GoPro Hero8 Black Review

GoPro Hero8 Black Review
Review

Friday November 1, 2019

By Ali Jennings

Snap Verdict

The market-leading action camera may look the same as the past three generations, but the GoPro Hero8 Black is a very different camera. So what’s it like? Only one way to find out and that with our GoPro Hero8 Black Review..

GoPro Hero8 Black news story here.

Firstly the cage has gone, the entire body is redesigned and there’s even a new workflow to the UI. 

Build and handling are good, but the new side door has a tendency to come off completely when released. 

The new drop-down finger mounts are very neat but can be a bit of a faff when fitting to mounts. 

Performance is undeniably good, clear crisp images, and TimeWarp with the new real-time option is fantastic. 

Is this all enough to warrant an upgrade? Maybe not, but once you factor in the upcoming Mod system this new GoPro goes from looking like a minor upgrade to a major one. 

Get £100/$100 off the GoPro Hero8 Black

Before I get into the review, it’s well worth mentioning that GoPro is going all out with an aggressive campaign.

£100/$100 off the GoPro Hero8 Black if you trade in a camera or action camera against the new model. 

The camera you trade-in needs to have been valued at more than £99/$99 when new which means that you can trade in any old GoPro for this new model.

Essentially bringing the price of the new GoPro down to just £279/$269. To find out more information on how to get the GoPro Hero8 Black with discount check-out the GoPro.com website.

Info

Action camera / gopro.com / £379 / $379 at time of review

Introduction

The GoPro Hero8 Black is no minor update and this only really becomes apparent when you have the camera in your hands. OK, it’s a very similar basic form factor, but the subtle tweaks and changes do make a difference. 

Unlike the 5, 6, 7 and variants of, the Hero8 has been built anew from the ground up.

The reason for making such a drastic change now is likely due to the Mod system that will be released in the coming months. 

It’s also likely that with the advent of HyperSmooth the Karma grip will be laid to rest.

Significant changes to GoPro design

The most significant change is the loss of the cage, this makes for a far more streamlined design. It also cuts the fuss of cage removal when you want to access the camera’s ports, although a hinged door still covers them. 

GoPro Hero8 Black Review

Another change, which I thought there was more to, is the removable lens or lack of it. My initial impression was that I could remove the entire front of the camera, lens and all, and I could replace it with a variant. Maybe that Neon frontage I always wanted, and I don’t mean with the GoPro Sleeve and lanyard. 

This was not the case; that front is well and truly stuck to the front of the Hero8. I checked with GoPro and managed to get the definitive answer on this, primarily the new body is slimmer, more robust and enables far better audio. Like anyone complained about the audio! er, so there you go. 

They also suggest using a lens protector over the lens, which to be honest, all makes sense.

The other big change is the fold-down fingers that create the mount.

Power on and again while the interface looks familiar, there are a string of changes that all increase usability and fast access. 

For those fearing a cull on advanced features let me put your mind at rest. This GoPro has the unique advantage of being feature slim and streamline for the novice, and packs in advanced feature for the Pros.

 

 

GoPro Hero8 Black Features

Hardware design is the big new feature, and as I said in the intro while it looks the same, GoPro has reworked it to do away with the need for a cage, and that has resulted in a complete reworking of the body and build. 

Before diving into the hardware lets take a look at the show-stopping features, much of which I admit look remarkably like the features of the Hero7 Black from last year. 

Essentially they are with a few updates, so here you go:

  • HyperSmooth 2.0
  • TimeWarp 2.0
  • SuperPhoto with improved HDR
  • LiveBurst
  • NighLapse video
  • 4k at 60fps
  • 1080p at 240fps
  • 100MBps Bit Rate 2.7K / 4K
  • Frameless Mounting
  • Mod compatibility
  • Digital Lens (FOV reworked)
  • Settings Presets
  • Customisable Shortcuts
  • 1080p LiveStream
  • Weight 124g
  • 3.85V, 1220mAh 4.70Wh Battery

So that’s it on the new features, but what becomes apparent as you use the camera is that everything has been tweaked and refined. 

