When the GoPro HD Hero 2 first came out, it was almost exactly 10 years ago. There were other GoPro cameras before this one, but I believe this one was instrumental in bringing the brand to public attention. It had a resolution of 1080p, could take 5-megapixel pictures, and was protected from the elements thanks to the device’s iconic waterproof case.
The Hero 10 Black, which was unveiled today, has a 5.3K maximum video resolution, 23-megapixel photos, no longer requires a waterproof housing (for most uses), and a slew of fancy shooting modes that we couldn’t even have imagined three presidents ago.
However, you probably want to know what else has changed before we get to the review part. The new GP2 processor is unquestionably the most notable addition. The GP1 was developed in-house by GoPro a few years ago. The second iteration has arrived, and it brings with it an overall increase in frame rates (5.3K at 60; 4K at 120 and 2.7K at 240 to name a few).
As a result of the increased frame rate, your previews should run more smoothly. A new image processor (ISP) is also included in the GP2, which GoPro claims will improve the quality of images taken with the camera. Of course, we’ll be the ones to decide.
It’s possible you’ve noticed that this year’s video resolution is slightly higher than last year’s at 5.3K. (up from 5). Although the sensor itself is unchanged, a new microprocessor is said to be able to get more out of it.
Fortunately, the camera’s dimensions are the same as the Hero 9, so any media mods or Hero 9-specific accessories should work just fine with the new model. The only noticeable differences between the Hero 10 and the previous model are the number 10 and the color of the text branding — it is now GoPro blue rather than gray.
GP2 times the power
A new processor, the GP1, was introduced in the Hero 6 Black. In this way, the camera’s brains could be tightly integrated with the rest of its hardware, allowing for greater control over key features. “Twice the performance” is the claim for the GP2. Although the chip’s specifics haven’t been made public, increased frame rates are clearly evident. Already, I mentioned that the highest possible resolution is currently at. The resolution has been bumped up by three megapixels over the previous model, and video recording at 60 frames per second is now possible. Twice as many frames as the Hero 9 Black’s equivalent.
However, there are other advantages to the new chip, such as increased FPS. Not to mention that ISP, which we’ll get to in a bit more detail about shortly. With HyperSmooth 4.0, which is powered by the GP2, users can expect a more slick user interface and faster media offloading. [*] (again, each of these will get its own section).
In spite of GoPro’s claim that the new framerate modes are one of the most important upgrades this time around, I believe that the quality of the images is more important than anything else. This is a big improvement over the Hero 9, which was a major disappointment. While it’s easy to blame the higher video and photo resolutions, there’s actually more processing power at work here than just those two factors combined.
New tone mapping and noise reduction algorithms, according to GoPro, are also to blame for the improvement in quality. Videos and photos have improved in a meaningful way, which is all I can say. While looking over the footage for the comparison, I noticed that the color reproduction was much more accurate and didn’t appear flat. Natural and inorganic tones (like those of buildings and trees, for example) have an ethereal quality to them. Then there’s the level of fidelity. The difference in detail was immediately apparent when I viewed the images at 100% crop. Whereas the Hero 9 smoothed out some textures like road surface or leaves when they weren’t the main subject of the video, the Hero 10 has features that the Hero 9 didn’t have.
Additional flexibility is provided by the new resolution and framerate combinations in addition to the overall improvement in image quality. Either at 5K/30fps in 16:9 or 4K/30fps in 4:3, the Hero 9’s frame rate peaked. It’s all right. 5.3K/30fps or 4K/60fps at 4:3 and 5.3K/60fps when shooting in 16:9 on the Hero 10 is a significant improvement. It sounds complicated, but it simply means that you have more flexibility in choosing between 16:9 and 4:3 aspect ratios. POV shots, which are common in the action genre, work well in the 4:3 aspect ratio, which bodes well for your videos.
When you consider how few devices natively support 5.3K video, it’s easy to wonder why you’d want it at all. You can always lower the resolution later or crop it to 4K without losing quality if you have a lot of pixels. For the first time ever, a GoPro camera can shoot in 4K (60 frames per second) at a 4:3 aspect ratio.
And of course, there is that increase in photo resolution, which we already mentioned. Having three full megapixels is a significant improvement over the previous model, and if you frequently take stills from video, you’ll also notice a noticeable increase in resolution.
Frame rates are finally here, so let’s get started. The Hero 10 now has a respectable slow-mo mode for the first time at UHD thanks to the addition of GP2. You can get 60fps at 4K with the camera from last year, but that’s not really sufficient for showcasing your mind-boggling laser flips. Your best moves will be brought to life in 4X slow-mo at such a high resolution. Aside from SuperView, which has a frame rate limit of 60 frames per second, the new 120fps mode is compatible with nearly all of GoPro’s “lens” field-of-view options. The camera’s maximum framerate for 2.7K is 240 frames per second, so this is a great compromise between resolution and framerate for action.
Slow-motion isn’t the only use for a high frame rate; it’s just a common one on an action camera. If you’re using a GoPro and there’s a lot of action, you’ll want to have a higher frame rate to keep your video looking smooth at normal speed. On a bike ride, I shot some videos at 4K/30fps and later at 60fps, and the smoothness of motion is noticeably improved even when played back at normal speed with the higher frame rate.
Frame rate is just one more tool in your arsenal for framing your shot, so having more options is always welcome. As a result, you no longer have to choose between high FPS and high resolution as much as you once did.
GoPros did not have built-in stabilization when they were first released. In order to capture every twitch, pothole, or wobble, handheld footage had to be shot with extreme care. Some activities were fine, but most of the time you were left with unusable footage or post-production work to try and salvage it.
