GoPro Hero9 Black: first impressions Review

GoPro Hero9 Black Review
Review
Website: GoPro

Price when reviewed

£329.98

$349.98

Our Verdict

We still need to do our full test, but so far it appears this could be the most substantial update of the GoPro Hero Black range in several years. With 5K video, 20MP stills, 30% more battery life, improved stabilization and much more, the GoPro Hero9 Black is becoming a formidable camera with a wide range of uses.

For

  • No need for waterproof housing

Hmmm, well that’s bigger than I expected.. The GoPro Hero9 Black is here, in my hand, and er, it seems to have put on a few lockdown pounds, actually grams, about 35 of them.

The new GoPro Hero9 Black is noticeably bigger, in every way and while it may not back to the bloated size of the Pre Hero5 Black design (With housing), it’s still a considerable size increase.

So much so that it ain’t going to squeeze itself back in to last years fashion, those Mods, passee, gone, a simple thing of the past. The screen one never arrived anyway.

GoPro Hero9 Black Review

OK, so you may have wasted some cash on the plasticy MediaMod, but I bet GoPro has a neew bigger version on it’s way for the Hero9 and to be honest, the additional bulk on a device that’s so small anyway isn’t really a hardship.

This is after all GoPro and if they’ve made design changes it’s for a reason and not just that it falls to the yearly update to drive new sales.

GoPro Hero9 Black Review

Or it might be, before I delve into the camera, which I must say is impressive, I feel I have to address the questions. The camera in the UK costs £429, a bit cheaper than some other Hero Black cameras. But, you can buy it for £329 if you buy it with a Subscription which gets you GoPro unlimited cloud storage, 50% off GoPro at GoPro.com and if you smash your camera GoPro replace it for free.

Easy choice then sign-up to the GoPro subscription for free, usually £50 and you save yourself £100. Pretty good and that covers the cost of the MediaMod that I bought for £80 and I can still use it with the Hero8 Black which still works and is still impressive.

GoPro Hero9 Black Review

It’s a pleasent surprise when a company discounts something on day one, so why not, I went ahead and bought one before the review sample appeared and here it is..

First impressions aside from it’s bigger is actually impressive, I’ll run through in more details through the review but here are the initial highlights.

GoPro Hero9 Black Review

The side door doesn’t fall off when you open the side, the rear screen is huge, the front screen is impressive and the lens comes off if you scratch it.

It looks GoPro, but bigger meaner and I’m hoping better, full review to follow soon.

GoPro Hero9 Black Review
  • Camera type : Action Camera
  • Max video resolution and frame rate: 5k 30p, 4K 60p, 2.7K 120p, 1440 120p, 1080 240p
  • Video file formats: MP4 (H.264/AVC), MP4 (H.265/HEVC)
  • Max photo resolution: 20mp
  • Max bit rates: 100Mbps (2.7K, 4K, 5K)
  • Screen: Rear: 2.27-inch touchscreen, Front: 1.4-inch colour screen
  • Livestreaming: 1080p
  • Voice control: 4 commands in 11 languages + 6 accents
  • Battery: Removable, rechargeable 1720mAh lithium-ion
  • Storage: MicroSD USH-I
  • Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
  • Stabilisation: Hypersmooth 3.0
  • Waterproof: To 10m / 33 feet
  • Dimensions (WxHxD): 71 x 55 x 33.6mm
  • Weight: 124g
Build Quality and Handling

Our review of the GoPro Hero9 Black is well underway and using the new camera has already highlighted a few interesting issues.

The main one is that the touch screen which is fast and responsive on the GoPro Hero8 Black is sluggish and slow on the Heor9. Some real finger tapping and pressure is required in order for the camera to respond.

So far in the test of the GoPro Hero9 Black I’ve experienced several occasions when the camera has been unresponsive and the only way to start and stop the camera is to use the mobile app.

Even then on two occasions the small revolving connecting to camera icon has spun for over five minutes meaning the only way to access the camera is to pull the battery, essentially restarting the camera.

Although far from ideal, the firmware updates are coming thick and fast which is not unusual for a camera when it first launches. I see another update has landed so hoping this will resolve those touch screen speed issues.