The removal of the cage means that there are two fold-down fingers on the base. Pop these down, and you have the traditional mount. Then there are the changes to the port door and battery which is entirely new and, of course, the all-in-on camera and lens which I’ve already touched on. 

Why is the removal of the GoPro cage good

The lose of the cage is a bit of a gamechanger. Firstly it cuts out faff, if you’ve ever had frozen hands and tried to open a GoPro housing or cage you’ll know what I mean. It’s tricky if not impossible. 

The removal of the cage does several things; it makes the GoPro maller, lighter and more robust. 

GoPro Hero8 Black Review

Firstly the size, GoPro is small, that’s one of the major attractions, the removal of the cage makes it a touch smaller. 

GoPro Hero8 Black dimensions = 66.5mm x 28.5mm x 66mm (L x D x H)
GoPro Hero7 Black dimensions = 68mm x 38mm x 71.5mm (L x D x H)

Obviously, you can’t fold away the Hero7 Blacks cage legs so that’s both GoPro’s with cage or fingers folded down where applicable. 

Then there’s the weight at 124g for the Hero8 Back and 142g for the Hero7 Black (115g without the cage).

Then there’s the all-in-one design, the loss of the cage and removable lens. The cage all makes sense and makes for a smaller, lighter and less fiddly camera. 

The lose of the removable lens makes me nervous, although on that point. The lens is a 2mm thick Gorilla Glass which is 2x stronger than that of the Hero7. It’s also been tested to survive 85mph granite grit impact. 

It’s therefore unlikely that you’ll damage the lens, er, although I’ve been here before. This time however GoPro realise that there is the likely hood that damage may happen, for some of the more heavy-handed owners, and suggest one of the following. 

How to protect your GoPro Hero8 Black lens

  • Use a protective lens cover – there’s plenty already available
  • Use the SuperSuit
  • Subscribe to GoPro Plus, and if you break it, they’ll replace it. 

Look at the specifications, and again at first none of the other refinements are that apparent. Resolutions and framerates remain the same, but then you see that features such as HyperSmooth are now available for all resolutions. 

How is this possible with the same processor? It seems that’s down to the battery which again looks the same as previous batteries, 3.85V, 1220mAh 4.70Wh Battery. What’s different? It has a higher discharge rate. This gives the power boost to the camera to make the new power of HyperSmooth possible. 

Of course, batteries from the 5 through to 7 will all work in the 8 you’ll get a warning when you pop them in that some features will be limited. 

The other big change is the interface.

Complete GoPro interface update

The GoPro interface has gone through several reworkings since the old days of the carousel screens. The touch screen improved the user interface, and each version of GoPro has seen features come and go, ultimately streamlining the UI.

This streamlining has gone one step further, and GoPro has now developed home page Shortcuts and preset profiles.

GoPro Hero8 Black Review

Want slow-motion or to zoom in then there’s a short cut to do so on the main screen. Need to swap and change these? Then everything is customisable through directly in-camera.

Another change is the way you access the resolutions and framerates. As standard you have a very conservative set of three presets standard – 1080p, 60fps, wide fov, Activity 2.7k, 60fps, SuperView and Slo-Mo, 1080p 240fps.

Next to each preset you’ll see a pen icon which enables you to update the setting to suit your needs, or scroll down hit the + symbol and you can add your own presets, it’s all very well thought out. 

Finding your way around and updating the interface couldn’t be easier, especially with the support of the GoPro App. 

Other new features are in the newly consolidated GoPro App, which draws together GoPro’s control and editing Apps into one. 

This is a far more streamlined approach and makes for a much more user-friendly environment. 

Through the App you get the usual ability to connect and control your GoPro, you can also connect to the world at large, through the GoPro community, and of course, broadcast your feets to the world through the power of streaming. 

The GoPro Hero8 Black still packs in more features than any other action camera; GPS, Motion sensors, voice control, App, and so much more. 

But there are still a list of features we’d love to see, maybe for the Hero9.

Next-generation GoPro features that don’t appear on the Hero8

  • It’s still black; I want Fluro
  • 4K at 120fps
  • 1080p at 480fps
  • Digital Aperture control
  • Shake to wake auto-editing – A TomTom bandit feature
  • Easy multi camming and syncing

Build Quality and Handling

The changes to the GoPro Hero8 Black’s design are huge when it comes to usability. From the initial charge to downloading your images, the removal of the cage is a godsend. 