Our lives have been transformed since the release of the Hero 7 by HyperSmooth’s ability to smooth out even the most jarring pursuits on video without the need for an expensive, fragile gimbal. GoPro’s onboard stabilization is now in its fourth revision with the Hero 10, and it continues to impress.
The increased power of horizon leveling is perhaps the most notable change in this update. Prior to this update, videos were rendered “flat” to the skyline up to a slope of approximately 27 degrees. After that, the video would be tilted slightly to match the camera’s angle. Your video will now remain fixed to the horizon even if you take a 45-degree turn.
Just because you can doesn’t mean you (always should) do something. When using mounts, selfie sticks, or anything else that can easily go out of level while being held, I like to use horizon leveling. However, if you want to use it while attached to a bicycle handlebar, for example, it will smooth out any sharp turns or dramatic leaning. You’ll have a smooth video, but the action dynamic will be diminished. Thanks to the camera’s home screen, you can separate horizon leveling from HyperSmooth and keep it handy for when you need (or don’t).
Front-facing screen for framing yourself when looking at the camera was a new addition to Hero 9’s design. DJI launched weeks ahead of GoPro with its Osmo Action, the company’s first action camera. In any case, it’s now a standard feature, and as a result, upgrades are possible.
Just like last year, the Hero 10 camera has a similar-sized sensor, but the frame rate has increased from 20 to 30 frames per second. Even though it’s great to see the company continually improving every aspect of the camera, I can’t tell much of a difference when I’m holding the camera at arm’s length, which is where I find myself most often using the second display for viewing. In either case, if you were disappointed by the screen, know that you’ll have a better experience this time around.
In terms of the front screen, this isn’t so much a feature as it is a connection to the front. Now, the Hero 10’s lens has a “hydrophobic” coating. Drops on the lens of a GoPro are the fastest way to ruin your footage if you’ve ever used one. They frequently take a seat right in the middle of the action.
It’s been a while since I’ve been able to fully test this camera’s water resistance, but even after just a few drops, you can see that water no longer forms the large, blurring drips that it used to. It’s not completely water-resistant, but the worst you’ll get is a collection of smaller droplets instead of a single large drop. Even so, these are still undesirable, but they appear to have less of an effect on what you’re shooting.
User interface and menu navigation have received some minor tweaks. According to GoPro, the touch screen has been made more responsive, and most tasks should now be completed in less time. I think this is most definitely true. The Hero 10 was noticeably faster than older cameras when it came to registering a press, with far fewer instances where I had to tap more than once.
The processing time required to create an HDR image is a perfect illustration of how much faster software can make things. Owners of a GoPro will be familiar with the swirling circles that appear after an image is taken while the camera develops it. A couple of seconds, but with the Hero 10 that time is slashed by about a third. In addition to that and the nippiness of the menus, the new flagship is noticeably faster to use than its predecessors.
As a side note, the Hero 10 can now be transferred via a phone’s USB port, which is a minor usability improvement that enhances the user experience. You can also upload your media to Quik by simply connecting your camera to your phone.
As things have gone so far, it’s time to throw a little wrench in the gears. Although GoPro’s battery life has improved over time, it has never been one of the company’s strong points. Sadly, the Hero 10 feels like a minor regression. Hero 9 outlasted the Hero 10 by nearly 30 minutes when shooting at 4K/30fps for a straight “click record and leave the camera” test. The new camera only lasted 1hr15 in the same test (using the same actual battery).
According to GoPro, most of its customers are only shooting short videos, and the camera (and its battery usage) has been optimized for this scenario. However, one must assume that this hasn’t changed since the last camera was released. ‘ Furthermore, no matter how you shoot, the physics of higher processing will always shorten your total shoot time.
When you start experimenting with higher frame rates, things get even worse. On the first day of testing, I was concerned that I had a defective battery because it drained to about 50% of its capacity so quickly. As it turned out, smoother videos are worth paying for this inconvenience.
There isn’t much more to say here, which is understandable: You’re asking a battery with the same capacity to do a lot more work than it’s designed to. Please pray that future revisions and even software updates can reclaim some of those precious minutes.
GoPro last year experimented with a new pricing strategy. For $450, you could buy the camera on its own. Compared to its predecessor, the Hero 8 sold for $399 at its launch. In exchange for signing up for GoPro’s subscription service, the total price you paid dropped to $350, making it seem like a good deal.
It’s the same deal, but it’s $50 more expensive this time around. There is a $399 subscription and $499 camera bundle now available. If you have an active subscription, you’ll get the subscription price — it’s fairly easy to get the lower price, given how easy the company makes it for you to get it. To sum things up, make sure you get a subscription or already have one when you buy.
Ultimately, the Hero 10 isn’t the cheapest flagship at launch, but it isn’t the most expensive either — that honor goes to the Hero 6 which costs $499 and there is no way to lower the price. Despite that, GoPro reduced the price to $400 right away. This year’s Hero 9 and Hero 10 are both $350, which is a little disappointing if you were hoping to get the latest and greatest for the same price as last year’s model. But with all of the other improvements, it’s unlikely that you’ll give it much thought, especially since the Hero 9 will remain the “mid-tier” model.
DJI’s Osmo Action line looked like it was going to keep GoPro on its toes for a while. But so far, it appears that the company is taking its time with new models, even though the original is still available for $200, making it a viable option if price is your primary consideration. The Sony action camera line, which is quite popular, also appears to have slowed down when it comes to new product development. With its modular design and unique form-factors, Insta360 has gained a devoted following.
There’s a familiarity to this ending, then. The new camera builds on the strengths of the previous model. With regards to image quality and shooting modes, to name a few examples. What we really need is that. The fact that there are a number of additional usability enhancements is merely a bonus. Only if you use the new frame rates as a default will the battery life dip be a problem. While we’d prefer the price to have remained the same as last year’s launch, the increase isn’t out of line with our budgetary expectations.