works well when its dry, but trying to use it with wet fingers doesn’t work so well. Fortunately, it doesn’t interfere with the operation of the camera when underwater (it won’t suddenly stop recording, for example), but it does make it a bit hard to adjust settings while you’re wet. Best bet is to set things up THEN jump in, because you won’t be changing them until you get dry again.
GoPro’s Hero 5 is probably the most capable all-round action camera they’ve produced. For high-end video production, I think I’d prefer the GoPro Hero 4 Black, only because the battery life is a little better, and it has a wider range of 3rd party accessories on the market. For example, if you’re wanting to use an external microphone, those setups exist for the Hero 4 line, but as the Hero 5 is so new, they’re not quite ready yet. We are, after all, only a week or two after launch.
However, if you’re looking for an action camera to go with your weekend adventures and to capture your family’s antics, you really can’t go wrong. Sure, at $569.95, it’s a bit dear for a camera just to capture your family photos and videos, given you probably already own a smartphone to do that. However, if you’re looking to take it to the next step, and capture things where you wouldn’t want to take your phone, a Hero 5 is a worthy consideration.
GoPro’s Hero 5 retails for $569.95, and you can buy it just about anywhere good cameras are sold. You can also grab one online at GoPro.com.