I’ve had a lot of great experiences with GoPro cameras over the years, so much that I rarely leave the house without one now; just in case. They’re small, lightweight, easy to carry and have decent (for what they do) battery life. They’re not without problems though, and over time those shortcomings have become less with improved lens technology, video stabilisation and higher capture resolution.

The GoPro Hero 12 was launched a few weeks ago, and we’ve had one on the test bench for a couple of weeks. There are plenty of improvements and even some long-requested features that have been added to the devices.

Feature improvements and additions

Given the basic formula for a GoPro hasn’t changed in years, I’m not going to waste words (and your time) going over old ground. Instead, straight into what’s changed in the 12 vs previous generations in terms of improvements and additions.

As a starting point, the battery life — which has always been an issue for GoPro cameras — is significantly improved, potentially doubled depending on what you’re capturing and at what settings.

One of those settings that has the potential to make a huge difference to your video capture is HyperSmooth 6. This stabilises your video and (if you’re doing particularly crazy things) can lock the horizon on your video so that people get a genuine idea of just how much you’re getting buffeted around in your adventures. The stabilisation does crop your video in a bit, but in most instances, that’s a pretty small price to pay for the increased video quality and eliminating the need for a — potentially very expensive — gimbal to achieve the same outcome.

After Alex reaches the bump stops: I’m running to keep up with him, and the video is remarkably smooth.

Something exciting is the vertical capture mode, clearly taking another big step into the content creation realm, particularly that of social media for TikTok, Instagram and YouTube Shorts. This led me to the hand-in-hand addition of a Bluetooth Microphone connection, allowing content creators to frame their shots while still getting clear audio from a distance and minimising post-production work for their shots.

As I highlighted when I recently reviewed the smaller and lighter Hero 11 Mini, the Quik app does a lot of the work for you in retrieval and capacity to share footage. This is light years forward on the option years ago of downloading video to your PC, manually editing it, and then uploading it. It’s better but not brilliant yet; with a bit more fluidity and ease of altering the automagic creations, it has the potential to be mind-blowing.

What the Quik app does is prevent lots of footage from being lost to time (or lack of it), laziness and the loss of “the moment”. Like many others, I’ve got hours and hours of footage that have never seen anything other than the memory card in my GoPro and the drive on my NAS.

With all the advancements and extra tech internally, there are still a few issues

Depending on what you’re shooting, at what resolution and for how long; overheating can still be a very real issue with the latest GoPro. Even in a well-ventilated area, I found the limit was about 20 minutes or so recording at maximum resolution before the camera would essentially shut down for self-protection. At that point, it was hot enough that; while it didn’t burn, it was mighty uncomfortable to hold in the palm of my hand.

In the interest of fairness to the device, this isn’t new; in fact it’s been an issue for at least the last few generations of GoPro. Perhaps more important to note is that the time to reach that temperature threshold has increased with this iteration of the GoPro Camera.

This same overheating occurred when I plugged the camera into power and allowed the auto-upload to kick in if there was a significant amount of video to process. Something I thought was interesting was that this wasn’t an issue with the data offload to a mobile phone, a process that was — as a point of interest — noticeably quicker on the iPhone 14 Pro than my Pixel 7 Pro.

Finally, it’s not a feature I can say I’ve used much on the previous versions… but for some, removing GPS data from the camera may push some users back to the previous generation. On the other side of the coin, though, the removal of GPS tracking is highly likely to be one of the contributing factors to the increased battery life.

How does all of this affect the user experience?

The end result is that GoPro has managed to polish what was already an impressive user experience and make it so much better for a variety of users. As I mentioned in the release post, the Quik app does a lot of the background work for you; creating some really good highlight videos but if you’re doing any serious editing a PC is the way to go.

On the camera, I found the updated controls — even in Professional mode — easier to understand and navigate, with a more intuitive and responsive interface. For professionals or users wanting to use multiple cameras to catch all the angles, the Hero 12 Black supports timecode sync, so there’s no more need to use a clapper board to sync cameras and audio.

I haven’t been able to quantify the actual battery improvement since my other GoPros have had a bit of a hammering and, I’ve been playing with this a lot through menus, settings and trying to get different modes set up. It’s absolutely better than the Hero 11, but I’m unconvinced it’s consistently twice the run time.

It’s difficult to fathom how GoPro has managed to jam so many features in such a small camera and consider where they can go next year. Make no mistake, the GoPro Hero 12 Black is a beast of a camera that is hugely versatile and just as capable.

The GoPro Hero 12 is awesome as an update or first action cam

It’s easy to look at the GoPro Hero 12 Black and assume it’s much the same as the Hero 11 Black; on the surface, you’d be right, but the improvements are vast and invisible until you dive deeper. When you do, there’s a lot to offer anyone from the action junkie, OG GoPro buyers to families wanting to capture special memories and, now, online content creators who are looking for quicker and easier ways to produce content.

It does not have some of the features that a professional videographer would need or want, but it’d be a good backup option. But for amateurs (like myself), influencers and users looking to share their action adventures, it’s actually quite brilliant.

Disclosure Statement

GoPro have not requested the unit to be retunred following the review period.