REVIEWED: GoPro HERO9 Black action camera
The new flagship GoPro is perfect for adventures and travel vloggers everywhere
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Do you really need an action camera? Life in lockdown doesn’t exactly need documenting, and if it does, it’s not likely to be high-octane excitement. So it’s a relief that the latest GoPro – instantly one of the best action cameras around – also works as a webcam out of the box. Yes, you can use the new GoPro HERO9 Black action camera to film your next adventure – be it skiing in the Alps, canoeing in Canada, or cycling up and down the Col du Tourmalet – but you can also use it to conduct Zoom calls. And thanks to a front-facing ‘selfie’ screen on the GoPro HERO9 Black you can even frame yourself. That’s a first for GoPro and it’s one of a number of new features that you might just need when you start insatiably traveling again …
GoPro HERO9 Black action camera: design
Far and away the most significant feature on the new GoPro HERO9 Black is its front-facing LCD screen. It measures 1.4-inches and it’s in color. It can show you all manner of things; a 4:3 grab of the middle of what you’re filming so you can make sure you stay in shot, a truer 16:9 widescreen all-in preview, or just digital information like the current status of the battery/the duration of the current recording, etc. You can even switch it off completely. Either way, it’s perfect for filmmakers and travel vloggers.
Also new to the GoPro HERO9 Black is a 2.27-inch LCD screen on the rear, which is bigger than on previous models. Not surprisingly, the GoPro HERO9 Black is physically larger than before, now weighing 158g and measuring 71x55x33.6mm. Sadly, that means it uses a new, bigger 1,720mAh battery that instantly renders all of your old spare GoPro batteries completely useless. However, it does mean that the GoPro HERO9 Black can run for 1.5 hours between charges – and it also means that this camera works for longer in cold conditions. As always, this GoPro is – waterproof down to 33ft/10 meters.
GoPro HERO9 Black action camera: features
The GoPro HERO9 Black shoots in 5K, it takes photos in 20 megapixels and it enables grabs from those 5K videos in a whopping 14.7 megapixels. As a general all-round camera for travel, that ticks a lot of boxes. For those hoping to use their GoPro to capture creative footage and important moments on their travels, there’s more to tempt you on the GoPro HERO9 Black. As well as live streaming and that webcam mode there’s GoPro’s latest HyperSmooth 3.0 image stabilization and TimeWarp 3.0, a time-lapse mode that can come back to real-time whenever you fancy.
A final feature that may come into play for some is that the lens cover on the GoPro HERO9 Black can be removed, and – when it becomes available – an add-on GoPro Max Lens Mod can be attached. This ultra-wide-angle lens will have a 155º field of view and rotate through 360º while keeping the horizon locked. Nice!
GoPro HERO9 Black action camera: performance
Having the ability to film in 5K is great, but it does take up an awful lot of capacity on a microSD card. In fact, an hour’s filming completely fills a 64GB card, so you’re not going to use that much, which instantly writes-off the 14.7-megapixel screengrabs from video, too. However, 4K video is great quality, and in a lot of ways, it’s better since it provides 60 frames per second (fps), which is a leg-up on the 5K mode’s 30 fps, which can look a little jumpy. That said, HyperSmooth 3.0 works better than ever, while TravGear particularly loved the TimeWarp 3.0 mode. It’s ideal for making a creative video of, say, a hike up a mountain. The boring strides up and down can be sped-up, but the celebratory hugs at the top can be presented in real-time, with audio, too. One feature we weren’t too impressed by was real-time horizon-leveling, which is a little reactive and jumpy, and certainly not gimbal-level smooth. It’s also got a slightly laggy rear touchscreen, though new firmware updates promise to fix that.
The GoPro HERO9 Black’s still photos do impress, with plenty of color and contrast in some lively HDR and SuperPhoto files. The various zoom-in modes are great, too, but they’re digital crops, of course, so you’re losing detail all the time. That wide-angle lens is always going to be very limiting on any trip … what you really want on your travels need is a camera with lots of optical zoom. Whatever you do, don’t take the GoPro HERO9 Black on a safari, at least not as your glory-shot camera.
GoPro HERO9 Black action camera: conclusion
With 5K and hi-res grabs, the latest GoPro is its most advanced yet. Sure, its new front-facing screen won’t be for everyone, and its physical features do add to its weight slightly, but there’s no avoiding the fact that the GoPro HERO9 Black action camera is the best GoPro yet. With a price to match.
Price as reviewed: US $449.99 / UK £429.99