It has taken us a while to get one (it’s nearly 10 months since its launch) but we finally have our hands on a GoPro Hero 7 Black.
So, was it worth the wait?
Every man and his aardvark know what a GoPro is these days: the name has become synonymous with so-called “action cameras” in the same way a vacuum cleaner is a Hoover, a weed trimmer a WhipperSnipper or in the US at least, a photocopier is a Xerox. I draw the line at a burger being a BigMac however.
Anyway, due to this I won’t bother to explain exactly what the GoPro Her 7 is, just what makes it different from previous iterations and my own thoughts on it.
When the GoPro first appeared, it certainly rattled the video camera industry as there was nothing else quite like it. As newer models came out using the numbering nomenclature, GoPro tried to add something new, mainly to combat the plethora of copy-carts that suddenly appeared, but for a few years now, there has been nothing overly startling, just refinements.
A case in point is the waterproofing up to 10 metres. Earlier models needed a special housing for example and now they don’t unless of course you want to go deeper than that.
4K I suppose was also a bit of a step forward, but nothing that really leapt out and yelled “look at me”. In fact I am hard pressed to tell much difference between my models 5 and 6.
In fairness I guess, GoPro did have some – ah – issues, among them the ill-fated Karma Drone that allegedly nearly sent the company to the edge.
With the Hero 7 Black however, GoPro has come up with some new stuff, and some of it is downright brilliant.
A major problem with all action-type cameras is shake and overall stability. It sorts of goes with the territory and spawned software such as proDAD’s excellent ProDrenalin and Mercalli.
Alternatively, you could buy the Karma Grip, a gimbal system from GoPro with mechanical stabilisation. It works well but is a bit clunky and bulky comparted to say the DJI models.
In the Hero 7 Black, GoPro has developed an internal system they call Hypersmooth, which I think is a bit twee in terms of name, but what they hey…
Actually, HyperSmooth works very well indeed, easily mimicking all the Karma Grip can do. If you are a GoPro user, fed up with having to post-stabilise everything then HyperSmooth alone is worth the upgrade to a Hero 7 Black in my opinion.
There are of course some limitations of when and how you can use these HyperSmooth. In short, they are that 4K does not support HyperSmooth and nor do high frame rates such as 1080p / 240fps or 1080p/120fps.
Another name for HDR (high dynamic range) in effect that causes the imagery to what pundits love to call “pop” out, at you. What this does is calculate the best white balance, minimum and maximum ISO and sharpness and colour to create an HDR photo.
One tip though, when using SuperPhoto I’d recommend making sure you have a tripod in place, or some other way of securing the camera as the processing takes a little longer thus running the risk of blurring or strange artefacts at the edges of the imagery.
This is actual a combination of two things; GoPro has melded timelapse with HyperSmooth letting you create extremely stabilised images in concert with timelapse as you move around.
When using this functionality, you do need to have a little think about exactly you are trying to achieve (and why) as you have trade offs with time versus TimeWarp “speed” (2x, 5x, 30x etc).
GoPro recommend 10x as a good default, but on its website have put a natty little chart to guide you with specific circumstances and their recommended settings.
One quirk they have added is the option to shoot vertically. Now I seem to spend more time than I care advising people who don’t know any better to turn their smartphones 90 degrees when shooting stills or video, so I’ll simply leave this at that point.
If you must, you must.
Auto Exposure Lock has also been incorporated. Simply select a spot on the screen and hold. A small white bordered square appears, and exposure will be locked to that point.
A new thing for GoPro is a built-in self-timer that has two forms. The first tells the Hero 7 Black to shoot video for that amount of time. The second is the traditional self-timer used to let you get into your own shot with options of 3 seconds or 10 seconds.
So, to ask the question again, was the GoPro Hero 7 Black worth the wait?
If you are a dyed-in-the-wool GoPro fan, then yes, go for it. No question.
If you are looking at buying your first “action camera”, then these days you have a choice of some serious alternatives such as the DJI Osmo Action Cam we reviewed in the last e-mag edition of Australian Videocamera (you can download that full edition here). Sony also has their own take on action cams with the FDR-X3000.
At the top end of the scale, if you want far more functionality than either the GoPro, DJI Action or indeed, any other camera we have looked at with this form factor, you cannot go past the Sony RX0 Mk II, although you will pay more of course. We also reviewed this is the last e-edition of Australian Videocamera by the way.
A major advantage of GoPro has always been the eco-system that has sprung up around it in terms of mounts and accessories, but as the major brands now support this or at worst have adaptors, this is now almost a moot point.
Price wise, you have:
- GoPro Hero 7 Black AUD$549
- Sony FDR-X3000 AUD$546
- Sony RX0 Mk II AUD$949
- DJI OSMO Action Camera AUD$499
My advice? Cross reference all the specs and see which you need and those you don’t. And then, as I always say, see if you can get your sticky fingers on each of them and see how they “feel”.
Afterthought: I wish GoPro would change their packaging. Yes, it looks nice an’ all that, but bugger me, you need an atomic powered drill to get into the thing and there is NO way you can do it without destroying some part of the packaging.
Sample Footage to follow shortly