It’s the most hotly anticipated action camera of the year, and once again, the GoPro has launched a camera that doesn’t fail to impress. OK, with the GoPro Hero 11 Black, the design hasn’t changed, remaining identical to the GoPro Hero 9 & 10 Black. However, inside, a larger sensor makes all the difference regarding video quality, low light performance and a set of nifty new features.
Of all the improvements, the new horizon lock steals the show with a surreal effect that goes well beyond the stabilisation excellence you can achieve with mechanical gimbal stabilisers.
The effect and smoothness of the motion is superb and once again make up for any disappointment that GoPro hasn’t pushed the specs of the small camera a touch further when it comes to resolution and framerates. With the GoPro Hero 11 Black, there’s no denying that the GoPro is still way ahead of the competition, regarding both video quality and features.
What is GoPro Hero 11 Black?
The GoPro Hero 11 Black is the latest iteration of the famous go-anywhere action camera. It’s compact, lightweight and still ultra-durable, and the flagship Black edition is now on its latest, the 11th, release.
While the GoPro Hero 9 Black bulked up with a larger body, the 10 and now 11 have retained that slight size increase and, in all material respects, remains the same in design bar the logo printed on the side and front.
This lack of design change is standard practice for GoPro. The exterior frame usually stays almost unaltered for at least three iterations before a major step forward in video features. However, as we’ve also seen from GoPro, each new release might not come with an all-new camera design; instead, the technology inside and features are often the big enhancement, and that’s certainly true in the case of the 11.
Inside there have been some big changes, not just with the inclusion of the Enduro battery as standard. The big change with the 11 is the sensor which is the largest that GoPro has ever packed inside.
This time around, there are no big resolution or framerate enhancements; this release focuses on the video quality in three spectacular ways. Firstly the larger sensor enables better overall video quality, especially in low light conditions; second, the enhanced HyperSmooth and Horizon Lock made possible by the larger sensor, and its peculiar aspect ratio bring a whole new look to your footage and finally, the automatic Highlight video feature.
These three features have been the take-home points from the new release, and while the GoPro Hero 11 Black might look the same as the previous releases, it is a very different camera, boosted in almost every way.
Imaging Sensor: 1/1.9-inch 8:7 aspect ratio
Max Resolutions and framerates: 5.3K60, 4K120, 1080p240
Color depth: 10-bit
Image Stabalisation: HyperSmooth 5.0 and 360º Horizon Lock
Touch Screen display: Yes
Photo reolsution: 27mp
Auto tagging of footage: Yes
Enduro battery: Included
Build and Handling
The design and build of the GoPro Hero 11 Black is identical to the GoPro Hero 10 Black and GoPro Hero 9 Black; there is no difference. On the base is the fold-down mount, on one side is the power button, and on the other is the protective door that gains access to the battery, MicroSD card slot and USB Type-C port. On top is the shutter button, on the back is the large full-colour touch screen, and on the front is the lens with removable lens cover and front screen, again full colour.
The GoPro Hero 11 Black is simple to mount, utilising the standard GoPro mount, and there are hundreds, if not thousands, of mount options to choose from. Although only around 40 official ones from GoPro.
I’ve covered the build quality of the GoPro action cameras in the past two reviews of the 9 and 10, and the build remains exactly the same for the Hero 11 Black. Solid and extremely well designed, this design quality only happens with a product that has gone through years of user feedback and company development. The result is GoPro by type and name; this is the brand that defines a whole camera genre. There is a reason that GoPro is number 1 and the camera’s build is a testament to this.
Moving away from the physical design and the usability over the last couple of releases has steadily improved. Once you boot the camera, you have access to the main functions and features with quick link buttons to the most common settings, such as framerates, field of view, Image stabilisation and video quality settings.
What I like is the way that GoPro has broken these down with easy-to-understand terminology. So the framerates are listed as 1x, tap the icon, and you have 1x 24fps, 1 x 30fps, 2 x slo-mo and 4x slo-mo. Then the field of view icon is a W tap to access the field of view or how zoomed in you are. These focal length options are given to you in the 35mm focal length equivalents, which is easy to understand. When in the focal lengths, swipe to the bottom option, and you have access to the completely mind-blowing horizon lock, which I’ll cover in the performance section.
