If you’re a taker of selfies, a vlogger or an adventure filmmaker, GoPro’s new flagship camera is made for you. There was a time when action cameras were primarily for capturing sports, but the fresh GoPro Hero 9 Black pushes in a new direction by including a front-mounted LCD ‘selfie’ screen to challenge the DJI Osmo Action and the Akaso Brave 7 LE.
However, there’s plenty on the Hero9 Black for the all-rounder. As well as upping the resolution to 5K for video, it increases photos to 20MP and adds the ability to capture 14.7MP stills from the video, too. Add improved image stabilization, improved time-lapses, and a longer-lasting battery and the Hero9 Black is the best GoPro we have seen to date, and probably the best action camera to boot.
Gopro Hero9 Specifications
- Max video resolution: 5K/30 fps
- Max photo resolution: 20 MP
- Image sensor: 23.6MP
- Size: 2.75 x 1.9 x 1.6 inches
- Weight: 5.6 ounces
Check Out: Best Action Cameras
GoPro Hero9: Price
While there are many similarities between them, the Hero9 Black is physically different from the Hero 8 Black. It’s larger in every aspect at 71x55x33.6mm and 158g, which is something of a surprise, though it’s hardly obese. That’s largely down to the inclusion on the Hero 9 Black of two new displays. On the rear, it’s a simple upgrade, with a larger 2.27-inch display. That’s 16% larger than on the Hero8 Black, slightly bigger than on the Akaso Brave 7 LE, but a tad smaller than on the DJI Osmo Action. Bright enough in all but the sunniest conditions, this touchscreen is nevertheless not as responsive as it could be.
It’s on the front where you’ll find the biggest update with a built-in 1.4-inch display (identical in size to the DJI Osmo Action, but slightly smaller sized than on the Akaso Brave 7 LE) that can be used as a live preview screen for framing a selfie or a piece to camera. Even more usefully, that can be done in ‘actual’ format, which presents it as a widescreen image with black bars above and below, or ‘full screen’, which works fine if you just want to make sure you’re in the centre of a shot or a video. That front display can also be switched to ‘status only’ to show the remaining battery power, resolution and the current mode – as on the Hero8 Black (albeit now in colour) – or even completely deactivated.
The other new feature is a return to a removable glass lens protector. As well as meaning that third party ND filters can be used, from October it will be able to take a GoPro Max Lens Mod accessory.
The Hero 9 Black’s buttons are slightly larger and protrude more, which makes them easier to operate when wearing gloves. As always, this GoPro is waterproof to 33ft/10m, and the folding mounting fingers on the undercarriage remain from the Hero8 Black.
Finally, instead of arriving in a horrible thick transparent plastic casing, the Hero9 Black comes in a soft travel case. About time, too.
GoPro Hero9: Video
Hero9 Black has a 23.6 MP sensor, which in turn means it can capture video at 5K in 30 frames per second (fps) at 100Mbps. If that’s impressive, it’s also incredibly capacity-hungry; the 4K 60fps is probably the one to go for if you’re after both efficiency and smoothness. The general step-up in resolution also means the abandoning of 720p, with faux-lens options comprising SuperView (16mm), wide (16-34mm) and linear (19-39mm) and narrow (27mm).
Despite the appearance of 5K the must-have feature is Hypersmooth 3.0, which means cleverly stabilized footage across all resolutions, with a ‘boost’ feature also available.
The linear view also has 360º camera-style auto-correct horizon leveling that happens in-camera. In theory, that means easy-to-watch footage where the horizon stays level. It’s another feature for vloggers, and in practice it’s imprecise and laggy; expect it to improve on future GoPro cameras. In all other modes the Hero9 Black captures peerless movie that has plenty of color, contrast and shadow detail, with a Boost option to really smooth things out when the action gets choppy.
Low-light video in ‘night mode’ is far less amazing and a touch noisy, with a new HDR night-lapse of the night sky for an hour looking reasonably good. There’s also a fresh ‘scheduled capture’ mode for filming a video or, more likely, time-lapses, at a pre-ordained time. For example, you could go to bed in Iceland and set your Hero9 Black to film the Northern Lights for you … ditto a sunrise while you sleep-in. You can also set it to the movie for, say, one hour before it switches itself off.