It’s just nice not having to battle with a cage in any shape or form, I’ve had incidents where my fingers are too cold to undo the lever, or it’s caught my finger in one way or another which results in a loud outburst. 

I’ve experience cords getting caught, although how I have no idea, and although a considerable improvement over the housings I’m still pleased to see them go. 

The new GoPro instantly feels more solid and streamline with less to catch or break. The old GoPro felt high quality, but the Hero8 feels even better. 

Downsides of the new Hero8 Black design

However, early on, I found two aspects that have annoyed me. Firstly the door on the side that protects the battery, USB and HDMI. 

The small click lock at the base all works well, push it down, and the door unlocks. Flip the door up, and with no effort at all the door comes off. 

GoPro Hero8 Black Review

This isn’t any real issue for the camera, as this door is designed to be removed, but probably not as easily as it does. 

The next and slightly more pressing issue is the fold-down fingers. They sit solidly under the base of the camera and are held in place by magnets.

A fingernail in the slight recess of the end of one of the fingers and it’s easy enough to pull each leg down. 

The issue comes when you then fit the fingers to the mount, the fingers move. Maybe it’s teething problems, and I need to get used to them, but I usually slot the GoPro into mounts without too much fuss. 

Here it took a couple of attempts and the slightly more fiddly mounts under my seat I did find a real issue. 

The base along with the fingers can be removed with a T6 Torx and a new base bolted on. Something I may well do if I don’t get on with the fold-down fingers in the near future.

Otherwise, the rest of the exterior is business as usual. Power button on the side or auto power on when the shutter button is pressed, and of course the large touch screen on the back or App to interact with the camera. 

Updated GoPro Hero8 interface

It’s again a subtle refinement, it looks the same but in real terms makes a difference to the use of the camera. The two main features that I must tell you about are the custom presets and the home screen Short Cuts. 

These two features are linked, essentially you can either use one of the three presets set by GoPro Standard, Activity and Slo-Mo or create your own. Each of these presets can be adjusted through the interface to suit your needs better. 

To do this, select the resolution options in the centre of the screen and then scroll past the presets and click add. You can then set the resolution, framerate and all the ProTune advanced video options. 

Crucially at the bottom of the options is the home screen short cuts that can be placed in the left or right lower or upper corners. There’s plenty of shortcuts options that can be applied to each of the presets.

GoPro On-screen shortcuts options

  • RAW Audio
  • Wind
  • Color
  • Sharpness
  • ISO Max
  • ISO Min
  • White Balance
  • EV Comp
  • Shutter
  • Bit Rate
  • Clips
  • Zoom
  • Low Light
  • HyperSmooth
  • Lens
  • Slo-Mo
  • Off

My only issue with the presets is that you can only apply names that are preset on the GoPro, or list each new one as Custom 1, 2 etc. While you can update a preset through the App you can’t add a new one or rename and existing one. 

Combined GoPro App

Not long ago, the GoPro App or family of Apps was rapidly expanding but then as GoPro changed direction, so did their Apps. 

Now there is just the main GoPro App that incorporates the fantastic Quik App.

As the App is booted, you have the choice as to which section you’d like to enter; either to control your GoPro or View Media. 

Entering either section offers the usual slick environment that we’ve come to expect from GoPro. 

The control side of the App enables secure connection, follow the on-screen prompts, and the device connects without issue. 

Once in you can then start and stop recording, switch shooting modes and adjust the camera’s settings. 

The connection is robust, although when setting up and using live streaming I did hit a few issues and while I could stream to YouTube connecting to FaceBook at present doesn’t seem to work, although the options to connect are there. 

Performance

There’s no doubt that the footage from the GoPro Hero8 Black is good, but you can still see the camera struggle with the high framerates, but check out the low light performance. 

This footage shows the GoPro Hero8 Black 4K 60fps Front Sample footage. 

Impressive is really the only way, to sum up the quality of the image considering the size of the camera. Colour and exposure are well balanced and plenty of details is picked out in the trees and foliage. 

