GoPro Hero7 Black
£379.99 | $399.99 https://gopro.com/ A great action camera is now even better
GoPro’s three-pronged attack on the action camera market has enabled it to offer a Hero for everyone. And with the new Hero7 Black flagship, it’s offering a significant boost to the video stabilisation technology, one of its most critical features.
The Hero7 Black has the same 12MP sensor and wide-angle lens, as its predecessor, while the top video specs of 4K/60fps and Full HD at a maximum 240fps for 8x slow-mo footage are unchanged. It’s the new features that make it much more powerful than before.
The most significant of these is HyperSmooth, a form of video stabilisation that GoPro ranks as being the equivalent to using a gimbal. Using a combination of hardware and software, it presents a clear advantage for anyone who finds using a gimbal inconvenient.
Unlike the Hero6 Black, which only allows regular stabilisation to be applied to 30fps when shooting in 4K, HyperSmooth can be used even when capturing 60fps footage at full resolution (though not at 4:3). The only other time you can’t call upon it is when capturing Full HD footage at 240fps and 120fps, although standard stabilisation is available at the latter frame rate.
TimeWarp video is also new, and combines frame-by-frame timelapse shooting with HyperSmooth – essentially enabling you to capture time-lapse footage with the freedom to move the Hero7 Black – no tripod needed.
Audio performance has also been revamped with an expanded dynamic range, providing more natural bass and brighter mids. The microphone diaphragm has also been redesigned to eliminate vibrations, while ensuring it can capture subtle sounds
Also new is SuperPhoto, which automates features you may not think to enable when taking stills. So, instead of calling on HDR when shooting scenes with a wide dynamic range, it will do it for you. Similarly, the Hero7 Black will deploy multi-frame noise reduction, if it feels the need to.
If you want to get creative, ProTune gives you freedom to adjust things such as exposure compensation, ISO range and so on. You can also capture raw images as well as JPEGs, and shoot bursts of images at up to 30fps.
Build and handling
The Hero7 Black offers a similarly rugged and largely rubberised body as its predecessor. Build quality on the Hero7 Black is as solid as before. The two doors to the battery/card and USB/HDMI compartments can be fiddly to open, though this is necessary to ensure waterproofing up to 10m.
Switch on the Hero7 Black and you’ll be greeted with a changed interface, with information such as current frame rate and resolution
condensed into a smaller space, while new green icons showing battery life and the amount of remaining card storage space are easier to see against brighter subjects than the old white ones.
The Hero7 Black is also more smartphone-like in operation, with simple swipes to access different modes, captured footage/images and more. You can still alternate between shooting modes using the Mode button, but you can also swipe to do the same. The Hero7 Black’s 2-inch touchscreen is generally responsive, although it can occasionally fail to respond to touch, and it’s annoying to have to jab the same function a few times.
Voice commands are largely unchanged from before, although you can now say ‘GoPro Capture’ and the camera will start recording or take a photo, depending on the mode you’re in. The Hero7 Black generally responds well, although it’s not 100 percent reliable, and sometimes commands need to be repeated a few times.
Video and photo quality
On top of its video tricks, the Hero7 Black is capable of outputting 12MP images. And while the Hero7 Black has a tiny 1/2.3in sensor, image quality is very good.
In good light, details are crisp, and sharpness extends very well to the peripheries and corners of the frame. Close scrutiny shows there’s a bit of processing going on to eke out the best from the Hero7 Black – but results are respectable.
To get a wide-angle view, the Hero7 Black’s lens is uncorrected for distortion in its default Wide setting, so anything with linear details will be distorted. You can, however, switch to the Linear mode to capture images with corrected distortion, although obviously at the expense of field of view. You can also use Touch Zoom for a narrower field of view, although this degrades image quality.
SuperPhoto, which captures images with an additional 1.5-2 seconds per photo, has a noticeable effect on images, regaining a little highlight detail and lifting shadows a touch. Resulting images show less contrast, but this can be tweaked later. The process can lead to minor white balance shifts, though, which is one thing to watch out for if mixing images captured both ways.
The Hero6 Black already had an effective video stabilisation system, but HyperSmooth is a step up, especially when you’re running, biking or travelling in any way down rough terrain.
TimeWarp essentially results in a stabilised hyperlapse video. You can set the factor by which it’s slowed. The feature is great when mounted to something that’s moving, but the ace card is that it’s completely usable handheld. It works particularly well when both you and something in the scene are moving at the same time.
You can capture Full HD footage at up to 240fps, which can be slowed by a factor of 8x to 30fps. Sound’s also recorded at the same time, but while footage can be played back in slow-motion on the device, it’s not possible to output this in slow-mo without going through Quik or other apps first.
So what can we conclude? The inclusion of the very effective HyperSmooth stabilisation is significant, and makes the Hero7 Black far better suited for bumpier adventures than before.
The new TimeWarp feature is a lot of fun to play with, too, and image quality remains solid. The refreshed UI makes the Hero7 Black easier and more convenient to use than before, and it’s compatible with a wealth of accessories.
In the absence of major flaws, it’s a case of polishing some existing features and functionality. Better voice recognition and a Touch Zoom option that doesn’t scale up images would be welcome.
“In good light, details are crisp, and sharpness extends very well to the peripheries and corners”