In practice, time-lapses are often the way to go on action cameras, which is why we like the TimeWarp 3.0 mode. Best used for endurance activities, such as hiking, though furthermore useful for skiing and cycling, TimeWarp 3.0 produces fast-slow-fast footage where the speed-up video is followed by a slow-down to real-before speeding back up. Called ‘speed ramp’, it now comes with audio, and there’s a new slo-mo option.
Also new to the Hero9 Black is a 30-second looping video buffer for video to avoid missing unexpected moments, which is for filming anything else where spontaneous events are everything. Practically speaking it will avoid having to take endless short videos only to delete them all later.
Not surprisingly given the WFH craze the Hero9 Black can be used as a 1080p widescreen webcam. Mac users require the GoPro Webcam app and Windows customers needing a BETA version, though in our test on a Mac we couldn’t get the application to successfully install and launch.
There’s also an option to use the Hero9 Black as a streaming camera and to live stream 1080p video to YouTube, Twitch, Facebook Profiles and Facebook Pages. It even works with HyperSmooth 3.0 switched-on.
GoPro Hero9: Photos
Another upgrade between the Hero9 and the Hero8 is the size of the still images you can capture. On the Hero9, it is possible to take 20MP images, 8MP larger than the Hero8. If you’re recording video at 5K, you can use the Hero9 to grab 14.7MP even now frames. You can also choose between fields of view so you can get either a narrow, medium, or wide shot; the latter is so expansive that it’s nearly a fisheye see, and will warp objects in the foreground.
GoPro Hero9: Features
When I first started testing action cameras, I had to contend with jumpy video if I ran, rode, or skied over bumpy terrain. Now in its third iteration, GoPro’s movie stabilization is some of the best you’ll find at evening things out. Hypersmooth 3.0, as the feature is called, is even more refined than in older GoPros. Even though it eats into battery life, Hypersmooth is worth turning this feature on if you’re planning on using the GoPro for any sort of activity with motion.
Timewarp 3.0 is the latest version of a feature that combines time-lapse video with GoPro’s movement stabilization, so rather than looking jagged, time-lapse videos are smoothed out. New for Timewarp 3.0 is Enhanced Speed Ramp, which lets you slow down the movie to regular speed if you happen to see something interesting you want to examine in more detail. Timewarp 3.0 can also be set to automatically change capture speed.
A new feature in the Hero9 helps you capture events that you’d otherwise miss. Hindsight will capture and save up to 30 seconds of video before the shutter button is pressed.
Scheduled Capture will be a boon for those who don’t want to wake up prior to the crack of dawn to record a sunrise. Using this feature, you can program the GoPro to turn on and start recording automatically, up to 24 hours in advance. You can use it in conjunction with Duration Capture to specify the length of the video you’d like to record.
GoPro Hero9: Specifications
|Body type||VR/Action camera|
|Effective pixels||20 megapixels|
|USB||USB 3.2 Gen 1 (5 GBit/sec)|
|Weight (inc. batteries)||158 g (0.35 lb / 5.57 oz)|
|Dimensions||71 x 55 x 34 mm (2.8 x 2.17 x 1.34″)|
GoPro Hero9: Conclusion
The GoPro Hero 9 is the 2020 edition of the popular action camera series that’s also carved a successful niche in the vlogging and webcam Worlds. Like its predecessor, it’s a rugged block of a camera, waterproof to 10m / 33feet and including built-in mounting ft for GoPro accessories. New to the Hero 9 is a higher resolution sensor allowing 5k video or 20 Megapixel photos, as well as even more effective stabilization in 4k and below. Timelapse and speed-ramping have both been improved, and the 9 now features not just a larger rear screen, but a new front color display to check compositions when you’re in front of the camera. The bigger screen coupled with a fresh larger battery are nice upgrades, but also mean the 9 may be the largest Hero in the standard collection and incompatible with older batteries and cage mods. Owners of the 7 and 8 will certainly be tempted, but it’s a significant upgrade over old models, and also an ideal choice for anyone buying their first action camera.