On the right of the screen is the electronic stabilisation named HyperSmooth by GoPro. This is one of the leading electronic image stabilisation features of any action camera and is increasingly impressive and almost completely indistinguishable from the quality of a mechanical stabiliser.
Taping the resolution and framerates takes you through to the preset options. GoPro had a good cull of these a few years ago and simplified the almost completely baffling amount you could choose from. With the enhanced and larger sensor, the volume of options has once again increased.
5.3k can now be recorded in 16:9, which is standard, but you also have the option for 4:3 and 8:7. 8:7 aspect ratio essentially makes full use of the sensor and enables you to crop in on the height so you can recompose to 16:9. This feature is useful when you need to crop out some of the less interesting footage that can be captured with GoPro’s due to their close mounting to objects. This has always been a GoPro thing and a feature that they use as a major selling point over rivals.
The 8:7 aspect ratio gives you even more flexibility over the crop. This 8:7 sensor is essentially what also enables the new horizon lock feature.
The rest of the GoPro Hero 11 Black handling remains much the same, with options and settings available with a tap or swipe of the rear screen.
As ever, there’s also the accompanying Smartphone App Quik. Over the years, the GoPro app has developed and in this release features the auto highlight feature, which essentially takes all the footage, makes selections and edits a video for you, taking the whole curating and editing process out of your hands. It’s extremely clever, if a little scary.
Over the years, GoPro has got simpler in quite literally every way. Even the relative simplicity of the original GoPro could leave you baffled by the carousel navigation system and ultra-small screen. The GoPro Hero 3 and 4 Black added resolutions and features that could leave you in a cold sweat rotating through all the settings. Then when the GoPro Hero 5 Black arrived with its new design and easy-to-use touch screen, GoPro users breathed a sigh of relief even though there were still multiple different choices and options. However, it was all far easier to understand.
Then GoPro started to Cull loads of options that no one used or wanted and this was frankly a good thing. However, with the release of the GoPro Hero 11 Black, dip into the frame rate and resolution screens, and you’ll once again see them rammed with content; I’ll create a break-out post shortly explaining the what and why, as it can all get a little complex. Suffice to say that for most users, it will be 1080p or 4k at various frame rates.
To this end, GoPro has got the balance spot on with the GoPro Hero 11 Black. If you want to go out and film, then the preset resolution choices are all there with a tap; 4K video at 60fps, which will suit most people. Great quality video, a half-speed slo-mo if you need it, and the flexibility to crop in if you’re uploading to the internet as HD.
The small speed slider on the touch screen makes things nice and easy, vlogging at 4k, then select the bottom speed options either 1x (24 or 30fps), doing a bit of action, then bump that to 2x (60fps) and want ultra slo-mo then the top option 4x (4K at 120fps). Likewise, drop the resolution to 1080p, and you can push that to 8x (240fps).
Essentially what all these 1x, 2x, 4, 8x mean is that for every one second of footage you record, you can play back one second of smooth video; at 2x, you can stretch that footage over two seconds, 4x over four seconds and 8x over eight seconds. This all has to do with a trick of the eye called persistence of vision. What this trick does is to fool your mind into thinking that instead of seeing still images or frames, you’re seeing motion. A general rule is that anything more than 24 frames per second and your mind will be happy to think its seeing motion rather than stills.
So, standard framerates and resolutions give you the usual GoPro look, albeit richer and more natural. A side-by-side comparison of the 10 and 11 does show a slight increase in video quality. As ever for Pro’s, there is the ability to adjust the ProTune settings.
When GoPro launched ProTune it started to mark the GoPro out against other cameras, allowing professionals to delve into the settings and adjust the camera’s quality to exactly what they want.
Through this screen now, you can maximise the image quality with the option for 10-bit video, high bit rate and colour mode choices. These enable you to select the good old GoPro vibrancy, which makes you look like you’re in California. Then there’s today’s more subdued and natural GoPro and of course a Flat option for Pro’s who take colour grading, even of GoPro footage, very seriously.
These features that have been in GoPro before and again here work very well. What is new here is the 10-bit colour depth and this makes a real difference to 4K and above footage.
However, video quality aside for now as again it’ll need a breakout article, the new features hooked me on the new camera.
