UPDATE 9 May 2020
Dronedj reports a new listing from GoPro with the FCC in the US that could be the GoPro Hero9 Black action camera.
Dubbed the SPBL1, the possible Hero9 Black appears as if it was tested back in March and the results were filed with the FCC this week.
GoPro tends to announce its new products at the end of summer, so as we move through June, July and August we will bring you the most up-to-date news.
GoPro Hero9 Black release date
If history is to repeat itself, then we can probably expect to see a GoPro Hero9 Black release date in September 2020. In September 2018 GoPro unveiled the Hero 7 Black, Hero 7 Silver and Hero 7 White. And now we have the GoPro Hero8 Black and GoPro Max 360 camera launched on 1 October 2019.
Check out our full review of the GoPro Hero8 Black
Every year for the past few years GoPro has unveiled a new addition to its Hero range, so it seems inevitable we’ll see a GoPro Hero9 Black release sometime within the third quarter of 2020.
Despite its struggles a couple of years ago, GoPro is a savvy company and it’s not going anywhere. The Hero action camera is the company’s core product, and it’s hands-down the best action camera on the market. What’s great about the Hero Black cameras is that they cross over many demographics of users, from thrill-seekers to professional photographers and videographers.
With the Hero 5 and Hero 6 a few years ago, along with the budget Hero and the trio of Hero7 action cameras, GoPro successfully managed to capture the market with stunning new features and a great new design.
But that design is now several generations old, so is it time for GoPro to think about an upgrade in both looks and features with its successor to the Hero8 Black?
GoPro Hero9 Specs
GoPro has steadily broken new ground when it comes to features; GPS and motion sensors, voice control, full-colour touch screen and HyperSmooth, however, the resolutions and frame rates have stagnated for three generations.
At present, there are no other action cameras that can match those specifications, features or quality but it would be good to see a resolution increase.
The GoPro Hero9 Black will need to beat the already high bar set by the GoPro Hero7 Black – and now the Hero8 – and the action camera will also need to offer the company’s devout followers something special.
New GoPro body design
The original GoPro design lasted for four generations, ignoring, of course, the minor + updates. The Karma Grip is still a popular accessory, and if there is any major change in the shape and size, the Karma would require a new caddy.
Therefore it was no surprise that subsequent releases of the camera after the Hero5 kept to the same form factor even if the design changed ever-so-slightly.
The Hero8 has been an interesting move, as on first sight it looks identical to the 5, 6 and 7, but look closer and you see it’s had a complete overhaul. It’s now 100% waterproof without the need for a cage and it has it’s own fold-down mount, all very clever, but it still essentially looks the same.
The Hero8 has refined the form factor, and it’s likely that the Hero9 will follow the same shape and size. If this is the case then any design changes will need to be innovative.
There are three major areas for improvement when it comes to the design as I see it: the cage, lens and touch screen.
GoPro Hero 9 adopts a 1/4-inch thread
The disappearance of the old bulky waterproof housing was genius, and although it reduced the water resistance depth from 30m to 10m, this was no real issue for the majority of users. Now the cage has gone completely with the Hero8 what more is there to do?
We’ll have to see what GoPro has in-store for us for the next generation, but as we’ve seen with the Hero8, seemingly small changes can be massive.
Perhaps the most overlooked new feature of the GoPro Hero8 Black is the addition of the folding fingers on the base of the camera. These fold out to form the traditional GoPro mount, meaning you no longer need the cage to mount it to different accessories, what’s more, this fold down mount can be removed and replaced.
The removal of the casing should help to reduce some of the muffling experienced with the audio and reduce the overall mounted size slightly.
GoPro could take this new-found freedom a step further. The addition of optional base plates with different fixing types, for example, a standard 1/4-inch thread would be a welcome addition for many users, enabling flush mounting to a new wave of accessories or simply direct mounting for any number of uses.
Taking this route would also enable the connection of a standard GoPro mount for backward compatibility.
Improved lens options
GoPro has worked hard to produce a quality lens that enables the capture of clear, crisp and vibrant footage. It’s also tough, made from Gorilla Glass, which is important for an action camera.
As standard, the GoPro’s lens offers a 170º field of view. This field of view can be adjusted using the new Digital Lens feature that enables you to zoom in and out of the frame at different marked focal lengths.