Otherwise, when you’ve selected the resolution and frame rate settings you want the use of the camera is as ever very simple.

Hit the shutter button on top to start and stop recording and that’s it. The shutter button is designed to power on the camera even if powered down which is a great feature and one that has been consistent for several GoPro generations.

More on the build and handling soon.

 

Performance

Out on the trial and the camera is decidedly GoPro, here’s a quick look at the quality of the footage.

https://youtu.be/xF3SLjVOCxI

5K at 30fps but showing at 4K 30fps due to YouTube limitations at that resolution. The quality of the footage is impressive and even at 30 frames per second Hypersmooth kicks in to stabilise and smooth the motion.

In this situation where the cameras really being put to the test with the quickly changing light conditions and motion you can’t help but be impressed by the small sensor and processor.

Shooting at 5K gives even more scope for re-composition in the edit, it might not be the 8K we’ve been dreaming of, but it’s still pretty good.

https://youtu.be/y9yIZzpHAjw

4K at 60fps is the setting that has really replaced 1080p at 60fps. Again the footage looks great, you can see it struggle with the high contrast areas at the tops of the trees, and it is all a bit over exposed on the standard settings, but theres plenty of quality here.

Slowing the footage down to a more standard 30fps playback and the motion is silky smooth, with some good scope for standard footage. Through the footage you can see the speed at which the GoPro is able to automatically adjust exposure.

https://youtu.be/TioQKpE3sN8

4K at 30fps, compare 30fps up against 60fps and really it’s hard to see the difference if any in the quality. 30fps at 4K from the GoPro Hero9 Black is just superb, plenty of detail, good balanced colour and ideal for anyone wanting to shoot a Vlog, blog or anything of that type.

https://youtu.be/bQSHbSBsqrs

Pushing the small GoPro Hero9 Black to the limits with 1080p at 240fps.

After the first early morning attempt, this footage looks much better, it’s still overexposed, beyond a simple tweak of the settings but it’s not bad.

One of the issues here as you’ll see from the GoPro Hero9 Black footage at 1080p 240fps is that Hypersmooth exits the building, that means that all the shakes and rattles appear in the footage.

While the footage it self may have been fine on the quality front if the camera was nice and firmly on the ground, here attached to the bike it’s pretty much unusable aside from the fact I can demonstrate this resolution and framerate in use.

I’ll record footage off the camera at this resolution so you can get a better idea.

Another observation from having tried to film at this framerate earlier in the day is the GoPro needs good light, otherwise your footage is going to look washed out and pixelated.

https://youtu.be/S20iJnxipWs

This is a little more comfortable, Hypersmooth is back doing it’s job stabalising the footage and the results although slightly overexposed are impressive.

When it comes to slow motion shot from a moving object then the GoPro Hero9 Blacks 1080p 120fps is the one to go for.

https://youtu.be/pEQS20TZBUk

This used to be the go to frame rate and resolution for any action sports enthusiast enable smooth motion action footage with the ability to slow down to half speed through playback.

Although lower in resolution that todays standards it still has its uses and is ideal for those editing and sharing the footage from their mobile phones.

https://youtu.be/TioQKpE3sN8

1080p 30fps is very standard – not a great deal to say aside from the quality is good.

https://youtu.be/iSKh2zY4KRQ

This video really shows the GoPro Hypersmooth in action. It’s a mix of Hypersmooth in Boost mode, Standard and off. As you’ll see the results are impressive. I’m impressed!

What else is new on the GoPro Hero9 Black?

As ever, the new Hero9 Black features are mostly slight boosts in technology but there’s an all-new GoPro imaging sensor and improvements made to software and battery. But, as we’ve seen from GoPro before, these small enhancements can deliver big video quality upgrades.

In the last release, the Mods took center stage, taking some of the fanfare away from the incredible new GoPro design. Here again, some of the technology updates like the sensor and improved Hypersmooth will be outshone by the 5K resolution and the new Max Lens Mod.

But before we take a look at that new Mod, lets run through what you can expect from the new barebones camera.