The first of these is the Horizontal Lock. This is one of those features that has so much potential and when you first start to use it you feel a real excitement. That is until you try to film something half-decent with it that shows the feature’s potential. The sample footage I shot cycling through the woods simply looks like stable footage with a flat horizon, a little like it had been shot on a drone. However, I was leaning at a good angle through the turns and even put in a few well-judged wobbles. The footage, however, looks smooth; you don’t get a clear feeling of just how incredible the feature is because the result is so good.
In GoPro’s sample footage, they attached the camera to the tail of a plane and then got the plane to do a roll. This looks completely insane as the horizon stays level, but the plane rotates around the frame; you watch it trying to understand what’s happening. The camera is fixed to the plane, but it looks separate.
This new feature is all made possible by that larger sensor and, for me, is one of the biggest innovations that GoPro has ever released in any model of GoPro.
The next feature I like is the Auto editing, the highlight cloud feature. This essentially takes highlighted footage sections, uploads them to the cloud, then applies an edit and sends it back to you. The TomTom Bandit had a shake-to-edit feature a few years ago that was similar and also outstanding. Still, the TomTom took things further by linking up several TomTom Bandits and then as you sat drinking your pint, the app would edit footage from all cameras into one video. This way you could watch you fall off your bike from multiple viewpoints.
The auto edit feature is outstanding, and as long as you have the data allowance on your mobile, this is a superb feature that creates a lot of fun. This will be a standout feature if this expands to pull footage from other GoPro’s in a set group.
GoPro video quality also takes a step up. That larger sensor provides the new features and enables a step up in quality. In bright sunlight, the difference in quality is difficult to see; however, as soon as you go into the shade or the sun hides behind a cloud, the retention of tone, colour and detail are apparent.
While still not up to the levels you would expect with the larger camcorder, the quality is still excellent and well-balanced. GoPro has taken a step up and forward.
Interestingly, this version of the GoPro Hero 11 Black is available in two other options. The first is a completely different model, smaller and the successor to the fantastic GoPro Hero Session; the other is the GoPro Hero 11 Black Creator Editon. This is just the 11 Black that I’m looking at in this review with the vlogger mods added.
When GoPro started with the mods, you could see potential and the company’s aspirations. However, until now, that hasn’t been realised. The Creator edition aims to change that by giving you the hardware ready to go in one neat package. What the 11 has that previous GoPro’s have not is that new horizon lock feature, Hypersmooth, and the advanced mic system. The GoPro is now an ideal platform for vloggers, it has never been easier, and the quality of the footage is just in another league from what is possible with your mobile phone. Or possibly just mine because it’s quite old.
Overall the hardware and software enhancements of the GoPro Hero 11 Black add up to a significant upgrade for the small camera. While the 10 Black gave a slight boost in speed and 4K framerates, the 11 Black feels like a far more finessed action camera.
GoPro Hero 11 Black sample video
This video was shot on the GoPro Hero 11 Black in 5.3K 30p with HyperSmooth 5 on and Linear + Horizon Lock activated. The camera was mounted in the media mod and the audio was recorded using the onboard mic.
GoPro has once again managed to launch a model that, on the surface, seems minor, infact identical to the last, but, in reality, is major.
Outwardly the camera is the same as the 10 Black and the 9 Black, just with a different coloured logo, and not even that in the case of the 10. On the inside, however, the advancements in sensor size and technology make a huge difference.
Video quality is notably better than previous releases, with more detail, tone and colour retained in lower light conditions. The ability to film at 10-bit high quality does push the file sizes up and reduces battery life slightly, but it is well worth it for the boost it gives to dynamic range and the smoothness of motion, especially as the pace picks up.
The big features away from the big pitch of the new sensor although made possible by it is horizon lock; at its most extreme, spinning through a full 360º, it’s amazing, but used in a more sedate fashion, it enables you to capture smooth stable footage even when it shouldn’t be. Only when you show people the difference or they give it a go do they realise how powerful this feature is.
On top of the hardware features, there’s the Quik app. This continues to develop and enhance, and the auto highlight and edit features are again superb. At the moment, it feels like it has only explored about half of its potential, so I look forward to seeing how this develops. As it is, it’s still outstanding, I’ve just seen what the TomTom app could do, and that was a level up.
In all, the GoPro Hero 11 Black confirms GoPro’s place as number one. It is an outstanding action camera with an incredible amount of potential. But, this release also feels like the start of further evolution of the design and features, which I’m sure we’ll be introduced to at the same time, same place next year.
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