Yes, you read that right… The rumours are true and GoPro has gone Vlogging. On the surface, it may seem a big step away from their core business but it honestly makes a lot of sense. The number of people I’ve seen out and about using GoPro cameras for Vlogging is huge. But there are a few minor issues when you do talk to camera work, primarily framing your shots. The GoPro Hero 9 Black has been designed to make this remarkably easy.
If the physical design of the hardware isn’t enough to show the new foccus for GoPro, the mods show that they’re planning on capturing a new market. The clear focus of the accessories with this years GoPro release is similar to last year — taking the focus to Vlogging with lighting, sound and display options.
Vlogging aside, the core business for GoPro is still capturing moments, making memories and sharing your awesome moments with friends, family and the world.
What is it?
The really simple version is it’s a GoPro camera… If you’ve used one before then you’ll be immediately comfortable with this. It’s not just a simple evolutionary step though, GoPro has taken a couple of significant steps forward with the Hero range this time around.
The specs and features
A feature of note that recently got upgraded for the Hero 8 Black is the capability to use it as a web camera. This carries over to the Hero 9 Black and with the variety of capture options, you’ll be able to find a camera field that you’re happy with. While this alone isn’t a home run for sales if you’re in need of a web camera that could be the tipping point for what action camera you buy.
An immediate point of note on the Hero 9 Black for anyone who skipped the Hero 8 Black due to the non-removable lens cover: GoPro heard the outcry and it’s back. If you crack a cover, it’s not a throwaway item, get a new cover and you’re rolling again.
Another area where GoPro received feedback and listened was the buttons. If you’ve used a Hero 8 Black, you’ll know that the buttons are close to flush on edges of the device. For me, this presented a problem while riding because gloves reduce your tactile sensitivity. So I tried the voice prompts, which reduced battery life noticeably. With Hero 9, this is absolutely fixed. The buttons are a little more pronounced and larger so they’re easier to find and trigger.
The media kit for the GoPro Hero 9 Black specifically says “More of everything, except plastic” and while I hate directly quoting the media kits – this one is bang on the money.
As we’ve already mentioned, the Hero 9 has been improved in a number of areas including:
- It’s now capable of 5K video capture
- The battery lasts up to 30% longer
- Dual Screen for Vloggers, as well as an increased rear screen size
- Improved “Hypersmooth” capacity, horizon levelling and 360 degree horizon lock
- Without special cases, the Hero 9 is waterproof to 30 feet
- Scheduled captures
As you’d expect from GoPro the Hero 9 is (as has been the case with previous iterations) built to last and take a beating. The updates to the GoPro app also makes it a lot easier for users to create videos without laborious editing and you can even share your adventures in real-time via streaming options.
What’s in the kit?
So there’s a couple of options for anyone looking to buy into the GoPro platform. This year, the off the shelf options have changed slightly with a camera only, as well as a kit available. The camera comes with the essentials to use your GoPro: A USB C cable for charging, a single battery, a 32GB MicroSD Card, a couple of basic mounts and thumbscrews to secure it to your chosen mounting option.
The Black kit will set you back a bit more, but if you’re getting going with a GoPro for the first time and are planning on Vlogging (or just want the extra goodies) it’s well worth the money. You’ll get the camera, two batteries, a magnetic swivel mount and a floating handle which all comes in a really nice case.
We mentioned in the review of the Hero 8 that if you’re after accessories for a GoPro there are a number of ways to get them. The black kit is one way, you can buy them on the GoPro website, retailers or via eBay for any number of non-official accessories. Not a lot comes in the boxes and since everyone will use their camera differently that makes sense.
Using your GoPro: App and Functions
While the app has had a number of updates since we reviewed the Hero 8, many areas of functionality have remained the same so we won’t go over old ground.
The GoPro app has gone from a very simple “download your videos when you’re done” to a viable option for remote controlling your camera, watching the videos you’ve shot, basic editing and uploading all in one place.
There’s a lot of features and options in the Hero 8 Black — this stands for the Hero 9 — for video and photo capture. The camera captures 12MP images, 4K at 60FPS, Slow Motion, Hyperlapse, Time Lapse and – while connected to your mobile – can live stream in 1080p to your Facebook followers.