The GoPro Hero9 Black can shoot 4K at 60fps. If you’re familiar with the GoPro family of action cameras you’ll know that this is nothing new, but, it can now also shoot at 5K 30fps, that’s a big resolution hike for such as small camera.

GoPro Hero9 Black review

If you’ve seen the pictures then you won’t be able to miss that new small screen. This may well be a bit of a catch-up move with the DJI OSMO Action already having a similar feature. On the new GoPro Hero9 though, it’s bigger and we’ll find out if it’s better during our testing.

Hypersmooth 3.0

In the last couple of GoPro releases, Hypersmooth image stabilization has gone from strength to strength with this groundbreaking feature now in its third iteration. After Hypersmooth 2.0 it’s hard to see how it can improve further but GoPro seems to be confident.

As before the new GoPro packs in a host of slow-motion features at a variety of resolutions including 8x slow-mo at 1080p. This means that 1 second of recorded footage can be stretched over 8 seconds which is impressive. Essentially, that’s 1080p at 240fps. In the past the quality of the footage has been a little ropey, to say the least, so it’ll be a good test of the new sensor.

Shooting stills

As usual, the GoPro Hero9 Black can shoot still image, this time at resolutions up to 20Mp. As before, you can shoot in raw or Jpeg format and there are Super photo and HDR modes.

GoPro Hero9 Black

Familiar Design

The design introduced with the GoPro Hero8 Black runs through to the GoPro Hero9 Black with what looks like little major changes, at first glance at least.

Again there’s no need for a waterproof housing or cage, the new camera is waterproof up to 10m. If you do need to go deeper then there is a waterproof housing available.

While at first look the camera suggests it is much the same at the Hero8 Black, it has the same form factor at least, the Hero9’s two screens are a touch larger than before. I’d still like to see that rear screen stretch edge-to- edge though.

As with the Hero8 Black, the Hero9 Black features a built-in mount which can be flipped down when needed. This is a neat feature and has been highly successful with the Hero8 despite some early reservations.

Again we see 1080p live streaming, this is really essential for action cameras now and, of course, the functionality of this is vastly increased by the introduction of the Mods with the last camera.

GoPro Hero9 Black front display

The Hero9 is fully compatible with the mods that are already released and the all new Max Lens Mod. This looks really exciting and fits to the front of the camera lens enabling a far wider POV. It really does look like an excition addition but does come at a price £89.

It also raises a few questions, for example one of the major flaws of the GoPro Hero8 Black was the inability to remove the front lens. This meant that once scratch it was either an expensive repair bill or a new camera.

I’m looking forward to seeing if the Lens mod is part of the solution to this issue.

Voice control is back and we’re looking forward to seeing if the vocab of this handy feature has been enhanced.

New Battery

Another big feature is the battery, this sees a 30% increase in longevity and is of course swappable.

I’ve been out with the new GoPro Hero9 over the past week with the GoPro Hero8 Black in tow to compare the results of the two side-by-side.

What has instantly become very obvious is the extended use I’m getting out of the new GoPro Hero9 Black battery.

Using both cameras with the same resolutions and framerates and essentially treating them exactly the same the Hero9 normally shows between 25 and 35% battery when the Hero8 runs out of stream.

This is consistant with GoPro’s claims and really not surprising when you compare the two batteries together. The new one is quite a bit larger.

GoPro Hero9 Black Price

Do you want to get the GoPro9 Black cheaper? Then it appears that GoPro has found a way of selling the camera at a major discount, but there is a catch.

The GoPro subscription service actually offers great value for money and only costs £49.99 a year or £4.99 a month. For that you get to buy the camera for £329.98 if you take a one year sub. So essentially you can buy the camera and subscription for £50 less than you buy the camera on it’s own.

If you need more reasons to save yourself £50, then with the subscription you get equipment replacement, essentially smash it and GoPro replaces it. There’s also unlimited cloud storage for your GoPro footage, enhanced live streaming plus 50% off mounts and the lifestyle gear.

Looking through the specs the latest GoPro looks like the best GoPro yet by far. I’ll bring you a full review as soon as the latest GoPro arrives.

For more details check out https://gopro.com/

You can also check out the GoPro Hero8 Black review here

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