All good, but wouldn’t it be great if there were a few optical lens options for different scenarios. This thought isn’t new, and there are companies out there that customise GoPros and other cameras in a variety of ways – check out the excellent Back Bone.
Imagine if you had a different lens for different situations with your GoPro. Say, a linear lens for vlogging, a standard wide for extreme sports and general use and a longer focal length optic for drone and other aerial work.
This would also open up endless possibilities for effects lenses, filters and engage a new market of creative filmmakers without impacting on the original customer base.
GoPro Hero 9 to feature a to-the-edge screen
It’s been adopted by the majority of smartphones, and where they go surely everyone else must follow.
If the cage is gone then that leaves more space for the screen. The Hero8 Black’s screen is big but there’s plenty of real estate left. That additional area could be used for more features and touch gestures.
GoPro Hero 9 removable touch screen remote
If you can remember back to the GoPro Hero 4, there was the option for a detachable touchscreen. Although the screen used at the time now seems primitive, back then it was a significant breakthrough.
Moving on to the GoPro Hero9 Black, what if the company returned to that novel idea and developed a screen that could detach and switch to a wrist- or bar-mountable remote.
We’ve possibly seen the first steps toward this with the Hero8 Black’s new Media Mod. This handy device fits around your GoPro and allows you to attach a flippable LCD for vlogging. What if you could mount that LCD to your wrist?
This would be ideal for those situations where the last thing you want to do is reach into your pocket and connect to the GoPro through the app.
The small Remo remote is good, but what’s the point if you can’t see what you’re shooting?
Utilising a detachable screen could just be the start, why not make it flip or articulate to make it easier for the selfie / vlogging generation.
Back to the Fluorescent GoPro Hero 9 Black
We wrongly predicted that the GoPro Hero8 Black would be available in a dual fluorescent colour scheme. Why did we predict this? So when it disappears into the undergrowth, it would be easy found.
Once again, we’ll put this forward as one of our top new features for the GoPro Hero 9 Black #makegoprofluro
A huge leap for the GoPro Hero9 Black specifications
Many users were underwhelmed by the Hero 6’s specifications when it launched – 4K at 60fps and Full HD at 240fps, which to be honest was impressive and still led the field. But with the GoPro Hero8 Black now alive and kicking we’re still staring down the same video frame rates and specifications.
We’re not expecting GoPro to release a camera capable of shooting 8K (yet). With computers still struggling to process 4K content, it’s not really time to push 8K in the consumer market. But GoPro could seize the day and push the envelope with 4K capabilities as it has in the past.
GoPro Hero 9 hits 480fps Full HD and 120fps at 4K
Every other generation of the camera seems to double the frame rate compared to the previous generation, with the Hero6 doubling the maximum frame rates for both full HD and 4K.
Taking the previous timeline into consideration, we didn’t expect see much in the way of increased frame rate and resolution with the Hero7 Black. We suspected it would be a centrepiece of the GoPro Hero8. But, alas, the Hero8 Black retains the Hero7’s video specifications.
With the Hero9 Black we expect GoPro to make a big change to its video capabilities and offer 4K video at 120fps, as well as Full HD at 480fps.
Hero9 Black to welcome new GP2 processor
When the Hero 6 Black arrived one of the new features was the all-new GP1 processor. This new engine showed a new direction for GoPro, breaking away from the Ambarella processors the company had used until that point.
It was a risk to develop their own chip and a huge investment, but that time and money have paid off with the latest generation of the GP processor.
GoPro’s HyperSmooth stabilisation technology proved that the GP1 was a powerful entity. In the Hero7 Black the GP1 processor received a boost of 2MB of RAM, which really powered the GoPro past all other action cameras.
As was proven by the quality of the footage and increase in specs the GP1 confirmed it was a worthy replacement for the Ambarella processor, so I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw a few further speed increases and improved low light performance.
The GP1 now has a proven track record, and we know it can process the data, but what more could a GP2 do?
Better low light, more manual control, greater slow motion, smartphone-style apps, for a start. This should significantly improve the camera’s performance and help it achieve those challenging video resolutions and frame rates we’re predicting above.
Sony has made massive inroads into the mirrorless market with its Alpha range, but one feature that impresses me with these cameras is the ability to boost the feature set with apps.