There are however a couple of oddities that I haven’t seen before on a GoPro. When powering up the camera can take a couple of seconds to adjust to the exposure, but once done the exposure adapts to the changing lighting conditions at speed and without issue. 

In this footage, there’s obviously quite a bit of motion, but place the camera in a more static environment and without all the processing that’s required for this type of shot the quality of the footage takes another step up. 

If you take a look up at the sky and then the ground you’ll see where the limits of the GoPro dynamic Range is met. The camera struggles with the Blue of the sky at first but quickly finds a happy middle ground.

As ever the colour is slightly oversaturated which for this type of shot is no bad thing. I used GoPro’s default colour for the majority of the test as it gives a good base idea of the performance of the camera. 

HyperSmooth 2.0 also does an amazing job, I’m not sure how much better if at all the HyperSmooth performance is, but being able to use at 4K 60fps as in this case is a definite advantage. 

This footage shows the GoPro 4K 30fps Sample footage

Dropping the framerate down should result in slightly more jerky footage, but again the GoPro demonstrates why it dominates the number 1 slot. OK, the footage doesn’t quite have that smoothness that was demonstrated at 60fps but it’s not at all bad.

Again shot with HyperSmooth 2.0 set to max the stabilising effect of the feature is outstanding. 

However, by this time in the ride, the light was starting to dip and typically despite a good 1/2 break in the rain it started to drizzle. Ultimately light levels had dropped and this starts to become apparent in the quality of the footage. 

While the motion is good to take a look at the detail in the foliage and you’ll start to see some pixelation. Also, over saturation of the colour without the power of bright sunlight to highlight the detail starts to look a little dodgy. 

30fps while OK for action isn’t great, really it should be used for general filming where the high-speed framerates aren’t required. 

This footage shows the GoPro 1080p 240fps Sample footage

Let’s go in with the big numbers and 1080p at 240fps. What does that mean? Well, you can playback footage at 1/8th speed, essentially one second becomes eight seconds so you can film some very cool action sequences or at least that’s the theory. 

First up to be under no illusions the footage suffers at this frame rate, contrast goes through the roof and that affects the saturation and detail in the image and not in a good way. 

However, lets not dismiss the high frame rate footage immediately. This shot was taken as the light was falling and even at 240fps, the camera is recording a tonne of decent quality footage that could be used. 

The major issue here is that jerkiness from frame to frame during playback. That’s not the fault of the camera. As I said the light was low so the GoPro has tried to compensate by slowing down the shutter speed which has unfortunately destroyed the smooth motion that we should be seeing. 

240fps is impressive and if used when there’s plenty of light around won’t fail to impress. Unlike many of GoPro’s other video resolutions and framerates when it comes to 240fps footage the conditions need to be right and there’s far less margin for light differences etc. 

This footage shows the GoPro GoPro 1080p 120fps Sample footage

Aside from a few mud on the lens issues, the overall quality is OK,  shooting into the light is always going to cause the camera a few issue and here you can see that with some slight flaring through the trees. 

Take a look at the ground and you’ll also see the pixelation as the camera struggles to process the content of the scene. Again this is a harsh test and really pushes the abilities of the camera. While the quality suffers be under no illusion, the GoPro is about the only action camera that can cope with this type of lighting at this or any other framerate.

This footage shows the GoPro GoPro 1080p 60fps Sample footage

As resolutions go this is the baseline for all action cameras and it’s the framerate that really changed things for GoPro. Full HD at 60fps is high enough resolution to capture stunning detail while the 60fps enables smooth motion playback or subtle slow-mo. 

Here as you’d expect the GoPro excels despite the complete lack of light which by this time on the ride was actually making it difficult for me to see. 

Look hard at the shadows and you can start to see the influence of noise but nothing that you’d worry about. When it comes to the base level action camera resolution and framerate this quality is the mark that all other action cameras have to aspire to. 

This footage shows the GoPro GoPro 1080p 30fps Sample footage

Out of box 1080p, 30fps will playback on almost any modern device. It’s the standard for pretty much everything and offers a good balance of resolution and motion smoothness. 

Again the light was low and I was trying to avoid as many puddles as possible. You can see in the footage the effect of the slower framerate on the smoothness of motion. At this speed that effect isn’t too dramatic if I picked up the pace a little then the effect would have been a little more pronounced. 