There are also some very useful voice controls that you can turn on, but by default they’re disabled. You can easily turn them on ready for use. Like the Garmin VIRB 360 camera, we reviewed a couple of years ago, the trigger is as simple as “GoPro – Record” or “GoPro – Stop”. There is a long list of commands you can use, which is displayed when you enable the function.
What is worth highlighting is the ease of which users can now achieve anything they want to from within the GoPro app or even on the camera directly. GoPro has evolved its app to ensure that the user experience keeps growing alongside the capability of the camera.
What’s it good at?
Let’s go with the obvious three points to start with:
- It takes great quality video with dynamic focus, even when you’re really moving!
- Staying true to GoPro’s history, it is built to take an absolute beating
- The video stabilisation is now at a level that I don’t believe too many users will actually need a gimbal
Just to expand on the stabilisation a little further, I have recorded videos riding my mountain bike and literally running down the road chasing my daughter. While the MTB video doesn’t do justice to it as that trail was very rough, I feel like this video running to keep up with my daughter on her scooter shows just how good it is. I paid little attention to how I stabilised the camera, the software has done all the work.
The Hero 9 Black has taken a leap forward in battery life too and honestly, I still grappled with the decision as to whether this belonged in the realm of good or bad. Eventually — somewhat — deciding on the former, with the basis that high adrenaline, high energy output activities are (in all likelihood) going to last a shorter time than the battery for the GoPro.
While it’s not of a level where you can head out for a day and expect to capture everything on a single battery, my side by side testing with the Hero 8 Black is consistent with the GoPro claim of around 30% extra battery life. This meant that I could take a single battery on a decent bike ride, leave the camera on and just set it recording when the trails got “fun”.
I’m still quite enamoured of the capability of the GoPro app to stitch together a “story” from a number of videos that you identify. There is some basic editing function within the app and you’ve got the choice of music that you’d like to put in as a backing track as well.
What’s it not so good at?
Don’t get me wrong, it is a lot better but still not brilliant – the battery still actually makes the list of lowlights for me. In fairness to GoPro, to squeeze more into a physical device this big would result in a bigger device. So they are clearly walking a very fine line from an engineering perspective. I’ve gone out for long days and taken a couple of cameras and several batteries, this won’t be anything new to seasoned GoPro users.
On the battery life, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that at higher quality capture your battery life depletes faster and faster. 1080P or even 1440P vs 5K are very different experiences in terms of battery life. But again, in fairness if I was doing something where I wanted to capture full 5K quality, I suspect it’s going to be something that is going to be over pretty quickly so the battery life isn’t going to be a major issue.
There is one issue with the battery itself that some users will potentially be quite upset by: It has changed in physical dimensions meaning that Hero 8 batteries won’t fit in the Hero 9. For most users, not a major drama but absolutely worth mentioning for users who upgrade each year.
Finally, while it’s somewhat subjective, for many users the cost of GoPro equipment is just too high to be able to justify the purchase. With the additional webcam functionality (also available in the Hero 8 firmware update) I believe for many users, makes that justification a lot easier by adding a lot of value.
It’s not perfect and frankly, I don’t think any electronic device ever will be but the GoPro Hero 9 Black is very close in the current market. They’ve improved on several important areas for action cameras, introduced new features and delivered a truly great product.
The thought and engineering that has been put into the GoPro Hero 9 are astounding. It’s not perfect and has created a few little grumbles here (primarily around the battery still) but if you’ve had previous versions of the GoPro camera you’re going to be really happy.
The GoPro Hero 9 Black is not just a revolution on the Hero 8, but with the front-facing colour screen opening new markets it’s evolutionary too. It does everything that it’s advertised to do, does it well but at a pretty price compared to other action camera options.
The growth of video capacity, improved photographic options (including scheduled shots) and ease of use through the ever-improving app makes the Hero 9 a great first action camera or very worthy upgrade for existing users.
You can pick up a Hero 9 Black in retails stores for $699.95 or on the GoPro website for $559.95 with a 12 month GoPro Subscription. Or if you’re setting yourself up with your first action camera, wanting to do some Vlogging or in fact just want the extra goodies there’s the bundle. It’s got a few extras including an extra battery, magnetic swivel clip and a floating hand grip. That bundle will set you back $799.95 stand-alone, or $659.95 with the one year GoPro subscription.
GoPro has allowed Ausdroid to retain the kit for long term review.