The GoXtreme Black Hawk 4K is one of a new generation of feature-packed, high-end action cameras. It packs in a hearty range of features such as 4k at 30fps, 1080p at 120 fps, waterproof to 60m and along side video modes it also boasts time-lapse and a 2-inch rear LCD screen.
You’d be right if you were thinking that these specs look familiar, as they’re near identical to those of the GoPro Hero4 Black, and for good reason. The sensor and processor of the GoXtreme Black Hawk 4K and the GoPro Hero4 Black are rumoured to be almost identical and checking the visual quality between the two it really is difficult to see any discernable difference in quality.
The new Black Hawk 4K features a 12.4 million pixel Sony IMX117 images sensor and Ambarella A12 processor. The A12 processor is a later generation than the one that appears in the Hero4 and there for should show increased processing performance.
The quality of video capture is after all the most important factor, but as any seasoned action camera user will know there’s often quite a bit more to it when it comes to usability.
GoXtreme Black Hawk 4k: Features
There’s little not to like about the Black Hawk 4k’s feature set – it is essentially identical to the GoPro Hero4 but costs 30% less even with the heavy discounting of the remaining Hero4 models out there.
Headlining is the 4K resolution at 30fps and 1080p at 120fps. On the Hero4 the 4K footage looked fantastic as long as it was used in bright conditions and no doubt the Black Hawk’s footage will look equally impressive.
More interesting to see will be if the updated chipset will enhance the quality of the footage shot at 120fps. Although the GoPro has the ability, the speed of the old A9 processor did struggle with the information that was being thrown at it, often resulting in pixelated footage. The A12 sensor is significantly faster so should result in a step-up in image quality.
The usual ultra wide angled lens has a 170º field of view and fronts the camera.
As we have now come to expect there’s full Wifi connectivity with a complimentary app for both iOS and Android.
Advanced users looking to mix footage from the Black Hawk with other cameras, be that another action or otherwise, will be pleased to see that there are several manual exposure features but unfortunately no ProTune equivalent setting.
The overall design of the Black Hawk is also very Hero4 with the external waterproof housing protecting the camera within. GoPro themselves may now have scrapped this style of design but for many these external cases do help to add a sense of protection for the camera both when it water or being battered out on the trial.
The waterproof housing is of the usual lever lock style with external water sealed buttons and GoPro style mount on the base. The lens of the case is perfectly flat a sure sign that makers know what they’re doing. This case is waterproof up to 60m something that I’m not going to test in this review!
On the back is a large 2-inch display, which is handy for composing your shot, previewing footage and finding your way around settings and menus.
The camera is powered by a 1050mAh lithium battery that can be swapped out and replaced as needed. Each battery supplies around an hour and a half of charge depending on use, mode and conditions.
Alongside the camera in the box are a tripod adaptor, monopod adaptor and a couple of other connectors and mounts.
The only other thing that you’ll need to get started is an SD card, this needs to be of the U3 / Class 10 or higher.
GoXtreme Black Hawk 4k: Build Quality and handling
GoPro, TomTom and Nikon might have shed the waterproof housing, but waterproof housings are still very much a part of the action camera scene.
The BlackHawk 4K features a high quality case that’s designed to protect and last. On the exterior are four buttons, two on the side that are used to easily navigate through settings, the button on the front to power on and switch through modes and the shutter button on the top.
These buttons are all spring loaded and are of a decent size that makes them easy enough to operate even when underwater or wearing gloves. They also meet well with the camera buttons so there’s no battle to operate when underwater.
On the front is the flat lens, no bolts, decoration or fancy styling, just a clear flat front element that can be easily cleaned of, water and other debris.
The lens on the case isn’t replaceable but then the cost of a new case will only set you back a small amount, remember you’re not paying the GoPro premium for the brand.
On the base of the case is the GoPro style two-prong mount and this is fully compatible with all GoPro accessories that I tried. The width of the prongs was also sufficient to be used on many metal mountings that can often be a bit of a struggle with non-GoPro branded cases, by being either a fraction to big or small.
The case is held close by a strong lever lock and in test there wasn’t a single occasion when this lock didn’t lock 100%. The rubber seal all seamed good and four rubber feet on the back door of the case stop any camera movement within.
Released from the case the camera has the popular matt rubberized plastic finish which does give the camera a sense of quality, this is further reinforced by the small gold plaque next to the logo highlighting 4K 30fps UltraHD, it’s just a visual thing but why not.