This footage shows the GoPro GoPro 4K TimeWarp Sample footage

A new auto feature hands over the speed control to the GoPro and I have to say however it does it it’s impressive. This quick clip was filmed at 4K using the TimeWarp feature and shows just how impressive TimeWarp can be. 

One added extra that isn’t highlighted in this clip is the ability to tap the screen to revert to normal speed and back again, essentially speed ramping in camera. This is a great feature and I’ll bring you more on its use soon.

Verdict

Again GoPro has managed to produce a camera with almost exactly the same specifications as the last one, and again they’ve made me want to buy it. Actually, the hardware change is big once you get the camera out in the field, not having the cage in any way shape or form is a great advancement.

This new fold-down finger approach also means that plate can be removed, and that means you can add your own lower profile mounts which for many people is going to be a real attraction. 

An updated user interface also streamlines much of what has come before and makes it easier for the novice action camera user to find their way around. The real take-home snippet from this updated UI is the ability to add your own custom presets and add predefined shortcuts to the touch screen home page. 

Last time with the Hero7 Black it was all about software. HyperSmooth was electronic image stabilisation like we had never seen before and it amazed now it’s been updated to version 2.0. HyperSmooth 2.0 of the GoPro Hero8 Black is again impressive and now that it covers all resolutions is an even more powerful tool. 

Alongside the expanded compatibility, HyperSmooth also offers adjustment with several settings that enable you to adjust the influence. 

New GoPro design and Mods make the Hero8 Black a worthwhile upgrade

When it comes to the all-important video quality then things do stagnate a little. Framerates and Resolutions are much the same as they were in the previous GoPro Hero7 Black and aside from the extension to HyperSmooth there’s not a great deal more to offer on the video quality side. 

When I looked at the GoPro Hero7 Black I was initially underwhelmed by the lack of resolution and framerate hikes, but then I used HyperSmooth and everything made sense. Now with the GoPro Hero8 Black, I again had that sense of initial disappointment, but that disappointment was shorter-lived. 

As soon as you have the Hero8 in your hand you can feel that it’s a different camera, there’s no peering at the side of the lens to see which version GoPro you have. The design while aesthetically similar is different and the potential the GoPro offer with the Mods will propel the GoPro to another level. 

The GoPro Hero8 Black is a worthwhile update to the Hero5 and Hero6. When it comes to the Hero7 the two action cameras are pretty much level pegging, and much of the decision to upgrade will come down to your need for the GoPro Mods.

Ultimately Video quality is the same, with the advantage that the Hero8 extends HyperSmooth to the bigger resolutions. But where the Hero8 will really excel is with the potential offered by the addition of the Mods, or at least it will once the Mods arrive. 

It’s all about the Mods, but what are they?

This time it’s the camera’s exterior tweaks and the Mods. Three Mod accessories that look to make the GoPro appeal to the ever-growing Vlogging generation.

The Mods do look interesting and do open up GoPro properly to a new group of users. OK, it was all possible before, but attaching Mics, Lamps etc. was such a faff, now it’s all neat.

My initial impressions of the camera are excellent, and I like the direction, but there is one thing that worries me greatly.

Usually, with an announcement, there’s something a fanfare, event, or something to hook you in and to make you as a customer feels part of it all, yet today as we watched the GoPro YouTube channel, the chat gathered and built excitedly towards the launch. It was a lively and good-natured, proper new GoPro type of excitement, and that excitement was reflected elsewhere online.

But then at 2 pm GMT the short video played and then nothing, there was no presentation of the camera just the end of the video and nothing.

I felt let down as did the people in the chat, was that it? I’m hoping when the camera arrives I’m not going to feel the same, same specs and little real substance.

Next time GoPro, if you’re going to launch, please launch – it doesn’t need to be on a stage on California just from a beach, trial or even a cafe, I don’t care.

If you’re going to put the groundwork in to develop such great products don’t go half-hearted at the end. Look, I’m always around sat in a cafe somewhere in the southwest of the UK. If you need me for 10 minutes to present the GoPro Hero9 Black in fluro options, then drop me a line.

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