GoPro Hero9 Black app-enabled
Again, pulling from the mobile world, apps have become essential. There are now apps for pretty much everything, and their inclusion on the GoPro Hero 9 Black could enable increased functionality and features.
An effects app could see Instagram-style effects made available for your GoPro footage. Or YouTube or Facebook Live could be integrated. Who knows, maybe even Pro users could find a revamped ProTune that offers S-Log colour mode and timecodes.
These apps could be organised and managed in the GoPro app enabling the full integration of the GoPro Hero 9 Black with your mobile phone.
Multicamming with the GoPro Hero 9 Black
One of the biggest leaps in the quality of your GoPro footage is when you start to multi-angle, and there’s only one way to do it. Use multiple cameras.
However, once you’ve captured a variety of angles on two, three or more cameras you then need to sync that footage together before it’s edited.
Adding multi-cam to the GoPro Hero 9 Black would enable you and your mates to go out for a ride, sync cameras and then when you get back the data from each would automatically sync the footage to help speed up and ease editing.
It could even enable fast auto editing switching between cameras based on motion and GPS data.
Speed is key when it comes to editing and GoPro has already made massive inroads with its app. This could be extended with Multicam and effects capabilities.
Better GoPro Hero Accessories
When it comes to accessories the GoPro Hero rocks more than any other product. Not just those made by GoPro, but by almost every other manufacturer that has anything to do with imaging.
But, those accessories are for the most part slight variants on what’s already there or they’re built so generic that they default on function. What we now need is a premium line of GoPro accessories; GoPro Pro Accessories.
We’ve already seen a small toe-dip into the market with the companies partnership a few years back with the 360 pro movement and more recently there’s been an all metal under saddle mount, but we want more… What do we mean?
Everyone wants better GoPro audio, don’t they?
Let’s take a look at the mic adapter. It’s a great accessory that enables you to record pro-level audio into your GoPro. The difference in quality is outstanding, but there’s a big issue. The adapter just dangles from the side of your GoPro like a spare part. Wouldn’t it be great if GoPro could look at the complete ecosystem and give us the GoPro Vlogger Grip, a grip that enables easy handling of the GoPro, with fill light and mic all attached without the need for tape?
Then there’s all the timelapse rigs or varying qualities, often home-built and often a risk to personal health, a GoPro TL rig, designed modularly so you can add rotary or linear motion to your time-lapses.
On Time-lapse rigs, the TL options are limited, why not extend them so you can take a shot an hour, day etc with better external power in that retains the weatherproofing. I only suggest this as a recent experiment proved that you do need to seal the Type-C cable into the GoPro if you want it to survive a rainstorm. Using a glue gun is an easy solution but it’s not ideal and damages the finish of the GoPro long term.
Three new GoPro Hero models
GoPro did it before with the GoPro Hero3, GoPro Hero3 Silver and GoPro Hero3 Black, and just this year the company branched out again with the Hero7 Black, Hero7 Silver and Hero7 White. Could GoPro be poised to do it again with the Hero9?
Taking Sony’s Alpha 7 range and its success as an example, they have three very clearly defined models that look identical, and this philosophy could easily be applied to the GoPro Hero9.
GoPro Hero9 Black
You know the format, the all-encompassing action camera that we know and love.
Voice activation, sound alerts, vibrations, GPS, touch screen, Full HD at 480fps, 4K at 120fps and 8K (why not) at 30fps, live video streaming, waterproof to 10m without cage etc.
The Hero 9 Black would need to push the limits and connect with other GoPro’s to create multicam camera scenarios.
More of the same but better.
GoPro Hero9 Social
Designed for the vlogger and social media star, or even the family.
This model would feature an articulated touch screen, direct mic input and better Karma integration.
GoPro Hero9 Broadcast
Sony has seen the potential and already has a good line of action cameras, but with a history in broadcast, the RX0 is the small camera that has been designed to push the GoPro out of the broadcast industry.
The Hero 9 Broadcast would need to be something special, with clean HDMI out, the ability to record high-quality 4K in-camera, high 960fps Full HD and again pack in the Multi-cam features.
The design of the GoPro Hero 9 Broadcast would need to deal with the design issues that have opened the field for the RX0, primarily the addition of 1/4-inch mounting options and audio in.
A Pro app would also be required to manage the multiple cameras integrating them seamlessly with the broadcast systems being used.