Again there are the four buttons that’s meet the housing buttons, on the front is the lens and side is the slot for the MicroSD card, USB and HDMI cable ports. These ports are open and there’s no rubber cover to keep them protected without the waterproof housing.
Flip the camera over to look at the base and there’s a door to the battery chamber a 1/4-inch standard tripod thread. This enables the camera to be attached directly to any normal tripod such as the micro Manfrotto Pixi Off Road.
Navigating is all done using the small buttons on the side, along with the shutter and power buttons to switch between modes and confirm selections which all makes sense. Unlike some cameras the menus are well ordered and finding the settings you want and making adjustments is all straightforward.
The design of the interface is good, not quite as slick as the latest GoPro but still good especially with the screen.
The screen is a major advantage of the Black Hawk 4K over the GoPro Hero4 Black as it means that you can compose and review footage without the need of the app.
As with all action cameras these days there is an app called the ‘GoAction App’, this offers the usual full control along with live view preview over the camera and is all clearly laid out and functional.
The user interface does look a little dated but all works well enough.
GoXtreme Black Hawk 4k: Performance
Spec’s design and build will all give you confidence about a product, but it’s can all come smashing down once out in the field.
The Black Hawk 4K packs in a hefty feature set, not only equalling that of the Hero4 Black but beating it with the updated Ambarella processor.
Expectations for quality and use then at the start of the test were high, I’ve looked at enough of these cameras to know when a cameras going to live upto the hype and be a serious contender in the field.
The only problem with that is because quality is so close to that of the GoPro Hero4 it is going to be marked directly against it, even though it’s substantially cheaper.
The first step was to mount the camera and during the testing phase I checked how it connected with a series of GoPro own brand mounts including the Chesty, Bar, Fetch and Standard quick release style mounts, and in all cases the housing bolted in good and tight.
Using third party mounts and generally it was the same story and the metal bike mounts that I’ve used for years, which have little less tolerance for anything other than exact GoPro mount sizing’s worked perfectly.
Once in place and starting off with the app, connectivity was good with a usable range of about 5m comfortably any further than this and there was pixilation. This distance is about average even though most manufacturers boast greater.
Starting and stopping recording all work quickly and previewing the footage through App as well as watching the live stream all worked well.
There was a slight delay between the camera and live view preview, this was just less than a second so nothing major.
The app is great for controlling the camera in general use is fine and there was never an issue with the connection dropping or the app freezing or crashing, but in most situations where the camera is mounted I usually favor direct control.
On this front the 2-inch LCD really comes into its own enabling you to quickly scroll through settings and select the options that you want. I found this far more intuitive to use than the GoPro Hero4 Black so a big win here on usability over its older rival.
Unfortunately during my test period the weather wasn’t ideal, quite a bit of rain and generally cloudy skies, and when the sun did break through I was generally without bike, boat or anything else other than the dog and feet.
In low light conditions that camera did struggle and you can see pixilation in the footage, however it handled the scene with the same quality as the Hero4 Black.
Looking carefully at the footage and you can see that the clarity of detail and colour graduation of the footage is excellent, really up their with the Hero4 and Yi 4K, however it did struggle when it came to dynamic range where the Hero4 just had the edge but the difference was slight.
Where the Black Hawk 4K really excelled was when it was switch to 1080p at 120fps, here the footage despite the weather remained usable it again showed a drop in quality as with the GoPro Hero4 Black but the cameras processor and sensor did have the edge.
Overall the quality of the camera in use, build quality and visual quality of the footage was excellent, unlike the weather.
GoXtreme Black Hawk 4K: Verdict
The action camera market has moved on and the excellent Hero5 Black has superseded the GoPro Hero4 Black. That said there is still more than enough room for the likes of the GoXtreme Black Hawk 4K.
Pricing of the camera makes it instantly appealing, especially knowing that it’s inner workings are capable of producing visual results that in many aspects challenge the Hero4.
In use there is little to fault about the camera, switching settings, changing modes, using the app and reviewing footage all work seamlessly.
This isn’t a camera that pushes the boundaries when it comes to features, especially with the new generation of cameras all pushing motion sensors, GPS and voice activation, but then you pay a massive premium and the actual visual quality of the footage from these cameras is no better than that from the Black Hawk 4K.
If you’re looking for a solid performing action camera then there’s little to fault with the design or operation of the Black Hawk 4K.
For more details on the GoXtreme Black Hawk 4K check out www.goxtreme-action-cams.com