NOT JUST AN ACTION
There are few companies foolhardy enough to encourage reviewers to run their newest product through its paces in the most punishing ways possible. GoPro is one such company. When you attend its ‘action camera’ product briefing, it usually means you are signing up to be strapped onto a zipline that will send you hurtling over an arboreal canopy; you might probably be riding a quad bike over cross-country terrain, or trying— desperately—to stay atop a wakeboard while the surf under it is frothing to toss you off.
And regardless of what you might be doing, you are encouraged to record it on the newest GoPro you are reviewing. In the process, you might drop the camera a couple of times, bump it around a fair measure, and even drown it in water while you try to stay afloat.
Indeed, the way GoPro introduces its products to reviewers, is also the way it designs them. It relies on real-world footage captured by its users and combines that with suggestions received from focus groups, as well as its own research and experiments.
Most of their tests, GoPro says, are carried out outdoors. For instance, during one of the video shoots for the Hero8 Black, the company mounted 30 cameras on several cars in a demolition derby match. The team expected to lose at least half of them to damage, but after each race, which included cars smashing into each other, GoPro engineers found the cameras were still in great shape. The devices were washed clean and were ready to shoot.
Of course, while we didn’t test the Hero8 Black on dashing cars, we still submerged this new action cam in water and tossed it around a fair bit while testing. We’re now pleased to say that this new GoPro shooter—like its predecessors: the Black5, Black6 and Black7—ticks all the right boxes when it comes to being rugged and waterproof without a casing. And while almost each and every Hero Black since the Hero5 looks identical, the new Hero8 Black incorporates some of the biggest changes yet…
The Hero8 is slightly larger than the Hero5, Hero6 and Hero7 that were identical in size. The shooter comes with a built-in mount—called “fingers”—that folds into its base when not in use. To attach this camera to any of its grips and tripods, simply unfold the fingers from the base and screw it on.
The new shooter’s lens is protected by a ‘2mm’ Gorilla Glass, which GoPro says is 2X stronger than the 1.3mm glass on the older models. On the flip side, in the past, if this glass got scratched or cracked, you could replace it. Now, you cannot.
For better sound capture, GoPro has moved the microphone, which was on top of the older models, to the front of the camera, right under the lens. This mic works in tandem with the two others—on the side and the bottom of the device— to reduce noise and wind disturbance. In our tests, we found that the new Hero8 allows for a richer sound in recordings.
The Hero8 comes with a single waterproof, air-tight door on the side that opens to reveal a USB Type-C port for charging and file transfer, a microSD card slot, and the battery receptacle. The downsides of this is that the new camera no longer has an HDMI port, and switching the memory card can prove to be annoying due to the placement of the slot; you might require long nails or a pair of tweezers for this.
GoPro has made slight internal changes to its battery and to differentiate it from older models, the new batteries have a blue edge near the connectors. And while these are the same size and backward compatible with older Hero Blacks, the GoPro Hero8 requires its blue-edge batteries for some of its new features like the HyperSmooth 2.0 (see below) modes.
Low Light, HyperSmooth, Lens (field of view) and Slo-mo. This customisable menu allows you to get to the adjustments you need immediately, without having to navigate multiple menus.
A higher bitrate means better image and audio quality in video output, especially when it comes to hi-definition content. The recommended bitrate for 4K videos is in the 66-85Mbps range, the Hero8 Black now lets you go up to 100Mbps for your 4K and 2.7K footage.
The Hero7 Black is capable of great video stabilisation, but with the Hero8 Black, GoPro has upped the ante. With its new HyperSmooth 2.0 mode, you are promised smoother videos, albeit with a 10% crop of the Wide lens view. This feature is now available in every shooting mode, including in 4K clips with a 4:3 aspect ratio and Full HD videos at 240FPS. And for those times you need that little bit extra, at lower resolutions, you can opt for HyperSmooth Boost.
When you switch to a wide-angle lens, you will see some form of lens distortion. The Linear mode compensates for this distortion and is now available in 4K mode for the first time to give you a cinematic effect.
With Hero7, you could Live Stream HD videos to Facebook; now, GoPro has added support for YouTube and Full HD quality.
The TimeWarp feature in the Hero7 Black lets you shoot highspeed videos. The Hero8 comes with TimeWarp 2.0 that intelligently auto adjusts to your speed when creating the clip. You can slow down the footage with a tap to capture a dramatic action in real time, and then tap the screen again to speed up the recording.
In Photo mode, you get a LiveBurst feature that captures 1.5 seconds before and after you press the shutter-release button to give you 90 consecutive frames. You can then opt for a three-second video clip or choose the best frame from the burst mode for that perfect action shot.
The Hero8 Black supports the RAW format in all photo modes for better post production.
The GoPro app now comes with an auto-levelling feature that lets you straighten your footage during video editing.